Animation in Photoshop: Photoshop comes full circle, as a tool originally designed for effects for film, to an image editor taught to understand time, animation, and three dimensions.

Let’s cut through the marketing. Adobe has a new, giant box of software. It’s a giant box of software you’re probably going to get if you do visual work. It’s finally a box of software that runs on Intel Macs at speeds that don’t make you feel like your Mac Pro is a blue&white G3. And it does a bunch of stuff that you’ll have to, well, learn.

We’ve got enough of a preview, though, to see that there’s a lot to be truly excited about. Most importantly, Photoshop finally understands time and animation, enabling all kinds of artistic effects working directly with animations and video and painting on frames. And After Effects finally eases some animation tasks, opening up some unique effects with vectors and 2D. For visualists wanting to build better materials for live and interactive production by creating more original footage, all of this opens up some interesting new possibilities. (Disclaimer: what looks great on paper means nothing until you’ve tested this. So consider this a preview until we get out review copy.)

So, getting straight to it, what’s cool for visualists in CS3? We’ll be answering that question over the coming months, but here’s the shortened version, plus the arcane and bizarre ways CDMotioners intend to warp Adobe’s tools beyond their PR firm’s wildest expectations:

Flash, All Integrated Up

  1. Native Photoshop and Illustrator import. Finally, you’ll be able to work with full-fidelity, seamlessly-imported files from other tools. Some people love Flash’s own vector tools, of course, but no one won’t love the ability to link up with Photoshop and import, complete with layers. CDMo is excited about: insane, multi-layered graphics for VJing in Flash.
  2. Edit audio cues easily. Part of why I’m excited about Soundbooth CS3, Adobe’s new audio app, is that it’s perfectly-suited for editing audio for Flash (and, other marketing ideas beside, I’m fairly certain that’s how the tool came about in the first place). More on Soundbooth over at Create Digital Music.

After Effects, Now Better at Animation

After Effects has long been capable of amazing animations, but often with some work. One of the new tools for making it easier: the “brainstorm” feature, which could come in handy when you need eye candy for that gig tonight.
  1. Shape Layers. Draw and animate vector shapes in After Effects, without leaving the program. CDMo angle: I could see doing a whole gig’s footage with this feature alone.
  2. Puppet. Manipulates and warps 2D images for animation. CDMo angle: Your challenge is to use this without looking like all the other motion graphics artists who are about to overuse it. I’m sure it can be done; I love the impact of manipulating 2D and quasi-3D After Effects.
  3. Brainstorm. Generate and preview “animation variations.” Again, AE goes to better animation.

Photoshop on Steroids

Photoshop now does 3D. How to best integrate this into 3D workflows, though (and not just make prettier, 3D-esque still images), remains to be seen.

Now, the surprise: Photoshop, traditionally the domain of 2D image editing, has just become the powerhouse of the new CS3 suite. Despite the integration of Macromedia, Adobe is getting back to its roots. And you thought you’d be skipping over the new Photoshop features. (You’ll need the pumped-up “Extended” CS3 for these, so you will wind up having to take out your wallet.)

  1. 3D: We heard a little bit about 3D showing up in Photoshop CS3. Now it makes sense: you’ll be able to import 3D models into Photoshop files, and edit textures directly on those models. That should make it much easier to integrate Photoshop into a 3D workflow. CDMo wants to: start editing models for Blender using CS3, and throw them into insane interactive gaming environments, and go to some crazy Austrian new media conference.
  2. Video: Yep, that’s right: Photoshop, which began its life long ago as a video effects tool, is now finally built for actual video workflows. Video layer support in CS3 extended will let you edit, paint, and clone between frames then export back to video. CDMo can’t wait to: paint up video for new effects, finally in a workflow that won’t eat our lives. Remember painting directly on super-8 film?

In all the versions of Photoshop are some new compositing features. You’ll be able to “auto-align” layers, analyzing similar layers and rotating and warping them, and “auto-blend” layers. For people like me who are layer compositing-challenged, this is good news, indeed. And, because people like me are too dense to figure out how to use selection masks correctly, there’s a new smart selection tool that actually works the way you always wished the magic wand would have.

Also new: improved RAW support, Lightroom integration, the excellent fill light setting from Lightroom, and “dust busting.” (I’m hoping that latter one can also apply to my desk.)

New Video Tricks on Windows

Keying gets easier, but Mac users are left green-screen with envy. Well, unless they install Boot Camp, anyway.

Thanks to some new features and recent acquisitions, there are lots of great video features built right into the suite:

  1. OnLocation. Direct-to-disk recording and monitoring in hi-fi formats. (DV, HDV, SD)
  2. Ultra. Chroma-keying. CDMo advice: Get your least favorite friends to dress up in that rabbit costume right now. (OnLocation and Ultra are using technology from Adobe’s aquisition of Serious Magic. Jaymis.)
  3. Slo-mo. Higher-quality, more flexible slow motion and variable speed time remapping in Premiere.
  4. Blu-Ray. Encore lets you distribute to Blu-Ray. CDMo’s excited about: Buying PS3’s for a corporate installation. Any event companies out there?

Also new: a Mobile Device Center is available integrated in all the suites that will allow easier deployment on mobile devices and cell phones. 200 mobile device profiles from OEMs (like Nokia) and providers (like Darth Vade– uh, Verizon) will let you test and format for mobile more easily. CDMo is excited about: building music trackers and VJ toys for cell phones.

There you have it: all the useful features in CS3, and all the ways we’ll waste time and do bizarre stuff with them.

Now the bad news: the Production Suite, with Premiere, After Effects, and Soundbooth, won’t be out until summer / Q3. Photoshop CS3 Extended is shipping by the end of next month.

It all looks great on paper. We’ll have to see how the shipping version works.

How do you use CS, and what interests you? Do you plan to upgrade? (Intel Mac users I’m sure will, but what about the rest of you? Happy enough with CS2 on Windows?) Let us know in comments.

Want more details? Go watch some annoying demos at Adobe. (Fortunately, the features look far better than the impossible-to-navigate promotional site. Worth some clicks to get at the details.)

Adobe CS3 Production Suite
The “not-your-father’s Photoshop” Photoshop CS3 Extended