REVIEW: Adobe Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements 10

Elements 10 box

The Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements bundle version 10 has been on the market for several months now but I wanted to review the product and give my impressions of it. Ironically, it has been just a couple weeks since Adobe released the Adobe Creative Cloud, which delivers their Creative Suite applications via a subscription. This is pertinent to the Elements products because, out of all Adobe’s products, they probably have the highest hurdles to overcome in order to convince home users to upgrade.

Photoshop Elements 10

The most game-changing and impressive new feature in Photoshop Elements 10 is the Smart Brush and its variety of effects and pattern overlays. The Smart Brush is comparable to Photoshop’s Adjustment Brush, but instead of adjustments you can apply one of almost 100 artistic effects, filters, adjustments, patterns and color fills. These are applied with a mask based on where you brush with the Smart Brush.

Smart Brush

The Smart Brush does a good job detecting boundaries for masking, similar to the quality masks produced by Photoshop Touch (though not as good as ones you can create in Photoshop). The Smart Brush effects are layer-based, so you can revise your work in the Layers panel or just click on other effects in the drop-down menu to apply them. This is a feature that seems simple but has a lot of usefulness, especially if you enjoy creating fun and interesting images. Users who just want to color correct and polish up their family photos might want to browse the Portrait subset of Smart Brush effects but otherwise won’t have too much use for this feature. There are better tools for color correction, such as Levels and Curves.

Elements’ Organizer has become smarter in version 10 and offers a few new features based on detection algorithms. Duplicate Photo Search, for example, uses a simple algorithm to detect and warn users about duplicate images. The Visual Search algorithm—which is new to Mac users in version 10—is integral to the new Object Search feature, which runs Visual Search on selections of photos in order to detect and display photos with a common object like a building or animal. It does a remarkably good job but the results depend on the clarity of the photos it’s given. Typical tourist photos and photos with a clearly defined foreground are great candidates. There’s not much control over Object Search: you can refine your search to focus on color or shape just like Visual Search.

Visual Search

People Recognition, which has been in Elements Organizer for some time, is still your best option for facial recognition. Adobe has integrated Facebook data with People Recognition to enable users to tag photos with Facebook friends. I think this is a really smart use of Facebook’s API to make photo tagging more fun and less hassle. It’s particularly cool for users moving a lot of photos from Photoshop Elements 10 to Facebook albums.

Photoshop Elements 10 also has three new Guided Edits to steer users through complex effects:

  • Orton Effect provides a soft, dreamy look for portraits and glamour shots
  • Picture Stack will segment an image into individual layered images suitable for a collage
  • Depth of Field produces a bokeh-like blurring of image backgrounds
  • depth of field

    Guided Edits have been a part of Photoshop Elements for a few versions and with each upgrade they release a few new ones. These are fun to use and I am glad two of them are for more professional-looking images—bokeh is a professional term for basically what the Depth of Field edit provides. However, the new features are not groundbreaking. The same can be said for Photoshop Elements’ new “Text on a Path” features, which insert text on a path, shape edge or selection.

    Photoshop Elements 10 Plus hasn’t changed from earlier versions and still provides 20GB of storage—the regular product provides only 2GB—as well as some tutorials and the ability to share photos on iOS and Android devices. Other than the Smart Brush, most of Photoshop Elements 10’s new features are nips and tucks, extensions of existing features or additions that should have been in place already (such as the ability to save JPEG and PDF files).

    Premiere Elements 10

    Premiere Elements 10’s most exciting new feature is the Pan & Zoom Tool, which lets users put together movie clips based on photos and animated with pan and zoom implemented by a framed interface. To use the Pan & Zoom Tool, you use rectangular frames to define where the shot should focus, the duration of the pan/zoom and how long it should hold at each frame position. Animators and anyone who has dabbled with Flash, Edge or web animations will be familiar with the approach. I’m frankly surprised the Premiere Elements team would have considered an animation paradigm to build a video production feature, but it is intuitive and makes sense. I think the user interface might be a little clunky and it can be hard to revise frame durations after the fact, but it’s a powerful little tool as is and I think it’s a nice addition.

    Pan and Zoom

    The Pan & Zoom Tool might be the most exciting new feature in Premiere Elements 10 but the AutoTone & Vibrance effect might be the most useful. This effect applies high-quality color correction to clips and I know from my experience in color correction with Photoshop that quality color really makes both videos and images look their best. I think color correction is given less attention in home video production so AutoTone & Vibrance is sorely needed. And since the Elements Organizer integrates with Premiere Elements 10 now, the application uses a Project Bin to provide file management for projects.

    AutoTone

    AutoTone & Vibrance’s primary benefit is to punch up color saturation without making skin tones look excessive. I tried this effect on a few clips and generally the performance is very good—colors look snappy but faces and hair remain natural. The effect also makes the shadows darker and richer, which generally improves the contrast. To maximize what you get out of AutoTone & Vibrance, be sure to click Edit Effects after applying it, uncheck Auto under AutoTone and edit the settings manually. There are five settings: Brightness, Contrast, Exposure, Black (shadows) and White (highlights). There’s also a single Vibrance slider to manage color saturation. These settings provide a simple but powerful way to color correct your clips.

