Monthly Archives: May 2008

Friday photos: Earthquakes, birds, war, & more

  • Slate features an excellent photo essay from Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak, Wars: Chechnya and Iraq.  The subject is heavy, but his sardonic narration is well worth a listen.
  • Happening to have a camera on hand during a terrible interruption yielded this rather amazing earthquake wedding photo gallery. [Via]
  • The NYT profiles photographer Nikola Tamindzic.  “He uses long exposures, then shakes the camera while the shutter is still open, causing colors to blur and lights to streak. ‘I’m not recording what is really happening, but it’s something like what the brain is seeing late at night, especially if maybe you’re drunk or very excited,’ he said.” [Via]   On his own site he offers one of the more punishing self portaits I’ve ever seen.
  • Ernesto Scott teaches photography near my old home town & offers lots of lovely bird shots.
  • Raw in the raw: camera tech nerds (or just the curious) may enjoy Looking at a Real NEF Bayer Pattern. [Via Dave Polaschek]
  • Photographer Jay Maisel is offering more intensive NYC-based photography workshops (July 14-18, Sept. 15-19, and Nov. 17-21).  Details are on his site.

Good intentions gone awry

Note to self: "Blog first & ask questions later" is a really bad approach.


On Saturday I posted a blog entry in which I tried to clarify some details of what we’ve been developing in Photoshop.  Unfortunately, looking back, it’s clear I did a poor job of communicating what I intended.  In particular I regret the way I went about pointing out some errors I’d seen in stories.


Let me give you a little context about how things unfolded.  A few weeks ago I demonstrated some "potential future Photoshop technology" (more on what that means in a minute) during Adobe’s meeting with financial analysts.  Some folks at NVIDIA saw that demo and asked whether we’d mind repeating it at a press gathering they’d scheduled for last Thursday.  We said sure, and I got busy testing everything on a system they supplied.


On Friday I saw Theo Valich’s story on TG Daily covering the demo.  One detail jumped out at me: "The package is expected to be released on October 1."  As anyone who’s dealt with Adobe will tell you, we very rarely share details about when most products are expected to ship.  In fact, during my demo I’d noted a number of times that I was just showing some possible future technology, not announcing a new version, timing, etc.


Throughout the next day and a half, I kept getting Google Alerts linking to articles that repeated and amplified the news, occasionally misstating various details.  I started getting mail from colleagues to the effect of, "You said what??"


At that point, watching the story morph and replicate, I decided to try to nip things in the bud by sharing some clarifications.  Given that we were in the middle of a long holiday weekend, I opted to act quickly–too quickly.  I ended up overreacting, and whereas I should have dropped a line to at least some of the various media outlets, I called them out here.  The irony is that I was complaining about people blogging too quickly without checking all their facts, and in the process I was blogging too quickly without checking my facts!


On Sunday I got a quick & courteous note from Jonathan Fingas of Electronista thanking me for the clarifications & noting that they’d updated their story.  Similarly I heard from staff at Gizmodo & TG Daily noting that they’d made updates.  I greatly appreciate that, and in the future I’ll find a much better way of pointing out needed changes.


As for the content of my post, I know there’s been some lingering confusion, so let me try to clarify a few points for the record:


  • I didn’t say whether the next version of Photoshop would or would not be called CS4.  Instead, I was simply trying to point out that what I was showing was a technology demonstration that was independent of a particular version.
  • Similarly, I didn’t say that GPU-enabled features would or would not ship in the next version of Photoshop.  Think, "I can neither confirm nor deny…"  When developing any product, details are always subject to change, and it’s always possible that some unforeseen roadblock will appear.  That’s why we try so hard to wrap a lot of caution tape around any future-looking statements: we’re excited to be showing you some of what we’re building, and we hope you are, too, but we want to manage expectations & not over-promise anything. Make sense?
  • Lastly, I didn’t say that the next version Photoshop would or would not ship on a particular date.  My (badly made) point was that nothing had been announced, so the fact that a date of "October 1" kept getting repeated should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt.


In short, I just meant to say that we weren’t promising any particular features at any particular time–nothing more, nothing less.  Hopefully needless to say, we’ll work as hard as we can to bring you the good stuff sooner rather than later.

Adobe product tryouts unavailable in June

According to an FAQ on,


During the month of June 2008, certain product trials that are launched for the first time (regardless of when they were installed) will function for only one day instead of 30 days, due to an error in a line of code that counts down the remaining days in a trial. You will not experience this issue if you have launched your trial before June 1, 2008, or do not launch it until July 1 or thereafter.


Therefore product trials are unavailable for download from at the moment.  Customer Service says, "If you tried to use an Adobe trial in June and it expired after one day, please visit for more information."

