Monthly Archives: February 2010

Ansel Adams works in San José through Sunday

Photoshop tech writer Eric Floch points out that the SJ Museum of Art is hosting an Ansel Adams exhibition that runs through this Sunday. He & some other team members checked it out, and he writes:

The photographs on display are quite stunning. It’s mostly small-scale prints Adams made from the 1920s through the 1950s. You can see the full evolution Adams made from the soft-focus “Parmelian Prints” of the 20s through the sharper works to come out of the f/64 school to the “classic” cooler, high-contrast prints we’ve all seen on so many posters.

Check out the museum site (link above) for a video & more info.

Sneak peek: Some Photoshop "JDI" improvements

Last summer the Photoshop team asked for your help in identifying candidates for “JDI” (“Just Do It”) work, aiming to pick off little irritants & to polish the little things that matter. You replied with tons of great ideas & comments, and I’m pleased to say the team has been working away. Here you can see Photoshop PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes show off a few of the the tweaks that you’ll likely see in “a future version*” of Photoshop:


* I know this kind of caveat & hand-waving always seem a little contrived (“C’mon, dude, we all know what version you’re talking about”), but nothing is done until it’s shipping, and there really is a chance that details can change. Very occasionally we have to pull out an improvement if we find that it introduced other problems, taking additional time to get the details right. I’m just saying, you never know.

Video: "A computational model of aesthetics"

People always like to joke about Photoshop eventually adding a big red “Make My Photo Good” button, automatically figuring out what looks good & what adjustments are needed. Of course, researchers are working on just that sort of thing:

As someone who aspires to be creative, I have mixed feelings. The idea of rating images according to precomputed standards of beauty makes me think of the Robin Williams character in Dead Poets Society excoriating a textbook that rated poetry along two axes:

Excrement! That’s what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard! We’re not laying pipe! We’re talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? “I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can’t dance to it!”

And yet, I find I’m intrigued by the idea, wanting to run the algorithm on my images–if only, maybe, to have fun flouting it. I also have to admit that I’d like to see the images taken by certain of my family members (not you, hon) run through such algorithms–if only to crop in on the good stuff.
[Via Jerry Harris]

Photoshop Tennis art + my commentary now online

I had a ball narrating yesterday’s bout of Photoshop–er, Layer–Tennis. All ten quick rounds are now online (note the little 1-10 nav bar on the right just below the image). I was pleased to make fun of hipsters & Sun Tzu, quote my two-year-old & AJ Soprano, and reference Joy Division & Danzig. (You’ll see.)
Many thanks to hosts Jim Coudal & team, and to competitors Khoi & Nicholas, for a great time. (Coincidentally, given the subject matter of Khoi’s final volley, I was wearing the perfect shirt at the time, featuring a skull shooting lasers out of its eyes.)

Check out 20th Anniversary Photoshop Tennis live today

Layer tennis–the popular online sport where designers lob a file back and forth, tweaking and riffing on one another’s work–originated as “Photoshop tennis,” and today designers Khoi Vinh (design director of & Nicholas Felton will play a special Photoshop-only match. I’ll be providing running color commentary. Here’s my match preview.
The match starts today at 3pm Eastern Standard Time (noon in California), so grab a free ticket. I hope to see you there.

Video: The creators of Photoshop look back (and forward)

After 20 years, Adobe Creative Director Russell Brown sits down with Photoshop co-creators Thomas & John Knoll as well as original Photoshop PM Steve Guttman. If nothing else, check out the 1990 demo (from a much hairier Russell on the morning talk circuit) that kicks things off.
Excellent stuff, guys. From all of us who’ve been touched by Photoshop all these years, thanks for sharing, and for all you did & continue to do.

Photoshop 20th anniversary podcast, more

  • Bryan O’Neil Hughes & I got our drink on with Deke McClelland & Colleen Wheeler, foolishly recording the results for a special Martini Hour 20th Anniversary Podcast.
  • PhotoshopNews features a gallery of historic Photoshop splash screens, including various once-secret beta screens.
  • Check out the Photoshop app icon over time. I still remember how much I liked the 3.0 icon when it arrived, and how disappointed I was when 4.0 dropped back to black and red. (In fact, replacing it may be how I learned to copy/paste icons on the Mac.) To date, no single post on this blog has generated even as many comments as the CS3 icons.


Photoshop turns 20! Come celebrate with us.

Wow–time flies when you’re becoming a verb, eh?

