Monthly Archives: January 2008

New 3D Photoshop plug-ins

Great news: Developers are building on top of the 3D features in Photoshop CS3 Extended to deliver some great solutions.  In just the last week we’ve seen a flurry of announcments:

According to the DAZ launch announcement, their tool lets you:

  • View 3D scenes as Photoshop layers
  • Change objects and figures simultaneously
  • Render directly into Photoshop
  • Import, export and modify image maps and textures onto 3D models in Photoshop
  • Composite 2D and 3D content seamlessly
  • Access DAZ’s full library of quality 3D content  [DAZ gives away the editing application & sells adjustable content]

As for the Strata news, "In a nutshell, the technology from Strata’s 3D[in] plug-ins for Photoshop CS 3 Extended is now integrated into the Suite," says the crew on  With it you can:

  • Send a 3D model to PS as a 3D layer
  • Send a finished rendering to PS as separate layers (shadow layer, reflection layer, color layer, etc)
  • Send a PS image to a 3D background for tracing or placement
  • Send a 3D model direct from PS to PDF or HTML and it embeds the 3D object (you read that correctly)
  • Link PS files as 3D textures – changes made are automatically updated in the 3D texture

Good stuff all around.  We think that 3D in CS3 Extended is a big step forward, and of course we’re not planning to rest on those laurels.  I love seeing great developers like Strata and DAZ jump on the opportunity to help enrich the story.

By the way, did you know that you can browse the Google 3D Warehouse right from within Photoshop CS3 Extended?  Here’s more info.  Also, Adobe’s Steve Whatley mentions that Adobe is on tour with Maxon, showing off 3D integration between the tools.

Made-up Japanese photography word o' the day

As I sit in the airport waiting for a flight to PMA in Las Vegas, I’m reminded of a word coined by Adobe market research (I believe) to describe enthusiast photographers in Japan: "Fotomaniaku."  Sure, it just means "photo maniacs," but doesn’t it have kind of a fun mouth-feel?  Now I’m picturing a camera-wielding guy with Mr. Sparkle eyes ("I am disrespectful to shutter lag!!").  T-shirts to follow. 🙂

Recent illustrated goodness

State of the Typographic Union

The frontrunners: Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain.  So says the Boston Globe, analyzing the type treatments of the US presidential candidates.  Of Obama: “Clean pen strokes evoke a well-pressed Armani suit.”  Of McCain: “Everything about this logo says you can buy a car from this man.”  [Via reader Tim]

Elsewhere in the world of type:

Putting video inside the Photoshop UI

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, there’s huge potential in extending Photoshop via embedded Flash–something we’ve already prototyped in CS3.  Among the Flash Player’s capabilities, of course, is the ability to display video, including high quality H.264.

The idea of putting video inside Photoshop, however, sometimes draws blanks stares.  "Dude, why would I want to watch Transformers in a Photoshop palette?"  You wouldn’t, of course.  For a more practical example, look to the new MacBook Air.

Apple has posted a set of little videos that show off the gestures enabled by the laptop’s–er, notebook’s–new trackpad.  (Click the little arrow by the pictures of fingers.)  Each clip is short n’ sweet, showing just what’s needed to communicate the idea.

The thing they don’t mention here, though, and that I learned by watching a demo at Macworld, is that the videos appear inside the Keyboard & Mouse section of system prefs.  If you forget how they work, just pop open the controls & get a quick demo.

That’s more what I have in mind for Adobe applications.  Now, as with all the times I mention future ideas, I have to manage expectations: if you like the idea, don’t be disappointed if you don’t see video clips popping out of every dialog box in Photoshop.  Having said that, we hope to do things in a very Adobe way–opening the platform to the community.  Something tells me that more than a few of the savvy educators out there will see an opportunity to enhance the Photoshop user experience.

Back to the Future with Illustrator 88

Pass the banana clips and fire up Less Than Zero: It’s time to visit the late 80’s with the promotional video for Adobe Illustrator 88.  It’s fun to see all that was possible even then, and to hear that the marketing message of “do more, and more easily, so you can focus on being creative” is eternal.  Now I shudder at visions of a besweatered James Spader dropping the French curves and grabbing a mouse.  [Via]

The timing is kind of spooky: for nearly a year I’ve been meaning to upload a copy of the John Warnock-hosted VHS tape that shipped in the Illustrator 1.0 box, and just last week I got serious about doing so.  Of the work Dr. Warnock says, “That video demo tape was shot live, with no editing. We didn’t have video production
tools at that time, and we didn’t want to pay for a professional to do it, so I did the
demonstration.”  Pretty cool that the company co-founder and CEO was not only one of four names on the product splash screen, but also the main demo man.  (“Everyone sweeps the floor around here,” said Chuck Geschke of that time.)

