Monthly Archives: March 2008

A great digital imaging project honors the fallen

Photographer Peter Krogh (author of the excellent The DAM Book, the Rapid Fixer extension for Bridge, and more) recently completed an ambitious & enormous digital imaging project: photographing all 58,256 names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, enabling the creation of an interactive online version of the wall.  By stitching together some 1,494 digital images into a 400,000 pixel by 12,500 pixel monster, Peter & colleague Darren Higgins were able to help create a Flash-based presentation that enables you to search for names, read servicemen’s details, and add notes and photos to the wall.

The presentation site features some behind-the-scenes production info, but figuring there was more to the story, I asked Peter for details.  He kindly provided them in this article’s extended entry.  Read on for more.

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Science drops: Tumbling hippies, Chinese cannons, & more

Okay, I’m getting a little far afield of scientific imaging per se, but I found the following interesting & thought you might as well.

  • Oh man–tumbling hippies + Jabberwocky + amino acids: this 1971 MIT video has it all.  When that hoodling organ sountrack kicks in, you know it’s gonna be good. (Skip ahead 3:30 or so to the dancing.) [Via]
  • Hmm–I wonder whether these come in “Ps” or “Ai”: periodic table rings. [Via Jeffrey Warnock]  (Of course, a more committed geek would go with knuckle tattoos–the arm already having been done.)
  • The Chinese government is apparently trying to control the weather at the Olympics, literally shooting clouds out of the sky.  Seriously.
  • Lunar images & infographics:
  • I’m not sure that it constitutes scientific imaging, but Wikipedia hosts a beautiful column of fire.  Talk about an awesome blossom.

Saturday Type

A note about PS Express terms of use

Amidst all the positive, enthusiastic responses to the launch of Photoshop Express, I’ve seen some concerns about the terms of use.  This item in particular draws attention:

8. Use of Your Content. Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, with respect to Your Content that you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Services, you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, derive revenue or other remuneration from, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other Materials or works in any format or medium now known or later developed.

This afternoon I got the following note from the Photoshop Express team:

We’ve heard your concerns about the terms of service for Photoshop Express beta.  We reviewed the terms in context of your comments – and we agree that it currently implies things we would never do with the content.  Therefore, our legal team is making it a priority to post revised terms that are more appropriate for Photoshop Express users.  We will alert you once we have posted new terms.  Thank you for your feedback on Photoshop Express beta and we appreciate your input.

I’ll post an update when I know more. [Update: See the revised terms of service.]

Web conference for free & share big files on Adobe's dime

Alongside Photoshop Express, Adobe has been quietly and vigorously building out some interesting online collaboration and sharing tools.  (“Watch Out – Adobe Is Slowly Building an Online Empire,” says ReadWriteWeb.) Here are a pair that can help you work with colleagues and clients–for free.

  • "Brio" is the codename for the next version of Adobe Acrobat Connect (once known as Breeze), the screen/voice/document-sharing system that runs through the Flash Player.  Brio lets you
    collaborate in real time with up to two partners. Terry White writes,

    The only catch is that Adobe hopes that by trying this FREE version out, you’ll get so hooked that you’ll want more and you’ll want to step up to the full version of Connect Pro for your business or organization to get rid of the limits. However, you’re not obligated to do so. So you have nothing to lose. Account setup is painless and if you already have an Adobe ID, it takes about 1 minute to set up your BRIO account.

  • "Share" is a free Web-based service that allows you to share, publish and organize documents easily.  According to the Adobe Labs site,

    Each document you upload to your Share account is assigned a unique website address. To share a document with someone, select the document you want to share, enter the person’s email address and an optional message, and set whether the files will be publicly accessible or restricted only to the recipients. Recipients will get an email with a link they can click on to download the document. You can also link to your documents, or embed rich Flash® previews on your own website, blog or wiki.

    On photographer Danya Henninger says,
    "We use it to send large files to clients. We can deliver the product online. I just got into the Adobe Share beta. It worked out perfectly."

[Via Karen Tomlinson]

Photoshop Express RIA arrives!