    3 Way Color

    Adobe also added one more color correction effect: the Three-Way Color Corrector. Unfortunately, this effect is very complicated compared to the simple AutoTone & Vibrance effect. The Three-Way Color Corrector basically provides a large interface for changing the saturation and balance of highlights, shadows and midtones. You can use an eyedropper to set the balance or drag an anchor point on a color wheel in the effect settings. The results are effective but the user interface is complex, perhaps too complex for average users. The good news is the Three-Way Color Corrector encapsulates aspects of Curves and Levels, the two most important color correction procedures, which AutoTone & Vibrance does not do (that effect is more closely related to Camera Raw). However, I think the Three-Way Color Corrector can be made more efficient and easier to use.

    Premiere Elements 10 has been able to import AVCHD video since last version but now the application can also export and share movies in the native AVCHD format. You can also burn AVCHD footage to a DVD or Blu-ray disc for playback on a DVD or Blu-ray player. And one more note for Mac users: Premiere Elements 10 now includes the SmartSound feature which will let them add music to movie and dynamically adjust the length to match the movie length. This is a really nice feature I like to use, and I’m happy to see it now on the Mac.

    Users who like to post their movies on Facebook and YouTube will be happy to learn version 10 of the Elements Organizer has an interface for posting videos to both social media sites. The uploading process to YouTube is easy and clean but doesn’t leverage all of YouTube’s settings, such as tags. You also can set a video to be public or private (restricted to specific YouTube users) but not unlisted, which I think is more useful in several situations. The interface for sharing to Facebook is more robust but Facebook actually has fewer settings to manage anyway.

    Conclusion

    Adobe deserves praise for staying on top of the photo/video industry’s changes—their support of AVCHD and social media sharing are all important features that needed to be in this release. Both applications have received a worthy upgrade in version 10 but, as with many software upgrades, the necessity of upgrading depends on the user and I think the Photoshop/Premiere Elements 10 bundle has wide appeal but isn’t for everyone. I think many would make the switch just to work with AVCHD footage. Photoshop Elements 10 doesn’t have a new killer feature like Premiere Elements 10 has, but the Smart Brush is quite useful.

    Users should look at the upgrade price, look at their existing and future cameras and camcorders, and make the decision. Upgrading to version 10 offers a lot of new features—particularly for prosumers—but not everyone needs them.

    Photoshop Elements 10 / Premiere Elements 10
    Adobe Systems
    US $149.99 full, $119.99 upgrade
    Rating: 8/10
    Buy from Amazon.com

Adobe Releases Creative Suite 6 and Creative Cloud

Adobe announced today the release of Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and the Adobe Creative Cloud, representing the latest in the company’s lineup of applications for creative professionals. They will be available for purchase in May.

Both products had been previously announced—Creative Cloud was first announced back in October at Adobe MAX—and there are many official and unofficial “sneak peek” videos online of new CS6 features. Some applications have also been available as public betas, including Photoshop CS6 (1 million downloads as of this writing), Edge and Muse (over 1 million downloads each). Despite this early exposure, the creative community seems more excited over this release than some previous Creative Suite releases and the response to the public betas have been very positive. The Photoshop CS6 beta has been downloaded more than any in Adobe’s history.

The Creative Cloud structure

Adobe Creative Cloud is a response by Adobe to the changing nature of software and online services. It’s become clear that large version releases every 18 to 24 months is an anachronism compared to bug fixes pushed over the Internet or online apps handled by many hands across Github. Most of the CS6 products are the same familiar ones we’ve used for years, but Creative Cloud provides a new pricing model, online services and a new activation/updating system.

Adobe Creative Cloud includes:

Lightroom 4 and the Digital Publishing Suite will not be included until the summer. Adobe Touch applications for iOS are planned for release before the summer, particularly Photoshop Touch which my source says will be available in May.

Adobe Creative Cloud is not dependent on an Internet connection; software is downloaded to the user’s computer and can run without a connection. The installed software does check Adobe’s servers once a month to ensure a valid Creative Cloud license exists for the user based on his/her Adobe ID. Software updates can be pushed directly to the user’s computer and content will be available on all devices through Creative Cloud synchronization.

Purchasing software through a Creative Cloud subscription has some advantages. Typically, a Creative Suite customer gets a boxed product that can be installed on two machines—typically a desktop and laptop computer—but the box contains either Mac or Windows versions. Creative Cloud users are still restricted to two machines but one can be a Mac and the other Windows. This is a sweet deal for Mac users who happen to use a PC laptop.

There is also a free subscription available for prospective Creative Cloud customers. The free subscription includes 2GB of cloud storage for projects and trials of all available software. Note that if you buy into Creative Cloud and then cancel at some point, the software will stop working (after it pings the server) but your cloud storage space remains for several months.

Creative Cloud Pricing

Adobe Creative Cloud costs $49.99 per month annually or $74.99 per month, paid monthly. There’s also an introductory rate of $29.99 per month for users of CS3, CS4, CS5 or CS5.5. A version of Creative Cloud optimized for teams will cost $69.99 per person per month. This team-optimized product will include expert services and support, company IT tools and workstation synchronization, but it’s buried deep in Adobe’s development timeline and a fall release would not surprise me.

