Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended review

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Photoshop is already state-of-the-art when it comes to photo-based bitmap handling, so why extend it further? Spend some time with Photoshop Extended, and you’ll see why.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended review

Some of the features in Photoshop CS3 Extended are astounding. First up are a couple of extensions to the Vanishing Point dialog. These allow you to use the Measure tool within the dialog to take accurate measurements and export the perspective planes you add to the common CAD and 3D standards: DXF and 3DS. What makes this extraordinary is that the bitmap is exported, too, as a texture map, so you’re effectively creating a simple textured 3D model directly within Photoshop.

Even more powerful is the ability to open and composite 3D objects in the common 3DS and OBJ formats. These 3D objects aren’t permanently rasterised during opening, but remain live as smart objects within their own 3D layer. Double-click on the layer and you can reposition, scale and rotate the fully textured object within 3D space – and all in real-time. You can even change the lighting and render mode or create a cross-sectional view. Even better, if the model uses texture maps, these are indicated in the Layer palette and can be opened and edited separately. Import a textured 3DS model of a cylinder, for example, and you can paste on your own label and rotate the packaging in full 3D. It’s impressive stuff, only limited by not being able to paint directly onto the model’s surface.

There’s also plenty of power for those working with animation and video. The rudimentary system for creating crude animated GIFs by manually adding frames and manipulating layers was a nightmare, but the new Animation palette takes a timeline-based approach. You simply set keyframes for layer-based properties such as position, size and opacity; intermediate frames are then automatically interpolated. With the new QuickTime-based Render Video command, you can now export your animation either to a sequence of bitmaps or to a wide range of video formats including MOV, AVI, MPEG4 and even Flash FLV.

You can also now open video files in these formats. As with 3D handling, supported video files are automatically converted to their own smart object-based layer. This makes it easy to create video compositions by adding layers, (video or otherwise), which can themselves be animated. Features such as transparency, layer masks and blend mode are fully supported. You can even apply Photoshop CS3’s new non-destructive smart filters to your video layers to add, say, a motion blur effect. Hit the Play command on the Animation palette and your new video composition springs to life in as near to real-time as your system permits.

Video handling goes even further; double-click on any video layer and it will open in its own window. Using the Animation palette, you can move through frame-by-frame, editing as you go – ideal for simple retouching through to advanced rotoscoping. You can even offset the Cloning Stamp tool by a set number of frames to provide what Adobe calls “movie paint”. To top it all, if you’re working with After Effects or Premiere Pro, you won’t even need to export your video, as you’ll be able to open the native PSD.

The behind-the-scenes processing involved here, dealing with thousands of frames at a time, is mind-boggling. And it’s put to the best possible use with support for the DICOM medical imaging standard. Frames are automatically converted to layers on import and these can then be quickly converted to an animation. The layers can also be converted to a new form of smart object-based layer called an “image stack”, enabling unwanted content or noise to be removed in a composite view. With new measurement capabilities, users can quickly count objects onscreen and compute the height, width, area and perimeter of any selection. And for further data visualisation, it’s also been designed to work hand-in-hand with MATLAB.

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