This posting lights a fire under me, so look for the Warnock video soon. [Interim bonus retro fun: the 1987 Apple Knowledge Navigator video. Everything old is new again, and self-serious yuppies will always be with us.]

Sunday Photography: From Mullets to MacGyver

Skaters in slow-mo, with explosions

Decks & Bombs & Rock n’ Roll: Peep the amazing intro to Lakai’s Fully Flared skateboarding video.  (Okay, no rock here, but the grandiose score & slow motion really do it for me.)  I’d love to see a higher-res version of this clip, but for that apparently you need to buy the DVD. [Via]

In other animation/motion graphics news:

  • Yannick Puig’s I Lived On the Moon is just unreasonably great-looking, loaded with memorable character designs in a melancholy palette.  His site contains a good deal of behind-the-scenes info on how he created storyboards, then used Photoshop, After Effects, and 3ds Max to realize the vision. [Via]  A few of the visuals recall Jamie Caliri’s similarly wonderful Dragon ad for United.
  • On the other end of the tech spectrum is Fantoche, a rather nightmarish stop-motion sequence crawling across a bathroom wall.  [Via Frederick Johnson]  I can’t find much in the way of credits, but I imagine it’s connected to the animation festival of the same name.
  • Hamburg-based Sehsucht has created a hypnotic & painterly animation for the 20 Jahre Auto Trophy. [Via]
  • Toolfarm features an interview with Jim Geduldick of Wonder Pets, discussing his work on that AE-powered show.

"Steve Guttenberg did not invent the printing press…"

So says an angry, angry little man in "Printing’s Alive," a funny, foul-mouthed viral video made by Montreal-based Pazazz Printing.  [Via]

The vid is particularly funny if you’ve had occasion to interact with some of the crustier, more ink-stained members of the printing community (and no, I’m not gonna mention any names).  I remember a few years back visiting printers in Chicago who were out for blood, riled up about some incredibly nuanced aspect of Illustrator output (wanting fourth-digit decimal precision in a certain field, I think).  Fortunately the Illustrator PM at the time, Lydia Varmazis, was the type who could write PostScript by hand, lending her amazing powers to chill these dudes out.  The transformation was night and day, and I felt like we should’ve filmed a pilot for The Nerd Whisperer right then and there.

Speaking of funny and profane, You Suck At Photoshop episodes 3 and 4 have been posted for your enjoyment. [Via seemingly every person & blog ever]

DNG in the news

Did you know that 40% of Lightroom users convert their proprietary raw files to the open DNG standard upon import?  That finding, plus other interesting news bits (e.g. Noritsu Koki enabling raw printing at retail via DNG) are covered in Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty’s recent blog post.  Adobe hasn’t made a lot of noise about the format lately, but it’s great to see it gaining traction and helping to address some real-world problems.

Crazy-fast 3D slideshows for Flickr, Facebook, more

Several times now I’ve expressed my appreciation for PicLens, a beautiful (and free) little browser plug-in that enables full-screen, hardware-accelerated slideshows from Google Images, Flickr, MySpace, deviantART, and other sites.  It’s changed my whole online photo viewing experience.

Now Alec from PicLens writes to say that there’s a new version available for Firefox (Safari & IE updates to follow):

It features the all-new “3D Wall,” a magical virtual interface that can exhibit 100s, if not 1000s of images. There, you can drag, scroll, zoom, and, of course, jump into full-screen mode. You’ll have to try it out to really experience it. It brings the user one step closer to a fully immersive multimedia experience on the Web.

Once you download the 1MB plug-in (Mac or Win), go into a slideshow and try holding down and arrow key to cruise through the images.  I’d take a screenshot, but it doesn’t seem to get along with Snapz Pro.  [Update: Here’s one, though it doesn’t capture the motion.]  Really nicely done, guys!

[Update: Matthew from The Turning Gate has updated his free TTG Slimbox Gallery for Lightroom to offer PicLens compatibility.  I’ve confirmed that it does indeed work, provided you upload the exported gallery to a Web server.]

