Although the Internet has stolen most of the thunder at recent Macworld Expos, last week's show in San Francisco signaled that the graphics and desktop publishing fields are making plenty of noise in the Macintosh world.
This time around, I didn't sense that booth presenters were forcing the words Internet or Web into their amplified pitches to prove the hipness of their products. Instead, vendors seemed to be directing their products at their core users; perhaps Apple's renewed focus on content creators is inspiring other companies to do the same.
As usual, Macworld featured a number of hardware manufacturers with products related to desktop publishing. For example, Tektronix showcased several models of their large-format Phaser color printers, and Linotype CPS showed off scanners and LinoColor technology.
After wandering the show floor and evading gangs of youths plated with Iomega buttons and wielding clickers, here are some items that caught my eye.
Things to Do in Denver When You're Ahead -- Proving again that it doesn't want to play in the same sandbox as everyone else, Quark failed to appear at this year's show. Although this comes as no surprise to regular show attendees, I thought that Quark would at least demonstrate QuarkXPress 4.0, the first major revision to their page-layout application in more than three years. Perhaps the skiing in Colorado is just too good this time of year.
Video Tools Move Me -- As the power of desktop computers has risen, the bar for entering the field of video editing has lowered, creating a market for video tools that nearly anyone can use. QuickTime 3.0 was a big draw at Apple's corner of the show, but there were also a few other products worth pointing out.
The people with the multicolored hair at Alien Skin Software demonstrated Eye Candy 3.0 for After Effects, a collection of Photoshop plug-ins that have been adapted and optimized for use with Adobe After Effects. With it, many Eye Candy filters such as Fire, Smoke, and Fur can be used in animations and videos.
Perhaps the most interesting video utility was CineLook, by DigiEffects. At its most basic, this After Effects plug-in makes videotaped images look like they were shot on film stock. I imagine that many independent filmmakers who find themselves shooting to videotape for financial reasons will embrace CineLook. It can also be used to match disparate film stocks by using its emulation library of over 50 preset film types. And if you think your film looks too good, you can apply Film Damage, which makes video look like deteriorated film, complete with scratches, fingerprints, and hairs!
Some Color Purple -- I've yet to meet a graphics professional who has a complete handle on creating color materials that actually match the final printed colors. The Mac is still the best platform for color management, but that doesn't mean the process is easy. Two programs I saw go a long way toward making color management a headache-free process.
Equilibrium's slogan for DeBabelizer 3 is "It's about time," which refers not only to the product's time-saving graphics automation features, but also to the delay between Macintosh versions. Web designers in production environments love DeBabelizer because of its batch-processing ability and the Super Palette, which creates a Web-friendly color palette from a collection of images. Print designers use DeBabelizer to open and manipulate nearly every graphic file format in existence. Version 3 adds support for ColorSync and improves on what has traditionally been known as the most confusing interface under the Mac OS.
The other color-management program that impressed me is Vivid Details's Test Strip 2.0. This Photoshop plug-in creates a color test strip that displays how an image will appear when an assortment of corrections is applied. You can control and preview multiple adjustments of color balance, exposure, saturation, and color additions and subtractions. When you find the ideal combination, you can batch-process groups of images using the same settings. Test Strip also comes with sets of Actions to apply pre-built settings automatically under Photoshop 4.
Give 'Em a Hand -- As a longtime user of Macromedia FreeHand, I have high expectations of this great drawing program. Even so, a FreeHand 8 demo wowed me when I saw the new transparency lens effect in action. Although PostScript doesn't support transparency, Macromedia has implemented a system for creating, editing, and printing transparent objects without confusing workarounds.
FreeHand 8 also features customization of keyboard shortcuts and toolbars, letting you choose how to use the program. For Adobe Illustrator 6.0 users, an optional setting maps FreeHand's command keys to Illustrator's shortcuts.
Internet Isn't Everything -- Yes, the Internet enhances communication - but the fact remains that most published communication these days is still being delivered by the folks who do graphics, desktop publishing, and video. Although, many of the products I've highlighted have aligned themselves with the Internet in some fashion, no one is in a hurry to stop the presses.