Interested in testing the next Adobe Bridge?

The Bridge folks are looking for more input & testing coverage on the next version of the software, so they’ve asked me to pass along the following note:


Bridge Customers,

We are looking for a few interested Adobe Bridge users to join our Prerelease Program. We need customers who use Bridge in their workflow regularly and want to provide constructive feedback to the Bridge team on monthly prerelease builds of Bridge. If you are interested, please complete the prerelease request form.  Be sure to select ‘Adobe Bridge’ from the product list.

Note: A non-disclosure agreement will be required and space is limited, so unfortunately we won’t be able to accept all who apply.

Thanks for your interest in Adobe Bridge!

Fire on the Mountain

As you may have heard, for the last few days large fires have been burning in the Santa Cruz mountains overlooking Adobe HQ.  Quite a few of our colleagues live in or over the hills, but fortunately no one on the Photoshop team has (as far as I know) had to evacuate.  Bryan Hughes didn’t sleep well on Thursday night, I know, with the fire half a mile from his house (shoes on, cats in hand).


I mention it because on my way to an air show yesterday, I snaked through the mountains via some back roads and was surprised to see a very large and imposing Chinook helicopter barreling towards our car, on its way to reload water from the pond right behind me.  I pulled over and popped off a few frames that may be of interest to other aviation nerds.  Included in the set is the swift, violent, helicopter-borne death of a white Jeep Cherokee.  (Yeah, it blowed up real goood!)  Plumes of smoke from the mountains are visible in a few of the shots.


As for other fire-related photography, I honestly can’t compete with things like this.

Sunday photos: Tintypes, timelapses, and more


  • The NYT showcases Tintype Buckaroos.  Robb Kendrick uses archaic gear to capture the enduring lifestyle of cowboys.  “When I’m doing tintypes, everything has to be driving, not flying — all the stuff for the developing is fairly flammable,” he explains.  An interactive feature shows the work while providing narration from the photographer & the article’s author.
  • Pioneering photojournalist (and ICP founder) Cornell Capa passed away on Friday at age 90.  The NYT features a selection of his photos.  I particularly like this one of 7,000 white-shirted Ford engineers.
  • Rob Galbraith points out some great photos in MSNBC’s weekly photo gallery.  I love the frog-hopping image, though it took me a moment to notice the frog. [Via]
  • Matteo Ferrari is doing an interesting little project showing before & after shots of people who drive the same car for a long time. [Via]
  • How does one actually measure the temperature of light?  James Duncan Davidson explains.
  • Timelapses:
    • The New Yorker features a hard-to-watch timelapse video of a man stuck in an elevator for 41 hours. [Via]
    • A new Canon TV spot is composed mostly of stills shot by EOS-1D Mark III cameras.  (Ironically, the ad is for the lower-end Canon Rebel.)
    • CHDK (the Canon Hacker’s Development Kit) is a set of firmware enhancements for a wide range of Canon cameras.  Scripts “provide functionality like motion-sensing photography (which reportedly works for lightning strikes) and unlimited interval time-lapse photography.” [Via Ashish Mukharji]

"Oct. 1" (aka, "Just make something up")

It seems that news of the demo I did the other day (a repeat of what we’d shown publicly three weeks earlier) is bouncing all around the online tech press.  People are excited that the Photoshop team is exploring ways to make the app feel faster and smoother, and that’s all good.  What’s irritating, though, is just how much bogus info is getting invented, passed around, and swallowed without question.


Gizmodo is repeating info found on a site called TG Daily, stating that "Photoshop CS4" (a term that I’ve never heard anyone from Adobe use publicly) "is expected to be released on October 1."  Uhh… expected by whom?  And based on what?


I didn’t say anything about schedule.  In fact, I never said that any of this stuff is promised to go into any particular version of Photoshop.  Rather, as with previous installments, it’s a technology demonstration of some things we’ve got cooking–nothing more.


Doesn’t matter, though: Someone pulled a date apparently out of thin air, and now everyone who can copy & paste is dutifully repeating it.  The fish story grows with the telling, too.  In addition to repeating the date, Electronista is inventing new details (e.g. "CS3 has already had limited support for graphics processing units (GPUs) for certain filters"; sorry, no; "An upcoming wave of video cards with special physics processing will also help, Adobe explains"; nope, didn’t say that; and more).  Where do people get this stuff?  It’s particularly annoying to see made-up info presented as a response from Adobe–to questions that were never asked. (Contacting Adobe PR, or me directly, to confirm some detail isn’t exactly tough.)