Lightroom Podcast #48: Gerd Ludwig

What’s it like to photograph inside Chernobyl?  That’s one of the many topics discussed in George Jardine‘s latest Lightroom podcast.  George writes:

This podcast was recorded on Wednesday November 20th, 2007 at the home of Greg Gorman in Los Angeles, Calfornia. Gerd Ludwig sits down with George to have a conversation about working with National Geographic on many interesting and diverse assignments. We discuss how he photographed inside the Chernobyl reactor, about the victims, the environment, and many other aspects that particular assignment. After that we delve deeper into his early cross country road trips photographing in Europe and India, and how his education with Otto Steinert played a key role in his photographic perspective today.

This “video” podcast includes photographs by Gerd Ludwig. It can be viewed by downloading it directly into iTunes (if you are accessing it by subscribing via the Music Store), or by copying it into iTunes on either a Mac or a PC (if you’ve downloaded it from my iDisk). Once copied into iTunes, it can be transferred to a Video iPod, and viewed that way as well.

The podcast (labeled "20071120 Podcast – Gerd Ludwig") is in the Public directory of George’s iDisk.

One *miiiillion* images per second

Dang–and I thought 1,200fps was pretty impressive, but that’s so last week.

The camera fiends at Vision Research have trotted out the Phantom V12, a crowd pleaser said to be capable of grabbing 1MM images per second (if you can live with 256×8 resolution; resolution goes up as frame rate goes down).  Their gear is “targeted at industrial applications ranging from biometric research to automotive crash testing,” they say. “Essentially,” opines Engadget, “this little bundle of joy is meant to be strapped into daredevil-type situations in order to grab as many photos as possible within a split second.”  Check out the company Web site for videos of a popcorn kernel popping and more. [Via Jerry Harris]

The proliferation of these high-speed capture devices makes me remember a talk given last year at Adobe by Microsoft researcher Michael Cohen.  He described the idea of “thick photos”–essentially taking little movies instead of single frames, making it possible to select the perfect moment in a series.  This development will probably further irritate photo purists, but I’d like to see a camera maker take a run at the idea.

[Update: Michael points out that his ideas are covered in some detail in this paper.  His own page offers more technical bits.]

Logos a Go-Go & mo'

Let's dis some designs

Nothing seems to bring people together quite like mutual dislike, it seems. :-) 

  • “Everyone who loves to bitch about crappy design now has RedesignMe,” says Core77, “a meeting place not just to complain and point out flaws, but to offer suggestions on how said crappy design could be better, and at best, push a redesign.”
  • Design Police: Bring bad design to justice with the help of these handy labels.  (Nice to see that “Unnecessary use of Photoshop effect” made the cut. ;-)) [Via]
  • Gene Gable has amassed quite a collection of vintage badges, and towards the end he dogs the Photoshop family logo (hey, what can I say) and terrible PS filter abuse.
  • Not so much ranting about design as using design to rant: Sh*tlist stationery.  [Via Maria Brenny]

Happy airing of grievances,

Mondrianum brings kuler to Photoshop

Joining a long list of apps integrated with Adobe’s kuler color harmony site, Photoshop & other Mac apps now get in on the game thanks to Lithoglyph’s CocoaKuler Mondrianum*.  The tool gives the Apple color picker the ability to browse kuler’s color harmony feeds, displaying the results in a slick Cover Flow view; here’s a screenshot.  To access the picker from within Photoshop, go into preferences and select the Apple (rather than Adobe) color picker.  Mucho groovio! [Via Lydia Varmazis]

*The name is a bit of a misnomer [name now updated], as Photoshop is Carbon-based (as are Final Cut Pro, iTunes, Office, etc.).

Community-powered Lightroom help goes live

Ever complained that software documentation kind of sucks*?  (Do you have a pulse?  The correlation seems to be about 1:1.)  We all have, which is why Adobe’s technical writing team has been working to enhance the product docs with community-sourced content.  If you think something could be explained better, jump in and make it so.

Adobe tech writer Anita Dennis passes along the news:

We’re pleased to announce the new Lightroom community help system, which provides core Adobe documentation for Lightroom as well as links to additional learning content from around the web.
The new site takes the current online help—LiveDocs—and makes it more useful and interactive. You can still navigate to topics using links the left side of the browser. But now, when you click a topic to read about it, you’ll find a Basics panel with Adobe documentation as well as a Learn More panel that offers links to tutorials, white papers, technical articles, and other instructional content.
This site is administered by Adobe, moderated by community experts, and developed with the assistance of a panel of Lightroom Learning Advisors. So you’ll also find links to the moderators’ and advisors’ favorite Lightroom sites, plus links to troubleshooting sites and a page that lists third-party presets, galleries, and extensions.
We invite you to visit, comment on our documentation, add links to your favorite tutorials and articles, and share your opinions by commenting on the links that others have posted. And feel free to send feedback on the site to us at

If the idea of integrating community knowledge into the apps lights your fire, check out my proposal on the subject.

