Adobe Announces Increased Cloud Focus at MAX Event

When I hopped off the plane at LAX on Sunday evening, I had no idea what to expect from the Adobe MAX conference. According to the press itinerary I received prior to the event, the festivities, which would be held the next day at the intimidatingly expansive Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC), included big reveals about Adobe’s new offerings, sneak peaks about future Adobe technologies and products, and inspirational breakout sessions hosted by some of the design community’s biggest names.

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In the past, MAX was primarily an event geared toward tech geeks and developers, but in recent years, the company has made an effort to transform MAX into a large-scale creativity conference. As far as I can tell, these efforts have paid off, as the 5,000 live attendees who watched the first keynote at the Nokia Theatre (in addition to another 70,000-plus participants from 132 countries who watched the live stream or the web replay within the first 24 hours) include an assortment of creatives, members of various media outlets and financial and tech analysts, with anecdotal evidence from some of the developer crowd leading me to believe that they lament the shifting focus from back-end work (such as coding) to the much more visually interesting front-end design projects (such as sexy apps and interactive websites).

The big announcement at the conference, however, involved both parties: Adobe will discontinue its Creative Suite (CS) products in lieu of continuing those same product lines as part of the fully integrated Creative Cloud (CC) offerings. CS6 will be the last of the CS updates. The new CC applications will be available June 17th. Essentially, Photoshop CS is now Photoshop CC and has a whole new range of tools included to help with Adobe’s overall goal of helping creatives connect with the greater design community. While (full disclosure) I am not entirely familiar with many of Adobe’s vast line of products, the following is a recap of some major updates that, based on the oohs and ahhs of the greater keynote-attending audience, seem to have impressed those who use these products day in and day out.

Photoshop CC

Camera raw now allows designers to level and correct images based on perspective. Using the example of a skyline view, Adobe design evangelist Terry White showed the audience using horizontal, vertical, grid or both options. When a photo of a dog in a window was not centered, the camera raw filter was able to adjust the photo and center the shot. Manual controls allow creatives to correct and crop after adjusting this way.

A new radio filter allows designers to make exposure adjustments. While one might argue that this can be accomplished using the vignette tool, this feature allows designers to further expose multiple areas in the photo. If you aren’t sure where the photo needs to be adjusted, simply use the tool as a flashlight to scan sections throughout. In one photo, White was able to reveal lettering on a church bench that had been hidden in the original shot.

For anyone who has felt limited by the retouching tool’s circular nature, the update allows the tool to conform to any shape by holding down the button and dragging it over the shape that needs to be eliminated. In the demo, a thin, long twig was removed from a lilly pad.

One of the most impressive new filter allows creatives to sharpen shape reduction. Take for instance a photo of a waterfall in which the soft, cloud-like collection of the water at the base should have a blurred effect, but the other photo elements (rocks, still water, etc.) should remain sharp. Because the camera does not always shake linearly, the new shake reduction tool helps designers analyze and correct specific sections individually.

Illustrator CC

Bitmap images can now be turned into brushes. In this demo, a tree branch was used as the base for a road on a map illustration. By taking a photo and making it a brush, creatives can avoid the time-consuming steps of drawing and tracing the image.

Since typography is constitutes a significant part of most designs, creatives will love the new touch type tool that enables them to customize individual letters without having to divide each word into separate frames. Each letter can be kerned, colored and altered in any way imaginable while the rest of the letters in the word remain in place.

After Effects CC

Want to add a grill to the front of a truck in your latest video to make it a little more rugged? Adobe’s Jason Levine showed the audience how using a new tool that makes placing 3D objects in 2D video footage a breeze. Using tracking points on the video, designers can add the 3D image exactly where they want it. New features also reduce the hassle of going back and forth between programs, as designers can keep After Effects CC open and work and adjust the image in real time. No more working blindly!

My personal favorite of all the available tools is the new refine edge feature that gives creatives the ability to change a boring background in a video without the use of a green screen. While previous versions make working with, say, a tree-lined horizon difficult, the refine edge tool retains the details of individual branches. The coolest part? The program tracks this change in background from frame to frame, which means a change in one scene is reflected throughout the video.

 Edge Tools

Edge Reflow CC enables creatives see their designs reflected on multiple devices, helping to ensure that the designs translate well on each one. Edge Inspect CC gives an automatic wireless connection to devices and reflects designers’ in real time, as they are made. The other benefit is that if one person complains that an app looks weird on their phone, the camera tool takes a photo of the app from all devices and puts these photos in a folder. The designer can then review the images, find the problem and debug the app accordingly. Other programs such as Edge Animate CC and Edge Code CC also have improved features, so be sure to keep your eyes open on June 17.

Create, Collaborate and Share

When Behance was integrated into the Adobe family of products in 2012, the idea was to encourage the design community to work together. This initiative is now aided by a full line of CC products and services, all of which have features that allow designers to upload their portfolios, credit collaborators, share works in progress and finished designs, and ask fellow artists for their comments and suggestions. And if you listen to David Wadhwani, senior vice president and general manager, Digital Media, Adobe, helping designers produce better work faster is just the beginning:

Creative Cloud brings together everything you need to create your best work. We’re delivering incredible new versions of our desktop tools, services that take publishing content to the next level, and we’re making it easier than ever for creatives to collaborate and share their work worldwide. Creative Cloud is a destination that champions inspiring work and builds lasting connections within a vibrant global creative community.

I should also point out that all this was revealed in the first half of Monday’s opening keynote. To hear all about the still-in-the-pipeline projects Adobe has planned for launch dates one, five or even 10 years away, be sure to check out Thursday’s post.

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