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First Look: Photoshop CS3 Extended

Graphics tool gets 3D, enhanced video features By Dave Nagel

At long last we can finally reveal to you the details of the most advanced version of Adobe Photoshop to date: Photoshop CS3 Extended. Earlier this month, of course, Adobe let out some general information about the newest version of its flagship image editor, raising many questions in the process. We can now share with you all the answers to those questions.

Photoshop CS3 Extended is, as its name implies, an enhanced version of Photoshop CS3 Standard, incorporating all of the changes in the latest release, and adding in some features specific to industries outside of Photoshop's traditional market: motion graphics, 3D, medical and engineering/manufacturing.

Both of the new versions of Photoshop will be available in the second quarter of this year by themselves and as part of the various manifestations of Adobe Create Suite 3. (See the end of the article for more information about pricing.) As a stand-alone product, PSCS3 Extended will sell for $999, which is $350 more than PSCS3 Standard.

We'll take a look first at the features unique to the Extended version, then look at new features both applications share in common.

3D graphics support
One of the most exciting new features in PSCS3 Extended for designers is the adoption of 3D technologies. Before you ask, no, Photoshop has not suddenly become a 3D modeling application. Rather, it allows users to import 3D graphics created in other applications, manipulate those objects and composite them with other 3D objects and with regular 2D layers.

Importing 3D objects
PSCS3, at present, supports five 3D file formats: 3DS, OBJ, Collada, KMZ (Google Earth) and U3D (a "universal" CAD format). Most 3D applications can export objects to at least one of these formats. And there are three ways you can access with these file formats in Photoshop.

The first way is simply to choose File > Open, and select a 3D object file. A dialog box pops up asking you to set the dimensions of the image, and the object then appears as a rendered image in a standard Photoshop canvas.

But a look over at the Layers palette shows that this is not, in fact, just a regular image. The layer itself has a little icon to indicate that a 3D object is stored in the layer. And, down where you'd normally see layer effects, the palette lists the materials associated with the file.

Now, this 3D object and its textures are all live and editable. If you want to manipulate the object directly, you double-click the layer icon in the palette, and you enter into a 3D transform mode. In this mode, you can do several things with the object:

1. You can transform it with rotation, roll, slide, drag and scale tools. (Numeric values can also be entered manually.)

2. You can edit the camera view using either pre-defined views (top, left, right, etc.) or custom views, with control over the camera view provided by tools like orbit, roll, pan, walk and zoom.

And you can enter numeric values for the camera settings as well, including position, orientation and field of view.

3. You can also adjust lighting and rendering. By default, Photoshop uses lighting from the original file, but you can also substitute white lights, daylights, night lights, hard lights and others, if need be.

And you can adjust render settings to show wireframes, solids, vertices, etc.

4. And there are miscellaneous tools for alignment, position/orientation and enabling "cross section" viewing, seen below.

5. Photoshop also allows you to play back animations contained within the file, but it does not allow you to create 3D animations from an object.

Note that when working with 3D objects, Photoshop imports the entire 3D file as a single entity. You cannot manipulate individual objects contained within a file. If you want to manipulate individual objects or parts of an object, you'll need to export those separately from your 3D application so that they can be contain in Photoshop on separate layers. Photoshop creates transparency around the objects you import, so you will be able to see multiple layers of 3D at once, in addition to any 2D layers you wish to add to your composition.

There are two other methods for importing 3D objects into a Photoshop document. If you already have a 3D object open in Photoshop, you can simply drag it into another open document, and a new layer will appear in that document, just as if you had dragged a 2D layer between two open documents.

And, finally, there's also a command called "New Layer from 3D File." This will, presumably, wrk just like the creation of a new video layer from file, but, in the present beta, this feature is not stable, at least in the Mac version, so I haven't been able to test it.

Manipulating textures
In addition to manipulating 3D objects, you can also manipulate the materials associated with those objects. To do this, you can simply double-click on a texture element in the Layers palette, which opens the texture as an image file. At that point, you can then do anything you want with it. You then save the changes, and they're applied to the 3D object in Photoshop if the texture is in a Photoshop format.

In addition, there's also a command called "Replace Textures." This is used to save changes to textures that are not in the Photoshop format. It replaces the original textures permanently on the disk.

Additional 3D capabilities
Now, all that said, there are probably still a few good questions on your mind about Photoshop's 3D capabilities. Here are some of the questions I anticipate you asking, along with the answers.

1. Can I create my own 3D objects directly in Photoshop? The answer is: kind of. You can use Vanishing Point in Photoshop to create multi-planed objects, essentially extruding a 2D file manually, then export that extrusion to a supported 3D file format (DXF or 3DS) or use it to create a new 3D layer directly within Photoshop. Both options are available through the Vanishing Point window via the little flyaway menu next to the tools palette.