It’s kind of overwhelming to realize that as of today, Adobe has been shipping Photoshop for twenty years. I’m at a loss to give any kind of proper overview, though I’ll try to do so soon. In the meantime:

We’re having a bit of a bash in San Francisco tonight, and you can join us live. The webcast starts tonight at 7:30 pm Pacific Time (10:30 EST).

Coincidentally, and related in the sense of how much the interaction language of Photoshop has become second nature, reader Ryan Hakes passed along this fun “Cooking with Photoshop” video:

Hope you can join us tonight.

Adobe, Wired, tablets, & the future of magazines

Adobe and Wired have teamed up to demonstrate a richly interactive tablet-based prototype form of the magazine. It features embedded 360° object viewers, support for video and audio content, and the ability to rotate the page using the tablet’s accelerometer. Check out the demo:

So, what tablets will this support? In short, lots.
I believe the demo video was done via Adobe AIR running on a Windows 7 tablet. Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone conversion technology will allow publishing to the Apple iPad. And at the Mobile World Congress this week, Adobe announced AIR on Android & has shown the Wired prototype running on Android-based tablet devices powered by NVIDIA Tegra chips. In short, Adobe is working–as it always has–to help people publish across platforms.
What will be the real-world impact? Macworld editor Jason Snell has posted some skeptical tweets, comparing the demo to CD-ROM and VRML visions of yore. He makes good points about the cost of developing rich content, but I can tell you I’m excited about some of the tools Adobe has in the pipeline–stuff that’ll make interactive production easier & more efficient. Stay tuned.

Now *THAT* is a true Photoshop feathered mask

Inspired by a Photoshop-box-as-mask photo* I posted recently, artist Phillip Valedez worked with Adobe creative director Russell Brown to create a rather terrific “feathered mask,” using only Photoshop CS4 boxes:
(Click for a larger view.)
Feathered selections/masks, incidentally, were one of the killer features of the original Photoshop–released 20 years ago this week!
Here’s a quick time lapse of Phillip at work:

* Sorry that I can’t give the original creator credit, as the photo came to me without attribution.

Adobe is “sabotaging” HTML5??

In a word, bullshit.

Apple Insider–via an article whose writer can’t be bothered even to spell the names of several participants (Ian Hickson, Dave McAllister) correctly, to say nothing of doing other fact checking–accuses Adobe of saying one thing (that it supports the development of HTML5 and other standards) while working to delay & destroy those standards. Wow–so lurid, it must be true!!

Um, no. Here’s a clarifying comment from Adobe rep Larry Masinter:

No part of HTML5 is, or was ever, “blocked” in the W3C HTML Working Group — not HTML5, not Canvas 2D Graphics, not Microdata, not Video — not by me, not by Adobe.

Neither Adobe nor I oppose, are fighting, are trying to stop, slow down, hinder, oppose, or harm HTML5, Canvas 2D Graphics, Microdata, video in HTML, or any of the other significant features in HTML5.

Claims otherwise are false. Any other disclaimers needed?

There are some things that are wrong with the spec I’d like to see fixed. There are some things that are really, really, wrong with the process that I’d like to improve.

I’ve been working on web standards since the beginning of the web in the early 90s, and standards for even longer; long before I joined Adobe. My opinions don’t come from Adobe, and I don’t get approval or direction. I hate to see decades of work on web architecture messed up in the short-term interest of grabbing control of the web platform for a few vendors to own. If you think that position doesn’t match what you imagine Adobe’s position is, well, I’m glad Adobe’s planning to support HTML5 in its products.

As for the HTML standards process: I’ve worked in scores of standards groups in IETF and W3C, as well as a few others here and there, and I’ve never seen anything as bad as this one, with people abusing their official positions to grandstand and promote proprietary advantage. I’ve blogged some about this, but I’d rather fix things along.

I think progress of HTML5 in W3C could be faster if the subsections on graphics and metadata could (if not now, then eventually) be moved to separate subgroups focused on those topics. The organization of work in W3C is determined by the “charters” of working group and the “scope” of he charters, so saying work is “out of scope” even if you are marking a snapshot of the (already published) documents as “Working Draft”, means you might rewrite the “Status of This Document” section to say that it might move. That’s what I was asking for, in the somewhat stilted language of “objection”.

If you want to know who is sending in technical objections, you can see the working group mailing list at And if you want to see more of my opinions, I’m also on the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG) and post there a lot, see; the TAG often discusses HTML5.

Any more questions about my opinion? My email address should be easy to find.

