Monthly Archives: October 2005

UPDIG: Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines

UPDIG describes itself as “A working group of digital imaging professionals and allied trade groups and manufacturers, dedicated to promoting worldwide standards in the commercial application of digital imaging.” The group has released its set of 15 guidelines on shooting and working digitally. If that describes your trade, the site is well worth a look.
The guidelines emphasize the need for conversion settings and metadata that can easily be transferred between individual computers and between computing platforms. Adobe Camera Raw never touches your original data, of course, so it writes its information into lightweight XML (XMP) sidecar files next to images. The DNG format was designed to store this data internally, and it’s great to see UPDIG suggesting the use of DNG in their Best Practices documentation.

More DNG Momentum

As I’ve mentioned in past entries, Adobe has been using its leadership in digital imaging to drive development of the Digital Negative specification. DNG addresses the need for a common, openly documented raw format–a solution much requested by customers. So, I wanted to pull together some recent good news on this front:

PS–I’ve always preferred the nice, simple “raw” as the term for this sort of format. Saying “RAW” seems a little aggro (“RAW is WAR!!”), like you need to make the little devil-horns with your hand while saying it. The term is neither an acronym (RAW) nor a proper name (Raw), but rather a generic descriptor for a whole class of formats. Therefore Adobe just says “raw.”

After sneak

At the MAX show last week, Steve Kilisky from the After Effects team demonstrated some new features of an upcoming version of After Effects & how AE video can integrate with content in the new Flash 8 Player. Check out this video to see “a cure for ‘palletosis'” and more. Steve is fourth from the left in the Day Two nav bar [link via Pixelfumes]. For more examples of Flash and After Effects working together, see my earlier post.

Welcome, Apple.

What a week it’s been. Sunday through Tuesday I was experiencing the energy and excitement of the Macromedia developer community at MAX, soon (we hope) to be part of the Adobe world (come on, EU commissioners! :-)). Then on Tuesday I got the call that Apple wanted to give us a demo of their new photo-centric application. We’d been hearing about this thing for three and a half years, so I headed to NY a day early.

And, well…?

Aperture is a cool product, no question. Apple’s designers have a great aesthetic, and their marketing is second-to-none. (This is the company, after all, that can sell the iPod Shuffle’s lack of screen as a lifestyle choice.) Aperture zips around on quad G5’s with four GPUs, and I’m looking forward to getting it onto my PowerBook 17″ to see how it might run in the field.
As Apple is the first to say, Aperture is not designed to be a Photoshop competitor. It has a number of very slick features (I dig the Web gallery creator in particular), but if you’re looking to do something as simple as make a selection and sharpen someone’s eyes, you’re out of luck. That’s not a knock–just a reflection of what Aperture is and is not. Fortunately Apple has a one-click method of sending a PSD to Photoshop for further editing.

I’m obviously downplaying competition between these apps because, as I’ve written previously, inventing death-matches where none exist does us all a disservice. Having said that, however, I’d be blowing smoke not to acknowledge that Aperture does compete with Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw. The capabilities of Photoshop (of which Bridge and ACR are a part) are vast, so there’s bound to be some overlap, and Aperture joins a long list of products (Capture One, RawShooter Essentials, Nikon Capture, Canon Digital Photo Pro, etc.) that also offer raw browsing and editing. Bridge and ACR aim to provide the best possible workflow in conjunction with Photoshop, but you’re free to mix and match.

And you know, to the degree that Aperture stirs things up, I’m excited. CS2 wouldn’t be all it is today without the apps I mentioned keeping us on our toes, and the more tools offer solutions for photographers, the better off customers will be. So in the spirit of the Apple of yore, I say Welcome Apple. Seriously.

Excitement at MAX

The first day of the Macromedia MAX show is nearly in the bag, and man, it’s pretty exciting. Just sitting amidst 3,000 enthusiastic, animated designers and developers in the keynote presentation opens your eyes to the passion of this user community. As Macromedia folks and partners from SAP and elsewhere unveiled a range of new solutions and concepts (tons of coverage tracked here), the people around me were audibly buzzing with ideas. I’m eagerly looking forward to the deal being finalized so that we can start working together more closely.