What if I don’t want Creative Cloud?

Adobe expects many users to create on tablets and mobile devices first, then polish their creations with CS6 and eventually “publish anywhere” with software like Edge—which converts animations to HTML5—and services like Business Catalyst. I reviewed the Adobe Touch apps and I thought they were not robust enough as a whole to bring more than a kernel of a final product back to the desktop, so I’m glad to see a typical Creative Suite workflow—without most of the Creative Cloud-specific features—is still possible.

CS6 icons

There are four Creative Suite 6 suites:

  • Design Standard includes:
    • Acrobat X Pro
    • InDesign CS6
    • Illustrator CS6
    • Photoshop CS6
  • Design Premium and Web Premium have been combined into one suite that includes:
    • All Design Standard products
    • Dreamweaver CS6
    • Fireworks CS6
    • Flash Professional CS6
    • Photoshop CS6 Extended replaces Photoshop CS6
  • Production Premium includes:
    • After Effects CS6
    • Audition CS6
    • Illustrator CS6
    • Photoshop CS6 Extended
    • Premiere Pro CS6
    • Encore CS6
    • Prelude CS6 (new)
    • SpeedGrade CS6 (new)
  • Master Collection includes all CS6 applications.

Adobe Edge, Muse and Lightroom 4 are not CS6 applications and aren’t available in any CS6 suite, though they are included in Creative Cloud.

Prices are:

  • CS6 Design Standard: $1,299 full, $299 upgrade
  • CS6 Design & Web Premium: $1,899 full, $399 upgrade
  • CS6 Production Premium: $1,899 full, $399 upgrade
  • CS6 Master Collection: $2,599 full, $549 upgrade

Flash Builder 4.6 and Acrobat X will not see an update, but Creative Cloud users will get their updates automatically when they are available. CS5.5 single-product subscribers will be able to continue their subscriptions at $19.99 per month per product, and they will also score 10GB of Creative Cloud space. However, CS5.5 suite subscribers will need to transition to Creative Cloud.

What’s in Creative Suite 6?

A lot of readers will really just want to know what’s in the newest versions of the Creative Suite products. There are two new CS6 applications, both in the video category:

  • SpeedGrade CS6, for color grading and color-correcting video
  • Prelude CS6, for adding metadata to clips on import and handling shoot data

There are a huge number of new features for CS6, particularly for some of the flagship products like Photoshop. I think this is why so many public beta users are getting excited for the launch. I am using a few prerelease betas of CS6 software but I prefer to work with the shipping product before I write a review, so those will be forthcoming.

Conclusion

Adobe is naturally excited about the CS6 and Creative Cloud launch, which Scott Morris—Senior Marketing Director for Creative Pros—said might be the most important launch in Adobe’s history. The Creative Cloud product is what makes it so important—it’s a rethinking of the way Adobe delivers products, and it’s the first single product that puts the entire creative workflow in the user’s hands.

BOOK REVIEW: Trevor Burnham’s CoffeeScript For Pragmatic Programmers

CoffeeScript cover

CoffeeScript, a programming language that lets you output JavaScript with cleaner code, is barely two years old but it’s already exciting developers. I hadn’t heard of it until I got a copy of CoffeeScript: Accelerated JavaScript Development by Trevor Burnham, from The Pragmatic Programmers line of books “by developers for developers.” I could tell right away that Trevor is a decent developer and has the chops to write a book like this—his grasp of JavaScript, JavaScript frameworks and of course CoffeeScript is solid. His writing style is also fairly clean and easy to follow, which is important for a book like this that covers a language not everyone has experienced.

CoffeeScript is basically a primer for the CoffeeScript language: you’ll learn the basics of the language and also dive into some very basic chapters on jQuery and Node.js, but there’s a lot more to learn that you will have to find on your own. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—some of my best learning experiences have been spurred by small, lean books—but this is probably not the complete reference on CoffeeScript.

I also should point out that CoffeeScript is not JavaScript. CoffeeScript is compiled and translated into JavaScript after the coding process, which lets you work with the cleaner CoffeeScript syntax throughout your project. Ruby and Python programmers will appreciate CoffeeScript more than the typical JavaScript and jQuery programmer. I happen to be one of the latter more than the former, so I read this book from that perspective. Fortunately, CoffeeScript clearly explains how to work with CoffeeScript from the initial installation, which some books sometimes fail to do.

The hands-on work done in CoffeeScript comes from a game project that Trevor builds and improves from chapter to chapter. I like smaller, in-chapter projects as well as larger projects that span over multiple chapters, but sometimes the code didn’t seem very clean or easy to follow. Maybe some more pages devoted to writing and explaining the code would have helped, or perhaps the larger project could have been replaced with some smaller ones. There’s a few ways Trevor could rework the code and make it easier to learn.

I really enjoyed reading CoffeeScript and would like to branch out into using CoffeeScript more to improve my code production. I’m looking for other books to take me further down the learning path, but the book has provided me a fine head start.

