By: Tom Carroll
In the 1999 film The Matrix, when Neo reached for the red pill Morpheus warned, "Remember ... all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."
If you've been using Adobe Photoshop CS3, then you've been using the red pill, because that was the code name for the software during its development. And for many people who chose it for the first time or upgraded to CS3 from whatever they were using, it was indeed the truth.
While the new version was marketed with the phrase: "Work more productively, Edit with unrivaled power, and Composite with breakthrough tools," (phraseology that would make the Wachowski brothers positively weak in the knees with envy) in reality Adobe's product marketing wasn't Hollywood hooey. In fact, if you collect photo reference or are interested in extending your 3D modeling to 2D applications, you might find it very much the real deal.
For instance, think of CS3's Auto Align as Photomerge on 'roids. While Photomerge can stitch and blend a panorama together by aligning elements within your photos, Auto Align scans through the layers of the current document and calculates which pixels match with the proper layer, and transforms each layer appropriately to achieve astonishing results.
If you're taking photo reference for a video game, for instance, gone are the days where you snap scads of freehand photos of a location and align them by hand (or worse yet stitch them together in your head). With Auto Align you can, for example, take multiple photographs walking along a street (sans tripod, of course), and Auto Align does all the heavy lifting to put them together. Use Auto Blend on the results and your tableau becomes a seamless construct.
For anyone using sliders to adjust Raw parameters within Adobe Bridge, the performance in CS3 is quite speedy, and in addition to the basic Contrast, Brightness, Shadows, and Saturation sliders found in CS2, CS3 adds Clarity, Vibrance, Recovery, and Fill Light. Again, video game pros collecting photo reference will appreciate the flexibility.
Last, but certainly not least, Adobe Photoshop CS3 enables 3D objects to be included in special layers and manipulated therein. Once loaded, you can spin, scale, and move the model; the camera can also be moved around the 3D object. All of the model's textures can be edited since they're all found on individual "child layers" beneath the main model layer. Changes are immediately shown.
While it may be carrying the analogy too far, if you stayed with Adobe's Photoshop CS2 (or continued using some other package), and then chose the blue pill, then everything stayed the same for you. While CS3 is far from perfect, it makes a great addition to Photoshop's lineage and provides powerful tools for video game artists and animators.