Monthly Archives: July 2010

The “Make My Photo Good” button draws closer (?)

Andrew Kupresanin’s Nadia project claims that “The camera that thinks, so you don’t have to.”  Instead of showing an image on its viewfinder, the camera leverages ACQUINE, the “Aesthetic Quality Inference Engine,” in order to display an aesthetic rating

As I’ve said previously, developments like this makes 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!”

Or, as The Online Photographer put it, “If You Think You Need This, Kill Yourself.”

I start wondering whether the art project here is a bit more “meta” than it appears: The point is to make photographers flip out–a sea of (largely) angry old white guys as the medium, unknowingly engaged in mass performance art. If so, touché! [Via Tobias Hoellrich]

Previously: “A computational model of aesthetics

Painting in Photoshop? Check this out.

Digital painting pioneer John Derry has just released a title, Photoshop CS5: Painting with the Mixer Brush, going into depth on how to wring the most out of this new tool.  And building on the success of his Artists’ Brushes set for CS5, he’s previewing a set of Dry Media Brushes.  Should be some powerful, interesting stuff.  For more on John’s work and his take on CS5, check out this interview.


GUI elements library for Illustrator

If you do interface design work in Illustrator, check out this User Interface Design Framework, including 290 free vector icons. [Via]

As I’ve mentioned previously, pixel rendering in Illustrator CS5 is much, much improved, so I highly recommend it to Web & screen designers (and not as an Adobe employee, but rather as someone who sweated over such details & who regularly cursed Illustrator’s old behavior).


"Computational Rephotography" helps marry new & old

Remember the Historypin project I mentioned recently? Creating that kind of historical overlay is about to get easier.

“Computational rephotography,” says Wired, “is a fancy name for photos taken from the exact same viewpoint as an old photograph. Actually, that’s just rephotography. The ‘computational’ part is when software helps out.”

Adobe researcher Aseem Agarwala, together with MIT’s Frédo Durand and Soonmin Bae, are developing some interesting tech here:


According to New Scientist,

The team’s software runs on a laptop linked to a digital camera. The software compares the camera’s view to a preloaded historical scene and provides instructions to adjust the camera’s position and zoom to best match the scene.

The laptop is a temporary measure, however: “We envision the tool running directly on the camera,” the team says.

For more info, check out the project site and papers (including a 135 MB PDF!).  [Via Thorsten Wulff]

Zooming in Adobe Ideas = Interesting note-taking

Kevin Burg has posted an interesting article on How To Take Notes Like a Champ using the free Adobe Ideas iPad app.  In a nutshell,

Adobe Ideas allows fractalesque zooming. You are able to use vast scale differences to communicate importance as well as benefit from a very flexible canvas, so you almost never run out of space taking notes.

Via David Macy, Ideas PM. For David’s perspective on what Ideas is all about, see previous.

Photoshop Automator Actions enhanced, revised for CS5

Author, photographer, and scripter Ben Long has revised his popular set of Automator Actions for Photoshop:

Version 5 brings compatibility with Photoshop CS5, as well as the final release of the CS4 actions… The new Diptych and Triptych actions automate the process of creating two-up, and three-up layouts. With full control over margins and spacing, diptych and triptych creation has never been easier.

The new Contact Sheet action replicates most of the functionality of the Contact Sheet script that is available as an optional install from Adobe. Of course, the advantage of having such power within Automator is that you can now automate the production of your contact sheets. Contact Sheet produces a PSD (either flat or layered) and gives you the option of displaying up to two lines of metadata beneath each thumbnail.

The free bundle includes 41 actions for day-to-day automation needs, and a $20 Pro bundle that includes 95 actions. The two packages are available for Photoshop CS4 and CS5.  Check out Ben’s site for download links & details. [Via]


Video: Stop-motion excellence from Levi’s

I love the flavor of this cross-country roadtrip video from Levi’s:

It gets cooler when you check out the behind-the-scenes video (featuring things like a “MacGyver-style” protractor made in Photoshop):

[Tangential, inside-baseball note: A big, wet, sloppy kiss to the folks at YouTube for now allowing one to specify the dimensions for embedded video. I can’t tell you how many times I used a blank document in Photoshop to calculate how to scale object height to match a certain width. Adios to all that!]

