paint and animation tools push paradigms as well as pixels.
and more powerful desktop computers combined with continuous software
innovations are empowering new forms of creativity for video professionals.
the world of software tools for image processing, video paint and
web animation, things seem to be changing especially fast. As a
result, this is an unusual Video Web column. It started out to be
a round up of web graphics tools for videographers who may want
to use their video assets to create web animation; however, in the
process of researching these latest innovations, I discovered that
from my point of view, two programs stood above the rest: the latest
version of the immensely popular, powerful and practical, Adobe
Photoshop 5.5 and the amazingly innovative, Studio Artist from
a remarkable newcomer, Synthetik
be discussing the new version of Photoshop from the point of view
of its improved text handling capabilities and impressive new web
modules, while I will feature Studio Artist for its paradigm pushing
approach and mind-boggling capabilities. Both programs should be
of interest to any video producer who is involved in video paint,
image creation and/or animated special effects - either on the video
screen, within web pages or as part of the emerging new medium that
I call the Video Web.
the Pieces Together
any of you who have not yet upgraded to a 5.x version of Photoshop,
I've been meaning to let you know that from a video producer's point
of view, it's "worthy." The upgrade to version 5 was worthwhile
if for nothing else, because of the inclusion of new text editing
capabilities. If you're at all like me, your video graphic productions
contain a lot of text. Never before version 5 were Photoshop text
layers editable. By itself, that improvement makes a big difference.
with version 5.5, the kerning and flexibility of this text editing
ability are also significantly improved. The result is that you
can have almost Illustrator level type control including fractional
widths and the ability to fake bold and italic from within Photoshop.
For web producers, Adobe has expanded its package. Photoshop now
also includes an impressive array of web graphics tools. Thus, this
program which initially was a print preproduction tool and which
is widely used in video and multimedia, is now effectively addressing
the world of web graphics as well. Most importantly, Photoshop's
new export modules have much of the GIF and JPEG export flexibility
for which Macromedia's Fireworks set the standard. This includes
the convenient ability to evaluate file size and image quality in
side-by-side comparisons before you export.
animating your video frames and graphics, Photoshop 5.5 now bundles
Image Ready 2.0 which also matches Fireworks in many important ways.
Among other features, it includes the ability to create animations
If you're using Photoshop for web graphics, this is a "must have"
upgrade. If you're using Photoshop for video graphics, it's highly
recommended as well, especially if your graphics include a lot of
there are features, like its use of vectors, that differentiate
Fireworks, for me there's no getting around the comfort and learning
curve investment that I have under my belt with Photoshop. I appreciate
the fact that this important program has now become so web savvy.
In an even more creative vein, it's been a long time since a
piece of software kept me up late at night. But, that's how much
fun I had doing the tutorial from a new package called Studio Artist
from the small South of Market, San Francisco software developer,
Synthetik Software. I found this Mac-only program to be jaw-drop
addition, I had the pleasure to visit the loft-like studio of software
wizard John Dalton and his wife/business partner, Candice Pacheco.
In a world where more and more people seem to be talking about "thinking
outside the box," these folks are not only doing it; they are living
Artist is hard to describe because it does not approach the special
effects process like any other software that I have seen. The reason
for this is that John Dalton has performed a fascinating feat. He
has utilized his experience as a developer of software for digital
electronic music and he has applied that knowledge (and more) to
nothing less than the creation of a new software paradigm for image
creation and manipulation.
the more scholarly among you, Dalton, who wrote the award-winning
program, Deck II, the first multi-track digital audio software for
the Mac (formerly a Macromedia product, now distributed by Berkeley
Integrated Audio Software, told me that his approach also utilizes
"academic models of visual imaging."
On a practical level, his approach and talent shows up in the ability
to treat a graphic or a series of images (such as a video clip)
with an audio patch-type process for visual effects. In other words,
in the same way that a MIDI synthesizer utilizes a sound sample
and then allows you to add reverb and other multiple modifications
in the process of creating a new sound, Studio Artist opens up the
image manipulation process to a whole new set of variables.
While this image processing process may sound like simply a sequence
of filter effects, in fact, it is much more. In addition of the
many unique image processing filters which are also included, all
of the 700 "dynamic paint tool" effects in Studio
Artist are brush strokes rather than pixel-bending algorithms. The
result is that the effects create fresh, resolution independent
images. Each one newly "painted." This is what they mean by "dynamic
paint." In fact, you can simply choose a source file, select a brush
stroke, just click "Action" and the program will keep painting automatically
until you press the familiar space bar "stop" command.
depending on the brush stoke effect that you choose, your new image
can either closely match the original or it can be enormously different.
For example, AutoSketch does a good job of turning a photograph
into a sketch-style image with edges that match your photo, while
the more impressionistic brushes paint your image into an abstraction
as unrealistic and "broad stroke" as you would like. And you perfectionists
will appreciate the fact that each brush stoke is a vector that
can be edited! Try doing that with a filter effect.
Studio Artist's QuickTime compatibility makes it of special interest
to Mac-based video artists. By using the Paint Action Window in
Studio Artist, you can program a sequence of effects including warps
and morphs and have them automatically applied to each frame of
a movie. The result is "auto-rotoscoping." And what I found particularly
impressive was the fact that Studio Artist can leverage its resolution
independence to create high resolution movies from low resolution
source footage. Because the source movie is only a reference, and
each brush stoke is created anew, as shown in the
illustration, you can create a high-res special effects movie
based on virtually any source.
much more to this amazing package than I have space to describe,
but if you're interested in this kind of creativity, I highly recommend
the journey. You'll probably be a bit challenged, as I was, by the
somewhat unusual interface; but I would not expect access to these
kinds of new capabilities without some challenging complexities
along the way.
addition, version 1.1 of Studio Artist should be out by the time
you read this. Synthetik is promising a needed new manual, the addition
of alpha channel support, additional support for batch processing,
EPS file export, EPS file conversion, and more.
an extremely modest price point of $295 (with a free download demo
version available on their Web site: http://www.synthetik.com),
this is a Mac-only application that proves that the spirit of the
Mac is alive and well. In fact, Synthetik was part of Apple's G4
"velocity engine" announcement because this is one application that
can take clear advantage of all the processing power they can throw
thanks to John, Candice and the whole team at Synthetik for such
a shining innovation. All I need now is more time to play with it.