November 10, 2008
Adobe PhotoShop CS4 Extended Sports a Rewritten 3D Engine
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Adobe PhotoShop CS4 Extended Sports a Rewritten 3D Engine

By Susan Smith

Adobe System’s Inc.’s September announcement of Adobe Creative Suite 4 made a big splash with its integration of Flash technology across the entire product line, workflow breakthroughs, greater control and efficiency, and being touted as the company’s “greatest software release to date.”

Shipping now, in Q4, the entire release is comprised of the following products: Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design editions, Creative Suite 4 Web editions, Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, Adobe Master Collection, as well as 13 point products, 14 integrated technologies, and seven services.

What is of most interest to AEC users is Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended. Photoshop itself has been around for 18 years, according to product manager Zorana Gee. It has over a million users (paid) and possibly twice as many using pirated versions. Last year PhotoShop Extended was introduced to help customers streamline their workflows and address specific needs such as the ability to bring in 3D models, facilitate texture editing, or allow users to look at images such as medical images that are in the Dicom format.

In the Photoshop family are the following products:

Photoshop Lightroom is targeted to professional photographers. The product offers the whole workflow from beginning to end, so users can import images, rate images, edit and output images whether to a web photo gallery or slide show.

Photoshop Elements is targeted at the consumer market, offering many tutorials, tips and inspiration ideas and how you want to use images, with great links to communities.

Photoshop Express is “for everyone,” described as an online complete workflow for editing, organizing and sharing images. It’s connected to all the popular networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, etc., and allows you to look at those albums as well, in a familiar Photoshop interface.

Photoshop CS and
Photoshop CS Extended - The core principles behind PhotoShop CS Extended are about greater control and higher efficiency. A lot of improvements have been added in the user interface and the way workspaces are organizing so that “we are only showing best practices, tools, panels, etc. for that particular task you’re working on,” explained Gee.

In CS4 Extended the entire 3D engine has been essentially rewritten, with improvements such as converting simple 2D images to simple 3D geometries in addition to powerful editing, 3D compositing and lighting capabilities, all based off the new 3D engine. Improvements have also been made in the area of image analysis.

Gee said that the 3D workflows are aimed toward architecture, engineering, 3D animation and video. The greatest improvement in 3D is non-modal, meaning that users don’t have to double click, rather, the tools are available directly in the toolbar. “You can edit 3D objects without having to enter any modal state. What that means is all the power of PhotoShop is available for 3D and can be done now on a 3D object,” said Gee. “If you want to paint on a texture or car, I can pick up a paintbrush and select a color and paint directly on the part. This can be significant for architects creating texture creation and editing in Photoshop. They don’t have to go through exporting their
textures and flattening them and they can bring 3D objects into Photoshop and paint directly on them.”

Bridge, a product that is in all Adobe products, harnesses the power of users’ GPU and graphics card capabilities which improves the way previews are drawn, and also allows users to have the same image in multiple collections without taking up disk space on the machine.

Photoshop is now also harnessing the power of the GPU by enabling openGL drawing. “What this means, is you will see a lot of improvement in performance since it is using the power of your graphics card and you can see things such as smooth zooming, a smooth zoom in and out of an image,” Gee explained. “Prior to CS4, if we were at any odd zoom levels, we would get jagged and aliased lines on curves and texts. Now, thanks to OpenGL drawings, we’re able to draw a smooth rendered output for these lines and curves at all zoom levels. If you zoom in closely above 500%, you get a nice pixel grid that helps navigate the image. We have also implemented toss physics so you can toss the
image around, find an area of interest, have spring loaded shortcuts, and can pop into a birdseye view and out again.”

OpenGL drawing is useful for users who are painting or creating textures or work with tablets. “If you’re painting with a tablet there’s no way to orient or rotate your monitor without actually rotating the pixels of the image. Now you can rotate image non-destructively without doing a real pixel rotation,” said Gee. “It’s just a way of visualizing an image. A compass shows where true North is, and anything that I do now to this image, true North is always respected. If I turn on my grid, further, if I turn on the Marquis tool it is orienting to true North as well.”

Gee said Adobe spent a lot of time working on workspaces in Photoshop and organizing panels and tools in a way that they’re only available for a particular task. An example of a workflow is the adjustments panel, which is comprised of all non-destructive adjustment layers. If you want to do a curve adjustment, just click on the curve and it is dynamically populated with the information you need, automatically creating a non- destructive curve adjustment layer. When Adobe did a study on how much time this new workflow saves, they learned that it decreases mouseclicks by 89%.

The new features include:

3D painting and compositing – Users can paint directly on 3D models, or wrap 2D images around 3D shapes, convert gradient maps to 3D objects, add depth to layers and text, use the new ray-tracing rendering engine to get print-quality output, and export to supported common 3D formats. To look at a flattened texture, users can go to 3D layer and can choose to create overlays, or wireframe, and see all polygons that make up the object.

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