PRODUCT: Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium
PRICE: CS3 Web Premium: $1,599. For other CS3 pricing and upgrade info, visit www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite
- Importing files from Photoshop and Illustrator into Flash CS3 Pro is streamlined.
- Ability to use alpha channels in Flash CS3 Pro
- Ability to paint 3D textures in Photoshop CS3 Pro
At the end of March, Adobe announced the biggest software release in the company’s 25-year history. For Adobe users of all stripes, there’s been great discussion and anticipation around this release. Not only do old favorites like Photoshop and Illustrator have new features, but it’s also the first software release from Adobe since they acquired Macromedia and their Flash and DreamWeaver tools. Blogs and message boards have buzzed with speculation for months as to how Flash and DreamWeaver would integrate with Photoshop and Illustrator.
Adobe’s answer is the Creative Suite 3 product line. Creative Suite 3, or CS3, features six different software bundles aimed at different types of customers. This review focuses on the information currently released for the programs most commonly used by post and design professionals.
We’re all suffering from data overload, and Adobe’s solution for organizing files and version tracking is Adobe Bridge CS3. It’s described as “a built-in media manager for visual people.” The idea is to use Bridge as a hub for accessing and saving all files, no matter which Adobe program you’re using. Bridge CS3 is much more powerful and integrated in this release than in previous versions. Most users who haven’t adopted this way of working will do so with this release.
The enhanced interface in Photoshop CS3, Illustrator CS3, Flash CS3 and the other programs is streamlined and maximizes screen space. The programs all have the same look and feel, and the panels are much more collapsible. All the toolbars are now in a one-column arrangement that’s expandable to the old two-column if desired.
FLASH, ACTION SCRIPT 3.0
Most of the new features in Flash CS3 will only be available to Web browsers who have the Flash 9 player installed. The good news is, Adobe released the Flash 9 player months ago, so over 65 percent of Internet users already have it. In the past, Macromedia would release the new player at the same time as the new Flash program, which meant you couldn’t really use all the new features for months.
This release features the most extensive rewrite of the long evolving Action Script programming code ever. In fact, it’s been totally rewritten from the ground up. Programmers can still choose to use the old code, but 3.0’s speed of rendering complex operations in realtime far exceeds the older code. The programming language is somewhat different in 3.0, so programmers will need to learn some new coding skills.
The main thing I hoped Adobe would do was make a great interface between Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. You can spend a lot of time designing a frame in Photoshop or Illustrator, and then have to use all kinds of tricks to bring it into Flash. A new Flash interface makes bringing layered .psd and .ai files into Flash a snap. The menu allows you to select which groups or layers to bring in and gives a number of options for translating each layer. You can even choose to maintain or edit the blend modes and other effects. This feature alone makes the upgrade a no-brainer.
Flash CS3 can now recognize and keep alpha channels when importing video. This offers a number of possibilities like allowing interactive characters to appear in different environments selected by users, for example.
When exporting animations as QuickTime movies or image sequences, you can not only export alpha channels, but choose to render hidden layers as well. This is really great for character animators who create in Flash but composite animations with other elements in video compositing programs before rendering to video.
PHOTOSHOP CS3 PRO
Besides the streamlined interface, Photoshop CS3 Extended has a number of other interesting features. Below are some of the highlights.
The Selection tool is one of those features used constantly to cut out objects for compositing. With the new Selection tool, you don’t outline an object and then fill it in. Instead, you paint loosely with the Selection tool and it searches for similar pixels to surround. There’s a new Refine Edge feature that allows adjustments to the mask and greatly reduces the time needed to cut out artwork.
COMPOSITING & TEXTURES
Photoshop CS3 Extended enables you to open, rotate, paint and edit textures for 3D models to incorporate back into 3D workflows. Of course, you can also composite 3D models directly into 2D images as well. It supports .u3d, .3ds, .obj, .kmz and Collana file formats. You cannot actually edit the models, you’ll still need a 3D program for that, but you can spin them around and apply textures and lighting.
This overview merely scratches the surface describing the tools in the new Creative Suite. Adobe has bundled the different programs into different configurations for different specialties. I recommend visiting www.adobe.com to learn the details of each. All of the variations started shipping in April, except the CS Production Premium, which will integrate the new Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash with After Effects, Premiere and their other video related tools. More details about Production Premium will be released in the coming months with shipment scheduled for late summer.