Pimp My Bridge

As you probably know, Photoshop CS2 and the other Creative Suite apps ship with Adobe Bridge, the browsing and workflow management hub of the Suite. What you may not know is that Bridge has been designed with extensibility in mind. The app’s JavaScript extensibility layer enables everything from tiny widgets to services like Adobe Stock Photos. So, I thought it would be useful to link to some resources and examples:

  • The
    Bridge scripting guide
    documents the app’s JavaScript extensibility layer. You can write and debug these scripts using the ExtendScript toolkit that ships with all the CS2 apps, and you can discuss script development with others on the Bridge scripting forum.

  • Adobe Studio Exchange features a set of Bridge scripts, including Import from Camera. You can of course upload your own scripts to share with community.
  • The Adobe Solutions Network (ASN) offers a variety of Bridge extensions. For various accounting reasons, we can’t just give these away (believe me, we’ve looked into it), but paying ASN developers can incorporate this code into their own scripts, then redistribute them.
  • Peter Krogh’s (from which I stole the title of this entry) features the Pimp My Bridge page, as well as Peter’s Rank and File script for facilitating interoperability with iView Media Pro and other apps.
  • BarredRock Software offers a variety of scripts, including one that offers much-requested extraction of metadata to a spreadsheet.
  • offers a favorite to display PhotoshopNews in Bridge using the on-board Opera browser engine. Other developers have used this capability to tie Bridge into asset management systems.
  • Jakub Kozniewski offers the Flash-based CS UI builder, a visual way to assemble JavaScript interfaces for Bridge and the other CS2 apps. [via Jeff Tranberry]

I plan to update the list as more examples and resources become available. In the meantime, if you have others to share, please send ’em our way.

Photoshop brushes are cool and all…

…but how about this thing*? Rogue genius-types at MIT Media Lab have developed the I/O Brush, “a new drawing tool to explore colors, textures, and movements found in everyday materials by ‘picking up’ and drawing with them.” The ability to sample and apply a short video sequence is particularly brilliant. [link via]
If you like that, check out the Pixel Roller, a “paint roller that paints pixels, designed… to print digital information such as imagery or text onto a great range of surfaces.”
On a personal note, it was the chance to work with alpha geeks like this that drew me to Adobe. When I first encountered the LiveMotion team, I heard that engineer Chris Prosser had built himself a car MP3 player (this was a couple of years before the iPod). Evidently he’d disassembled an old Pentium 90, stuck it in his trunk, connected it to the glovebox with some Ethernet cable, added a little LCD track readout, and written a Java Telnet app for synching the machine with his laptop. Okay, I thought, I don’t want to do that, but I’d like to hijack the brains of someone who could. Chris has now moved on to After Effects, and I get to pester the likes of Thomas Knoll, Chris Cox, Arno Gourdol, and the rest of the team, trying to get some pet idea or other implemented.
* Caution: Features the most grating soundtrack since that Canon 20D video.

Behind the scenes on "24"

A few weeks ago we got to spend time with the team behind the scenes at Fox’s 24, as well as the folks at CSI, Without a Trace, Scrubs, and other shows. Art departments have to be endlessly resourceful, and we got a kick out of hearing about some of the creative ways they put Photoshop to use. I don’t want to risk giving anything away, but I did get clearance to mention something from a past episode of 24.
A scene called for the crew to put a burned-out car down in a ravine, but they couldn’t get the necessary permits from the city. So, production designer Joseph Hodges took a picture of the car, brought it into Photoshop, gave it a good beating (burning the paint, removing a door), and then printed it on a large piece of cardboard. The next day he stuck it down in the ravine where the actual car was to go. When the rest of the crew arrived they started to flip out, saying, “Hey, they told us not to put the car down there!” The illusion was clearly good enough to fool people standing on the site, and it worked perfectly for the scene.
Thanks to Rodney Charters, Director of Photography, Joseph Hodges, and the rest of the crew who let us be flies on the wall as they rehearsed, shot, and designed components of the upcoming season.