CoffeeScript: Accelerated JavaScript Development
Trevor Burnham
Published by Pragmatic Bookshelf
US $29
Rating: 8/10
Buy at Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: The Twitter Book, 2nd Edition

The Twitter Book cover

Back in 2009, Twitter was relatively new: celebrities were picking up their first million followers, businesspeople wondered how it could make money and everyone seemed to ask why anyone would care to “tweet” their mundane activities. Tim O’Reilly—the founder of the O’Reilly publishing company and a devoted Twitter user—and Sarah Milstein—an early Twitter user and speaker—wrote The Twitter Book, one of the first comprehensive books about Twitter in 2009. I reviewed the book then and thought it was “the definitive resource for Twitter users,” though I noted a book—ink on paper—could never stay current. Be sure to read my review of the first edition, if only for the dated comments about Twitter’s “arcane technology” and “a lot of people don’t actually know what [Twitter] really is.”

Late last year, Tim and Sarah published the second edition of The Twitter Book. It looks very much like the first edition: the cover image is practically the same and you’ll find images on the verso pages and text on the recto pages, exactly like before. Since the book covers topics for beginners as well as advanced users, a lot of the early chapters haven’t changed much. They are still well-written and useful to grasping the concept of Twitter and how to use its basic features. I’ve always been impressed by Tim and Sarah’s evangelism of the Twitter platform—they are passionate about its various uses and try hard to dispel the notion that it’s a niche media for tech geeks or those glued to mobile devices. This notion was more prevalent in 2009 than it is now.

My main criticism against the first edition of The Twitter Book still stands in the second edition: the book fails to catch all the great tools being created around Twitter, and can’t cover the ones created after publication. Interestingly, when the first edition was published, desktop Twitter apps like Tweetie and Twhirl were popular; today, Twitter’s own app has supplanted those and I find more growth in online analytics services (like Twittercounter) and online apps built on the API (like fllwrs.com). Neither Twittercounter nor fllwrs.com are in The Twitter Book, and more tools will be released in the future.

One suggestion from my review that Sarah Milstein actually commented on was the number of long, full URLs in The Twitter Book. Shortened URLs make perfect sense in a book like The Twitter Book, and the first edition did not take advantage of them. In the second edition, most URLs are actually still full URLs but almost all of them are not long anyway. URLs like http://business.twitter.com/ are not hard to remember or type. There are some bit.ly’d links throughout the book, such as http://bit.ly/dooce-maytag, which show that the suggestion was indeed used for the longer URLs.

The second edition of The Twitter Book is an updated resource on Twitter and most of what I send about the first edition applies to the second. I think the book has more competition from online news sources in 2012 compared to 2009, but if you want to read about Twitter and it needs to be ink on paper, pick this book up and enjoy.

The Twitter Book, Second Edition
Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein
Published by O’Reilly
US $19.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy at Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: The Tangled Web And Untangling Web Security

Tangled Web book cover

Front-end developers are being assigned more and more projects that require cross-domain communication with data services via JavaScript, and so web security and handling cross-domain applications has become more important. I find that many developers don’t want to handle such mundane details—they simply want their app to work like it should—but they have to learn these things in order to accomplish their task.

Michal Zalewski, who has a strong pedigree in web security circles and wrote Google’s own Browser Security Handbook, has a really excellent book out called The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications. I am really impressed by how thorough and comprehensive the book is—it’s 300 pages, quite dense and covers all the major topics on web security I can think of. It’s also very technical, so much so that I think its target audience is back-end developers and system administrators more than front-end developers. I’m not sure yet if front-end developers need to know everything in The Tangled Web or should worry more about the bits that they can do something about and leave the rest for their colleagues on the back end.

Fortunately, most of the early chapters cover familiar front-end topics such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript and I really recommend those for front-end developers. They will really open your eyes to all the little security imperfections in the code we write every day, a lot of which seem safe but can cause big problems. The Tangled Web really opened my eyes on the subject, and I’m looking forward to making my code more airtight.

There’s not much I can say against The Tangled Web: it is comprehensive, clearly written, and technically accurate. I think front-end developers can definitely get a lot of use out of it but some chapters cover topics they can’t always do anything about, such as server connections. Back-end developers, database programmers and system admins will probably have the same reaction to those early chapters on front-end programming. Before you buy, read the outline of The Tangled Web’s chapters and see if the book is a good fit for you.

a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593273886/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwjeremyschu-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593273886″>The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications
Michal Zalewski
Published by No Starch Press
US $49.95
Rating: 10/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Design By Nature Teaches The Designs Around Us

Design by Nature cover

Most designers today create their work on a computer, but the best designs seem to have a timeless quality that appears again and again. These timeless designs often have roots in nature. Our notions of space, color and juxtaposition are informed by the world we live in and what we see around us since birth. However, designers staring at a screen all day often forget this natural inspiration.

Maggie Macnab has written a revealing book, Design By Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design, that outlines the natural principles at work around us helps us apply them to design problems in our daily work. I really appreciate a book like this in the workplace because I’ve always found nature to be a rich source of inspiration in many different ways. Maggie takes very basic concepts—pattern, shape, color, juxtaposition, symbolism and many more—and illustrates them at work in our natural world and also in our human-made, designed world. It’s very intriguing and “rings true” with what I feel in my own work.