Lightroom 3 "like switching to a new camera," says DPReview

In giving Lightroom 3 a Gold award, Digital Photography Review says:

The difference between high ISO images converted using the new 2010 process compared to the older 2003 algorithm is remarkable, both in terms of detail and noise reduction. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that at high ISO settings, switching to the new RAW processing engine is like switching to a new camera.

Elsewhere, Bright Hub gives the software a perfect 5 out of 5 “Excellent” rating and concludes, “This product stands head and shoulders above the competition in an increasingly crowded sector.”

Excellent; thanks, guys.

In other news, the LR/Enfuse multi-exposure blending plug-in has been revved to version 4. The concept is similar to HDR imaging, but the plug-in authors say their approach produces more natural-looking images.

Adobe vets release ColorBlast for iPhone

My old teammates Ralf & Steve, the guys who brought you Vanishing Point in Photoshop (and before that LiveMotion), have released their first iPhone application, ColorBlast.  It’s a tool for selectively painting color onto images:

The core feature of ColorBlast is the ability to separate and color one object in an otherwise black and white photo. To make this possible, and even fun, ColorBlast employs selective color technology which allows you to start brushing on a specified color and then paint only that color.

Here’s the app in action:

You can find ColorBlast on the App Store, and you can follow its developments via its Facebook fan page.

Video: Local layering ideas

Jim McCann is a graphics researcher (you might remember his interesting work with gradient-domain painting), and I’m happy to say he’s joining the Adobe advanced technology staff. He has some ideas about dealing with the limitations of traditional graphical layering models (as seen in Photoshop, After Effects, Flash, etc.):

For more videos & papers on the subject, check out the project page. [Via Jerry Harris]

Oily Photoshop action (plus UFOs)

  • BP has caught flak for digitally altering an image of their crisis response HQ.  “‘Normally we only use Photoshop for the typical purposes of color correction and cropping,’ [a company spokesman] said in an e-mail. ‘In this case they copied and pasted three ROV screen images in the original photo over three screens that were not running video feeds at the time.'” [Via Noah Mittman]
  • Meanwhile UFOs over China are being attributed to Photoshop work.  It’s kind of a weird, sloppy article, though: no details are given about how Photoshop (or anything else) could or did produce the video included on the page, and in any event what’s shown is a UFO (that is, an unidentified flying object); it’s just not necessarily an object of extraterrestrial origin. [Via Pete Falco]
  • Update: There must be something in the water (no pun intended), as now the controversial action is spreading to golf.

Sample interactive content made in InDesign CS5

Speaking of InDesign and rich publishing, here’s an example of the sort of interactive content (here displayed through Flash) that can be generated in CS5. (Click the main image to display the document.)
Ten years ago Michael Ninness brought me to Adobe to work on LiveMotion, and he went on to product-manage InDesign CS5. I’ve kidded him that a decade later, he managed to transplant LiveMotion 1.0’s heart into ID. I’m kidding, but it is cool to see a number of the features and concepts that customers liked back then–e.g. preset animation styles, easy button creation/interactivity assignment–brought forward. Now, unlike then, the content can also integrate with the Flash authoring environment, meaning you can get a fast, code-free start without eventually hitting a wall.

Details on Adobe's forthcoming Digital Magazine Solution

The folks working on Adobe’s Digital Magazine Solution have posted some additional details on what’s coming:

Late this summer, we’ll post these new publishing technologies on Adobe Labs… Publishers can add interactivity without writing code via InDesign and create monetizable digital magazines for the Apple iPad – with other platforms and devices expected in the future. […]
With layouts in hand, production teams package the assets using the new Digital Content Bundler utility that allows publishers to import vertical and horizontal InDesign CS5 layouts, add metadata, (article title & description, issue number, etc.) and export them into a new “.issue” format. […]
Previously we announced the Digital Content Viewer for Apple iPad; in the future we also expect to develop the Digital Content Viewer on Adobe AIR for desktops and other devices.