I’m happy to report that Photoshop Express, Adobe’s new online tool for organizing, editing, and sharing images, has launched in beta form. Some highlights at a glance:

  • Includes tools for applying spot healing, distortions, sharpening/softening, color tweaks, image filters, and more
  • Offers 2GB of space for storing images
  • Supports tie-ins to Facebook, MySpace, and Picasa
  • Runs in any browser on Mac, Windows, or Linux using the Flash Player (v9) [Update: Sounds like there are some beta-ish glitches in some browsers]
  • Will include an AIR-based desktop version (useful for editing images offline) and printing services
  • Will remain free, with paid service adding more functionality

Adobe’s Terry White gives a great intro with screenshots, and you can jump right into using Express by hitting the “Test Drive” button on the right side of the landing page.  More info is in the press release, this CNET overview, and more stories that are popping up by the minute. [Update: Kelby Training has created an online learning center for Express.]

[Update 2: Here’s what Adobe SVP John Loiacono has to say about Photoshop Express, software as a service at Adobe, and more.]


Fire, ketchup & Aquafresh = typography; more

3D text goodness

Side note: I keep trying to tell developers that I think there’s an opportunity to knock together a very simple 3D extrusion/adjustment environment as a Photoshop plug-in, leveraging PS CS3 Extended’s ability to manipulate 3D layers.  No one has yet seized the opportunity, but I’ll keep trying.

Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac now shipping

I’m pleased to report that Photoshop Elements 6.0 for Mac is now shipping.  The new release runs natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs & offers a wealth of new features.  As Macworld sums up the highlights,

New features in Photoshop 6 include “Photomerge,” which lets users create group shots by combining the best facial expressions and body language from an entire group of shots. The software has three edit modes — Guided, Quick and Full. Guided Edit mode is new, offering step-by-step help for users. New tabs provide access to many of Photoshop Elements’ features. Color to black-and-white conversion has been improved.

A new copy runs $89.99 (upgrade $69.99), available via the store.

A pair of cool new Photoshop plug-ins

  • People are raving about Nik Software’s Viveza plug-in for color correction within Photoshop.  The tool uses Nik’s unique U-Point technology for placing a control element onto the document, then tweaking hue, saturation, contrast, etc. on the canvas. Here’s a quick video intro to the basics.  Scott Kelby loves it, and the plug-in picked up a Best of Show from Macworld at PMA.  It’s $249 diretly from Nik.
  • onOne Software, publishers of tools like Genuine Fractals and Mask Pro, have announced Focal Point for selectively blurring images, adding vignettes, and more.  I’ve mentioned ways to simulate lens blur & tilt-shift photography using Photoshop, but Focal Point goes further in offering an interative "lens bug" widget for fine control.  The plug-in is scheduled to ship next month and will cost $159.95. [Via]

Logo trends, past and future

Type In Motion

  • Motion graphics firm National Television lays on the delightful treatments in these two spots for British Airways. [Via]
  • Pixar artists put more love into the margins than most folks do into the main subject.  If you like their work, check out Thunder Chunky’s interview with Pixar title designer Susan Bradley. [Via]
  • Typeflash lets you whip up animated text, then share the results.
  • Retro fabulosity:
    • The video for Justice’s DVNO is loaded with old-skool action. [Via]
    • Design firm Laundry lays down some splashy type stylings around their site.  Click the Virgin Mobile (which is not, as I first read it, “Virginmobile”) link to see some diggable animations. [Via]
  • Always hilarious: Tenacious D’s Inward Singing (loaded with profanity, just so you know before clicking).
  • Designers Leroy & Clarkson put type in motion for Bio, the biography channel. [Via]

Photoshop + Lightroom = Killer B&W

One of my favorite things about working on the Photoshop team is that we get to build a product people actually want to use when they leave work.  That means that lots of the engineers, QE folks, marketroids, and others are avid photographers, and the halls of the floor are lined with their work.

Recently, every time I’ve walked by the office of Kelly Castro from the Lightroom team, I’ve noticed really striking black & white portraits on his monitors.  Knowing that my friend & fellow Photoshop PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes had recently co-authored a great book covering B&W in Photoshop and Lightroom, I suggested he touch base with Kelly to learn more about the way he combines the two products.  Here’s his report. –J.

