September 26, 2008

Dreams Un-deferred

Recently:

 

  • My wife: “What’s the hardest part of your job?”
  • Me, instantly: “Waiting.”

 

Edison’s bit about genius–maybe now we’d say innovation–being “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” is as true now as when he coined the phrase.  Put simply, it sometimes takes a hell of a long time to get things done.  Whatever the reasons, it’s worth celebrating when you’ve finally sweated your way to victory.

 

Flash Panels for All

Eight years, man.  Eight freakin’ years it took me to get Flash panels into a mainstream app.  In summer 2000 we cloned the Flash Player, then used it to let scripters extend the LiveMotion authoring environment (dropping in new panels that could build animations, draw shapes, etc.).  Two weeks after becoming the first app to ship such support, however, we got cancelled.  (Flash and other Macromedia apps introduced their own support soon after.)

 

I put the vision on ice until 2005, when we learned Adobe was acquiring Macromedia.  A few days later I met Macromedia CTO Kevin Lynch at an event and said, “I know we can’t discuss anything non-public yet, but do you guys offer any documentation about embedding the Flash Player?”  Since then I’ve ranted, cajoled, browbeat, and wheedled to bring this support to Photoshop and the rest of the Suite.  It got to the point where PS engineers said I’d have to put five bucks in a swear jar each time I brought up “the F word.”

 

You may be skeptical about the impact and merit of Flash panels, but I predict you won’t be for long.  No one will care about it as a feature per se.  They’ll care when we start using it to do really interesting things–making the Suite UI dramatically more flexible, tying community and collaboration into the apps, delivering better features faster through shared code, and more.

 

The Photoshop Nation, Inside Photoshop

Once you have a lightweight way to make an application skin network-aware, all kinds of interesting things can happen.  I’ve always wondered why, when there are millions of active Photoshop users, you’re on your own inside the app.  Why can’t we make it ridiculously easy to add your knowledge to the tools, and to benefit from others’ wisdom?  We’re at the threshold of making that a reality.

 

Flash & After Effects Love Each Other

Back in 1999, long before I came to work here, I started lobbying my contacts at Macromedia and Adobe to create something I called the “Flash Interchange Format”–some XML representation of at least the basics of an animation (object name, position, scale, etc.) so that I could use Flash and After Effects together. Unfortunately Flash remained locked to the inscrutable FLA format.

 

Now Flash is moving to XFL (no, not the one with pro wrestlers playing football).  By dusting off some code we wrote in ’01 (I know, I know–move on already), AE has enabled XFL export for Flash to import.  InDesign also exports XFL, and the format should enable much greater integration with Photoshop and third-party apps in the future.  Vindication.

 

Flash Gets a Real Timeline, More

Suffice it to say I’m very, very pleased to see Flash CS4 to add a more After Effects-style approach to animation, complete with editable automatic motion paths, animation presets, control over individual parameters, and much more.  I always believed Web animators deserved these things, and now they’ll get ‘em.  Check out Lee Brimelow’s video demo for a great run-through. [19-minutes]

 

 

It’s a long road sometimes, and it never ends.  I’ve planted seeds over the last ~30 months that’ll still take years to bear fruit.  (Cue Cake’s The Distance)  But dammit, I’m not just whistling Dixie, and we’re going to make things happen come hell or high water. Always outnumbered, never outgunned.

 

Never surrender.

 

Postscript: I hope the text above doesn’t come off sounding too self-congratulatory.  I’m sure that plenty of other people thought of and requested the same things I’ve wanted, which is why we’re now seeing these features become reality.  And just as Flash is doing things that LiveMotion introduced years ago, Photoshop is introducing some features that have long been in Fireworks, Painter, etc.  The key thing, of course, is that the features get to the customers who need them, by hook or by crook.  That, at the end of the day, is the whole reason I came to Adobe.

Posted by John Nack at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2008

Comments

  • LD — 1:15 PM on September 26, 2008

    Thank you deeply for your dedicated work and prolonged efforts to pull Flash Panels into Photoshop, John.
    As an animator in the making, I’ve turned to Photoshop’s video layers to help me sketch out and time my animations at 30fps. Not having the direct-view feedback of a Cintiq display, I praised the high heavens when I found out that Photoshop allows canvas rotation (that one feature was a deal maker for me, along with 64-bit integration and default black stroking). I work directly with a Wacom Intuous 3, and I’ve spent too many unmentionable hours fixing lifeless strokes and wishing that I could work like I could on paper. This version allows that and many hundreds of powers more in my book.
    I know Photoshop isn’t the first piece of software to come to mind when the word “animation” is mentioned, but for me, it’s the first step in the process. It’s too powerful not to consider in a paperless workflow. I can make sketches that appear EXACTLY as they use to on paper without the added scan time and can fix proportion errors on the fly with a lasso selection and scale transform. I’ve created actions that pull the tedium out the longest hurdles in traditional animation with results that make the work fun.
    In short, I’m extremely indebted to Photoshop and couldn’t work without it. Especially now that I can apply Photoshop-only filters to sequenced images rendered in After Effects and Flash (don’t get me raving about Flash’s new Timeline improvements that couldn’t have come at a better time).
    Thank you and celebrate this release as a great success. The work is evident. Your seeds aren’t drying on fallow ground.
    [That's great feedback, LD; really nice to hear. --J.]

  • Jeff Carlson — 1:17 PM on September 26, 2008

    Did you just obliquely quote Grosse Pointe Blank at the top there? You’re bringing out the fanboy in me.
    [I was thinking Langston Hughes, actually. If you hear me talking about "doing business with leadpipe cruelty" and so forth, *then* you know I'm talking GPB! --J.]

