Monthly Archives: September 2010

3D light painting with an iPad

What a fascinating technique & beautiful result:

We use photographic and animation techniques that were developed to draw moving 3-dimensional typography and objects with an iPad. In dark environments, we play movies on the surface of the iPad that extrude 3-d light forms as they move through the exposure. Multiple exposures with slightly different movies make up the stop-frame animation.

For more info, check out the makers’ blog post & the resulting book.

New blog, channel for Adobe mobile apps

Six months after the launch of Adobe Ideas, customers continue to file great suggestions via my blog.  Now that team has launched their own Adobe Ideas Blog.  It’s spartan at the moment but it’s sure to grow.

Meanwhile Adobe TV now features a channel devoted to mobile and devices.  Expect to see more good stuff added there, too.

Previously: How Adobe Ideas came to be (and where it’s headed)

Adobe HQ installs fuel cells

Adobe keeps taking steps to make its San José headquarters more energy efficient.  Following the installation of toddler-delighting windmills earlier in the year, the company has installed a set of fuel cells:

Adobe’s ‘Bloom boxes’ are expected to generate approximately 30 percent of the energy required to power the three San Jose headquarters towers. Using the fuel cells, Adobe expects to reduce its carbon footprint by approximately 121.5 million pounds over 10 years, which is equivalent to taking 1,810 compact cars off the road annually.

Cool.  Here’s the full press release.

Illustration: Soviets, Star Wars, & facial hair

Adobe demos refocusable images

At NVIDIA’s technology conference this week, Adobe researcher Todor Georgiev demonstrated GPU-accelerated processing of plenoptic images. As Engadget puts it, “Basically, a plenoptic lens is composed of a litany of tiny “sub-lenses,” which allow those precious photons you’re capturing to be recorded from multiple perspectives.” Plenoptic image capture could open the door to easier object matting/removal (as the scene can be segmented by depth), variable perspective after capture, and more.
This brief demo takes a little while to get going, but I still think it’s interesting enough to share.

TypeDNA adds a clever fonts panel to CS5 apps

The Plugged-In panel from TypeDNA adds font-browsing/selecting power to Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign CS5:

The easy-to-use interface provides several unique tools (Similar Fonts, Font Harmony, Attribute Filters and SmartChoice) . Each tool uses sophisticated character analysis and can be used independently or combined for extremely powerful browsing and font selection. Once a font is chosen, the plug-in sends your choices direct to the document.

Check it out:

Because the panel uses Flash, you can test drive it right on their site.

Flash runs faster, more efficiently than HTML5 on mobile

Web developer Chris Black benchmarked an HTML5 animation made using the Canvas tag against the same animation running in Flash.  The results may surprise you:

  • HTML5 Canvas on iPhone 4: 22fps
  • HTML5 Canvas on Nexus One: 40fps
  • Flash Player 10.1 on Nexus One: 57fps

Oh, and Flash Player used half as much battery.

Now, does this mean that HTML5 sucks or shouldn’t be used?  Of course not! As Chris points out in the comments, it may be possible to tune this Canvas implementation to run better on mobile.  He also points out ways that Flash could run better on mobile.  All these implementations are new, and I expect they’ll all improve, especially as developers figure out what techniques work best for each.

Competition is great.  For things that HTML5 does best, use it; same goes for Flash.  Focus on your viewers’ needs, and Adobe will step up with great tools no matter which technolog(ies) you choose.

[Update: Per various reader comments, Chris has posted more details on optimizing Canvas/JavaScript-based animation.]

A deep dive on Photoshop & scalability

A few years ago I posted what turned out to be a popular article on “What’s the story with Photoshop & multi-core?”  In it Photoshop architect Russell Williams explains, in accessible terms, some of the challenges involved in splitting up processing tasks across processors/cores.

Now Russell has sat down with Intel architect Clem Cole for a deeper discussion of Photoshop & scalability.  They cover everything from the early days of DayStar multiprocessor systems (did I just move some dust in your brain?) to the latest developments around GPUs, OpenCL, and more. [Via Dave Howe]

Are you the next great Adobe Web PM?

I’m a pissed-off Web designer at heart.  I came to work at Adobe because I was sick of software getting in the way of my ideas, and rather than just bitch about it, I wanted to try making things better.

Now there’s an opening for a new Sr. Product Manager, Web Design.  Job description highlights:

As the Web Design Product Manager, you are responsible for defining and managing Adobe’s efforts to enable designers to create websites and online businesses. You must have a deep understanding of the design market, web workflows and a passion for creating great products. […]

You know the ins and outs of web and design workflows, products and related technologies.[…] You are the product champion, an effective evangelist with the ability to inspire others with your vision. At the same time, you must be able to recognize a good idea and act on it, regardless of where it came from. […] Ultimately, you are decisive, care about the details, and are not afraid to lead. If you don’t like to be the center of attention, you need not apply.

I know the new product that’s in development, and it’s cool.  If, like me, you love the Web & want to improve the way visual people create for it, and if you’re up for living in Seattle, drop these guys a line.

Flash Player goes 64-bit on Mac, Linux, & Windows

Great news for all the people who’ve been requesting native 64-bit support in Flash: a preview version is available for download from Adobe Labs.  Among other enhancements, according to engineering manager Paul Betlem,

Flash Player ‘Square’ leverages the new GPU support available with Internet Explorer 9 Beta to deliver a faster and more responsive user experience. In our internal testing, we’ve seen significant improvements in Flash Player graphics performance – exceeding 35% in Internet Explorer 9 Beta compared to Flash Player running in previous versions of IE.

