BOOK REVIEW: Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended For 3D And Video

Isn’t it quaint to look back at the days of Photoshop 6 and 7, when the only method for creating animations with Photoshop was to launch its companion application ImageReady and build animated GIFs? ImageReady was definitely a niche product designed to fill a specific need for a specific time: many people who I worked with in the past didn’t even know ImageReady was a part of the Photoshop installation. Internet multimedia has greatly evolved since the 1990s and ImageReady was discontinued in 2007 and its functions were absorbed into Photoshop CS3.

Along with that, Photoshop CS3 Extended gained some new capabilities with three-dimensional (3D) graphics and video, making it able to handle these kinds of files for the very first time. So let’s take a look at Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended for 3D and Video by Chad Perkins, one of the first books on the market that focuses on the new 3D and video features.

Another great voice in the industry

In my last few reviews I’ve commented about the abundance of great writing talent that comes out in the books in our industry: Joe McNally and his The Moment It Clicks is only the most recent one. Until now Chad Perkins has been an instructor at various seminars and on video—he is published by Lynda.com, Total Training and VTC.com—and this is his first published book, but he stands out as a strong author in the industry. Chad writes clearly and his tutorials are easy to follow and learn from, and the book is seasoned with some good humorous bits. I sometimes give Scott Kelby a little grief for his many jokes and asides in his books, and Chad uses some similar humor but it doesn’t get in the way of the material. His writing style is almost what I would call “informal,” which may be a result of his experience presenting this kind of material with his voice and body language in seminars and videos. That doesn’t always translate well to books but it is done well in this book. I hope Chad continues to write and cover such topics as this one!

Is Photoshop ready for prime time?

It’s no secret that Photoshop CS3 Extended is Adobe’s first venture into moving Photoshop into the 3D and video realm, so it is the right time to write an entire book on these first-generation tools and features? Sometimes it seemed to me like related but secondary Photoshop techniques were used to fill chapters of the book: pages were devoted to layer modes, layer styles, smart objects and other Photoshop features. Chad demonstrated how each of these could be used to enhance 3D graphics and video but I thought it took the book’s focus away from the 3D and video tools, which are what readers are really looking to learn about since they’re so new.

In the end I think this 300-page book could have been pared down by 50 pages and focused more on the new Photoshop tools and techniques. Despite this criticism, the book is solid and it teaches a great deal. I am also impressed that a book of this size comes with a CD-ROM, which is filled with a few lesson files for almost every chapter. You can read the tutorials without handling the files and still learn from them, but it’s a pleasure to know they are available to those who enjoy hands-on learning!

This book is a great resource not only for 3D and video techniques but also some coverage of the little glitches one might encounter—I told you this was Photoshop’s first crack at 3D and video. Chad objectively reports on the oddities he’s experienced with Photoshop 3D and video, and it’s a great help because at this point most of the coverage of these 3D and video tools come from Adobe itself and you’ll rarely find its representatives admitting such glitches and mistakes. This book is published by Adobe Press but it’s not a PR piece by any means—it’s a true resources for the creative professional and seeks to show both the good and the bad of this new technology.

One thing I wish this book covered was the old method of creating animations frame by frame. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, the ImageReady application allowed designers to create animated GIF files with a frame structure, and Photoshop still supports that (look in the Animation panel for a button to switch from Frames view to Timeline view and back). Chad acknowledges this method of animating with one sentence:

I won’t go into detail about the old way of doing things because that method of animation is now archaic.—Chad Perkins

It’s debatable, but I’d make the case that it’s not archaic: animating frame-by-frame is still at the heart of cartoon animating, and not only that but animated GIF graphics are still used on Web sites today where Flash or a video format is not practical. To be fair, another reason Chad doesn’t cover this aspect of Photoshop’s animation toolkit is because it doesn’t do anything with true video, which is what the book is all about along with 3D. However, given that the Animation (Frames) panel is tied closely with the Animation (Timeline) panel I wish this book did cover the frame animation tools. Photoshop’s new video capabilities are an extension of its animation capabilities, and to ignore the old tools because they aren’t new doesn’t help readers realize the full range of Photoshop’s animation and video features.

Conclusion

If you are looking to use Photoshop in a 3D and/or video workflow, this book is the definitive resource for you. I can’t think of a source that is more in-depth or comprehensive that covers Photoshop’s 3D and video features. The fact that the book is supported by a CD-ROM makes this book not just a blow-by-blow account of the tools but also a learning tool to get you moving forward with your own 3D and video work. That being said, there are a few gaps in the book I wish were filled and also a few times where the focus is placed on peripheral Photoshop technology that will help you with your work but is generally old news if you are at least an intermediate Photoshop user.

Still, if you want to learn about Photoshop’s new 3D and video capabilities this is really the only book you need to buy.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended for 3D and Video
Chad Perkins
Rating: 8/10
US$59.99
Published by Adobe Press