2. Can I export 3D content to After Effects? Yes and no. Using Vanishing Point, you can export your extrusions to a new After Effects CS3 format that treats the Vanishing Point planes as pre-defined After Effects 3D layers. (More on this when we get our grubby hands on the AECS3 beta. At this point, I have only seen this feature demonstrated and have not used it myself.) At present, I have not found a way to export 3D objects (OBJ, 3DS, etc.) to After Effects CS3.

3. Can I manipulate lights? No. However, Photoshop CS3 is extensible, and Adobe tells us it will be possible for third-party developers to integrate this functionality through extensions.

4. Can I use an external rendering engine? Again, this is a feature that can be added by third-party developers who choose to do so. Such extensibility, according to Adobe, is possible via the new API.

5. Does PSCS3 Extended support hardware rendering via my video card? Yes. Hardware rendering is now an option via Photoshop's Preferences pane. The requirements are minimal. (For example, it supports the Intel graphics processor on MacBooks, as well as graphics cards dating as far back as G4 laptops.)

Video in PSCS3 Extended
Video capabilities in Photoshop CS3 Extended have also been greatly enhanced. First off, you can open any supported video type simply by using File > Open, rather than having to create a new video layer in a document and importing frames that way.

Second, the timeline in the Animation palette gets a much more After Effects-like feel to it.

Third, you can now keyframe Photoshop layer styles, such as Bevel and Emboss, Drop Shadow, Pattern Overlay, etc.

Fourth, you can copy and paste keyframes and perform various time-based operations, including setting the start and end times, trimming the layer to a current time, etc. Keyframes can be interpolated as "linear" or "hold." And you can add comments to video at specific points in time.

And, fifth, you can export your video produced in Photoshop to a number of different formats, including QuickTime (and its respective codecs), Windows Media (if you have Flip4Mac), MPEG-4, image sequences and Flash Video (FLV).

For Flash export, you can choose to encode video using On2 VP6 or Sorenson Spark. Audio can be encoded as MP3. And you can crop and resize footage on export.

Video export is handled through a "Render Video" command located at File > Export > Render Video.

With the new video layer support, the Photoshop file format can also save video within documents, so no additional rendering is necessarily required. And the new versions of both After Effects and Premiere can open Photoshop documents that contain video layers.

And, in addition to all this, Photoshop video layers support a variety of color spaces (RGB, CMYK, Lab and grayscale) and multiple bit depths (8, 16 and 32 HDR) with support for color management.

It's significant to note that with Photoshop's new video capabilities, you can use all of Photoshop's native tools on video, including the Clone tool, which can handle both time- and location-based cloning. (For example, you can clone pixels from one frame onto another simply by Option/Alt-clicking on one frame and advancing to another before applying the Clone tool.) You can also paint on video frame by frame using Photoshop's paint tools.

Also significant is the improvement in performance when playing back video in Photoshop. Like After Effects, Photoshop can cache video frames as they're played, so that video can be played back in real or near-real time.

What else is new in PSCS3 Extended?
Beyond 3D and video, Photoshop also adds new features for industries beyond traditional design. I won't go into much detail about those, but just mention them quickly here.

For medical uses, Photoshop can import multiple DICOM images and MATLAB processing routines to create animations of brain scans, for example.

For manufacturing and engineering uses, Photoshop has extensive measurement tools, including the ability to set units of measurement, then provide area, perimeter, circularity, height, width and various other values simply by selecting an area and running the "Record Measurements" command.

The Ruler tool has also been enhanced. Once you set a value for a given image (for example, one pixel equals 10 feet), then you can measure any element in the image and get its relative dimensions.

There's also a new Count tool, which lets you mark areas for measurement, then send the combined tally to the Measurement Log for analysis (or export).

New features in common with PSCS3 Standard
Photoshop CS3 Extended also inherits all of the new features found in Photoshop CS3 Standard, which we've covered in significant detail in the past. The Photoshop CS3 Standard edition is available for public download, so you can discover those new features for yourself, if you haven't already. I'll cover the more significant ones in brief here.

Of course, Photoshop CS3 is now native for Intel-based Macs in the form of a Universal Binary. This allows it to take advantage of the significantly faster hardware on which the latest generations of Macs are running. If you're currently running an Intel-based Mac, there's really no choice for you but to upgrade to CS3. The difference in performance is enormous.

There is no perceivable difference in performance between CS3 Standard and CS3 Extended.

New tools
First up, at long last, is the addition of non-destructive filters. Now, these non-destructive  filters don't work exactly the same way they do in other programs. Filters, by default, still operate destructively, meaning the effects are committed to the image when they're applied. However, layers can be converted for use with non-destructive filters in a way similar to that of Smart Objects. Once a layer is converted for use with "Smart Filters," then the filters accessed through the Filter menu become non-destructive.

Also included in CS3 are improvements to Vanishing Point, such as the ability to manipulate the angles of the perspective planes interactively. This means no more limitation to 90-degree angles. You can now freely adjust perspective planes to match the angles of the object planes in your image.