I’m not feeling a lot of confidence in the tech press these days.  People just make up whatever they want, creating a bunch of expectations & misperceptions that people like me have to try to unravel.  There’s no disincentive to doing so: the sites still get their ad impressions, and clearly bloggers and readers are all too happy to take what they read at face value.


I don’t know what to tell you, as the quest for ad bucks is eroding journalistic standards across the board.  "Caveat lector," and I’ll keep trying to share actually legitimate information here.




PS–I found this warez link kind of hilarious.  Not only are people inventing product info in order to entice you to download a bunch of unknown executable code onto your machine (something from the Eliot Spitzer Memorial Hall Of Unprotected Terrible Ideas); now they’re actually using Photoshop to design fake Photoshop packaging! (Screenshot here in case the shady server disappears.)

Miscellaneous interestingness

New fatherhood -> sleep deprivation (yeah, still) -> abandoning any pretense of categorization.  That said, here are a few interesting bits I’ve seen lately:


Pixel Bender now showing in Flash Player

Earlier today I found myself over at NVIDIA, demoing some of the new OpenGL-accelerated Photoshop technology we’ve got cooking in the labs.  The latest GPUs are just crazy-fast, and it’s a great pleasure to see a 2-gigabyte, 442-Megapixel Photoshop file gliding around like buttah*.


Adobe’s efforts to take advantage of the GPU certainly aren’t confined to Photoshop.  In a short video on Adobe Labs, Flash Player PM Justin Everett-Church demonstrates Pixel Bender filters running in Flash Player 10.  If you’ve installed the FP10 beta, you can play with Pixel Bender yourself in this interactive demo.  It comes pre-loaded with some cool (and very fast) filters, and you can grab more from the Pixel Bender exchange.  If you want to experiment further, check out documentation from Adobe’s Lee Brimelow.


On a slightly tangential note (using the shipping Flash Player 9, not FP10/Pixel Bender), Robert Lewis & co. of Fashion Buddha have created "dynamic
that arrange the byte arrays of the images and then re-compress them as JPEGs – all within Flash.  By displaying a sequence of
these byte-tweaked images quickly we can create an effect similar to
an old TV tuner that badly needs to be adjusted. The glitch effect is
subtle by default, but can be increased using the slider in the menu."  I can’t wait to see what these guys can accomplish with FP10 & Pixel Bender.


* Incidentally, to the folks recently carping that nothing meaningful ever improves in Photoshop, I’d submit that expending a heck of a lot of energy to make the display of every single pixel faster and smoother is, well, *rather meaningful*.  Effort really doesn’t get more fundamental, or more broadly useful, than that.

[Update: Flash Player engineer Tinic Uro gives a detailed overview of Adobe Pixel Bender in Flash Player 10 Beta. Pixel Bender code runs well on a GPU or CPU, and FP10 introduces more GPU support, but it doesn’t run Pixel Bender code on the GPU.]

You Suck at Photoshop wins a Webby

You Suck At Photoshop has picked up a Webby award (People’s Voice in Comedy: Long Form or Series; trips right off the tongue, doesn’t it?).  Congrats to Troy, Matt, and all the Big Fat Brain folks.  The spin-off series Snatchbuckler’s Second Chance continues on My Damn Channel.


In other Photoshop-related humor:


Dr. Woohoo & the future of the Suite platform

We want to make Photoshop and the whole Creative Suite much more flexible, extensible, and connected. Therefore, we’re looking at letting upcoming versions of Photoshop and–as far as I know–all Creative Suite applications be extended via SWF panels (palettes) created in Adobe Flash or Flex.


Of course, this can’t come as a surprise.  I mean, how brain-dead would Adobe have to be not to do this?  The appeal of extending one’s app with lightweight, cross-platform, network-aware widgets is so obvious that we were busy building support in my first app some eight years ago–and we had to build our own Flash Player clone to do it!  The CS3 versions of Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Bridge, and Soundbooth can already be extended in this way, and Photoshop and other apps can run SWFs in a scripting dialog.


Our task now is to implement support in as consistent a way as possible across the Suite.  Today, developing for, say, the Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign trio would mean writing six chunks of platform-specific C code, delivering three different user experiences.  In the near future, by contrast, you should be able to write one chunk of code that extends each app with consistent, non-modal (panel-based) functionality.  Want to add peer-to-peer notes, Adobe kuler integration, video tutorials, and more to the Suite in one shot?  We aim to make it easy.


I believe the results will be transformative.  When I talk about the need to make Photoshop radically more configurable–letting it be "everything you need, nothing you don’t," person by person, moment by moment–I’m placing a lot of hope in easy panel configurability that can reshape workspaces and workflows.