[Update: Note that Kelly added some more details via the comments.]
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"Am I Hot Or Not" for Websites

CommandShift3 (heh, great little Mac-nerd name) describes itself as "like Hot or Not.
Except, instead of clicking on hot babes, you click on hot websites."  In other words, screenshots of two sites are presented for your review, and you click the one whose design you prefer.  It’s fun to think about why certain sites are more appealing than others, and I’ve found myself clicking through to explore more than a few of the contestants.  Note the leaderboard that shows particularly strong sites from the week, month, and all time.

Adobe kuler RIA adds new capabilities

A new version of kuler, Adobe’s popular rich Internet application for color exploration and sharing, has just launched.  New features:

  • Use color extraction to quickly and automatically generate a color theme from any uploaded photo or other image. Explore different moods, such as bright or muted, to see different colors, or drag the markers to select colors. [Hit "Create" over in the left-hand navigation, then select "From an Image" at upper-left.]
  • Endless favorites: Now save as many themes as you like, and browse them in your Mykuler area
  • Browse by Random (randomly selected) themes, in addition to Highest Rated, Newest, and Most Popular

Enjoy! [Via Sami Iwata]

New Illustrated Hotness

Photographic coolness: Miniature worlds & more

A note about the Lightroom/Camera Raw update

Ugh.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Lightroom team has uncovered some problems with the Lightroom 1.4 and Camera Raw 4.4 releases posted on Thursday.  The updates have been pulled down temporarily while the team addresses the problems.  In the meantime Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty has posted details and guidance on how to roll back to previous versions.  The most serious issue is that the time stamp generated by your camera & stored in EXIF metadata can get overwritten when you update other file metadata.

On behalf of everyone involved, I’m sorry about all this hassle.  We’ll straighten things out ASAP.

[Update: Tom has posted an apology.]

Giant lasers, DIY galaxies, and more

In honor of today being Pi Day (mmm, Pi…), it seems appropriate to share a wad of science-y bits:

Lightroom 1.4, Camera Raw 4.4 now available

Adobe has released updates to Photoshop Lightroom (Mac|Win) and the Photoshop Camera Raw (Mac|Win) plug-in, both available immediately for download from or via the Adobe Update Manager (choose Help->Updates from within Lightroom or Photoshop). The releases provide added raw file support for nine additional digital cameras, including the Canon EOS 450D and Nikon D60–bringing the total number of supported cameras to nearly 200. Lightroom 1.4 also provides updated printer driver compatibility for Apple Leopard Mac OS X 10.5.


  • EOS 450D


  • S100FS


  • D60


  • SP-570 UZ


  • K20D
  • K200D


  • A200
  • A300
  • A350

According to the release notes, Lightroom 1.4 and Camera Raw 4.4 include corrections for the following issues:

* Previous camera profiles identified in the Calibrate panel of the Develop module may have displayed poor results at extreme ends of the temperature and tint ranges. A new camera profile identified as Camera Raw 4.4 is now available and will be applied by default to all images without existing Camera Raw or Lightroom settings. The creation of new default profiles will also include the updated Camera Raw 4.4 profile. Images edited in Camera Raw or Lightroom with earlier profiles will retain the earlier profile value and visual appearance.

* In previous grayscale conversions the Color Noise setting was disabled and this could result in an image with excessive noise when grayscale channel mixing is applied.  Both the tool and effect have been enabled in Lightroom 1.4 and Camera Raw 4.4 providing the ability to reduce noise in grayscale conversions.  In order to return to the prior visual appearance, Color Noise reduction can be set to zero.

Lightroom 1.4 includes corrections for the following issue:

* Compatibility with legacy printer drivers on OS X 10.5 (Leopard) has been updated.

Quick tips for your Photoshop work environment

The following tips are a tad esoteric, but I’m passing them along in case they’re of interest/use:

  • When you press F in Photoshop and enter Maximized or Full-Screen Mode with Menu Bar, the background surrounding the image goes to gray; press F again (taking you into Full-Screen Mode (no menu bar)) and the background will change to black.  Not long ago a customer who does retouching at a large magazine asked for the ability to change the background color in Photoshop windows.  In order not to pollute his color perception, he wanted to view images against a particular shade.

