NOVEMBER 06, 2003
Pixel Post Studios Tools for Television Pro
Automation utility package for Adobe Photoshop
by David Nagel

If you build graphics for broadcast, it's almost certain that Adobe Photoshop is a big part of your workflow. Nevertheless, as widespread as Photoshop is in television--and video in general, for that matter--it still leaves something to be desired in the area of workflow, particularly when it comes to repetitive tasks common to video production. Enter Tools for Television Pro from Pixel Post Studios.

Tools for Television Pro is a collection of utilities for Adobe Photoshop tailored specifically to the needs of video and broadcast professionals. Unlike other Photoshop utilities, Tools for Television Pro is not a collection of filters or special effects. Rather, it's a bundle of workflow enhancements designed to alleviate many of the repetitive tasks that video professionals encounter on a daily basis--from simple functions like building alpha channels to more complex automation tools, such as using the software's built-in spreadsheet for generating multiple title graphics with a single click. It also includes a tool for capturing individual video frames to Photoshop via FireWire or other capture devices.[an error occurred while processing this directive]The one thing that I should mention before we look at this software in more depth is that it currently does not fully support the new Photoshop CS. However, the publisher has assured me that a compatibility update is forthcoming (by the end of the month) and that it will be a free update. (We will, of course, bring you more information on the update when it becomes available.)

Tools for Television Pro is not exactly a plugin for Photoshop. Rather, it's a standalone application that you run concurrent with Photoshop. It operates in the background and provides a floating palette within Photoshop for accessing the program's automation functions.

The first of these functions you'll notice is one of the program's most simple. As its name implies, the "New Image" function creates a new image for you at any of its eight preset video frame sizes.

But beyond this, it also creates the new document with both a black background layer and a title/action safety grid. Both the grid and the background layer become automatically locked, and the editable Layer 1 layer is automatically selected.

It also includes features for automatically adding and deleting alpha channels for video systems that might not recognize Photoshop's layer transparency. The Add Alpha function is not simply a "Save Selection" command switched into the form of a button. This function actually saves time by analyzing the content of every layer in a given file and generating the alpha channel based on this information. It automatically ignores the title/safety grid layer and the background layer when present, and also includes any and all layer effects (such as drop shadows) into the alpha, saving you from the sometimes agonizing process of rasterizing layer effects before creating your own alpha channels.

The example above shows a multi-layer composition with layer effects in which Tools for Television Pro has extracted an alpha channel that includes the drop shadow, all while retaining text and layer effect editability and layer structure. Any subsequent applications of the Add Alpha function simply replace the old alpha channel, though you can still go in and manually create additional channels, if needed. The Add and Delete Alpha functions only affect channels specifically named "Alpha 1."

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