Monthly Archives: July 2014

“Atari: Game Over”

I’ll say it again: Thank God E.T. sucked, because otherwise Russell Brown might never have gotten laid off, joined a startup called Adobe, helped revolutionize an industry, and years later save me from layoff & open the door to my joining Photoshop.

In any event, this documentary about the notorious game’s rushed development from lab to landfill could be fascinating:

[YouTube] [Via]

“French Girls”: A delightfully weird folk art project

Anonymously draw versions of others’ selfies, and have them return the ostensible favor; what a bizarre but oddly compelling idea. It’s loaded with fun, cheeky little UI details, and the developers claim that it’s been downloaded more than a million times.



I took this crappy image of myself & minutes later it became part of a diptych. Thanks, RiotingKnucklehead!


Shine on, you crazy doodlers. [Via Brian Matiash]

A delightful, illuminating history of Illustrator

No wonder Steve Jobs clicked with Adobe founder John Warnock. While introducing the iPad Jobs said,

“The reason that Apple is able to create products like iPad is because we always try to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, to be able to get the best of both.”

The Warnock family embodied just that, pairing a pioneering software engineer/mathematician with a professional designer. Their collaboration shaped PostScript and then Adobe’s first app, Illustrator. This beautifully produced little documentary (warning—you’ll get sucked in) tells the tale. I love hearing from old friends & new talent:

Interviews include cofounder John Warnock, his wife Marva, artists and designers Ron Chan, Bert Monroy, Dylan Roscover and Jessica Hische.

Side bonus: Here’s a copy of the VHS demo tape that shipped inside the Illustrator 1.0 box that I uploaded a few years ago:

[Vimeo] [YouTube]

“Google Catches Itself in the Mirror”

Khoi Vinh writes,

This is a brilliant if spooky Tumblr from artist Mario Santamaria that exposes a meta-layer of the Google Art Project, which documents artworks, galleries and ornate buildings around the world. Santamaria has collated instances wherein Google’s camera captures its own image in the mirror. The hint of self-awareness, even if illusory, is surprisingly terrifying, perhaps made even more so by its inadvertency.

Check out The Camera In The Mirror.



A delightfully simple new approach to animation

The Draco project from Autodesk lets you sketch repeating elements, then use other sketched elements to define their replication and flow. It looks really promising:

We propose a framework built around kinetic textures, which provide continuous animation effects while preserving the unique timeless nature of still illustrations. This enables many dynamic effects difficult or not possible with previous sketch-based tools, such as a school of fish swimming, tree leaves blowing in the wind, or water rippling in a pond.

[YouTube] [Via]

Short film: Under the water dome

Filmmaker Casey Neistat & his son visited—then snuck around—a German water park housed in an enormous former airship hangar. It makes for a fun three-minute film. (Bonus: German rap meets Biggie Smalls!)

As Kottke quotes the park’s site,

The Tropical Islands Dome is gigantic. In fact, it is the largest free-standing hall in the world: 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and an incredible 107 metres high.

That is big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty in standing up and the Eiffel Tower lying on its side. The Tropical Islands Dome covers an area of 66,000 m², the size of eight football fields. And it is high enough to fit in the whole of Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, with all its skyscrapers.


Nik Collection updated with Photoshop CC 2014 compatibility

Navah Wei writes,

The newest version (1.207) of the Nik Collection has now been released, bringing you more bug fixes and adding installer compatibility for Photoshop CC 2014.  This update will be installed in the background, provided your host applications (Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture) are not running and that you are connected to the Internet.

You can check out the full release notes here.

“How to Teach Google What a Story Is”

Here’s a great piece on Google+ Stories from The Atlantic:

Google wanted to solve a problem we can all understand. People take so, so many photographs and yet they actually do very little with them. A chosen few are posted to Instagram. Most sit in vast wastelands of thumbnails on phones or in iPhoto never to be seen after the moment of their creation.

“You come back from a trip with 300 photos and no one is trying to help you do anything with them,” said Google social web engineer Joseph Smarr. “You think about how people deal with that, and the main way is to not share anything. The second biggest thing is to share one little vignette or Instagram. Or the worst thing is they dump the whole 300 photos in an album. And that doesn’t tell a story in a meaningful way. It’s just a series of pictures. It’s just a monotone drum beat with no fills: boom-boom-boom-boom.”

So Smarr and his teammates—product designer Brett Lider and user experience designer Clement Ng—set a task for themselves. They wanted to create software that would have rhythm and flow like “actual storytelling.” Actual humanstorytelling.

Fun detail: The project was codenamed “Boswell,” after James Boswell, Samuel Johnson’s biographer. I enjoyed calling it “Boz,” after, uh, not James Boswell.

Use your smartwatch as a trigger for your phone camera

Kind of a cool new feature from the Google Camera team. PetaPixel writes,

The update adds a the ability for owners of Android Wear smartwatches to use those watches as a remote shutter for Android-powered smartphones and smartcameras. And functionality isn’t limited to simply snapping a photo for you, either: a countdown feature is also enabled, letting you know just how long you can hold off to sneak in that last-minute smile… or photo-bomb.

Adobe & Google team up on giant open-source font

Cool news. TechCrunch writes,

Adobe and Google today announced the launch of a new open-source font for Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) languages that covers 65,535 glyphs, making it one — if not the — largest font to cover these languages. The font, which was optimized for both print and screen, is now available for free through Google Fonts and through Adobe’s Typekit, where it is included in the free tier.

My friend Caleb Belohlavek of Adobe writes,

The entire family rounds out at just under half a million total glyphs. Never before has a typeface family of this magnitude, development scope, and value been offered via open source — which makes it a no-cost solution for designers, developers, and everyday users who need a font supporting a broad set of languages…

This is a rather large undertaking for any type foundry, and we couldn’t have done it without Google as a key partner.

Way to go, guys!


Photography: “Waves of Grain”

Yet more fascinating time-lapse sanding: filmmaker Keith Skretch writes,

To create this strata-cut animation, I planed down a block of wood one layer at a time, photographing it at each pass. The painstaking process revealed a hidden life and motion in the seemingly static grain of the wood, even as the wood itself was reduced to a mound of sawdust.

Ennio Morricone, “The Big Gundown”

[Vimeo] [Via]

Let There Be Drones: MIT researchers develop automated aerial lighting

The future gets curiouser & curiouser. I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Skynet.

As PetaPixel writes,

The long-term goal here is to allow photographers to use a whole fleet of drones in their work, never having to set up another light again. Just indicate the desired effect, and your little Skynet lighting system gets to work creating that effect and then maintaining it automatically until you move on to the next setup.


Lightroom team confirms perpetual access to your work

Apropos of “You should never lose access to your work, period,” this assurance is great to see:

With Lightroom 5.5, at the end of a membership, the desktop application will continue to launch and provide access to the photographs managed within Lightroom as well as the Slideshow, Web, Book or Print creations that we know many photographers painstakingly create.

In short, you pay to keep creating new work; you don’t pay just to access what you’ve already created.

A good quote about Creative Cloud pricing

Peter Krogh writes,

Buying Photoshop Extended and Lightroom four years ago would set you back $1300. You can buy a decade of CC software and services for that price.

Subscriptions were always meant to democratize access to what had been exclusively-priced tools.

The rest of Peter’s post (regarding the non-expiration of Lightroom following a subscription’s end) is worth a read in light of my post last year about how “You should never lose access to your work, period.”

An interactive six-sided music video from Google & The Presets

Wow—this thing is really funky. “With headphones on, speakers up, you’re your own DJ of what might just be the world’s first six-sided music video.”

TechCrunch writes,

It’s called The Cube, and it’s a trip. Built by Google Creative Labs as “an experimental platform for interactive storytelling”, The Cube is an in-browser manipulateable 3-D box with a different video and audio track on each face. It debuted online today with indie dance band The Presets’ new single “No Fun”. You decide what to watch and hear by clicking and dragging The Cube to show a single side or a combination.

Apparently the platform will be usable for other storytelling & data-visualization endeavors. Trippy. [YouTube]

“Make Illustrator run 10x faster”

Having pestered my Illustrator & NVIDIA friends about this for years (even playing matchmaker on intercontinental conference calls), I’m so pleased to see their collaborations starting to bear fruit. Now if you’re running a high-end NVIDIA GPU on Windows (Mac support hopefully coming soon, dependent on Apple & driver changes), you can speed up on-screen rendering by a factor of 10 or more:

The progress is encouraging, but I’m excited less about speeding up what’s possible today & more about enabling things one simply hasn’t been able to do—new kinds of brushing, live transforms, etc.—given previous performance constraints.


A great quote on Apple vs. Google

I love this bit from Khoi Vinh, occasioned by Google’s recent Smarty Pins map/trivia game:

Apple fans like myself often criticize Google for doing things that Apple would never do, and Smarty Pins is a prime example of that. Aside from being an unfair criticism, it’s pointless. The fact that Google endeavors to produce silly things like this is on the whole a positive thing, I believe. It’s acting according to its own compass, which is what every company should be doing.

At Adobe I used to say, “We’ll never out-Apple Apple. We’ll never be more mysterious & magical, so let’s be ourselves—conversational and down-to-earth.”

Or as Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

“Levitation photography for dummies”

A couple of ex-Microsoft Research guys put together Levitagram, an admirably dirt-simple app for creating “levitation photos.” They say they’ve gotten half a million downloads and offer a couple of interesting details:

  • Automatic photo alignment
  • Color matching between shots
  • The ability to remotely trigger the camera by clapping your hands
  • Built-in inspiration feed of work made by others using the app



For the World Cup Coca-Cola commissioned 3D street artist Joe Hill to create this mural/stage:

[YouTube] [Via]

Elsewhere, trip out on the work of painter Brian Williams:

Colossal explains,

This particular optical illusion is what’s known as reverse perspective painting, where objects (usually rooms) are painted on a physically skewed surface resulting in images that appear in reverse when viewed head on.

Or, as my 4-year-old son put it upon glancing over, “It’s an M-room.” (Note the shape of the wooden floor.) Here’s its secret:


Short film: Nike’s crowdsourced cricketers

108 different photographers captured bowlers, batsmen and fielders performing the same pre-decided action, with rather cool results:

Ad agency JWT writes,

The final TV spot includes 1,440 images stitched together from a bank of 225,001 crowd-sourced images of cricket crazy youth. The 1,440 seamless action images, captured by both cricket crazy youth and the 108 photographers, were chosen and stitched together to complete one action of the journey of one ball from bowler to batsman to fielder to keeper.

[YouTube] [Via Ben Jones]

Embrace the cloud—right in your living room

Fancy rocking out to an interactive, “Arduino-controlled, motion-triggered lightning & thunder performance”?

From artist Richard Clarkson:

The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user’s presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement. The system features a powerful speaker system from which the user can stream music via any Bluetooth compatible device. Using color-changing lights the cloud is able to adapt to the desired lighting color and brightness. The cloud also has alternative modes such as a nightlight and music reactive mode.

[Vimeo] [Via]

#nofilter: Fake authenticity


Spredfast tested the last 100,000 images that included the #nofliter hashtag to get a sample from the platform… Turns out that 11% of photos using the #nofilter hashtag on Instagram actually have a filter, a percentage that adds up to roughly 8.6 million photos.

Conversely, a young coworker of mine mentions that she sometimes tags photos with “#vsco” so they’ll draw more views, even when she hasn’t used VSCO tools to edit them.

Some people want to project the authenticity they believe comes with being filter-free, and others want membership in the cool-kid photography club (regardless of tool choice).

What matters more, the lasting or the fleeting?

A kid talking about Snapchat made me consider something interesting: It inverts the traditional assumption that longevity correlates to importance.

Because Snapchat images show briefly & then disappear forever, they demand attention. This is special, this moment won’t come again. That’s quite different from other human experiences: If this matters, write it down, make a copy, back it up, etc. Particularly in photography, it’s generally our most important images that we want to preserve the longest (that we commit to archival prints, etc.). 

“Pay attention; this is going to go away!”

And, of course, it’s all going to go away.

Doco panel speeds up document management in Photoshop

I always had this in mind for the just-retired Mini Bridge, but we never quite got there. PetaPixel writes,

Doco’s goal is to help you better view and manage multiple Photoshop documents when they’re open at the same time. Using the extension’s cleverly-designed panel, swapping between images or compositions becomes a far more intuitive experience… no more having to remember what tab holds what photo.

The panel site says,

Doco brilliantly lets you copy selected layers or adjustments from document to document with a simple drag and drop. Moreover, drop the layers icon outside and Doco will create a new document for you. How awesome is that!