We’ve hired a great developer named Drew Trujillo–better known as Dr. Woohoo–to help prime the pump.  In addition to After Effects<->Flash integration tools, he’s mashed up Illustrator with Flickr, and now he’s busily crafting fun new projects that we look forward to showing off a bit further down the line.  In the meantime Matthew Fabb briefly covers a sneak peek (showing Adobe AIR driving Photoshop) that Drew gave at the FITC show in Toronto.


If using Flash/Flex/AIR to extend & transform the Creative Suite is up your alley, drop me a line.  Seriously, we should talk.  I think you’ll like what’s cooking.

Lightroom 2 beta: Invite some friends

If you own Lightroom 1.x, you can use the Lightroom 2.0 beta for the entire duration of the testing period.  If you’re not an LR 1.x owner, the LR 2 beta expires 30 days after first use.  There’s an interesting caveat, however: LR 1 owners each have the ability to invite five folks to participate in the LR 2 beta, extending their use beyond 30 days.  We think it’s a good way to strike a balance between rewarding current customers & getting feedback from new customers.  If you’re interested, check out the details & share some love.

Take your camera to Tasmania–for free

Photographer Mikkel Aaland, organizer of the recent Lightroom Adventure down under, passed along some attractive info:


Follow in the footsteps of the Adobe Lightroom Adventure Photographers or create your own adventure on the beautiful island of Tasmania!  Here is your chance to win a trip for two to experience the natural beauty of Tasmania first hand.


Roundtrip economy airfare for two on Qantas Airways from one of their North American gateways – Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York City (JFK) – to the island of Tasmania.
Two nights’ accommodation in Tasmania.


What do you have to do?  Just fill out a simple form & you’re good to go.  Good luck & happy inverted shooting.


I’ve been meaning to blog about the Adventure for quite a while, but my draft full-o’-links was lost to my hard drive crash.  Therefore I’ll keep it simple for now and just recommend checking out the beautiful galleries of images captured by the participants.  At the moment I’m grooving on some work from NatGeo photographer Bruce Dale.  (What is this thing?)

Illustration in motion

Interesting news & video visualizations

  • Spectra is an interactive 3D news presentation from MSNBC.  Although I’m not convinced that putting news onto flying postcards will boost anyone’s concentration or retention, I dig the aesthetics and the attention to detail.  I couldn’t get the Web cam access to work with Flash Player 10 on my system, and the inability to click on stories of interest is annoying, but maybe you’ll have better luck.  Here’s the direct link.
  • Steven Wood’s Tag Galaxy uses the Papervision3D library for Flash to explore Flickr photos via virtual planetary systems.
  • I’ve mentioned the very cool, very fast, and free PicLens browser plug-in a number of times.  In addition to working with Flickr, Google Images, etc., it’s been upgraded to search YouTube.  Check out the video demo.
  • TimeTube visualizes YouTube content via a timeline, list view, flipbook and map view. [Via]

Flash-based multitouch coolness

Christian Moore & the folks at the NUI Group have created Lux, an open-source framework for creating multitouch-savvy applications.  Check out the video demo & a short interview with Christian on how they’ve used Flash to prototype a very cool implementation.  I’d love to see it updated to take advantage of the GPU hardware acceleration in the upcoming Flash Player 10 (just posted in preview form on Adobe Labs).  Oh, and how about this running in a Smart Object on the Photoshop canvas?  (Hey, I’m just thinking aloud, not dropping any near-term.) [Via Jerry Harris]


Interesting related bits:

  • Gizmodo features a short recent interview with Jeff Han, the guy whose multitouch work really lit a fire under the whole area two years ago.
  • Macworld’s Dan Frakes provides a video tour of MultiClutch, a free utility for extending the multitouch features in the latest MacBook Pro & MacBook Air notebooks.  (I was bummed to discover that my wife’s brand new MacBook doesn’t offer the same support.  She’s just happy to have two-finger scrolling, something missing from her deceased PowerBook.)
  • I need to pull together a category for multitouch; in the meantime, past interesting bits are here.

Counting chickens in Africa, via Photoshop

A few years ago I heard from a researcher at DuPont who was, as I recall, using Photoshop’s Histogram palette & other tools to analyze samples of Kevlar and other materials.  Later I visited the Johnson Space Flight Center and talked to a team about using Photoshop’s Ruler Tool to assess possible cracks in space shuttle heat shields photographed during flight.  No matter what you think a given feature is designed to do, customers will always find interesting ways to push it farther.


In that vein, Chris Ing gets crafty on, using the new analysis tools in PS CS3 Extended to do everything from estimating chicken density in Africa* (by analyzing the "integrated density" of various regions of an info graphic) to calculating the height of Kirsten Dunst (studiously cross-checked against something called Chickipedia–and no, I’m not feigning ignorance).  Should you find yourself "interested in comparing the circularity of your head to that of a friend," you’ve got a kindred spirit.