Burrowing through large sets of images

The Mini USA site features a clever, immersive Roof Studio that enables you to browse various roof designs and upload your own [link via Kaliber10000]. The zooming interface and ability to see items with matching metadata remind me of Airtight Interactive’s related tag browser for Flickr. Working on Adobe Bridge, I find these interfaces motivating. As image collections grow larger, we need to find more powerful ways to cruise through them (ways to form queries & visualize the results). As always, we’d like to hear your thoughts.

Monitor, or Ultra-Monitor?

Continuing my recent megapixel fixation, check out this insane, 19200 x 2400 monitor [link via Airtight Interactive]. Aside from the obvious expense and physical demands of this kind of configuration, such a wide layout would impose some new UI challenges (e.g. look at the control elements spread all the way to the right and left). Of course, with higher DPI displays coming and resolution-independent UI support coming from Microsoft and Apple, there’s plenty of work ahead (if nothing else, so that your Photoshop toolbar doesn’t end up being 8mm wide on screen).

See you at Macromedia MAX, PhotoPlus Expo?

On Sunday a number of us are headed to LA for the Macromedia MAX show, and on Wednesday I’ll be flying to NY to meet up with a large Adobe contingent at PhotoPlus Expo. If you’ll be attending either show and feel like saying hello, please do. At MAX I’ll be just a fly on the wall, soaking up info in various sessions. At PPE I’m slated to be at the Adobe booth each day roughly 10-1:30. Hope to see you there. (For reference, I look like this. And yes, this is what happens if you let a bunch of product managers screw around with nice camera equipment. It willget cheesy.)

Psst–wanna see Photoshop 15?

Yeah, well, so do I. It doesn’t exist yet, of course (we just recently introduced version 9.0, a.k.a. CS2), and it won’t exist for many years. But what form will it take?

Software developers know how to do one thing really well: develop more software. We build features, and when we’re done, we build more. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. Customers have far more good ideas than we have time or resources to support, and having to choose just a fraction to implement each cycle keeps us focused on those we think really matter.

But what’s the net result of a million good features? Yep–a million little pieces, all multiplying off one another. An app like Photoshop becomes a warren of commands that are available sometimes but not others, in ways that aren’t self-explanatory (e.g. you can’t start painting on a vector text layer, or create layers in 32-bit mode). And the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming. At one point I counted 494 top-level menu items in Photoshop CS. In CS2 we’ve added roughly 60 more, and that’s not counting the new Adobe Bridge application.

So, back to the hypothetical Photoshop 15: at our present course and speed, we’d add at least 350 more menu commands. We’ll need to raise the minimum screen spec just to hold the menus! And then, you know, it’s wafer-thin mint time.

Incidentally, we’re all complicit in this–we (Adobe, or [insert other software vendor here]) and you. (If you’ve read this far, you’re interested in this stuff and have almost definitely requested new features.) We can add things, but we can never take them away. When we decided to stop maintaining the archaic, seldom-used 3D Transform filter, we made it optional content (not disabled, just moved). The tech support boards lit up with all kinds of complaints. And at MacWorld, a guy browbeat me for–no kidding–25 minutes about the shortcut for Brightness/Contrast changing–in version 4! Can you imagine if we tried to remove something significant?

What to do? What about making Photoshop customizable–“everything you need, nothing you don’t,” to borrow from the Nissan ad? In CS2 you can now turn menu items on and off, assign them colors, and switch among sets rapidly. It’s a step towards reducing complexity, but will anyone care? Do you? Does this capability help new users, or does it hide tools they’d otherwise stumble across?