* I’m not picking on the hardworking Adobe writers: beefs about software docs seem to be pretty universal.  I’ve often wondered why that is, and I think a few factors conspire keep things as they are.  Among them:

  • No one actually wants to RTFM.  We want expertise jacked straight into our heads.  As with photography, driving, or most other pursuits, it’s much easier to buy gear than to learn to use it well.
  • Due to publishing/localization schedules, tech writing staffs are trying to document features as they’re being written, instead of after the dust has settled.  Outside authors tend to write later in the cycle.
  • In-house tech writers have to be as broadly useful as possible.  That means it’s harder for them to pick a tone or approach that’s especially suited to one audience.

"Enter The Ghetto Matrix," Flash Panos, & HDR

  • "How to Enter The Ghetto Matrix": Graffiti Research Labs built their own bullet-time camera rig, then used it to make a music video. [Via]
  • Flash-based panoramas:
    • The NYT features a pair of interactive panoramas shot at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.  The audio helps add to the sense of being there, though I’d recommend skipping the built-in animation & instead clicking and dragging to navigate for yourself.
    • Rob Corell passed along these 360° video panoramas, created with the help of Papervision 3D. Go Irish.
  • More high dynamic range action:

Bill Gates, the Adobe IPO, and more

I always enjoy learning about the history of Adobe, and this video celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary revealed some bits I hadn’t known.  Among them: investor Bill Hambrecht talks about how, during the Adobe IPO process, Bill Gates called looking to buy some stock.  "I thought, ‘Okay, now I know we’ve got a good one,’" he says.  And yes, they let Bill buy some.

In looking at the culture shaped by company founders John Warnock & Chuck Geschke, long-time Macromedia (and now Adobe) veteran John Dowdell had this to say recently on his blog:

Adobe’s social culture is very strongly influenced by the values of its early years — Warnock, Geschke, Xerox PARC, PostScript, the wildly democratizing effect of desktop publishing, the years of work towards portable documents. These events set Adobe’s corporate culture, and shape it to this day. I had heard of this cultural environment when I worked at Macromedia, but really saw it, very strongly, after the acquisition. There’s an idealism, an academic approach towards technological democratization, that you can still see inside Adobe today.

I’ve heard one other bit about the early years (though now I can’t find the source*) that seems worth passing along.  I read that when employees would arrive at their desks, they’d find disassembled shelving units, a screwdriver, and some screws.  The message: unlike at PARC or other big companies, here you do it yourself if you want it to get done.  There’s no room for slacking, and you see quickly the results of your efforts.  I’d like to see us bring back that tradition.

* If I’m misremembering those details, I’d welcome any clarification from folks who were there.

Sunday Illustrations: From snowboards to Wonderbras

Panoramas, HDR, and the future of Lightroom

On Wednesday CNET’s Stephen Shankland sat down to talk with my boss Kevin Connor to talk about what’s on the roadmap for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  (I was there as well, but Stephen–correctly discerning that Kevin is the guy with the actual clue/plan/power–wisely focused his questions in that direction. ;-))  They conduced a fairly wide-ranging talk that hits on such topics as high dynamic range (HDR) imaging, panorama creation, and the future of Lightroom extensibility.

[Update: I see that Scott Kelby has posted extensive notes on what he’d like to see in Lightroom 2.0.]

Casio spitfire cranks out 1,200fps, does DNG

If the minigun-wielding Jesse the Body character from Predator bought a digital camera, he might well choose the Casio EX-F1. According to Macworld, "Casio will put on sale in March a digital still camera capable of shooting up to 60 full-resolution images in one second, and video at more than 1,000 per second to realize a super slow-motion effect." Engadget’s got some more details and video captured by the cam.  Lightroom/Camera Raw PM Tom Hogarty notes that the EX-F1 uses the open DNG format to store its raw captures.

Speaking of DNG, author/photographer Ben Long has released his Convert Raw to DNG Automator Action, enabling easy conversion to DNG via AppleScript.  Solid.

For more memory-crushing camera goodness, see previous.

GridIron Flow: Ridiculously cool workflow management

Unless you buy After Effects plug-ins, you’ve probably never heard of GridIron Software.  That’ll change.  This small Ottawa-based developer has unveiled one of the slickest, most potentially transformative applications I’ve seen in years.  My enthusiasm comes from what it could mean to Photoshop & Creative Suite customers.