* Sorry, the pre-/post-hatched counting enhancement will have to wait for a future release. (We’ll sic Chris on it.) We’ve heard somewhere that it’s an important distinction…

Secure copyrights & metadata permanence

The subject of copyright is always high in photographers’ minds, especially in light of Orphan Works legislation & rampant image “borrowing” online. Consequently there’s an ongoing burning desire for secure metadata that can’t be stripped away from images.


Last summer I posted a guest blog entry from Russell Williams on why Photoshop doesn’t provide secure metadata.  Now Adobe metadata expert Gunar Penikis has posted about the Economics of Trust and Permanent Metadata.  If this subject is of interest to you, check out Gunar’s thoughts & the comments that follow (and feel free to add your own perspective).

DNG codec for Vista available; DNG spec updated

Adobe has posted release candidate (i.e. feature-complete beta) of the Adobe DNG Codec for Microsoft Vista.  This free download enables Vista users to view DNG files in the Windows Explorer and Photo Gallery.


The posting coincides with the DNG Specification being updated to version 1.2.  Tom Hogarty writes,


This update addresses several industry requirements for the DNG format including the formalization of the concept of a "camera profile" and a metadata tag to validate your image data.  The definition of a camera profile for the DNG format as well as the allowance for multiple camera profiles to be embedded in a single DNG file will provide the industry with the ability to characterize raw data in an efficient and standardized format.  (Think ICC profiles, but for raw data.)


Check out the rest of Tom’s post for more details on the changes.  Developers can grab the updated DNG SDK here.

I say "Adobe" you say…

…what, exactly?  That’s what Noah Brier’s fun Brand Tags project asks, and here’s what people have said so far.  It’s kind of fun to read the small print, too: "arcane awesome bastards… stucco structure… techy teepee telefónica terrorists…"  (Too bad Adobe doesn’t make people think "hot cyclone action," like Dyson does.)  You can play your own word association game on the main page, and you can go backwards, playing name that brand based on what people say. [Via Mark Baltzegar & John Dowdell]

PS–Speaking of things affecting the Adobe brand, there’s always Adobe Updater, now the subject of its own music video. [Via Zalman Stern]

Who builds Photoshop, and the frequency of updates

Via Daring Fireball I caught this little blurb from Panic‘s Cabel Sasser:


A company like Adobe, which has hundreds of engineers working on
Photoshop, releases ONE version every two or three years, and maybe a
single bug fix release in the interim. For the most part, we’re all
cool with that, myself included! 🙂


I’m glad to hear the last bit, especially as I love Panic’s Transmit and Unison software–models of simplicity and refinement.  The rest is kind of funny, though: in reality we have only a couple dozen engineers working on Photoshop.  (If you added in every person who tests Photoshop and Bridge, localizes them, builds the installers, manages the process, etc., you could get to more than a hundred people–but only with some effort.)  Relative to our feature set and code base, the team runs very lean.


As for the shipping schedule, it’s been 18-24 months between major releases for quite some time.  I don’t mean to take a casual comment in a forum overly seriously.  It’s just that I’ve been thinking about the Photoshop (and Suite) shipping schedule, wondering whether it’s too long, too short, or both.


On the one hand, the richer Suite apps get and the more of them there are, the more time people would like to settle into using them.  It’s generally easier to absorb upgrading a number of applications at once, then living with them for a while, than it was to handle continual unsynchronized updates (the pre-Suites world).  Through this lens, 18 months looks short.


On the other hand, we’re increasingly living in a world where "software is a relationship, not an artifact" (as I think Tim O’Reilly put it).  An application like Google Maps or Photoshop Express could be updated seamlessly, simultaneously for all users, every hour if desired.  Through that lens, 18 months looks awfully long.


I’d like to get to a point where we can have it both ways.  I’d like the core team to be able to go off and spend several years retooling essential pieces of plumbing, making changes that won’t become visible for a few versions.  At the same time, I want to wake up in the morning and have Photoshop be smarter & more feature-rich than when I went to bed.  Some things should be updated every 5 years; others, every five minutes.


Obviously this isn’t the kind of change a team makes overnight, but we’re getting there.  Building on what we’ve got percolating, functionality like peer-to-peer help will become possible.  More on that foundation soon.


PS–Re: people banging on Panic for more frequent updates to their inexpensive tools, I’m reminded of an observation attributed to Edward Tufte: "The sense of entitlement increases as the price of the service or product decreases."

