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Macworld Picks and Pokes

The best and worst of this year's expo By Dave Nagel
From the perspective of a creative professional, the least significant part of this year's Macworld Expo was Apple itself. Apple's taken heat for ignoring the professional market in the past, but I've never seen so many otherwise dedicated users lashing out in anger against the mothership as I have in the last week--most of it owing to Apple's own marketing blunder of building up expectations beyond any reasonable level.

The big letdown dampened the spirits of those watching the show's news from the outside to the point that many didn't seem to notice all of the shockingly important developments that happened in the exhibition hall. For example, few seemed to notice the little non-announcement from Adobe made during their leased time on the keynote stage: Photoshop for OS X is in the final release stage. Few details were mentioned at the time, but the fact that it will support AppleScript did get a little tease.

Now, while Photoshop, GoLive and LiveMotion were all announced for OS X--which is nice and all--After Effects 5.5 actually started shipping, bringing OS X into the realm of probability for motion graphics artists who rely on After Effects for their work. Of course, After Effects 5.0 ran in Classic mode on top of OS X, but a fully native version, along with a few mid-version improvements, makes this one of the most significant announcements at the show.

One of.

Adobe wasn't the only company showing off some mightily fine wares in San Francisco. A whole lot of other developers got their OS X treasures together and brought them out for attendees to touch, feel and drool over.

The quality of tools for Macintosh creative professionals has risen to almost unbelievable levels. The variety and number of these tools exhibited at this year's Macworld Expo testifies not only to the viability of Mac OS X as a creative platform but to te dedication of developers serving the creative market as a whole. With so many high-quality applications and such powerful third-party hardware, it should be difficult to pick just a handful to receive awards. Should be, but isn't. For our macworld picks this year, we've chosen software and hardware that satisfy the following criteria:

1. It must contribute significantly to the creative production market.
2. It must run on Mac OS X natively.
3. It must contribute new and unique capabilities to creative professionals in the visual arts.
4. It must either have shipped recently or be in a stage where it will ship soon, with most of its features in place by the time of the Macworld Expo.

And so, without further ado, I offer you Creative Mac's picks for this year's Macworld Expo.

Overall pick
I don't know how to express my appreciation for this program enough. But Synthetik Studio Artist is consistently one of the five best reasons for current users to stay with the Mac and for peecee users to migrate over. At the show, Synthetik showed off version 2.0 of this multi-faceted application exclusively for Mac OS X and OS 8.5/9.x. Studio Artist is, on one level, a paint application. It also does rotoscoping like you've never seen. It also handles cel animation and vector-based animation. It does effects processing. It allows you to paint on movie frames. It can process video with hand-created effects automatically. Why go on? This program does everything you could want it to do in the visual arts, and it does it like no other program can. Simply amazing. Plus, with version 2, it includes more than eight hours of training videos. It ships around Jan. 20 for $379. This is my overall pick for Macworld 2002.

More info: http://www.synthetik.com

On the compositing front, this year's pick goes to combustion 2 from Discreet. Scheduled to ship this month, combustion 2 for Mac OS X stands out for its power, flexibility and varied toolset. But this program is not just about compositing. Its color correction tools are incredible, as is its ability to mix and match color spaces. The keyer is amazing. And the particle system is unlike anything else, with fully interactive, real-time previews and user-definable particles. I'll be bringing you a more in depth look at this program next week. For now, suffice to say that you will be blown away when you see it in action for yourself.

More info: http://www.discreet.com

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