Check out the whole post for more info & additional links.

IPTC-PLUS Toolkit extends Bridge, guides photographers

The IPTC and the PLUS Coalition have created a free Photo Metadata Toolkit for Adobe CS3-CS5 applications. Together with the downloadable user guide, these tools help photographers & agencies store detailed descriptions of their content and data relevant for managing image copyrights.
According to the press release,

The IPTC-PLUS Photo Metadata Toolkit for Adobe CS includes easy-to-use IPTC-PLUS Metadata panels for Adobe Bridge CS3 and CS4, plus comprehensive user guidelines for these panels and the File Info panels already built into all CS5 products. The panels for Bridge include the granular metadata fields of the IPTC Photo Metadata and also a set of fields for the communication of image rights metadata, based on industry standard developed by the PLUS Coalition. Creating these panels was a joint effort of both organizations.

I saw Jeff Sedlik from PLUS speak here in LA yesterday, and long story short, if you care even a little about preserving ownership of what you create, take two seconds and add your copyright info. These tools make it easy, and if you’re in doubt about what to do, the guide explains things.
[Update: To clarify, the downloadable panels are usable/needed only in CS3/CS4, as the functionality ships in the box with CS5. The guide is relevant to users of all three versions.]

Airlines vs. iPads

The exact times I want to read magazines on a tablet are the exact times I can’t.

What are the odds we can get the publishing industry to throw some blows at the airline industry (or FAA), finally nixing the prohibition on using electronic devices during taxi, takeoff, and ascent/descent?  I’m typing this on a plane where I’ve got a couple of paper magazines* stashed, ready for landing–this despite also carrying an iPad.  I bought the mags for reading when my laptop is verboten.  Wasting paper sucks, but at least this way I can, y’know, actually read the content during my downtime.

For bonus points, SFO’s anachronistic for-pay WiFi needs to die screaming. Paying eight bucks to access the net to then pay for tablet mags was a non-starter.

*A retronym in the vein of “acoustic guitars.”

Controlling Adobe apps' network connections

I know exceedingly well how sensitive people are about their software making connections to the net, and that’s perfectly reasonable.  In Photoshop CS4 & CS5, you can choose Preferences->Plug-Ins, then uncheck “Allow Extensions to Connect to the Internet.” If you’re a system administrator & want more control over how and when Adobe apps can connect, these tech docs may be useful to you:

Learn DSLR video workflows with Adobe

On August 5 at Adobe’s San Francisco office, Adobe evangelist Jason Levine will be showing the “Fundamentals of Working With DSLR Video;” please see the sign-up page and the notes below for more info.  If you can’t wait or can’t attend, you might want to check out “Getting Started with Premiere Pro CS5,” a recorded demo/Q&A session with filmmaker Dave Basulto.

For Jason’s session:

Learn the fundamentals of working with DSLR footage natively inside Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop. From basic import, creating sequences, adding effects and transitions, all the way through export. We’ll also cover questions regarding transcoding footage and using DSLR video with green screen.

Prior to Adobe, Jason was a full-time recording and mastering engineer, working in studios coast-to-coast, engineering hundreds of recordings from Classical to Country, Rock to Reggae. In 2008 alone, Jason presented to over 75,000 people from San Francisco to Singapore, Amsterdam to Auckland, and everywhere in between.



Historypin: Old photos overlaid on the modern world

What a totally cool project:

Historypin uses Google Maps and Street View technology and hopes to become the largest user-generated archive of the world’s historical images and stories.

Historypin asks the public to dig out, upload and pin their own old photos, as well as the stories behind them, onto the Historypin map. Uniquely, Historypin lets you layer old images onto modern Street View scenes, giving a series of peeks into the past.