Calef Brown rocks

Having a wee man in the house certainly cuts into the time I’d otherwise put into scouring the Web for good bits to share; hence the dearth of illustration, photography, and type links lately.  On the other hand, it exposes me to books and illustrations I’d never otherwise see (not, y’know, being in the typical Pat the Bunny demographic).


My wife Margot turned me on to the works of the wonderful Calef Brown, poet & illustrator extraordinare.  Both the text and the art are hilariously loopy.  Check out some samples from Polkabats and Octopus Slacks to see what I mean.


Of course, it’s fun to revisit the classics as well–Goodnight Moon especially.  Each night as I read it aloud, I try to amuse Margot by sneaking in some new reference to illustrator Clement Hurd’s smoking habit–a penchant now hidden through Photoshop.  A little Googling reveals that other Photoshoppers couldn’t leave that news alone, staging a "What Is Clement Holding?" contest.  (Keep kids off the Soloflex!)

Next up, I need to prevail on my folks to send us my old & very well-loved set of Mercer Mayer’s A Boy, A Dog, and a Frog books–totally wonderful.

Photoshop Express now does Flickr

Woot, there it is!  The subject line pretty much says it all: you can now browse and edit your photos stored on Flickr right from within Photoshop Express.  I’ve just given the integration a whirl and, yep, it works like a charm.  Similar hooks are available for photos stored on Facebook, Photobucket, and Picasa.  (I’ve been uploading just to my own site since becoming, uh, photographically obsessed with one little subject, but maybe this will draw me back to using a service as well.)


As long as we’re on the subject, what’s your take on the importance of integrating services like Flickr into Photoshop?  There’s an obvious appeal in being able to upload right from Lightroom, but should we make it possible to browse & open images on & co. right from within Photoshop?  (Let’s imagine we could drop in an optional little Flash widget as a browser palette/panel, or maybe enable browsing via Adobe Bridge.)  What about being able to save edits back to the service?  Just curious.

Adobe "Hydra" now "Pixel Bender"

No, it’s not a low-res portrait of an "alcoholic, whore-mongering, chain-smoking gambler"; rather, "Pixel Bender" is the official name for Adobe’s new scripting language for writing fast imaging filters.  Engineering manager Kevin Goldsmith explains,


Hydra is an awesome name for a language like the one we created. At the very beginning, Jonathan Shekter came up with it as a code name for this cool language that could run on different kinds of hardware efficiently. The problem is that it’s a great name for any kind of technology that does multiple things, so it is pretty popular. We didn’t want to confuse folks, so we worked with the Adobe branding team to come up with a new name that we could use moving forward. That name is Pixel Bender™.


As someone whose mind was blown by the original MacPaint, I was pushing for "Phat Bits"–a fun way to combine a reference to the old-school "Fat bits" display mode with an equally dated bit of 90’s slang.  But hey, they don’t pay me to come up with the marvels of Adobe branding.


Developers wanting to take Hyd–er, Pixel Bender–for a spin can grab the coding & preview environment from Adobe Labs.

All Ansel, all the time

A number of interesting Ansel Adams-related bits have popped up recently:


  • The NYT features an interactive gallery in which Adams’s former assistant Andrea Stillman discusses the back story on nine of his images.  The story of the naming of "Mt. Ansel Adams" is particularly cool.
  • In what he calls "The most amazing 24 hours of my photo career," photographer Marc Silber trekked around Yosemite with Robert Scoble & Adams’s son Michael.  Afterward they visited the photographer’s darkroom.
  • Frederick Johnson from the Lightroom team joined these guys on the visit.  "Michael is amazing," he writes.  "Turns out we were both in the Air Force! Though he was a General, and I was an enlisted man. It was hard to fight the impulse to call him ‘sir…’"  Frederick posted some photos and short video clips in his Flickr stream.  And oh yeah: if you’ve ever wondered why Photoshop has a lollypop-shaped Dodge Tool (you know, this thing), here’s why.

Chris Cox starts a performance blog

If it’s in Photoshop and it goes fast, there’s a very good chance that Chris Cox has had something to do with it.  Chris is, among a great many other things, the go-to guy for optimizing many functions in the app.  (At various times we’ve known there’s some kind of crazy-exotic Apple hardware in Chris’s office–something that would emerge many months later as the G5, etc.–and that he’s busily tuning the app for it but can’t tell us any of the details.)  In any case, he has started a blog on C++ performance.  If that’s up your alley, I recommend subscribing to the feed.


[Semi-irrelevant personal aside: After so many years of consulting Chris to learn about HDR imaging, color management, GPUs vs. CPUs, and so on, I’m taking some pleasure in sharing my meager (yet superior) knowledge of CSS with him, hipping him to groovy tools like Xyle scope.  I’ve gotta enjoy the moment while it lasts!]

