The big news in software at the PMA show was the latest version, or versions, of Photoshop. We've been Photoshop users and admirers since 1991, when version one-point-something was in flower, blazing away on wicked-fast Macintosh IIfx computers. The program seemed like an endless universe then, and it has done naught but expand ever since. In the latest editions, feature sets that might overflow the cup of any single program are broken out into companion editions, effectively alternative universes for the graphical dimension-hoppers out there.
While we're watching this activity, we should also be considering how it reflects a market in transition, and how it might affect the photo biz.
It's a symptom of the times that Photoshop, for the first time, is putting the squeeze on the motion-graphics market. Isn't that Adobe Premiere territory? Web animation and video, standard video and slideshows—all have become standard output formats for the latest Photoshops, alongside the printed products the first versions were designed for. The Photoshop cosmos has become a pan-digital, multimedia, repurposing agent for content providers and users of all stripes.
One of the most impressive aspects of Photoshop-as-Gargantua is that it can grow before the user's eyes via plug-ins. These are sub-programs that operate within Photoshop, each committed to a specific purpose. The new version of Genuine Fractals (v.5) claims the capacity for up to a 1,000 percent enlargement (or more) of a digital picture's original size. Another plug-in of interest might be Nik's Dfine, which reduces the appearance of noise in digital pictures. Any customer for prints is a potential customer for plug-ins such as these, but an emerging customer for AV-style screenings is also bound to get something from them.
We were not sure if Adobe knew they were doing it when they first crossed the line from the page-designer market to the AV market. Wasn't it version 6 that first introduced layers? What an enormously valuable tool for accomplishing—quickly and relatively simply—traditional AV effects that were previously time-consuming and complex. Not only could you stack as many layers as you like, each possessing some vital part of the finished picture—you could control the density of each, and even erase portions. These were powerful tools for anyone planning to make a slideshow heavy on the visual narrative.
Progressive-disclosure techniques of various kinds—titles that grow on-screen word-by-word, split-screen sequences, dissolve sequences of matched subjects—all can be made in very complex forms owing to the way Photoshop handles layers.
Now Photoshop comes in variants for screened presentation in all forms—it's not just the bedsheet anymore; we have the internet now. We use the term "slideshow" loosely—any multimedia presentation mixing still and moving pictures (or moving-picture freezes) can use slideshow techniques like they did in the old days.
The Thousand-Year Slideshow
We know folks were projecting slideshows in their homes 350 years ago (the Wise Ones wrote it down in books), and it's reasonable to believe slides were being screened long before that. A thousand years ago? It wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist to figure it out in 1007. Because for 400 years already, there had been stained-glass windows in cathedrals. Someone might notice that the sun coming through stained glass projects its patterns on the interior. It's no big eureka to try it at home.
And speaking of the home, we've mentioned before that the big sponsors of the "electronic lifestyle," the Sonys and Panasonics and Toshibas and the like, are falling all over themselves trying to keep people in their "digital homes," where, besides hot and cold running water, they presumably have a wireless network and a complete home theater.
At a time when DVD releases of new movies are surpassing theatrical releases in all the numbers, we get the feeling there's a future for home presentation systems. It was, after all, the availability of "content" that put VHS videotape into the home (its rival system, Sony Betamax, produced better quality, but without as large a library of "content," it was ultimately vanquished). In the digital age, the movie-watcher can use the same player to view Clint Eastwood classics, home videos, and snapshots. It was not so easy to mix your own stuff in with the store-bought during the VHS days, but if you run your show from a computer drive as some people do (as opposed to a DVD player), all your personal content—and presumably the whole of the internet, too—is just a mouseclick away from the dazzled audiences before your home theater screen.
Large-screen TVs and monitors are becoming more affordable, and digital projectors have reached the $500 mark. The sweet point's not quite here yet. It'll still be awhile before high-definition monitors and/or projectors are alongside that chicken in every pot that completes the American household. But the directions are clear, and now's a good time to start scratching.
Slideshows in the 35mm days produced probably minor results as aftermarket sales were concerned. Once the customer had the projector ($49.95) and screen, what else was there to buy? A longer remote-control cable? Two new slide trays? Once you sold a slide, you pretty much sold a closed case.
Possibly it would be a different story this time.
The 35mm slideshow had already come of age when television was just being born. By the mid-1950s, you could find both in one household, but having arrived in different epochs, they occupied different parts of the house. They all cohabitate on the PC now, a click apart. There's probably still a cultural legacy separating them, even though they technically converge in modern equipment. Some people might need reminding—or preconditioning—that there's a single content stream now, which they can enter almost anywhere along its flow.
Part of this consciousness-raising comes from the ballyhooed online sites for posting personal profiles or folk movies. It all can be a wholesome pursuit that happens to have, would you believe, digital cameras at its core.