  • Ken — 1:21 PM on September 26, 2008

    Jack,
    Thanks for the reply about adobe Air.
    I own CS3 web premium. I love the “stuff” in suite, but being an “adobe dummy” I don’t know how to set up or use flash or Illustrator.
    I don’t blame adobe for this. At age 62 I made a decision to be “good” at least one type of Software. I started with Elements when adobe brought it to market. After talking with “pros”, I upgraded to PS years ago. I was told, PS would be “the” program for the digital workflow, so I made a commitment to myself to do something I did not think I could do. Today, PS is really an overkill for what I do. But the self satisfaction in being “pretty darn good” at PS, I thank Adobe for helping me overcome some personal issues.
    What takes only hours for some propeller heads to learn in PS takes me 60 days or longer….I really am a slow learner. Kelby Training has help me in this process. If I could find a wishing well, I would love to have a job where I could use PS full time in a job in my local community.
    Though I have the whole suite, I have not learned or use the other apps.
    Can you suggest a company that has online training on flash that does not cost a KY arm and leg??
    Kind regards
    Ken from KY

  • jimhere — 1:41 PM on September 26, 2008

    I agree 100% that the LiveMotion (AE) timeline is the way to go. I always thought flash had the oddest ui (did ex-MM emplyees at Adobe give you trouble?). I remember LiveMotion being pretty easy to use (I first used both in 1999 or something).
    [It definitely got some things right. Of course, I'm the first to say it got a bunch wrong, too. (I used to call it "Crouching Vector, Hidden Bitmap.") None of that was lost on me at the time. We just didn't get enough cycles (just 1 for me) to make the product I came to Adobe to build. --J.]
    So thanks — after 9 years of using Flash, I look forward to actually… using it (great demo video by the way).
    But you should quit implying you’re the only one who thought all this or it’ll cause trouble when you try to be Adobe President.
    [Let me *not* imply that I'm the only one who thought of any of this stuff. I'm sure lots of others have as well. I just feel a strong sense of vindication when I see some of my very old work and concepts get a whole new (and much bigger/better) life. --J.]

  • Derek Pell — 1:50 PM on September 26, 2008

    You’re fightin the good fight, John-boy. Keep it up!

  • Michael Critz — 2:15 PM on September 26, 2008

    I think this sounds well and good. I’m interested in After Effects & Flash integration. XFL sounds nice but what’s this thing about in the future?
    How married are Flash and After Effects in CS4? Thus far, I’m not convinced I should upgrade this product cycle.
    [AFAIK, it's a one-way import for CS4 (AE into Flash), and I don't know the details of what's preserved (though that doc to which I linked probably has details). I'd expect it to be an evolutionary process, as things like PSD import have been. --J.]

  • Julie Meredith — 8:24 PM on September 26, 2008

    Ken from KY
    Lynda.com has very reasonable online training. Subscriptions allow you access to ALL titles with more added pretty much on a monthly basis.
    http://movielibrary.lynda.com/html/index.asp
    Flash CS3 Specific
    http://movielibrary.lynda.com/html/modListing.asp?pid=267
    Mr Nack – I apologize if this was an inappropriate comment -please feel free to delete.

  • George Penston — 9:46 PM on September 26, 2008

    I was very disappointed when LiveMotion was cancelled. (I just recycled a lot of the packaging I had from 1.0 and 2.0 this year.) One of the great things about LiveMotion was that it adopted the timeline and auto-keyframing features found in its bigger brother, After Effects. I felt it was far superior than the clunky keyframe workflows Flash ever has had. It’s great to learn that Flash has finally come around to get much of the same treatment. It took a long time to get back there but I guess we’re finally almost there. Thanks John and the rest of the CS crew.

  • Dan — 2:56 AM on September 27, 2008

    “But dammit, I’m not just whistling Dixie, and we’re going to make things happen come hell or high water.”
    I wanted the F-word, here, man!
    For every story which portrays you as a f-word user and abuser, I see none here in which you swear like a maniac.
    [Not like a maniac--like an eloquent general. --J.]

  • JonPad — 10:46 AM on September 27, 2008

    User generated tool tips would be pretty awesome. Even if only across a workgroup.
    Waiting is hard, but is it harder than fighting an uphill battle? Sounds like F-word compatibility wasn’t an easy point to sell.
    Keep up the great work there, John.

  • Michael Wypasek — 5:56 AM on September 29, 2008

    John-
    I appreciated your comments and insight before, but I never realized that you were involved in LiveMotion. I was in awe of that simple application– I’ve got CS3 Design Premium on my iMac at home, but for flash animation, I still use LM 2 running on the same machine!
    I bow repeatedly in your direction. I was still uneasy about the interface changes in PS CS4 till I read this–now I trust it’ll be good. Shoot, it’ll take me a while to upgrade but I’ll do it just to get a more usable Flash.

  • Issac — 7:14 AM on October 03, 2008

    Hi John,
    Sorry I haven’t commented sooner: Great blog man! Like Derek said, thank you for fighting the good fight. In the near future, there will prolly be whole columns devoted to the use and understanding of Flash panel/Photoshop integration—and I can’t freakin’ wait.
    Thanks again and all the best~
    (:
    ~Issac

  • Trace — 8:04 AM on October 06, 2008

    John,
    Thought you’d like to see a really fun (and FUNNY) use of Flash on a website: This is a dutch store. All in Dutch. But click on the link and don’t do anything. Just watch:
    http://producten.hema.nl/
    Cheers,
    Trace
    [Good stuff, Trace; blogged it a while back, but it's worth another look. --J.]

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