Microsoft made a lot of noise during the run-up to the launch of Silverlight 2 about ‘Deep Zoom’, a feature which lets users zoom into an image or collection of images using a control in a Silverlight application. There have been numerous comparisons between existing Flash-based options such as Zoomify and Zoomarama and disagreement over whether Microsoft’s solution adds anything new.
Recently a customer enquired about Scene7, Adobe’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for delivering rich media content, and in particular how the zoom functionality compared with that provided by Silverlight. After talking with some of the guys on the Scene7 team and doing some additional research, it transpires that the way Scene7 approaches image zoom is completely different to that employed by other techniques, including Silverlight’s Deep Zoom.
Rather than manually creating a collection of optimised images from which all possible views of the zoomed image can be constructed, the Scene7 server dynamically creates and caches the images required from your hi-res master image (which can be upto 2Gb in size), which is uploaded to the Scene7 hosted service. Of course, for sites where image collections change infrequently, such as the Hardrock Cafe Memorabilia site, creating, uploading and managing a collection of images yourself is a relatively easy task; if however you’re running an e-commerce site and have thousands of products, each with different colour and fabric options, this would become a nightmare, especially if you wanted to offer both resized images (thumbnail, normal and detail) alongside the zoom-optimised image collection.
Scene7 has been particularly successful in the retail sector, where the customer is more focused on merchandising, selling and supplying products, rather than wanting to undertake a complex image management task that could undermine their ability to increase the range of products sold online. With the Scene7 service, images can be uploaded and deployed using a Flex-based management tool, with Flash and DHTML-based viewers available for integration with the customer’s website, so no additional plug-in is required by the end user to view the content.
I was pretty amazed to learn that Adobe serves over 1 billion images per day through our hosted Scene7 infrastructure – another example of how the Flash Platform scales to offer ‘enterprise’ solutions.
I should point out that Scene7 does a lot more than just zooming, there is some pretty cool stuff that lets you do dynamic image resizing, display multiple colour and swatches from a single image, spin/rotate product images and product personalisation.
More information on Scene7 can be found below: