An overnight Photoshop success, 9 years in the making

“Being early is the same as being wrong,” says Marc Andreessen. True enough.

I have to admit that when I saw Photoshop’s “new” 360º photo-editing feature, I was a little miffed at the positioning: we shipped almost the same exact thing nine years ago. PS has now bolted on a few menu items to make access more obvious, but otherwise the tech appears largely unchanged.

I get it, though. Nine years ago, how would one create such an image (tripod, SLR, stitching package?) and where would one use it? Now the ecosystem is radically different: You can capture an image in an instant via a Theta or similar cam (or even a drone!), or you can capture one with any smartphone, and you can make them interactively explorable by millions of people via Facebook. So yeah, viewed through that lens, I get it, and I hope that orders of magnitude more people find this feature useful this time around. ⚪️💪

Speaking of tech ahead of its time (?), I hope that wearable capture devices will become practical & enable the kind of experience that Googlers Blaise Agüera y Arcas & Noah Snavely pioneered at Microsoft:



One thought on “An overnight Photoshop success, 9 years in the making

  1. When Adobe introduced PhotoMerge stitching in Photoshop in 2010(?) – during the CS5/CS6 days, I think, it was fraught with problems. It had a very clunky user interface, didn’t handle fisheye source images, didn’t work for 360° panoramas, and basically wasn’t good at much of anything – especially when compared to dedicated panorama and VR stitching applications that had been on the market for some time. It DID, however, work fairly well on stitching panoramas shot with longer focal length lenses, as long as you weren’t trying to stitch too many images together.

    In the following years, Adobe tried to remedy some of these problems with their 3D tools in Photoshop, and while these did finally allow 360° stitching, the user interface was even clunkier than with PhotoMerge. It was rarely worth the effort to work with these tools when compared to the dedicated panorama/VR stitching applications like PTGui, etc. — which are relatively inexpensive and FAR more capable in this area.

    While I’ve not had the chance to spend any time with Photoshop’s latest effort, what I’ve seen from the posted video introductions and tutorials leads me to believe that Adobe still doesn’t quite get this. The growing market for panorama stitching is in panoramic Virtual Reality (VR), wherein authors are needing to create fully spherical (360°x180°) panoramas that can be used in VR tours – often at high resolutions. The next step is to handle video stitching of multiple video camera feeds to again form 360° panoramic material for head mounted VR displays, desktop, and even large (fulldome-type) projections.

    Adobe seems to remain well behind the curve on this, particularly in Photoshop. Their recent acquisition of Mettle and its integration into Premiere shows some potential on the video side. But the user interface there remains FAR from what anyone would consider user friendly.

    It’s been a bit depressing to see Adobe struggling to get a good handle on this technology after so many years. Combining advanced digital technologies with effective user interface design has been one of Adobe’s strengths since its beginning, but they’ve really missed the boat in panoramic and VR content development.

    I fear they’re so far behind the curve now, that catching up will be difficult. This combined with Adobe’s deplorable subscription software model (CC), wherein users necessarily wind up paying continuing fees for applications they may not even be using, makes the whole package fairly unattractive. I remain ever hopeful for the future, though.

    Scott Highton
    Author, Virtual Reality Photography

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