Macworld has changed

I first went to MacWorld about 13 years ago when I first moved to Chicago and started working at Avenue Edit. I moved from Grand Rapids, which was a much smaller market — but we were using the Mac IIci to do graphics design work. When I got to this “big city” post house in Chicago, they were still typesetting and cutting with a razor to do kerning. Hmmm….So I got elected as “the mac” guru and started heading out to Macword every year.

I went last week and its changed a lot since then. It was an absolutely huge show back in the day — hardware vendors, software vendors, etc. Today’s event seems to be half the size, as there were issues with costs in past years so vendors pulled out. It is also very much a consumer show — ipods ipods ipods appletv appletv appletv iphone. I was there three days and that was about a day (or even two) too long.

By the way, Mike was asking me why no photos? Well…let’s just say the dean of knuckleheads left his camera on the plane. I took the redeye back from San Fran to Chicago….was gonna prep for posting…put my camera in the seat back for just a sec and then fell asleep. As I told Mike, the camera is sooooo old…about 2 years old…so it was time for a new one anyway….

(iPhone *is* absolutely beautiful — i covet one just for the industrial design. That’s all I’ll say on the iPhone as there is more than enough about it on the web).

Final Cut had one Mac — Shake wasn’t even really there. But there were 10 AppleTV setups. Nice stuff in the next OSX (Leopard): iChat screen sharing, way better integration of iCal with other apps, time machine, etc. This is a very consumer oriented show. Quite frankly, I was disappointed there were no new hardware announcements, but I imagine they didn’t want to steal the show from the iPhone and AppleTV.

Got to hang out with fxphd Mark Christiansen and tour the show floor for hidden gems and new products. There is an interesting matte creation tool for stils called Fluid Mask from Vertus Technology. Digital Film Tools has a similar app but I hadn’t heard of these folks before. It uses edge detection technology to figure out the matte — and has some clever algorithms for pulling out transparent objects, fine detail such as hair, and more. We’ll be taking a look at the product in a bit more detail in the coming weeks and report back here.

Being the AE guru he is, Mark and I dropped by the Adobe booth to check out the Adobe Production Studio which is now being fulling ported to Intel OSX. It and After Effects are being given the “CS3” moniker which the other Adobe apps will also share. The package includes Premiere, Soundbooth, and Encore DVD. We looked at the product on the PC platform before and the interoperability remains the same on OSX.

While sharing a common UI, one of the main new features of the release is called Dynamic Link….just one part of the expanding integration between various Adobe products. From a user standpoint, this allows one to import an After Effects composition directly into Premiere Pro or Encore DVD without rendering. It shows up as a clip in the timeline of Premiere and can be slipped and trimmed — and the composition is rendered on the fly inside of Premiere. This could be useful for title animations or for menu design in Encore DVD. Clicking on the object in Encore or Premiere allows you to edit the original composition. For more complex animations and renders, this way of working might actually be a drawback as you wait for renders to complete inside Premiere. You can always go back to the old school way of working which is rendering out movies from After Effects.

Behind the scenes, the various Adobe applications share the same memory area and its handled dynamically by the apps. What this means, in addition to better handling of memory, is if you do a RAM preview of your composition in After Effects these rendered frames become automatically available from within Premiere or Encore DVD. So if you’re switching back and forth between the apps you won’t destroy imagery which is already rendered into RAM. The various apps are also beginning to share some of the same code between them (viewers and file browsers), which is useful from an engineering perspective, but also provides a common experience for the end user.

One very interesting feature in Premiere Pro is called Adobe Clip Notes. It’s one of the more interesting client review features I’ve seen, since it uses Acrobat reader to facilitate the exchange of information. How does it work?

First, the editor exports a Clip Notes PDF file from a Premiere Pro timeline. If the timeline contains comment markers, these are included in the resulting PDF file along with the QuickTime or AVI movie. In the UI for creating this PDF, the editor includes his/her email address as well as any comments for the client. This file is then emailed to the client.

When the recipient opens up the PDF (see image to the left), they can actually scroll through the clip and enter comments. Timecode values are automatically kept track of along with the comments, providing easy trackback. When the client is done, they click on the export button and a small metadata file is created and attached to an email back to the editor. All the editor has to do is import the file into Premiere Pro and all the client comments appear as markers in the timeline. Its quite slick, and I like the fact that the file created — Acrobat PDF — is easily accessible to clients.