    It turns out the capability is already there: right-click (Win)/Ctrl-click (Mac) to set the background color to gray, black, or a color of your choosing; here’s a screenshot.  Alternatively, you can grab the Paint Bucket tool, then shift-click the background to make it take on whatever foreground color you have selected.  Each screen mode can have its own background color.  New to CS3 is the abilty to cycle through gray, black, and custom colors by pressing Shift-F.  This little trick gave rise to my CS3 Stupid Photoshop Trick: going "clubbing" in Photoshop by holding down ShiftSpace-F* while singing the "do-DE-do-DOO-do" riff from The System Is Down(Trust me, you’re not missing out.)

  • On the Mac OS you can drag the little "document proxy" icon in any document’s title bar (screenshot) in order to move the document around, provided you don’t have any unsaved changes.  Dave Girard from Ars Technica swears by this capability as a quick way to move files between Photoshop, Bridge, Maya, and other applications.  In this short video he shows a folder being revealed in Bridge, then documents being moved among apps without requiring a trip back to the Finder or Bridge.

*D’oh–sorry, I typed the wrong modifier; now fixed. I need to stop writing these things at 3am (no kidding).

A tip on Photoshop Mac stability

According to an Adobe tech note, it’s possible that the Adobe Version Cue CS3 3.1.0 update won’t get installed correctly, leading to a damaged framework file that can cause Photoshop to crash.  To fix the problem, you can download this small updater and run it.  If you’re not able to run the script (e.g. you don’t have admin privileges on your machine), you can go into Photoshop preferences (Cmd-K), then go into File Handling and uncheck "Enable Version Cue." The tech note mentions other Adobe CS3 apps, but I’ve tried the fix only with Photoshop.  In any event running the updater is a good idea.

From D&D to decapitations, in infographics & maps

Tips for HDR in Photoshop & Lightroom

  • Colin Smith of has posted a tutorial on creating high dynamic range images using Photoshop, then tone mapping them using Photoshop’s built-in tools as well as HDRSoft’s Photomatix plug-in for Photoshop.  Scroll all the way down for a cool theater shot Colin created using these techniques.
  • Over on LightroomNews, Sean McCormack covers LR/Enfuse, Timothy Armes’ project to integrate the open-source Enfuse blending program right into Lightroom.  LR/Enfuse is available from Timothy’s site & is supported by user donations.

On a slightly related note, if the topic of digital dynamic range is up your alley, you might want to check out Stu Maschwitz’s detailed experiments with video gear.

Flash moving to an XML-based authoring format

Well, I guess the cat is scratching its way out of the bag: as noted Flash author and developer Colin Moock reports on his blog, the Flash authoring tool is moving away from its binary FLA authoring format (undocumented & unreadable to the outside world) and towards an XML-based format.  Yeah!

Why the excitement?  I’ll admit, this seems like a pretty arcane subject, but the possible ramifications for workflow are great.  Colin writes,

Historically, interchanging source with the Flash authoring tool has been virtually impossible for third-party software because the specification for .fla has never been public… [Now, however,] in theory you might one day edit the images of an XFL file directly in Photoshop without disturbing the timeline information also contained in that file. Or you might be able to import a page from a word processing document into a Flash presentation.

I should add the obligatory caveat that plans are subject to change, none of this may happen, void where prohibited, professional driver on a closed course, etc.  Even so, I find the direction really exciting.

Back in 1999, long before I came to work here, I started lobbying my contacts at Macromedia and Adobe to create something I called the "Flash Interchange Format"–some XML representation of at least the basics of an animation (object name, position, scale, etc.) so that I could use Flash and After Effects together.  Unfortunately Flash remained locked to the inscrutable FLA format.  We did devise an XML interchange format that let LiveMotion and After Effects talk, and Dr. Woohoo has done terrific work enabling Flash and AE to exchange data, yet the tools continue to lack an out-of-the-box solution.

Now, however, I hear the sounds of a big door opening, and it’s a welcome sound indeed.

Friday Photos: Slam dunks to Zeppelin

No, seriously, you *do* suck at Photoshop…

Heh–in the vein of sites like, now we’ve got the Photoshop Disasters blog–chock full of image manipulation mishaps.  It’s good to indulge in a little schadenfreude now and then, and with phrases like “the culturally-ravaged, post-wardrobe-malfunction neo-fundamentalist, sexual dystopia we live in,” it has to be good.  (Wasn’t that the Smucker’s slogan?) [Via Lori Grunin]

Speaking of sucking, You Suck at Photoshop #8 has been posted, getting Fergilicious with 3D layers.