Great new Lightroom tutorials from George Jardine

Long-time readers of this blog may fondly remember George Jardine and the extensive series of Lightroom podcasts he produced a couple of years back.  Now George has returned with an intensively workflow-oriented set of video tutorials:

This set of 15 all-new video tutorials gives you over 4-1/2 hours of the very best online education available. It covers the Adobe Lightroom Library and your digital photo library management from top to bottom. We start from the ground up, and guide any serious photographer—professional or passionate amateur—through the process of building an easy-to-use, but incredibly effective digital photo library. Then we dive deeper, tutorial-by-tutorial, through nearly every Lightroom Library feature, gently leading you to a solid and complete understanding of the entire professional workflow.

You can sample the videos and purchase the entire series for $29.95 via George’s site.

SJ Photoshop User Group meeting next Tuesday

The San José Photoshop User Group will be meeting next Tuesday evening at Adobe HQ, featuring photographer Suzette Allen.  According to the RSVP page:

Suzette Allen is always focused on efficiency, but this time, she will be showing some of the fun things you can do with Photoshop (including painting with CS5!) and the design tools (like making brushes and templates) that take a wee bit of time but can turn into profits as you re-use them creatively in templates. Of course she will show you how to save time with the amazing new features of CS5 as well. Be prepared for a fun and creative evening that will get you inspired to pursue your own creative vision.

Pizza & drinks will be served at 6:30, and the presentation begins at 7.  For directions and other details, please check out the Evite.


HTML isn't about Web pages

Or rather, it isn’t just about Web pages.  Responding to my post about CSS as the new Photoshop, Neven Mrgan makes some good points about HTML & CSS as a general purpose graphical system:

That assumption is that Nack is talking about creating web pages. I don’t believe he is… This is not the web Zeldman is interested in. It’s no web at all, in fact. […]

Look at any of Apple’s stores on the iPad – App Store, iTunes Store, iBookstore. Heck, look at the iTunes Store on your computer: it’s all made with HTML and CSS. Why? Because in the year 2010, if you’re going to be describing layouts, it’s not a bad call to describe them using very well adopted, rapidly developing technologies. […]

There’s no pride or glory in tweaking number after number and reloading a page to make sure my drop shadow looks nice.

On this last point, I’m hopeful that if Photoshop made it possible to copy/export styled text and objects as HTML/CSS, developers would accept the generated code.  There are only so many ways to specify box dimensions & borders, right?

More broadly, people are clearly interested in doing demanding, print-quality typesetting using HTML, the better to create things like magazines for tablets.  I’m encouraged to see work that enables better text breakingkerning pairs & ligaturesproportional leading, and more. Onward and upward.

One other thing: I’ve gotten to know Neven a bit after he (justifiably) needled Photoshop for its admitted hodgepodge of UI elements. I’ve never managed to finish my long and detailed response, but in it I talk about how using Web elements (e.g. embedded WebKit) makes it hard–if not impossible–to match everything with OS-native controls.  I go on to cite numerous examples of Apple’s Web content not matching Aqua, etc.  The point is, the more powerful & ubiquitous Web content becomes, the more we’ll deal with the challenges of making the complete desktop/online experience feel cohesive.

May I bring you a coffee?

The After Effects team has long done “ship trips,” wherein they hang around a design shop, production facility, etc., watching over customers’ shoulders while generally trying to make themselves unobtrusive/useful (e.g. bringing bagels, etc.).  Seeing someone doing real work is different than just talking about what they might like or need.

A number of my colleagues are enjoying some well-deserved R&R this month, so things are a bit quiet at the ranch, and I’m kind of itching to re-connect with the real world of design and production.  If you’re a designer in the Bay Area who wouldn’t mind having some spiky-haired, slightly over-solicitous guy hang around your workspace a bit, please let me know so that we can try to sync schedules.

Your bugs, you will show me them, please

I’m glad to hear that people seem pretty happy with the Photoshop CS5 update, but there’s always room to improve. If and when you encounter bugs in Photoshop or other Adobe apps, however, please report them via the online bug form.
Also, in case you’re wondering whether anyone actually looks at crash reports that come in, the answer is emphatically yes. It’s really helpful if you take a second to jot down your email address. That way, if we need more info about what you’re experiencing, we can drop you a line. (I know, this should never be necessary, and I know it’s an extra inconvenience, but we’re grateful for any data you can provide to help make the apps better.)