Other new creative editing tools include:

  • Black and white conversion
  • Improvements to Curves adjustments
  • Adjustable cloning with a preview overlay
  • Adjustable healing with a preview overlay

On the compositing side of things, there are still more new creative tools.

This includes a new "Quick Selection Tool." Operating in a way similar to the Magic Wand, the Quick Selection Tool is designed more for isolating foreground elements for the purpose of masking. It essentially does a better job of identifying large chunks of a foreground element than the Magic Wand.

To go along with this Quick Selection Tool, Photoshop CS3 also includes a "Refine Edge" function. Invoking this function will call up a "Refine Edge" palette that includes controls for the radius of the edge; contrast settings; smoothing; feathering; and contraction and expansion of the edge.

It also allows you to set the preview mode for the selection using the original background, black on white, white on black, etc.

Another new compositing feature is the new automatic layer alignment and blending. This allows for a couple of things. First, with bracketed photos, it can be used to align multiple exposures of a photo, then allowing you to blend them with more precision. The second thing you can do with it is combine multiple versions of a photo (or other image, align them, then erase parts of the top image to reveal parts of the underlying layer.

Let's take an example. You have two versions of a group photo. The first version is the better version, but, in it, one of the people in the group had his eyes shut. In the second image, he had his eyes open. So you could then use the automatic layer alignment to align these two images, then wipe out the eyes closed portion of the better image, revealing the version in which the subject had his eyes open. Make sense? Well, if not, it will when you have a chance to try it out.

Other new compositing features include:

  • Enhanced "Merge to 32-bit HDR"
  • Photomerge with "advanced" alignment and blending.

Workflow and interface changes
Beyond the creative enhancements, Photoshop CS3 also sees several changes to the interface and workflow.

On the interface side, Photoshop CS3 is a bit more streamlined than in previous versions. Enhancements are geared toward providing more working space by offering flexibility in the way palettes are displayed. And the other palettes can now be collapsed, expanded and docked, as needed.

On the workflow side of things, it includes a new version of Camera Raw, plus integration with Photoshop Lightroom, which has been available as a public beta since January.

It also adds a new version of Adobe Bridge, which includes support for filters and the stacking of images. It also adds preview support for formats that Bridge could not previously preview and also includes a new loupe tool.

And it adds improvements to printing.

Beyond this, the CS3 beta will also include a new stand-alone application called Device Central. This is a tool that allows for the creation of graphics and interactive content for mobile devices. It will include "smart preview" environments, as well as built-in mobile device profiles. However, the version released with the Photoshop CS3 beta will include only generic device profiles, according to Adobe.

Device Central can be invoked from within Photoshop CS3 using a new "Save for Web and Devices" command.

Pricing, availability
Photoshop CS3 Extended will be available in the second quarter of 2007 for $999 for the full version. (PSCS3 Standard runs $649.) It requires a PowerPC- or Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.4.8 or higher (including 10.5) or a PC running Windows XP or Windows Vista. Users of Photoshop 7 through CS2 can upgrade for $349.

In addition to a standalone version, Photoshop CS3 Extended will also be available in four configurations of the Adobe Creative Suite 3: Production Premium, Design Premium, Web Premium and Master Collection.

The Production Premium suite includes: After Effects CS3 Professional, Premiere Pro CS3, Encore CS3, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Illustrator CS3, Flash CS3 Professional and Soundbooth CS3. It will be available in the third quarter for $1,699. Various upgrade pricing schemes are available on Adobe's site.

The Design Premium suite includes: InDesign CS3, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Illustrator CS3, Flash CS3 Professional, Dreamweaver CS3 and Acrobat 8 Professional. It will be available in April for $1,799.

The Web Premium Edition includes: Dreamweaver CS3, Flash CS3 Professional, Fireworks CS3, Contribute CS3, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Illustrator CS3, and Acrobat 8 Professional. It will be available in April for $1,599.

And, finally, there's the Master Collection, which includes all of the new Adobe apps: InDesign CS3, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Illustrator CS3, Flash CS3 Professional, Dreamweaver CS3, Contribute CS3, Fireworks CS3, After Effects CS3 Professional, Premiere Pro CS3, Soundbooth CS3, Encore CS3, Acrobat 8 Professional, OnLocation CS3 (Windows only) and Ultra CS3.

The Master Collection will be available in the third quarter for $2,499. Users of Adobe Creative Suite 1 or 2 and users of Macromedia Studio MX, MX 2004 and 8 can upgrade for $1,999. Users of more than one of those collections (say, for example, Studio 8 and Creative Suite 1) can upgrade for $1,399. other upgrades are also available. See Adobe's site for more details.

With the exception of Adobe OnLocation, all of the tools in the Creative Suite 3 packages support both Mac OS X and Windows. Most are Universal Binary, supporting both PowerPC and Intel Mac hardware, except for programs that were not previously available on the Mac (Premiere Pro, Encore, etc.), which, in their new incarnations, will run only on Intel-based Macs.

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