Called GridIron Flow, the new software is designed to give you “Mind of God” knowledge of where your files are, how they’re related, how long you’ve been working on them, etc.  It consists of two things: a system process that runs in the background, tracking events while consuming minimal resources; and a front-end application (see this pair of screenshots) that displays files & data about them.

Let’s say you copy some vectors from Illustrator and paste them into Photoshop.  Flow, running invisibly in the background, notices the event and sees that there’s a relationship between the AI and PSD files.  When you pop open the Flow browser, you can see a connection between the files–even though Photoshop & Illustrator themselves don’t store or track a link.

If you then place the PSD into, say, After Effects, create an AEP file, and then render an FLV, Flow will create a workflow map–a chain of connections from one file/project to the next.  Right-click any of these files in your Finder/Explorer & Flow will show how they’re related.  If you try to move or delete a file, Flow will pop a message to mention that the file is related to others, offering to show the relationship.  Upshot: fewer broken links due to accidentally misplacing assets.

Okay, that’s cool, but it gets more interesting.  Now let’s say you edit your PSD a little, save, edit, save, etc.  Flow (not unlike Apple’s Time Machine) can be automatically versioning your files.  Although only the current version shows up in your Finder/Explorer, in the Flow UI you can see previous versions.  You can use a movie-style scrubber to move your project back in time.

Here’s why this is a big deal: All the data collection and versioning is automatic and invisible, which is the only way designers will benefit from it.  Creative people want to create, not type in metadata, fill out timesheets, etc.  If you force them to do data entry; to work in highly regimented projects; or to use wonky, restrictive tools for check-in/check-out, they’ll generally kick like mules.  (I know: I did just the same thing.)  The beauty of Flow is that it’s like an airbag–unobtrusive unless and until you need it.

I think that if you’ve ever used multiple design tools together, when you see Flow in action you’ll get the value in a hurry.  (I’m told GridIron will post a demo video soon, as that’ll make things much clearer.)  I’m waxing their cars pretty hard, so let me say for the record that I don’t have any formal relationship with these guys.  I was really excited by the concept when I saw an early version last summer, and we’ve been talking with GridIron about how to make Adobe tools play really nicely with Flow.

If this sounds like it’s up your alley, check out the additional feature notes on their site, and maybe sign up for the beta program that’s starting this spring.

PS–The GridIron guys have created a cute little video that sets up the problem they’re trying to solve.  I like that “goatee” has become universal shorthand for “designer.” 😉

Wicked cool: Building a 3D model from video

Here’s something pretty well guaranteed to put a smile on your face, I think: the Australian Centre for Visual Technologies has developed VideoTrace, "a system for interactively generating realistic 3D models of objects from video."  A user sketches a few surfaces, after which the system works to generate 3D data.  The short video demonstration is a little ho-hum until near the middle, which is where the uncontested smiling begins. 😉 [Via]

This demo makes me think of Strata’s Foto 3D, a tool for generating 3D models from within Photoshop, using just a series of photographs.  By placing an object onto a specially printed piece of paper, then shooting it from a variety of angles, you give the software enough info to generate a 3D model that can then live as a 3D layer in Photoshop CS3 Extended.

It also reminds me of Extended’s ability to set 3D planes on a photograph using its Vanishing Point plug-in, then export the results as 3D data for use in After Effects and other tools.  With it you can export an image like this as 3D data, then set camera movement in AE and create an animation like this.

kuler RIA comes to Dreamweaver

On the heels of integrations with Fireworks, Flash, Illustrator, Dashboard, and even Visio, Adobe’s kuler hosted app/color community is now integrated with Dreamweaver, courtesy of the good folks at WebAssist.  The panel is a free download from their site.

Seems like there just might be something to this desktop/Web hybrid thing.  Perhaps we’ll get it into Photoshop yet. 🙂

Speaking (completely tangentially) of Color-Related Technologies with Funky K-Based Names™, the color bars of Pioneer’s Project Kuro remind me of kuler.