Check out the 64-bit FAQ (PDF) for details on the benefits & challenges of 64-bit development.  Expect to hear other interesting details soon.

Feedback, please: Potential Web/drawing features in Photoshop

Photoshop’s vector shapes & layer effects (strokes, gradients, etc.) are mainstays of Web & mobile design work, but they haven’t gotten updated in a while.  If the Photoshop team were to improve this area of the app, what improvements would you find the most important?

The following list isn’t exhaustive, but it includes popular requests we’ve heard.  It would be great to get your feedback via this quick survey.  We can’t do everything (certainly all at once, anyway), so please let us know what matters most.


  1. Enable “real” vector shapes (stroke & fill directly editable, without reliance on layer effects or a dialog box)
  2. Support dashed- and dotted-line strokes
  3. Enable smart shapes:
    1. Preserve corner roundness when scaling rounded rectangles
    2. Support other parameterized shapes (e.g. stars with an adjustable number of points; lines with arrowheads)
  4. Make various layer effects enhancements:
    1. Apply effects at the layer group level
    2. Re-order effects
    3. Duplicate effects (e.g. apply multiple strokes per layer)
    4. Enable panel-based editing of effects (instead of relying on a dialog box)
    5. Add/edit effects on multiple selected layers at once
    6. Make graphical styles “live” (i.e. if edit the style definition, all styled objects update)
  5. Enable layer search (i.e. type to filter by layer name or attributes)
  6. Improve snap-to-pixel behavior
  7. Improve text rendering
  8. Export text & graphical styles as CSS
  9. Support guide sets (e.g. for grid layouts)
  10. Support linked files (i.e. edit one file to update buttons, icons, etc. across multiple PSDs)



  • We want to know what’s more important than other things, so please bear that in mind when assigning relative ratings.  (That is, don’t make everything “extremely important” or “not important.”)
  • Please don’t tell me that Photoshop should never be improved vis-à-vis Web & mobile design, and that everyone should use Fireworks (or Illustrator or whatever).  You may be completely right about those apps, but it’s just not relevant to this survey.
  • Inevitably there’s some amount of overlap among these items (e.g. applying effects at the layer group level would offer an alternative to applying multiple copies of one effect on a layer; for example, you could stroke a layer, then add another stroke on a group containing that layer).


Many thanks in advance,

Illustrator CS5 gains HTML5 chops

Double rainbow ‘cross the sky, oh my God, so intense... Wait, that’s something else–but this is pretty great, too: the Illustrator team has just released the Illustrator CS5 HTML5 Pack, downloadable from Adobe Labs.  Highlights include the ability to:

  • Export named character styles as CSS
  • Export artwork appearances as CSS
  • Include selected Graphic Styles as CSS in SVG
  • Create parameterized SVG (vector graphics tagged with variables)
  • Create multi-screen SVG (leveraging media queries to serve up design variations)

See the download page or Mordy Golding’s nice summary for more details. You can ask questions & provide feedback on the Labs user forum.

I’m curious to see whether this news makes it onto the Mac sites that’ve beaten Adobe up for a perceived lack of enthusiasm about HTML5 (tough, as it just doesn’t fit that sterile, stupid narrative).  The funny thing is that these changes build on the SVG support that Illustrator has been shipping for ten years.  Sometimes it just takes a while for the world to catch up.

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch wasn’t kidding when he said, “We’re going to make the best tools in the world for HTML5.” These Illustrator developments have been in the works for a while; Dreamweaver has just made its HTML5 Pack for CS5 official; and you’ll see more from Adobe going forward.

Update: Here’s a demo from evangelist Greg Rewis:

What's "Adobe Player for Embedding" & why would I care?

You might have seen this name pop up recently among CS5 updates. “APE” is essentially WebKit (the open-source, HTML-rendering engine behind Safari and Chrome) plus Flash Player.  Or, put another way, it’s Adobe AIR (which is WebKit + Flash) with modifications to support Suite extensibility (e.g. things like Configurator).  In any case, you’ll want to download the recent update (if you haven’t already) as it addresses bugs & security issues.

Waiting for wireless tethering

Could photographers be clearer in wanting their images sent wirelessly & immediately to iPads and similar tablets, turning these devices into extensions of the back of the camera?  I seriously doubt it.

At the moment you can kinda-sorta do some interesting things, as long as you have a traditional Mac/PC in the loop.  Here’s a 3-minute demo from Brent Pearson:

More details about the setup are on Brent’s site. [Via]

Relying a regular computer largely defeats the purpose of using the tablet, of course.  Photogs want to be shooting with a tablet-wielding assistant on the red carpet; checking lighting on set by reviewing raw image data; and just chimping on vacation.  The whole point is to avoid lugging a 5-8lb. laptop & to carry a ~1lb tablet instead.

Here’s hoping that device makers are working on a Bonjour-like solution that’ll let cameras, computers, phones, and other devices in close proximity locate one another, then exchange data (stills, live video streams, etc.).  If nothing else I’d stop wishing that my iPad included a camera for capturing raw materials for sketching, as I’d instead just use my phone as an extension of the tablet.

Pixel Bender revised for CS5

I’m pleased to say that the Pixel Bender Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS5 has been revised to address a number of bugs discovered after the initial release.  It’s ready for download from Adobe Labs. [Via Zorana Gee]

[Update: Thanks to readers for pointing out that the package version number was set incorrectly. The team has re-wrapped/re-posted the plug-in with the correct number (2.1.0). There’s no need to re-download, and sorry about the confusion.]

Illustration: Art cars & great book covers