Design By Nature is well-written and is structured appropriately—I never felt lost or thought I needed to jump ahead to get a critical concept. There are also some small “Putting It Into Practice” exercises sprinkled throughout the book that aren’t too difficult or require technical skills but make you think about your process and get in touch with the designs inherent in nature.

I also enjoyed the guest designer sections that focused on a designer’s work. A lot of them are written by the designer and talk about their process, past clients and projects, and their thoughts on design. I wish they focused more on the “design by nature” theme because many of them read like typical manifestos on design. The best ones focus on a particular project.

I also want to point out something which bothered me while reading Design By Nature: Maggie uses a lot of her own work and her students’ work to support her principles and ideas in the book. That is okay but I would prefer to see a diverse range of designs used to support the book’s teachings, and from a variety of artists and designers. The range of work in Design By Nature is sometimes just too inclusive of the author’s own inner circle.

Despite this, I really enjoyed Design By Nature and I would recommend it for many graphic artists and designers, especially those with a fine arts or an environmental arts background. Their work is probably already based nature even if they don’t realize it, and understanding the natural process of design is vital to successful creations.

Design by Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design
Maggie Macnab
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 9/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: 344 Questions Is A Massive Self-Help Quest

344 Questions cover

There’s a small but interesting intersection in the publishing world where self-help, creativity and design meet to produce books designed to help creative people achieve more. The Artist’s Way is one such popular line of books. Another one I particularly like is It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. Such books are often full of self-help goodness but also sometimes a bit zanier than your usual self-help offerings.

Stefan Bucher’s 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival and Artistic Fulfillment cranks the zaniness up a notch. The book is written for people looking for a catalyst for improving their creativity, and offers questions that lead you to new insights about yourself and what makes you most creative. These are the kinds of exercises that any creative person should do now and then. Not many people actually look for self-help like this until they are feeling defeated and their creativity or business is flagging, so a book like this is always timely.

The book doesn’t have any answers, just questions in elaborate hand-drawn diagrams with lots of arrows and word bubbles. This makes the book unique. The reader has to supply the answers, and there’s many blank spaces to write in this book. Stefan expects the reader to madly mark up this book with thoughts, ambitions, questions and other notes to spark insight and ideas. It’s the kind of non-linear thinking that creative people presumably enjoy, though more analytical types of people might find it meandering.

The book’s title is 344 Questions but there are actually over 1,800 questions, which gets to my main gripe against the book: it’s overwhelming and fragmented. Consider this stream of questions:

  • How do you get through tough times?
  • Can we focus on the immediate essentials?
  • What foods make you happy?
  • What TV shows distract you?
  • What music perks you up?
  • Do you have an emergency supply of all this stuff?
  • Do you have friends who will listen to you?
  • What are their phone numbers?
  • Do you have friends you’ll listen to?
  • What are their phone numbers?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how bad is [your current difficulty]?

This is all on just a half-page. This page will seem magical if it provides you an epiphany (maybe you’ll realize you don’t trust your friends enough to listen to what they say) but if not it can be tiring. “Who cares if a professional commitment is a sacred oath?” It takes a particular individual, perhaps one in search of answers and willing to provide them with a little coaching, to appreciate this book. I recommend it for such people, and for the others I would recommend something more like The Artist’s Way, which delivers a more methodical framework for building creativity in the your work.

344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival and Artistic Fulfillment
Stefan G. Bucher
Published by New Riders
US $14.99
Rating: 8/10
Buy from Amazon.com

Adobe Releases Photoshop CS6 In Public Beta

The splash screen for the Photoshop CS6 pre-release, codenamed “Superstition.”

Adobe announced today the immediate availability of Photoshop CS6 as a public beta. Photoshop is expected to be one of the primary products in Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and in the past Adobe has released other Creative Suite products in public beta. The only version of Photoshop released as a public beta until now was Photoshop CS3.

Photoshop CS6 (and presumably other CS6 applications) will be paired with an Adobe ID rather than computer hardware, thus ending the old activation/deactivation method for license management. Fouled-up activations have always been difficult for users to deal with and often keep software from running at all without a call to Adobe customer service, so to do away with activation altogether is a nice improvement.

The change that I’ve seen leaked most is Photoshop CS6’s new dark user interface. Photoshop CS6 now has more in common visually with After Effects, Premiere and other video apps than the design apps including Illustrator and InDesign. You can actually change the user interface’s color in the Preferences menu to one of four shades of gray. I have usually preferred the old light gray, but I come from a background in design and that’s what I’ve been used to. I’ve used my Adobe video applications more in the past couple years though and now I’m keeping Photoshop CS6 with the default dark backgrounds. It looks more professional and the grays don’t compete with images, though technically none of the options will give your images a color cast.

The Photoshop team has made performance improvements in recent versions (the OpenGL support in CS4 comes to mind) but Photoshop CS6’s main performance improvement is the new Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. Photoshop CS6 uses the MGE to accelerate filters and effects including Liquify, Lighting Effects and warping effects. I’ve worked with these tools in prerelease builds of Photoshop CS6 and they work smoothly most of the time. I hope public beta users have the same experience.

