Photoshop has been around "forever" in computer graphics years. The software long ago became the de facto standard for cutting-edge image processing and manipulation. With Version 7.0, Adobe Systems continues to keep Photoshop at the forefront with a wealth of new features and enhancements.
Photoshop runs on both Mac and Windows platforms. The Macintosh version is now fully OS X compliant, but it still supports OS 9. Once loaded, the software looks similar to previous versions, but with a few interface tweaks. The first new feature you'll notice is the browser, which allows you to graphically view your hard disks. The browser also offers a couple of other useful features, such as the ability to rename files en masse (great for digital camera users) as well as rank them. You can also rotate images within the browser. In a similar vein, the Enhanced Picture Package allows you to manage images on the output side by printing multiple images on one page, as well as adding custom labels, such as copyright notices or captions.
Another nice interface tweak is the palette well. Keeping a large number of palettes open at any given time takes up valuable screen space. The palette well allows you to 'dock' any palette so it is partially visible, and only a click away. In addition, Photoshop now lets you save your workspace, so that favorite arrangements of palettes and tools can be recalled at a moment's notice. Presets for tools can be saved as well.
In Version 7.0, Adobe has revamped the brushes palette to reflect a whole new painting engine similar to that of Corel's Painter. Adobe has included a number of presets that cover most standard brushes as well as many popular artistic brushes, such as airbrush, watercolor, splatters, and sponges. For even more control, Adobe provides myriad tools that allow you to further manipulate the shape, opacity, and edge behavior of brushes to create just about any type of brush. When combined with such functions as the clone tool and dodge/burn, among others, the possibilities are enormous.
New to Photoshop 7.0 is a tool called Healing Brush. Working much like the clone tool, the Healing Brush goes one step further. Instead of cloning both color and texture from one part of an image to another, the Healing Brush clones only the texture, preserving the original's color and lighting. This tool works great for retouching photos, such as ridding portraits of wrinkles. A similar tool is Patch, which enables you to use any of the basic selection tools to mark whole areas and "repair" or retouch them by matching sampled pixels to the source. This is great for removing dust and scratches from images.
Other new tools include Pattern Maker, which lets you create repeating images that can be tiled. Pattern maker performs a sophisticated analysis of your selection to avoid repetition and seamlessly tile the image.
Liquify, which allows you to distort images, has been improved to add a much more precise level of control. There are now multiple levels of undo, and distorted meshes can now be saved and loaded over new images.
For those who use type, the type tool includes a long-overdue spell-checker, which can check in just about any language imaginable. The text tool also allows for search and replace of text across multiple layers of a document. This makes it much easier to do page-layout jobs, such as advertisements with lots of text, within Photoshop. Web users will appreciate the bundling of Adobe's Image Ready software with Photoshop 7.0. This software is particularly useful for creating the smallest, best-looking graphics for the Web. It has a window that shows you your original image alongside compressed .GIF versions of it. Image Ready also allows you to create custom rollovers as well as slice up images to create custom navigation bars. Image Ready also can do .GIF animations. In another Web-related feature, Photoshop now supports data-driven graphics, which integrates with Adobe Golive 6 or AlterCast to generate dynamic graphics for the Web or other digital media.
As with any package that has been around for so long, finding new features that are compelling enough to demand an upgrade can be a challenge. With this version of Photoshop, Adobe has certainly met that challenge. The new painting engine, Healing Brush, and the numerous interface enhancements make it well worth the cost of an upgrade. ..
George Maestri is president of Rubberbug, a Los Angeles-based animation studio specializing in character animation.
|Photoshop 7.0 includes a new brushes palette as well as a graphical file browser.
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS 9.1/X; PowerPC processor; 128MB of RAM. Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/NT/XP; Pentium-class III or 4 processor; 128MB of RAM
Adobe Systems www.adobe.com
Boxx Technologies' Intel-based Workstation
By Adam Watkins
Boxx Technologies manufactures several workstations for 3D graphics professionals. The S3 reviewed here is a dual-processor, Intel-driven machine that is part of the 3DBoxx family, which also includes dual-AMD powered machines and single processor units.
The sides of the Boxx S3 are jet black and the front grille is brushed metal; a mean look and a nice change from traditional beige. But what's important, of course, is what's inside.
Under the hood, the S3 includes dual Intel Xeon 2.2ghz processors. The review unit was equipped with 1gb of RAM and an Nvidia Quadro 4 900XGL graphics card. Although the motherboard can handle up to 2gb of RAM in four RIMM slots, this particular unit maxed out the chip slots with its 1gb configuration. So you could expand, but you would have to get rid of some extant chips in the process.
Within the massive tower case are two 64/66 and four 32/33 PCI slots, which leaves room for expansion. Four USB slots, including two conveniently located at the front of the case, are standard. Also inside the case are four internal hard drive bays, three 3.5-inch exposed drive bays, and two 5.25-inch bays.
All this processor power and hardware require big fans—three of them. Although the fans undoubtedly keep those hot processors alive, they create a veritable roar. Even when I was listening to music, I could hear the fans pumping away in the background. Another drawback is that although there is plenty of room for new devices, the IDE cable in my review unit wouldn't reach a second device in the second 5.25-inch bay. I checked this on the S3 review machine and my own Boxx R1i— both had an IDE cable with a slave plug— but the plug wouldn't reach devices in either slot. A new cable of the appropriate length was overnighted to me as soon as I called Boxx technical support, however.
The Boxx S3 was ready to go "out of the box." I installed a slew of applications, including Alias|Wavefront's Maya and Maxon Computer's Cinema4D XL, with nary a hiccup. There were no problems with drivers or any included devices. The shipped components even included DVI adaptors for the Nvidia video card.
I tested the S3 against my own Boxx R1i equipped with dual Athlon MP 2000+ processors, an Nvidia Geforce 4 750XGL card, and 1gb of RAM); and a PowerMac dual 1ghz G4 machine that came with a GeForce 4 Ti card and 1.5gb of RAM. The results, detailed in the charts above, show that the Athlons on the R1i actually outperformed the dual Intels in the Cinebench benchmarks. However, although the S3's video card clearly gave the unit an OpenGL performance advantage in the Quake 3 Arena Demos. In all cases (except low-resolution Q3A tests), both of the Boxx machines easily outstripped the Mac.
The S3 and the R1i are both a pleasure to use when running Cinema4D XL and Maya. Performance is snappy and the rendering speed is great. The 3DBoxx S3 is obviously a solid machine, but at well under $3000, you might find that the R1i offers more bang for your buck. In total, the 3DBoxx S3 is easy to set up and get rolling, and has some great performance features going for it. It's a fine tool if you are serious about 3D content creation and are willing to put up serious money—about $4000, depending on configuration. ..
Adam Watkins is a technical author and director of the Computer Graphics Arts program at the University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, TX).
|Boxx Technologies makes workstations based on processors from both Intel and AMD.
Configuration as Reviewed: dual Xeon 2.2Ghz processors; 1GB of RAM; Geforce 4 900XGL graphics accelerator
Boxx Technologies www.boxxtech.com