Urban typography & more

  • Years ago, the design group at AGENCY.COM (of which I was part) was treated to a fun and informative talk from typographer Jonathan Hoefler.  He showed & discussed snapshots of type found just in our area around NYU, and in 2000 his partner Tobias Frere-Jones undertook a study of building lettering in New York (see samples).  Now their company (Hoefler & Frere-Jones) offers Gotham, a typeface inspired by the city’s visual vernacular.  The site offers a cool way to test drive typefaces, Gotham included.
  • Post Typography makes all kinds of visual goodness, typographic & otherwise.  Dig their Daydream Nation in particular, plus the subtlety of Home.  And though it’s not type per se, I like the look on this little dude’s face.
  • OCD yeah you know me: Non-profit Broadcloth fills in letters like there’s no tomorrow. [Via]
  • Mark Simonson’s Mostra offers Art Deco tastiness. [Via]
  • Oded Ezer’s Typosperma project, designed “to create some sort of new transgenic creatures,” is… well, it’s real different.
  • The Atlantic features a video interview with Michael Bierut about typography and design. [Via]
  • Want to bump up the grade on your term paper?  Use a serif font like Georgia & leave the sans serif strugglaz in the dust.  (Hmm–I wonder how this applies to what people think of the blog.) [Via]

Flickr phlows, Photo Friday

It's not the size of your brush…

Cue “It’s In The Way That You Use It” (and good luck getting that out of your head):  Illustrator Bob Stakke uses Photoshop 3.0 (no, not CS3–the one from ’94) to create some great-looking characters.  In a tech-saturated, next-next-next-oriented world, it’s nice to be reminded that creativity comes from people, not from machines and other tools.

Shakespeare could have rocked out in WordStar, and heck, you can draw Scarlett Johansson using MS Paint if you’d like.  That’s not to say that new tools don’t enable tons of new things, of course, and hopefully let creativity flow more freely.  It’s just a reminder that a car is nothing without its driver.  [Via Doug Nelson]

Speaking of Photoshop demos, “You Suck At Photoshop” returns with volume 2 of its depresso-funny PS stylings.  No “shaggin’ wagon” this time, but there is some territory-marking. [Via Clare McLean]

Adobe announces Universal Binary PS Elements 6

I’m on the road this week and hence a little slow on the draw, but I’m delighted to see that Adobe has announced Photoshop Elements 6.0 for Mac, due to ship in the second quarter of the year.  More details are on the new features page, as well as in the press release.

One key detail that’s not clearly mentioned is that yes, Photoshop Elements 6 runs natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs (i.e. it’s a Universal Binary); same goes for the version of Adobe Bridge that ships with Elements.  I’ll see whether we can clarify the product pages.

[Update: Macworld has posted a First Look at the new application.  Lesa Snider King writes, "All in all, it looks like Adobe has hit the mark of making photo editing easier than ever. Elements 6.0 seems to be the perfect ‘next step’ choice for anyone wanting to do more with their photos, while giving them plenty of room to grow. [Via Meredith Mills]]

Adobe and Omniture: Further details

As promised last week, a number of Adobe folks have been gathering information about Adobe desktop applications’ communications with a server named “,” operated by Web analytics firm Omniture.  Having already discussed what data is (and is not) being gathered and tracked, let’s talk about the history & purpose of the implementation.

The welcome screen (screenshot) that’s available in some Adobe CS3 applications (Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and InDesign) is designed to show fresh, relevant news and information.  For that reason it loads a Flash SWF file that’s hosted on, just as a Web browser would do.  When the SWF gets loaded, it pings the Omniture server to record the event.  As noted previously, no personal information is uploaded in that exchange.

Some questions & answers:

Q.: Why does the SWF fetched into the welcome screen call the Omniture server?
A.: All of the content fetched from does this.  Adobe, like almost all companies with a Web presence, anonymously tracks usage patterns and response-time statistics.  The only way to get effective data on this is to use client-side callbacks, and Adobe works with Omniture to do this.  Hence the call to the Omniture server.

Q.: Why does Adobe use a server whose name is so suspicious-looking?
A.: I’m afraid the answer is that we don’t really know.  The fact is that this SWF tracking code already existed on the Macromedia side at the time the companies merged, and it was adopted without change by a number of products for CS3.  The people who wrote the code originally did not document why they used that server name, and we can’t find anyone who remembers.  I’m sorry we aren’t able to provide a more solid, definitive explanation.

Q.: Follow-on: Given that you can’t give a good reason why Adobe is using a server whose name is so suspicious, are you going to change the name?
A.: Absolutely.  We are working with Omniture on this right now, and will make this change as soon as we can.  (I don’t know how long this will take, but will post here when I do.)

Longer-term (in future releases), we’ll do a better job of explaining what the apps are doing of the network and why.  I think we can enable some really amazing user experiences by bringing the desktop & online worlds closer together, and that most people will want to participate in those.  The key thing is that they be given the choice, and that they be made aware of what’s going on.

Does that make sense?  All in all, I’m glad that people raised the issue; that we can explain what Adobe apps are doing; and that we can bear this experience in mind as we move forward.