Technology sneak: Photoshop, AE, Flash

Last Thursday Adobe held a day-long event at which the execs briefed members of the financial community.  A couple of us spear carriers (Steve Heintz, Karl Soule, and I) were recruited to help show off some new technology that’s baking "in the labs" (i.e. none of this stuff is promised for a future version, your mileage my vary, void where prohibited, professional driver on a closed course, etc.).

Check out the Connect webcast to see the goods in action.  (Scrub ahead to 18 minutes or so–about one third of the way through–to catch the demos.)  I show off some new performance tuning in Photoshop by playing with a 650 megapixel image on a Mac Pro.  It’s too bad that the low frame rate of recording hides the fluidity of panning, zooming, and rotating via OpenGL hardware acceleration.  I also demonstrate automated merging of images to extend depth of field, as well as a 360-degree panorama mapped onto an interactive 3D sphere on which I can paint directly.  (Painting directly onto 3D models–mmm, yes.)  Steve demos Adobe’s new "Thermo" RIA design tool while Karl shows off inverse kinematics in Flash and more.

You can check out the rest of the executive presentations & their slides here.

Area Man's Bacon Saved by Time Capsule

Hats off to all the Apple folks responsible for Time Machine: I’m pleased to report that restoring my Mac from the data stored on my Time Capsule went off without a hitch. Performing a synch with the drive was easy, and after a couple of hours everything was just where I left it–right down to my Dock icons, desktop picture, and app preferences. (James Duncan Davidson provides more detail on a similar (albeit planned) experience.) I was especially pleased to see that all my NetNewsWire clippings & tabs came back in place.
I’ve encountered only a little strangeness so far:

  • In Adobe Contribute, my local drafts are present, but the app preferences seem to have gotten partially lost. I’ll pass my info along to the CT team. I did lose some material I’d worked on over the weekend (as Saturday night’s Time Machine backup failed for unspecified reasons), but the rest of the drafts look recoverable.
  • Photoshop held onto my serial number, but it asked to be reactivated (which transpired successfully)
  • Update: iTunes lost my authorization info. Hopefully I haven’t now burned another authorization. Also, Ambrosia’s iSeek and Snapz Pro have lost their registration info. QuickTime Pro seems unaffected.

Thanks to everyone who provided suggestions below. The Letterbox add-on for Apple Mail seems to do a great job enabling Entourage-style three-pane viewing, but I haven’t tried it extensively. I’m really torn about leaving my old friend Entourage, especially as Mail apparently doesn’t offer the ability to accept/decline meetings sent through the Exchange server. Efficient incremental backups sound pretty appealing, however.
I’m now going to try using Time Machine with a Drobo. It seems that it’ll be possible to store a large photo collection (which wouldn’t fit onto the laptop drive) alongside the Time Machine data file. If anything interesting develops, I’ll pass along the info.

Product testing, the hard way

I hope never to verify the effectiveness of an airbag using my face, or the completeness of my life insurance at the cost of my life. I guess I won’t get a pass on testing the promise of my new Time Capsule, however.
Today the hard drive on my inordinately hard-working MacBook Pro bit the dust. I’d had no signs of trouble whatsoever, but I admit the machine did take a spill from several feet up a few months ago. (Let’s just say the Slingbox is working out better than the idea of perching a laptop on a music stand.) That jolt didn’t cause it to skip a beat, however–not even to disrupt the show that was streaming.
This morning, however, my apps started running really slowly, with the Mac beachballing so hard that I finally had to hold down the power button. After that, no más: just an endless gray startup screen. The guys at the local Mac “genius bar” (not geniuses, but not bad) confirmed that this critter is toast.
Thus far the Time Capsule (acquired in the nick of time, evidently) has been a bit of a mixed bag. For my tastes it’s a little off the mark from “As simple as possible, but no simpler”–omitting the second half of that phrase. I haven’t found a way to set backups to be nightly, not hourly, so I have to do them manually. (Otherwise the system would presumably be trying to copy my multi-gigabyte Entourage data file over wireless every hour–not a good use of CPU and bandwidth.) I also don’t see a way to store a superset of data on the Time Capsule (i.e. keeping a large image collection there but not on my local Mac). Overcoming the latter obstacle may not be that hard, as it seems possible to mount the disk as a normal server, but I haven’t had a chance to test it out. And finally, like just about every Apple networking system I’ve tried (AirTunes, Apple TV, iChat AV, etc.), the Time Capsule doesn’t get along with my Cisco VPN connection, meaning I have to shut it down before connecting.
All of these little beefs will melt away, of course, if the TC saves my bacon. I guess we’ll see once I get a new HD or a new machine. (This post comes to you from my wife’s MacBook.) I’m really curious to see whether it’ll be possible to restore things like the list of tabs and clippings I have in NetNewsWire, as that plus my Adobe Contribute drafts constitute all my pending blogfodder. (Without all that stuff, expect a dry period here for a while.)
Crossing fingers,