Note that some of Adobe’s video applications employ a “Mercury Playback Engine” for much-improved video performance with NVIDIA CUDA video cards. This is not the same thing as the Mercury Graphics Engine, and the MGE works with a variety of video cards.

Content-Aware technology has been behind many of Photoshop’s recent jaw-dropping features, and Adobe has expanded it into two new tools in Photoshop CS6:

  • Content-Aware Patch marries Content-Aware technology with the existing Patch tool. There’s now a Patch menu in the tool’s options, and selecting “Content-Aware” will help you patch regions more accurately.
  • Content-Aware Move is similar to the Content-Aware Patch feature but it behaves like the Patch tool’s opposite. Rather than select a region and fill it with another region, the Content-Aware Move tool lets you select a region and move it to another place on the image. It works beautifully when moving objects and backgrounds to other places on the image: backgrounds become seamless, usually without any extra work required.

There are a bunch of little improvements in Photoshop CS6 as well. According to Zorana Gee, Senior Photoshop Product Manager, the newest version of Photoshop has 62% more new features than CS5 and 65 enhancements requested by users. These include:

  • Multiple layers can be selected and then locked, labeled or have their blend modes changed at the same time.
  • Layer opacity can now be set to zero by typing “00.”
  • Layer > Rasterize > Layer Style has been added to rasterize layer styles in one step. Previously, users had to create a new layer and merge the two layers together.
  • Brushes can now be as large as 5,000 pixels.
  • The Eyedropper tool can now select layers current and below, and can also ignore adjustment layers.
  • Layer effects are now rearranged in the Layer Effects menus so they match the order they are blended together.
  • Windows users can now right-click on a document tab and open a new or existing file.
  • The hexadecimal field in the Color Picker dialog box will now accept a hash mark, which is useful when copying and pasting hex color values.
  • A new menu command, Type > Paste Lorem Ipsum, will generate placeholder text.
  • The Blur Gallery, which provides a new UI for tweaking blurs and also two new panels, Blur Tools and Blur Effects, for adding bokeh and other details. Note that this only applies to the three new blur filters—Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift.
  • Photoshop CS6 now auto-saves files and has an auto-recovery system.

The press release is on the next page. To download Photoshop CS6, visit Adobe Labs. Macintosh users will need OS X Snow Leopard or Lion; Windows users will need Windows XP or Windows 7.

Pantone Announces Cloud-Based PantoneLIVE Service

Last week, Pantone and X-Rite announced the new PantoneLIVE color service, a cloud-based product designed to deliver standardized color palettes across all points of production workflows and ensure consistent color throughout. The Pantone library of colors has historically provided that kind of color consistency but changes in workflow structures, printing methods and substrates have made it difficult if not impossible to be exact every time.

The PantoneLIVE webpage currently doesn’t say a whole lot—the service doesn’t go live until June 15—but designers and pressmen will find the Heinz and Chesapeake case studies, which describe some promising results across a large workflow and multiple projects. In both cases, color matching across all their printed products was the goal. Along with the cloud service, it appears that color auditing and services beyond the cloud product are an important part of PantoneLIVE. These services are also lucrative: a color audit starts at $4,500. The price points for the cloud service are pretty good—designers can buy into PantoneLIVE for $99 per year, preproduction departments for $2,000 per year and production departments for $2,650 per year.

In its press release, Pantone is promoting partnerships with three companies integral to the PantoneLIVE service:

  • Sun Chemical, the preferred ink partner
  • Esko, the supplier for PantoneLIVE’s database systems
  • Windmöller and Hölscher, which is incorporating PantoneLIVE access into its EASY COL on-press color matching

I don’t know how effective or useful PantoneLIVE will be for a company’s existing press and inks. I think the additional services, such as customized operating procedures created by Pantone and X-Rite, might be needed to perfectly marry PantoneLIVE with existing workflows and equipment.

Press Release

Pantone and X-Rite Introduce PantoneLIVE;
Allows Brand Owners to Manage Color in the Cloud

Delivers color DNA based on real ink, on real substrates with
real printing processes for predictable, repeatable results

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., March 1, 2012 – X-Rite, Incorporated (NASDAQ: XRIT) and Pantone LLC, today unveiled PantoneLIVE™, a cloud-based color service that provides instant access to essential brand color standards. PantoneLIVE is the first service under the Pantone Digital Business Unit, a newly created division of X-Rite that is the byproduct of Pantone’s expertise as the world’s color authority and X-Rite’s color science and technology leadership.

From chocolates and champagne to soda and stilettos, the past year has been wrought with cases of counterfeiting, deception and consumer confusion – all tied to the ubiquitous colors that uniquely identify brands. Cadbury and Veuve Clicquot were involved in high-profile legal battles to own their brand colors, while Christian Louboutin fought to trademark its signature red soles. With color so critically tied to brand identity, inconsistent brand color can lead to a lack of consumer confidence and lost sales.

In a recent survey conducted by the Pantone Color Institute*, more than 70 percent of creatives noted that brand color definitions, accuracy and consistency in creating products or packaging are important to their business, while 42 percent indicated that color-related challenges have a negative impact on their company. “Nearly 50 years ago, Pantone brought consistency and a common language to an industry that lacked standardization. Historically an analog process, reliant on centuries’ old color alchemy, printing and production have advanced with technology in the digital age,” said Ron Potesky, senior vice president and general manager of Pantone. “PantoneLIVE digitizes the process, taking it from visual and subjective to consistent and repeatable – significantly reducing production timelines and improving the bottom line.”