PS–A tech note is now live on, detailing the way the apps interact with the server.

War and rebirth, in photos & illustration

  • When not driving between continents & documenting the experience, German-born, Brooklyn-dwelling photographer Christoph Bangert produces gripping photojournalism in Iraq, Darfur, and elsewhere.  You can find his Iraq effort reviewed here, and on the NYT site Christoph narrates over a selection of his photos.
  • Offering a different take on Iraq, Shooting War is a graphic novel written by Anthony Lappe & illustrated by Dan Goldman.  You can find background & a review on  According to that site, "To layer drawings and shading on top of photos, Goldman drew everything directly onto a 21-inch touch screen using an electronic, wireless pen, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop. Everything combined, this is a slick-looking book."
  • On a rather brighter note, the NYT features a slideshow on kite flying in Kabul–a colorful pastime banned under the Taliban.  See related article, with video.

"You suck at Photoshop"

Heh–in my line of work I’ve seen a lot of Photoshop video tutorials, but never one quite like this:

You Sucjk at Photoshop #1: Distort, Warp, and Layer Effects

Let’s hear it for facilitating emotionally abusive relationships the world over!  (Russell Brown interjects, "And I thought my demos were crazy!") 😉 [Via Doug Nelson & others]

On a more straightforward video training note, the pros at Total Training are running a special on CS3 training.  You can save up to 35%, but you’ve gotta be quick as the special ends tomorrow (Jan. 8) at midnight.

'007 in review: Photography, design, and more


  • 2007 was the year the digital SLR boomed, reports CNET’s Stephen Shankland, offering links to top stories throughout the year.  He notes that "Adobe released Photoshop Lightroom in March, and in just a few months it surpassed in popularity the earlier Apple rival, Aperture."
  • Serious photogs keep seeking a nice compromise between SLR quality & compact portability.  A number of folks around Adobe’s West 10th floor have been intrigued by the Canon G9; see Ben Long’s review.
  • Meanwhile a megapixel backlash seems to be building steam. "The more pixels, the worse the image!" says a German camera-testing lab, arguing that splitting a compact sensor into smaller & smaller bits is bad juju.
  • In terms of the craft itself (which keeps proving itself death-proof), Rob Galbraith rounds up a large group of pictures of the year collections.  The sheer number of galleries is a little daunting (paradox of choice, anyone?), but I can at least vouch for MSNBC & Canada Post galleries.  I find the little NatGeo gallery underwhelming.


  • The company was so busy (Creative Suite 3, Lightroom, new CEO…), it’s hard to believe that it was just in ’07 that so much went down.  Fortunately Scott Kelby provides a thorough overview.
  • Zeroing in just on Photoshop Lightroom, Scott’s colleague Matt Kloskowski offers A look back at Lightroom in 2007, recalling the year’s interviews, cool add-ons, and more.


Recent Flash coolness

Some bits I’ve encountered in recent travels:

  • Mr. Doob is out of hand, creating all kinds of cool Flash experiments, 3D and otherwise.  From the fireworks on the home page to a blog full of examples, the guy is keeping busy.  I especially like this 3D cube and these spheres, both showing off depth-of-field effects enabled by Papervision 3D.  This little fluid simulation is fun, too (reload the page to reconfigure the pieces).
  • presents the fashion designer’s work in a novel way. Mouse over the little arrows that sit above the pages of each portfolio, and you’ll see the images whip by in little time lapses. You can also rotate each portfolio 180 degrees. [Via]
  • Layer Tennis comes to Flash in a friendly clash between James Hutchinson & Trevor Van Meter. [Via]
  • Reminding me why I could afford only 120 sq. ft. in Manhattan (hello, Brooklyn!), 5th on the Park offers 1,800 sq. ft. in Harlem–for a cool $1.6 mil.  I mention it here because of the cool presentation of the building & its units.  You can roll over each face of the structure, clicking any unit to see its floor plan & other details. [Via]
  • Art Is A Gift uses a Flash UI to let you style a little "Baby Qee" critter.  Check out the gallery section, as well as the "About" link that shows kids painting the real thing as art therapy. [Via Jeff Tranberry]
  • Enfant Terrible sets off its shopping site with a cheerful, simple little animated illustration. [Via]
  • Adobe has created a 25th Anniversary Timeline of the company, on which you can see key developments in people, personnel, and the industry at a whole.  I’m undecided as to how successfully I think the sort of "mystery meat" rollover approach works.  There’s also a Flash-based 15-page overview document, complete with embedded video.  (Weirdly I don’t see a downloadable PDF version.)

