Content awareness

Bates 141 print campaign, Jakarta
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Following the premier of Melih Bilgil’s brilliant PICOL-based animation History of the Internet, and with the hype of the 2009 CES and MacWorld conventions drawing to a close, one can’t help but reflect on how end-user computing has transformed in recent years. Looking back now, it’s startling to think that there had ever been a time during which HyperText editing more or less implied hours of painstaking retinal incineration due to the rather primitive though well-intentioned ColdFusion 5.0. As is the case for designers of my generation and older, when I first began using Adobe graphics and web development applications, it had been back in the day before the Creative Suite was born and Flash flooded the scene. It was also before (affordable) computers became powerful enough to actually get the job done on time. No longer having to upgrade software in increments of 0.5 before laboriously seeking out multi-language extensions only to find that the filters were taking enough time to load for you to pop out and grab a coffee next-door, the CS collection of integrated design tools first released in 2003 was to some respect the watershed on a path flowing towards the dynamic front-end focused Web 2.0 revolution made popular by the O’Reilly Media conference of 2004.

Certainly having come a long way since then, the last five years have continued to follow as per Adobe’s prevailing trend of improvements, making possible so much of what we see to be the impressive, ‘interactive’ online content of present day. So after previous editions continuously albeit very gradually undergoing minor tweaks, interface touch-ups and bug elimination, word of the latest generation in store began buzzing around the web by phantom testers and hopeful creatives right when I was beginning to fully appreciate the CS3 edition. After having grown into it with increased use over the past year and not having had any tantalizing hands-on exposure through the sneak-preview features showcased in CS3 Extended back in April, I had no specific expectations for the fourth coming in the series other than that improvement would be inevitable — though I did wonder whether that improvement would be discernible enough to alter the way I approached my use of the software as has happened sometimes (but not always) in the past. But I am glad to say that the result has been not at all disappointing following the official unveiling of Adobe Creative Suite 4 in the beginning of  October last year. And having taken it for a spin several times courtesy of a friend who has regular access to an influx of software for every season, I’ve found that it’s noticeably a cut above the rest.

In terms of imaging upgrades, the 64-bit support for large file-handling for Windows (the one time I’m actually happy to be using the OS) and 3D acceleration made possible via OpenGL compatibility brings the smoothness of operation to a much higher level. Taking inspiration from the Web 2.0 browsing experience, no less, is the introduction of tabs for document views making it possible to run more than one CS application simultaneously in a single window in order to ease the cross-editing process. Before, one of the bones I had to pick with CS3 and earlier versions was something I often assimilated to the act of having to go up to the tenth floor of a building to get to your sixth-floor apartment: the drop-down labyrinth of menus overhead didn’t always necessarily make it easy to perform minor actions (with or without the shortcuts) repeatedly. But thankfully, the addition of a new adjustment panel with pre-set options now makes it less of a task to access what used to be nestled within the main title bar area and most ‘easily’ reached by having to ctrl+alt+shift+[x] every time you weren’t bothered to use the mouse. Indeed in general, there does seem to be the much needed attention towards realizing seamless accessibility and manoeuvrability (e.g. via window menu enhancement, the smartening-up of the right-hand panel and extra viewing options) than was achieved in prior editions.

Undoubtedly one of my favourite features is being able to resize using its ‘content awareness’, which allows for the singling out of individual visual components within the image for alteration without skewing the scale of the areas left unselected. And it doesn’t hurt that colour management for printing has also been improved, with solf-proofing preview making it easier to get a better idea of how well colours will turn out in finely-lined logo detailing, for instance, in order to help minimize that unflattering appearance of colour bleeding. Having not yet delved into the new InDesign, Illustrator et al., suffice it to say that the verdict so far is quite positive — and it isn’t just the software that has won me over. The advertisement in circulation for CS4 appears to be equally inspired, a good example of which can be seen in the above print campaign by the team over at Bates 141 studio in Indonesia. Promoting the new Photoshop CS4 through online retailer, ‘As Real as It Gets’ features a realistic equivalent to the virtual interface using everyday arts and crafts tools. Wonderfully executed by creative director Hendra Lesmono, art directors Andreas Junus and Wanda Kamarga, alongside copy by Darrick Subrata and photography by Anton Ismael, it has received a great deal of positive media attention since making available the ‘behind the scenes’ takes on Flickr.

And to bring this review to a close — and as earlier promised — more on Irish artist Johnny Kelly and his beautifully directed promo animation for Adobe via Goodby, Silverstein & Partners: ‘The Seed’, shown below, again features the work of Foley artist Sue Harding, this time with accompaniment by Dublin musician Jape and Mike Wyeld on sound, paper modelling done by designer Elin Svensson, and animation by Michael Zauner and Eoin Coughlan. All made possible by the tightly-knit work of the production and direction team on set, including Micolaj Jarosewicz, Matthew Cooper, Christine Ponzevera, Johan Arlig and Keith Anderson — all inevitably helped along by the Adobe integrated design suite itself.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Making of ‘The Seed’

Whiling away (pieces at random)


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