“PantoneLIVE represents a transformational change in color management for brand owners across their entire supply chain,” explained Tom Vacchiano, president and CEO of X-Rite. “Our own Dr. Sonia Megert, whose vision for the digital supply chain led to the development of PantoneLIVE, will head the new Pantone Digital Business Unit.”

“Globally consistent color standards are essential to brand identity. With supply chains made up of hundreds of different facilities scattered around the world, corporations struggle to control and maintain color consistency,” said Dr. Megert. “PantoneLIVE is a dynamic ecosystem, open to all supply chain participants, which delivers consistent color across the entire packaging workflow – from design concept to retail store shelves.”

Brand color standards are the principal component of PantoneLIVE and are derived from real ink on real substrates using real printing processes. This allows brand owners to predict how corporate spot colors will reproduce on a wide variety of substrates including brown corrugated, clear film and white polypropylene. A brand’s color assets, analogous to a brand’s color DNA, are managed and maintained in a secure cloud-based data repository to ensure accurate color communication – to any supplier, around the world.

“The benefits of using PantoneLIVE are clear,” says Nigel Dickie, director of corporate and government affairs for Heinz (see Beanz Meanz Heinz and Knowing about Color case study). “The digital tools gave us unprecedented control and consistency from different print processes and materials. Across all of our packaging formats we saw a reduction in color variance of 50 percent and saved time by establishing one color target that can be applied to all our Heinz Beanz designs. The results with our Beanz packaging have been so remarkable that we plan to extend PantoneLIVE to additional product lines, including Heinz soups and Spaghetti Hoops.”

While accurate color is important to the brand identity of consumer packaged goods, protecting brand integrity in the pharmaceutical industry is crucial as counterfeit drugs put the health of consumers at risk. Chesapeake (see Accurate Brand Colors Help Stem Drug Counterfeiting case study), a global producer of consumer packaging for many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, turned to PantoneLIVE to increase consistency in its customers’ packaging. When it comes to pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications, even the slightest variation in packaging color can make a product suspect and the brand vulnerable to counterfeiting.

On one job, for example, Chesapeake was able to reduce color variation by 84 percent and improve process controls, which led to zero rejections from the print run and 100 percent client approval. PantoneLIVE is creating another positive impact on Chesapeake’s business. The company previously stocked as many as 3,000 different inks in its Leicester, U.K. plant and now stores only 537 without reducing color choices.

PantoneLIVE is connected to a large portfolio of software, containing real-world color data for hundreds of thousands of colors, and is supported by the latest color measurement technology. This is combined with professional services including workflow and color rationalization audits, and customized operating procedures from Pantone and X-Rite. Custom and bespoke spectral data, as well as metadata, are used to digitize brand colors. Digitized palettes are then expanded to create independent color standards to allow for accurate color reproduction on a variety of substrates.

Brand color data, equivalent to a digital color swatch, is stored in a secure, cloud-based portal that lets brand owners and other approved members of the supply chain manage digital rights and facilitate color communication across all materials in the production process. This centralized color communication process promotes consistency and helps achieve speed to market efficiencies from initial design to final production. The portal also provides direction to suppliers to meet brand requirements related to color quality.

Industry Support

While users of any manufacturer’s ink will be able to take advantage of PantoneLIVE, Sun Chemical (see Sun Chemical press release) is the preferred ink partner. Esko (see Esko press release), a global supplier of integrated solutions for packaging, sign and display finishing, commercial printing and professional publishing, is also a preferred partner supporting PantoneLIVE. Both companies worked closely with Pantone and X-Rite to develop PantoneLIVE. Sun Chemical’s technology and color data are the foundations for PantoneLIVE, and this technology is integrated into Esko’s solutions.

In addition, Windmöller & Hölscher, a leading supplier of flexographic central impression and rotogravure printing presses, is recognized as the PantoneLIVE technology partner, serving the flexible packaging industry. In this unique capacity, Windmöller & Hölscher will extend the capability of their EASY COL on-press color matching solution to incorporate access to the PantoneLIVE ecosystem, thereby allowing converters to reduce press set-up times and in turn assure the quality of important brand colors on press.

Pantone and X-Rite are continuing to work with leading vendors to integrate and enhance their solutions with PantoneLIVE. This approach will offer customers real value in the color management and color communications process, while leaving much of their current investments in place.

Pricing and Availability

Access to the PantoneLIVE database starts at $99 USD (£63 GBP, €76 EUR) annually for a designer, $1,150 USD (£730 GBP, €885 EUR) annually for preproduction and from $2,000 USD (£1,275 GBP, €1,540 EUR) to $2,650 USD (£1,690 GBP, €2,040 EUR) annually for production. A color audit for a brand owner starts at $4,500 USD (£2,870 GBP, €3,460 EUR). Additional fees apply depending on services and scope required. PantoneLIVE solutions will be available June 15. For more information, please see www.pantone.com/live.