DNG submitted to the ISO

"The DNG format was supposed to be the future, an open standard for RAW files that every manufacturer could use," writes Digital Photo Pro’s Dave Willis.  "Here’s a look at how the revolution has panned out."  Dave talks with my boss Kevin Connor about the problem that gave rise to DNG:

"Our philosophy on this from the beginning, sort of my personal belief," continues Connor, "is that eventually the proprietary system is just going to break. When we came out with the first camera RAW plug-in, we were supporting around 25 cameras. We’re now supporting more than 175 cameras—in other words, more than 175 different file formats. And when you’re talking about images, people don’t want to keep those images for just five or 10 years. Professional photographers want to know those images will be fine for 50 years—100 years—from now. If you think about the rate of new-camera introductions, how many new file formats will there be? A hundred thousand? It just seems that it’s going to reach a point when it becomes unmanageable."

It’s true that we haven’t yet seen big camera vendors like Canon and Nikon adopt DNG, though maybe we’ll see more progress now that DNG has been submitted to the ISO as a vendor-independent standard.  In any case, the format is providing real-world benefits today:

  • Converting to DNG saves disk space and eliminates the need to use separate sidecar files for raw settings.  (I knocked 1.5GB off the 7GB of photos from our wedding photographer.)
  • Because of these benefits, customer feedback indicates that 40% of Lightroom users are converting to DNG on import.  (It’s a one-click set-and-forget option that’s also available in Adobe Bridge CS3.)
  • DNG lets Adobe support new cameras in older versions of Camera Raw without having to constantly revise and test those versions.  Photographers and use the free DNG Converter (Win | Mac) to process their proprietary raw images to DNG.  The upshot is that we can spend our time building good new functionality instead of updating old software.


[Update: I neglected to mention that yes, Adobe will be providing a DNG-viewing codec for Windows Vista, making it possible to view DNG files right within the operating system. Expect this free download to be posted soon. –J.]

SF Photoshop User Group kicks off this week

I’m pleased to see that this Tuesday marks the first San Francisco meeting of the San Francisco Bay Area Photoshop Users Group.  According to the Evite, here’s what’s planned:

Photoshop Power Users with Kelly McCathran: In this session we will wow you with some new hot features and double wow you with some little known and under utilized tools… Adobe Bridge: Batch renaming multiple files; The Image Processor to batch convert to different file formats; Photomerge for building Panoramics. Creating and Batching Actions; Vanishing Point Filter; Placing Smart Objects; Image Warping; Patch & Spot Healing Brush Tools; Red Eye Removal Tool; History palette and painting with snapshots; Layer Masks; Setting the best Preferences Tips & Tricks as well as Keyboard Shortcuts.

Kelly McCathran is the Service Provider Evangelist for Adobe.  Her mission is to maintain relationships with the top print shops in North America. To fulfill that roll, she is the primary contact for printers to get the support, training and information they need to successfully work with Adobe’s line of products. In addition Kelly is a Certified Technical Trainer and an Adobe Certified Expert in InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, GoLive and PageMaker. Kelly has traveled North America and abroad teaching applications to the largest print shops in the world.

The meeting starts at 5:30pm at the Adobe SF office (601 Townsend St.).  If you plan to attend, please RSVP to so that they can get the right amount of pizza and drinks.

Lightroom Podcast #52: Martin Evening

Adobe evangelist George Jardine recently filmed photographer Martin Evening walking through the results of a photo shoot for his upcoming Lightroom book.  George writes,

This podcast was recorded on Wednesday March 12, 2008 at Martin’s home in London. It gives us a rare glimpse into the inner thinking of this talented fashion and beauty photographer, as he gives us a shot-by-shot evaluation of a recent session. This video footage was taken during a photo session to create assets both for an upcoming Lightroom book, as well as for demo purposes for Adobe Systems. In it Martin describes his approach to every element of the shoot, from the model selection, the hair, the makeup, the lighting and camera angles, all the way through to the final edit.

This video podcast can be downloaded from my iDisk. It can also 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 the iPod version from my iDisk). Once copied into iTunes, the small version can be transferred to a Video iPod or iPhone, and viewed that way as well.

The podcast (labeled "20080310 Video Podcast – Martin Evening Fashion Shoot") is in the Public directory of George’s iDisk. [Via]