CSS weasels rip my flesh

Having just stumbled across the crazy-handsome I Love Typography, and having just talked about The Elements of Typographic Style being applied to the web, I have to slap my forehead–again–at my inability to get this blog to look consistent across browsers.  You might think that after 14 years of development, Web browsers would have made all this a non-issue.  You’d be wrong.

I’m specifically irked that I can’t get Firefox to display the titles of posts at anything approximating the correct size.  Check out how they look in Firefox vs. in Safari & Internet Explorer.  Typically it’s IE that gets taken to the woodshed for its standards-compliance, but in this case Firefox is the odd man out.  (Tell me, though, that both Windows browsers’ failure in 2008 to anti-alias the text is just an artifact of my running Vista on a Mac.  Please…?)

I’ve been using Cultured Code’s beautiful little Xylescope app to inspect my pages & tweak the CSS values.  Safari & IE respond obediently when I tweak the size of h3.title; Firefox, eh, no response.  And it’s obviously possible to get Firefox to honor font sizes; the author name on this page, for example, renders the same in Safari & Firefox.

I also failed to understand why the appearance of the comments area would differ between Safari and Firefox (the latter showing the text much larger).  Now that I’ve updated to Safari 3, though, I see that it displays the text as Firefox does.

I spent the early part of my career wrestling with browser incompatibilities, so I know this kind of thing shouldn’t surprise me.  I guess I just figured that, all these years later, something so simple should be a no-brainer.

Tangentially related: Man Against Weasel.

[Update: Thanks to Mark and Fredrik and their super quick & accurate suggestions, I’ve been able to nix the FF rendering problem. Viva the wisdom of crowds.]

Type, from the Bible to the Beatles to Browsers

Non-destructive imaging: Easy as PIE

"Over the last couple of decades," writes photographer and author Peter Krogh, "the term non-destructive has been applied to many different
kinds of imaging technologies. While the term is useful as a broad classification, it covers so much ground that it can often add more confusion than clarity…"

With an eye towards helping identify which type of non-destructive imaging offers the best tools for given tasks, Peter has written an interesting and thorough overview (PDF) of what, exactly, entails "non-destructive imaging."  In it he proposes some terminology–e.g. Parametric Image Editing, or "PIE"–to help distinguish one kind of approach from another.  Thanks to Peter for all the hard work in parsing the issues & proposing clearer ways to talk about them.

The paper joins others in Adobe’s collection of Adobe digital photography white papers and primers.  The paper have been very well received, and you might find them worth browsing.

What data do Adobe apps gather & upload?

As promised, a number of folks at Adobe have been digging into questions raised about what data is being gathered by Adobe applications, what’s being uploaded & tracked, etc.  It’s an ongoing investigation, but in the interest of sharing info as quickly as possible, I’d like to pass along what we’ve gathered so far.

One of the most alarming claims (made by readers posting on Slashdot and elsewhere) is that Adobe apps are surreptitiously uploading users’ serial numbers.  Adobe engineer Tobias Hoellrich has spent a bunch of time analyzing the issue and has posted his findings and methodology on his blog.  Short story: "Based on my analysis, I don’t see any evidence that serial-numbers are being sent to either * or *"  This info matches everything else I’ve been able to learn on the subject: the welcome screen SWF is not gathering/uploading serial numbers or other personal info.

There is one instance in which Adobe applications do upload a user’s serial number: during product activation.  During that process (which has been around for roughly four years), an encrypted copy of the serial number is uploaded to the activation server.  Note that activation is not the same thing as registration.  The registration process (during which you supply your name, contact info, etc.) is optional and is not connected to activation (which does not include that kind of personal data).  Details are available in the activation FAQ.  None of this is new, nor is it related to the welcome screen SWF, but it’s worth mentioning for the sake of clarity & disclosure.

Tobias’s post doesn’t discuss the controversial "" URL being in conjunction with the welcome screen SWF.  Adobe staff are getting in touch with stats-tracking firm Omniture to get more info.  As soon as I have more to share on that front, I’ll post it here.

Welcoming a new year with animation & photos

Hey everyone–happy 2008!  May the new year bring you much peace, joy, success, and hilarity.

The madcap, After Effects-wielding Spiridellis brothers at JibJab have created a great animation to ring out ’07.  The look on Steve Jobs’s face is particularly excellent. 🙂

The NYT features a gallery of New Years photos from around the world.  I really like the shot of a sparkler-loving child in Moscow, as well as a slightly surreal shot of the Popemobile at night.