Recent Typographic Tastiness

Technology sneak: InDesign -> Flash

“Print is not dead,” says InDesign Product Manager Michael Ninness. “But design for print only is dying.”

At last week’s InDesign Conference*, Myke & Adobe evangelist Tim Cole showed a sneak preview of InDesign handing off a rich layout to the Flash authoring tool, then turning it into an interactive composition.  Terri Stone from’s got the story and screenshots, while John Dowdell shares some perspective from a longtime observer of designer-developer interactions. [Update: Mordy Golding has posted videos of the demo.]

What’s particularly cool here, I think, is that InDesign isn’t just producing a SWF file.  That approach can be great when you want one-stop shopping, but we saw very clearly in the LiveMotion days that integration with Flash authoring is an essential option.  Without integration, content creators face an either/or choice of tools, meaning that each app ends up trying to do everything you could want. 

By emphasizing integration, Adobe can avoid re-inventing the wheel or stuffing half of Flash inside InDesign; instead, each tool can focus on doing what it does best. InDesign can nail layout, styling, content aggregation, and basic interactivity, while Flash can pick up for richer coding and animation. (As it happens, Myke is a veteran of Microsoft’s Expression/Silverlight effort, before which he was my boss on LiveMotion, so I’m really glad he’s helping shape these efforts.)

For more examples of InDesign-style content taken to the next level with Flash, check out the full-screen, video-enhanced Flash presentation of Reporte Indigo (“Inicia tu experiencia aquí!”) and the page curls of Lovely Magazine.  (The sneak showed page curls being specified right within InDesign, then running in the Flash Player.)  [Via Lynly Schambers]

Tangentially related: InDesign Magazine is offering a free trial issue as a downloadable PDF–no strings attached.

*InDesign now gets its own conference; back in the day, whouda thunk it? You’ve come a long way, baby. 🙂

[PS–On the baby front (hey, how could I resist?), I have to say that it’s kinda bizarre to get back to talking about technology & the usual ephemera I share here. I checked mail on Sunday and saw a CNET headline about the future of digital photography (sounds interesting, haven’t read it yet). I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah… digital photography… people are still talking about that?” What a seismic shift in perspective this whole thing produces.]

Please welcome Mr. Finnegan Nack

“‘Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
  He chortled in his joy.”

I could not be more proud (or tired!) in announcing that precisely 18 hours ago, my inimitable Margot launched
our greatest collaboration—one Mr. Finnegan Liggett Nack (“Finn” to future pals).  The wee master (a full 9lb, 7oz) stormed into town after a whirlwind labor—kicking off around 10pm last night, and stepping onto the world stage at 4:54am Pacific.  I promise not to turn the blog into JNack’s Kiddie Kavalcade, but a handful of photos are here in case you’re interested. [Update: The little man has his own blog now, too.]

Right now the small guy is practicing his nursing (c’mon, sucking isn’t that hard; just pretend you’re in marketing!), and this marks my first (but hardly last) blogging-at-crazy-kid-induced-hour post.  I actually did have the presence of mind to bank a few posts ahead of his arrival, but I expect my publishing schedule to be erratic for a while.  Now excuse me while I keel over in a happy, spent pile. 🙂

[Update: Wow, thanks for all the kind wishes!  What an amazing experience…

By the way, regarding his name, we freestyled on a lot of contenders.  Mashing up a lot of teammates’ names, we (okay, I) thought that “Seetharaman Narayanan Shig-Zorana Nack” would be pretty cool. 🙂 ]

Now showing: The original Photoshop icons

With Photoshop recently having celebrated a birthday, it’s fun to stumble across the original Photoshop icons.  Make that "PhotoShop," as the big S was present when the application was briefly bundled by BarneyScan, before it became an Adobe product*.  The original product icon, designed by Photoshop co-creator John Knoll, was replaced by the eye that served from 1990-2003.  John added his perspective in the blog post’s comments. [Via]

If this is up your alley, you might also enjoy:

*Until recently, however, the spellchecker in MS Office insisted on inserting the capital S–completely annoying.  I filed a bug with Microsoft, but I don’t know whether the change made it into Office ’07.