About X-Rite

X-Rite, Incorporated, is the global leader in color science and technology. The company, which now includes color industry leader Pantone, develops, manufactures, markets and supports innovative color solutions through measurement systems, software, color standards and services. X-Rite’s expertise in inspiring, selecting, measuring, formulating, communicating and matching color helps users get color right the first time and every time, which translates to better quality and reduced costs. X-Rite serves a range of industries, including printing, packaging, photography, graphic design, video, automotive, paints, plastics, textiles, dental and medical. For further information, please visit www.xrite.com.

About Pantone

Pantone LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Rite, Incorporated, has been the world’s color authority for nearly 50 years, providing design professionals with products and services for the colorful exploration and expression of creativity. Always a source for color inspiration, Pantone also offers paint and designer-inspired products and services for consumers. More information is available at www.pantone.com.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Released From Public Beta, Now $149

After a relatively short beta period, Adobe has released version 4 of Photoshop Lightroom, its photography application for management, development and production of digital photography.

A larger review will be forthcoming, but here are some of the major new features in Lightroom 4:

  • A Map Module that includes location tagging controls and a standard map that places photos in the locations they were shot
  • Video format support for trimming and extracting frames from video clips, applying adjustments to clips and sharing video to Facebook and Flickr
  • Simplified basic adjustment controls
  • Soft proofing features in the Develop module
  • More local adjustment controls such as Noise Reduction and Moiré
  • Templates and tools for creating photo books in the new Book module
  • An email engine within Lightroom for sending mail directly from the application

Adobe has also added some aggressive pricing to Lightroom 4, making it just $149 for the full version and $79 for the upgrade. Lightroom has typically cost $299 for the full version. Tom Hogarty, Lightroom’s main product manager, said, “Lowering the price makes Lightroom more accessible to a broader range of photographers—from pros to amateurs.” This makes sense to me—more and more amateur photographers want to work with professional tools and take their work to the next level—but I also think Adobe wants to compete aggressively with free and cheap photography products on the shelves and online.

Press Release

Innovative Shadow and Highlight Recovery and Enhanced Digital Photography Workflows Mark A Milestone Release

SAN JOSE, Calif. — March 6, 2012 — Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced the availability of Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 4 software for Mac OS and Windows. Lightroom is the essential digital photography workflow solution helping amateur and professional photographers quickly import, manage, enhance and showcase their images. First released as a public beta in January 2012, the final version of Lightroom 4 is now available for US$149 for the full version and US$79 for the upgrade, providing an incredible value for photographers. Lightroom 4 introduces refined technology for superior shadow and highlight processing, ability to create photo books, additional local adjustment controls, and enhanced video support.

“Feedback from our customers is invaluable in developing Lightroom and the real trick to a great release is to combine these insights with Adobe’s unrivalled image processing innovation,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president products, Creative Media Solutions, Adobe. “Lightroom 4 is a stunning new release that will enhance photography workflows and help photographs stand out from the crowd.”

New Features in Lightroom 4

Lightroom 4 is a major release, adding significant new capabilities and innovations. New adjustment controls maximize dynamic range from cameras, recovering exceptional shadow details and highlights. The software features new and improved auto adjustments to dynamically set values for exposure and contrast, and additional local adjustment controls including Noise Reduction, Moire and White Balance.

Lightroom 4 provides photographers the tools to create beautiful photo books with text controls and a variety of easy-to-use templates, as well as a direct link for photo book creation from within the new Book module. A new intuitive Map module displays images already assigned a location, provides location tagging and reverse geo-tagging controls and saved locations for easy assignment of a photographer’s common locations.

Now, native video support gives photographers the capability to play, trim and extract frames from video clips shot on DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones. Video-specific presets and many standard Lightroom image adjustment controls can be applied to video clips, and adjusted videos can be exported as a H.264 file or published directly to Facebook or Flickr*.

In the Develop module, presets fully utilize new processing technology and the addition of soft proofing helps photographers tune images in a destination color space to ensure content looks its best. In addition, customers can now email images directly from Lightroom using an email account of their choice.

Pricing and Availability

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 is now available for Mac and Windows at www.adobe.com/store. The estimated street price is US$149 for new users or US$79 for upgrades. For more detailed information about product features, upgrade policies, pricing and language versions, please visit www.adobe.com/go/lightroom.

Users can also connect with the Lightroom team directly on Facebook (www.facebook.com/lightroom), via Twitter (www.twitter.com/lightroom) or on the Adobe Lightroom blog (http://blogs.adobe.com/lightroomjournal). For Lightroom how-to videos, visit http://www.youtube.com/lightroom.

Adobe Photoshop Family

Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Extended are at the heart of the Photoshop family, joined by solutions for users at every level who want to bring out the best in their digital images either at home, in the office or on the go. Photoshop Lightroom addresses the workflow needs of amateur and professional photographers, helping them create, manage and showcase images in impactful ways. Photoshop Elements provides consumers with powerful yet easy-to-use tools that organize, edit, create and share photo memories. For mobile devices, the Adobe Photoshop Touch app helps users transform images with core Photoshop features custom-built for tablets; and Adobe Photoshop Express is a free app for simple photo fixes and enhancements, and sharing to social networks*.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

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