I should note that I’m not involved in Adobe’s relationships with these standards bodies. Others with more direct involvement will likely share more detail soon. In the meantime, I’m posting this for two reasons:

  1. A number of people have posted angry, accusatory comments here & via my Twitter feed, demanding an explanation.
  2. I’m angry and depressed about the total ignorance/laziness of online “journalists” and the sheer credulity of their readers. For God’s sake, guys, do the most rudimentary due diligence before you start defaming people who’ve devoted their entire careers to the advancement of standards. Have enough respect for your profession to take the impact of your words seriously.

Addendum: Here are some comments from an HTML WG member, Shelley Powers, who is not affiliated with Adobe:

I’m a member of the HTML WG, but I’m not speaking for the HTML WG, or W3C. I’m only expressing my opinion, and what I know to be facts. I’m also not an employee of Google, Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, or any other company (I’m a writer, for O’Reilly).

There is no truth to this rumor. The posting here is inaccurate. Grossly inaccurate I would add.

This was an issue that has been under discussion, off and on, on the publicly accessible HTML WG for months. It has to do with scope and charter, not the specifications themselves. The Adobe representative to the HTML WG registered his concerns about the fact that the HTML WG is working on specifications that push, or exceed the group’s charter. This includes Microdata, RDFa-in-HTML, and the 2D Canvas API.

Adobe is not blocking any specification. There are dozens of issues that are “blocking” HTML5, if you want to use that term, of which I’m responsible for many at this time. Technically the HTML5 specification can’t advance to Last Call status until these issues are resolved. However, the W3C management can override my issues, and the issues of any individual or company. No one company can block the advancement of any specification without the concurrence of the W3C leadership.

All of these issues are based on improving all of the specifications, including HTML5 and Canvas. it’s unfortunate that the HTML5 editor, who is also the Google representative to the HTML WG introduced such wild, and unfounded speculation, causing harm not only to the Adobe representative, but distracting all of us from the work of finishing the HTML5 and other specifications.

I would hope that people would seek to get confirmation before posting unfounded accusations.

Demo: Google Liquid Galaxy

“Google’s Liquid Galaxy is… a wraparound view of 8 LCD screens providing a truly immersive experience of Google Earth and Street View.”

I’m told by Adobe folks working at the TED conference that the bandwidth used to power this really isn’t that extreme. [Via Tobias Hoellrich]

Flash & Core Animation on Mac OS X

Flash Player engineers have been working closely with Apple to improve Flash Player performance on OS X, to the point where Flash Player 10.1 (now available for testing) will run faster on Macs than on Windows.

Now Flash engineer Tinic Uro has provided some interesting info on Flash & Core Animation, highlighting some of the bottlenecks that the teams are now overcoming. It’s techie but readable, and it portends good things for the future.

Adobe TV: 3D patterns, working with shadows, & more

Adobe TV is hosting some new photography- and Photoshop-related content:

  • The Russell Brown Show – Painting 3D Patterns

    Join Russell Brown as he shows you how to literally paint tiled 3D patterns in this Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended tutorial.

  • The Complete Picture with Julieanne Kost – Using a Secondary Display

    In this episode of The Complete Picture, Julieanne Kost shows you how to use 2 monitors to take advantage of Lightroom’s dual monitor solution.

  • Photoshop User TV – Custom shapes, shadows, & more

    Dave and Scott have a custom shape tool and a shadow tutorial respectively. Scott invites everyone to join his Photo Walk and David DuChemin is in the studio to talk about his new photography book.

  • Design Premium CS4 Feature Tour – Creative Suite 4: New Features for CS1 Owners

    If you’re using Creative Suite 1 you’re not only missing out on the cool new features in CS4, you’re also missing new features added in CS2 and CS3. In this episode, Terry White shows you just some of the amazing functionality you’ll get by upgrading to CS4.

  • Notes on Flash Player stability & the future

    • Flash Player Product Mgr. Emmy Huang has shared some details in response to reports of a crashing bug in Flash Player. She apologizes for the bug having gotten past the team & talks about improvements going forward.
    • If you’d like to help improve the quality of Flash Player, please see these notes on betas & bug reporting from Ted Patrick.
    • Interesting reads from non-Adobe staff on the future of Flash come from Grant Skinner (a long-time & highly respected developer) and Jeremy Allaire (creator of ColdFusion & CEO of streaming video company Brightcove).