We can also package functionality in task-oriented sets. Camera Raw is popular as much for the way it pulls together color-correction functions as for its underlying math. Of course, with popularity come feature requests, and we have to be wary of building Russian dolls (Photoshop gets huge, so we build CR, which then gets huge, so we nest something inside of it…).
What do you think? Do we just keep putting one foot ahead of the other, or is something more radical required? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Comic Life

Mac developer plasq has released an updated version of their slick, fun, and super easy Comic Life application. The tool makes it a cinch to create layouts, add text and photos, and publish results to the Web.
If Adobe apps tend to be grand organs, Comic Life is a flute. Now, I would never want to give up any of the range and flexibility of our tools, but it’s refreshing to see a light, elegant solution for a very specific task. This question keeps gnawing at me: As our tools grow ever more capable, do they have to keep getting more complex? If each app’s main environment needs to strive for letting you do anything at any time, are there areas where we could focus on specific tasks? Hmm–this deserves an entry of its own. In the meantime, if you have ideas, please let us know.

I got your megapixels, right here

Wow. Leaf has announced new digital camera backs, the larger of which generates images of 6726 by 5040 pixels (that’s 33,899,040 total pixels for those playing at home). Each frame from this beast tips the scales at around 200MB.
Having come from the world of Web design, I was amazed at the size of files that get tossed around in Photoshop. Web designers are still debating whether requiring a 1024×768 monitor is okay, and in the mobile space that resolution must sound incredibly luxurious. Meanwhile, Photoshop CS raised max document dimensions to 300,000 x 300,000 pixels and the max document size to somewhere between 4 and 8 exabytes (!).
It’s a pleasure and a challenge to develop an application that can work smoothly across a huge range of image sizes. This diversity makes it hard to choose defaults that address all uses, so you may want to tune Photoshop (Mac/Win) to your needs.

Genericide: Xeroxing "Photoshop"

Photoshop was big in pop culture last weekend: on both The West Wing and Desperate Housewives, I’m told, characters mentioned Photoshop by name. Right on. The only catch: the West Wing character asked someone to “Photoshop” something out of picture.
You might think Adobe would be all for the verbing of “Photoshop,” but that’s not the case. It turns out that if a company doesn’t actively protect a trademarked name, it can lose the rights to it. That’s why you see TiVo and many others having to advocate mouth-twisting usages like, “Honey, would you record ‘Extreme Deathmatch 9000’ on the TiVo® DVR?” (You’re not even supposed to call the beloved plastic things “Legos.”)
I’ve been asked several times for the technical term for the process of a product name getting, er, generified, and it seems there isn’t a proper one. That said, “Genericide” seems reasonable.
On a related note, see if you can guess what’s indicated by this infographic. (Where I grew up in Illinois, it was pronounced “paahp.”)
Oh, and one last thing: Friends don’t let friends put a capital “S” in the middle of “Photoshop.” That usage really waves the nitwit flag, you know? :-).

Droppin' some science

Psst–hey buddy, seen any good kite-borne photos of Estonian peat bogs lately? You would if you checked out the winners in Science Magazine and the National Science Foundation’s Visualization Challenge [link via PhotoshopNews]. But if your tastes run more towards the secret life of the pea weevil (really!), check out the Visions of Science Photographic Awards. Winners include revealing images that were colored in Photoshop.
Photoshop wasn’t designed for scientific imaging per se, but we’re learning quite a bit about how it gets used in a broad range of applications. Last year I got to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The team preparing the next shuttle flight requested better measurement tools that could aid in the analysis of the shuttle’s heat-resistant tiles. (They also mentioned a rumor that a copy of Photoshop has even found its way onto the International Space Station–evidently several astronauts are avid photographers–but I’ve never been quite able to confirm that.)
We’re working to build up info and resources on Photoshop in the sciences, as well as its uses in engineering and other disciplines. If you’re using Photoshop in these fields, and/or if you have ideas on how we should develop the app to suit your needs, please let us know. Post a comment, or drop us a line.
PS–Apple’s scientific computing pages mention numerous uses of Photoshop, including the Visible Human Project.
PPS–Good luck to this group of 7th & 8th graders, who want to send film into orbit and then analyze the results in Photoshop.