Adobe’s annual Max conference is virtual this year due to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean fewer product announcements. On the contrary, the company announced a dazzling array of new features for its creative software and an iPad version of its Illustrator design application at the Conan O’Brien–hosted event.
Photoshop sees some jaw-dropping new features, including five new AI tools powered by the company’s Sensei technology, with versatile sky replacement and people aging (and youthing!) among the most impressive. Because these tools can be used for deepfakes, the company has started the Content Authenticity initiative. In fact there’s so much news on the company’s design, photo, video products that Adobe has put out over 20 blog posts to cover them all.
Illustrator on iPad
Compared with the initial release of Photoshop for iPad last year, today’s release of Illustrator on the iPad feels more useful. As we write in our review, “With the new Illustrator on the iPad, Adobe didn’t want a repeat of the critiques that greeted Photoshop’s iPad release [so] this initial version of Illustrator for iPad is chock full of features and is useful in any design workflow from the get-go.”
Like Photoshop for iPad, the Illustrator app supports the Apple Pencil and Cloud Documents to simplify moving work between desktop and iPad. It also lets you access shared Libraries of design assets as well as Learn and Discover features to help users master the tool.
The app already features Illustrator’s nifty radial grid and mirror repeat features, along with a library of 18,000 fonts, including OpenType Color and Variable fonts. As with Photoshop for iPad, though, the feature set will be augmented based on a feature roadmap that includes more effects, more brushes, and Adobe Sensei AI capabilities.
Speaking of Sensei Ai capabilities, Adobe Photoshop gets five new such new tools: Neural Filters, Sky Replacement, Discover panel, and two Refine Edge Selection options.
The Photoshop update for Max also includes improvements to plug-in options, learn and help features, Refine Hair, Cloud Docs, Live Shapes, Pattern Preview, Color Grading in Camera Raw, and more. The iPad version of Photoshop gets an updated home screen layout, image resizing, and a new Document properties panel.
The new Neural Filters may be the most impressive among Photoshop’s new tools, and of those, the most impressive may be Smart Portraits. The tool lets you change the age, expression, pose, and color makeup of human photo subjects. This lets you not only change the direction of head, gaze, and light source, but you can also adjust emotional aspects like anger and happiness with sliders. Neural edits also include colorization and color optimization.
Sky replacement has been a strength for competitor Skylum’s Luminar program, and Adobe doesn’t want to cede preeminence in that area to the smaller software house. Replacing a sky in Photoshop has up to now been a multi-step procedure involving working with many layers and masks. Adobe’s new tool reduces the process to a few clicks, automatically identifying the sky in the image and offering an ample selection of replacements.
Another AI feature that’s late in coming to Photoshop is style transfers, a staple of CyberLink’s impressive PhotoDirector app for two years, and the technique has been available in apps like Prisma even longer. Unlike those, and in the typical Adobe understated way, the Photoshop style transfers don’t get names like Van Gogh and Matisse, but rather just show you a thumbnail example.
After Effects and Rush get more exciting new features than Premiere Pro, though that program’s new flexible audio transcription feature will be a big help to editors. You can move the auto-generated captions around on the timeline just like any video clip, and the tool offers a generous selection of fonts.
After Effects sports Roto Brush 2.0 and several new 3D animation tools. Rotoscoping is basically motion-tracked masking for shots without green screens, and Roto Brush 2 uses machine learning to deliver far more accurate masks that the previous version.
Adobe Premiere Rush adds a new graphics and audio browsing interface, royalty-free sound and video clips, new transitions (push, slide, wipe), and pan and zoom on all platforms.
With so many working from home thanks to the pandemic, collaboration is more important than ever. With this year’s Max release, Creative Cloud Libraries extend to Adobe XD, Adobe Spark, and even third-party apps via a new API. Adobe claims that with this release, Cloud Documents save up to five times faster. The company announced that Cloud Document collaboration will be coming to Photoshop, Illustrator, and Fresco early next year.
Since Adobe’s products offer rich possibilities in basically altering reality as depicted in photos and videos, the company has taken on some responsibility towards combatting deepfakes. The company has partnered with organizations like Twitter and the New York Times to create the Content Authenticity initiative, first announced at last year’s Max conference.
This year, the company unveiled a beta tool in Photoshop that attaches tamper-proof metadata to images and video that indicate the author’s name, location, and edit history. The tool is based on an open-source attribution framework that will also allow content creators to keep the credit for their work.
And Even More Max…
Given the number of applications that make up Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, detailing all the updates would take a book-length treatment. Some of the other developments include Color grading in Lightroom (both new and Classic), an iPhone version of Fresco, video editing inside Bridge, online copy editing for InDesign, 3D transforms for XD, and life-like speech aware animation for Character Animator. For loads of detail on the announcements, celebrity sessions, and tutorials, head to max.adobe.com.