    Sneak peek: Future Photoshop masking technology

    In this brief demo, Photoshop PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes shows off some new selection technology that offers better edge detection and masking results in less time–even with tricky images like hair:

    (You can see it in higher resolution on Facebook.)
    Hopefully this helps explain why we put the Extract filter out to pasture in CS4.
    [Update: See also another great mask made with Photoshop :-). (Via Steven Johnson)]

    Adobe CTO talks Flash performance on Macs, more

    Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch posted some thoughts on Flash, HTML5, the iPhone/iPad, and more yesterday. I didn’t see anything really new relative to all the discussions that have taken place here, so I’ve been slow in blogging it.

    Now, however, Kevin has posted an interesting follow-up via the comments. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here are bits I found significant:

    For those wondering, the main computer I use is a MacBook Pro, and I’ve been using the Mac (and developing software for it) since it came out in 1984. […]

    Regarding crashing, I can tell you that we don’t ship Flash with any known crash bugs, and if there was such a widespread problem historically Flash could not have achieved its wide use today. […]

    Before we release a new version of Flash Player we run more than 100,000 test cases and have built an automated system that has scanned over 1 million SWFs that we use for testing from across the web. Our QA lab has a very large variety of machines to represent the machines in real use on the web.

    Addressing crash issues is a top priority in the engineering team, and currently there are open reports we are researching in Flash Player 10. From the comments across the web there may either be an upswing in incidents or there is a general piling on happening — we are looking into this actively and will work to resolve any real issues. If you are experiencing issues please report them directly to the Flash engineering team via the public bug database and the team will investigate and resolve each. […]

    Now regarding performance, given identical hardware, Flash Player on Windows has historically been faster than the Mac, and it is for the most part the same code running in Flash for each operating system. We have and continue to invest significant effort to make Mac OS optimizations to close this gap, and Apple has been helpful in working with us on this. Vector graphics rendering in Flash Player 10 now runs almost exactly the same in terms of CPU usage across Mac and Windows, which is due to this work. In Flash Player 10.1 we are moving to Core Animation, which will further reduce CPU usage and we believe will get us to the point where Mac will be faster than Windows for graphics rendering.

    Video rendering is an area we are focusing more attention on — for example, today a 480p video on a 1.8 Ghz Mac Mini in Safari uses about 34% of CPU on Mac versus 16% on Windows (running in BootCamp on same hardware). With Flash Player 10.1, we are optimizing video rendering further on the Mac and expect to reduce CPU usage by half, bringing Mac and Windows closer to parity for video.

    iPhone icon PSD template; SF meeting tomorrow

    Sebastiaan de With has created a pixel-perfect icon template for iPhone/iPad development. “It’s made up entirely of shape layers and layer effects,” he writes, “and should be completely pixel-accurate.” [Via]
    Speaking of using Photoshop & iPhone development, the San Francisco Photoshop User Group is meeting tomorrow (Thursday) night starting at 6:30, with a focus on mobile development:

    Marine Leroux of Bamboudesign Inc. will showcase how easy it is to design iPhone apps efficiently with Photoshop. Through a step by step method combined with tips for smart user experience design, she’ll guide you from sketching an app interface to designing it in Photoshop, building libraries and template files to expedite the design process. She’ll define Apple’s design requirements and the workflow between design, development, and publishing of an iPhone app to the App Store.

    Adobe isn't in the Flash business

    It isn’t in the Photoshop business, or the Acrobat business, or the [take-your-pick product name] business, either.
    It’s in the helping people communicate business.
    We’d all do well to remember that, because it means that the company’s fortunes are tied to building great tools for solving problems. If we do that well, we prosper; if we do it poorly, we fail. When we get too wrapped up in this technology or that, we lose touch with the problems that we (and more importantly our customers) are trying to solve.
    John Gruber wrote the other day that “Hulu isn’t a Flash site, it’s a video site. Developers go where the users are.” Well sure, of course they do. Flash is a means to an end for Adobe, too, not the end unto itself.
    The equation is simple. Adobe wants to make money selling tools, so it needs our customers’ clients to pay for work done with the tools. Clients won’t pay if their customers can’t see the work made with the tools. Therefore customers, clients, and by extension Adobe need a way to see the work, be that videos, interactive pieces, or anything else.
    Flash has stepped in to fill some gaps heretofore left by other technologies. It is, however, just one possible means to an end–always has been. Adobe will of course continue to invest in making Flash better, and it’ll keep investing in other ways to help creative people reach customer eyeballs. It’s not a zero-sum game.
    You’d think this stuff would be pretty obvious, but as I’ve already noted, the world likes either-or, winner-loser, good guy/bad guy, Jane-you’re-an-ignorant-slut narratives. They make for easy blogging, but mainly they’re a simpleminded distraction from solving real problems.