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Review: Photoshop CS3 Extended

In CS3 Adobe has done a good job improving the interface, also ensuring that they are not too harsh on what we already knew. Most of the elements exclusive to Photoshop Extended are well integrated along with the standard Photoshop elements, accessed from tools that are also familiar to us, such as the Layers panel and other menus.

3-D composition and texture editing

Photoshop CS3 Extended can import and manipulate 3-D objects such as the OBJ, 3DS, U3D (Acrobat 3D), KMZ (Google Earth), and COLLADA file formats (XML files commonly used in video games). Although these formats are very useful and frequently used, the omission of the DWG format stands out above all; the most popular when it comes to exchanging CAD models.

Importing a 3-D object into a file is a very simple operation: select the Open command from the File menu to select the 3-D object. The 3-D model automatically opens in its own Photoshop layer. Layers with 3-D objects can co-exist with 2-D layers in the same document. Once imported, the model can be scaled, rotated, repositioned, and rendered in the same way as you would in another 3-D application.

You can also create sections or slices of a model in real time and adjust the position of those sections using a scroll control. Performance on my test computer (an Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook with 2GB of RAM) was fine. I have not seen any lag of any kind in rotating, sectioning, or relocating the model.

Photoshop Extended offers two ways to manipulate the view of the model: the Camera tool and the Object tool. The first offers a different perspective of the static object, while the second allows the object to be moved. The camera tool allows you to move the “camera” that is pointing at the model in a 3-D perspective. You can use this tool to move around the object, walk around the scene, or view a scene from any direction relative to the object.

The Object tool allows you to rotate the object itself. You can adjust the depth of field to simulate the use of different camera lenses in case you are trying to blend an object against a 2-D image placed on a background layer. Remember that only the model can be rotated, not the underlying layers or images.

If your 3-D model includes textures, then Photoshop Extended will keep them. You can access the textures through the Layers panel and edit them from Photoshop using any of the program’s 2-D tools. Once edited, Photoshop Extended will automatically update the 3-D models with the new texture maps. When you export 3-D models from Photoshop in a 3-D format, the edited textures will be kept along with the model.

All this 3-D manipulation is contained in the model layer, while you can continue to access other layers, 2-D elements and all the functionality of the standard version of Photoshop CS3, so that the manipulation of 3-D objects it can be part of your regular Photoshop workflow; And although the same type of operations can be carried out using a dedicated 3-D program, the truth is that in that case it would be necessary to spend a greater amount of time to configure the view, export the 2-D image and open it later in Photoshop. Also, in that case it would be quite common to have to repeat the operation with the consequent consumption of time. Photoshop’s new 3-D capabilities are much more flexible, particularly for designers who don’t create their own models. Also, I have yet to see a 3-D application capable of editing texture maps with the same simplicity and power that Photoshop CS3 Extended is capable of.

Improved vanishing point

Photoshop CS2 included the Vanishing Point feature that allowed 3-D planes to be applied to 2-D images. For example, you could open a photograph of a building and apply 3-D planes to different surfaces to incorporate perspective into the manipulation of images and textures.

However, Photoshop CS2 only allowed to link planes that had a 90 degree tilt. Photoshop Extended lets you link planes at different angles using a scroll control, so you can now apply textures and images simultaneously on multiple planes. For example, by using the Vanishing Point filter, a box wrap can be applied over the image of the box or package.

Photoshop is able to understand the underlying perspective and geometry of the box, applying the image or texture as if it were a 3-D element.

The Vanishing Point filter is part of the standard version of Photoshop. However, it has been improved in Photoshop Extended so that once the filter is applied, you can export the resulting image to a Photoshop layer or 3-D model file.

Image analysis and measurement tools

In Photoshop Extended you can also measure the size of a model using the measurement tools. If you can assign a measurement to any part of an image or model then you can get new measurements from the rest of that image or model. For example, you can import a photograph of a building, apply the Vanishing Point filter, enter a known dimension in the photograph (such as a door or window) and generate the measurements of the rest of the parts that make up the building, such as height and width or depth. In the case of a 2-D image, such as a floor plan or an X-ray shot, you can use the Ruler tool or any of the other selection tools to determine measurements and areas based on a single known measure.

Once the measurements have been calculated, you can record them in a tabular format using the Measurement Log feature, which is responsible for keeping track of data such as width, height, area, units, scale, and file name among others. The Measurement Log is persistent between files, which means that it can keep logs for multiple image files. You can also export these records to a spreadsheet.

Video, animation, and drawing

Photoshop Extended can import video files, and importing a video is as simple as adding a new layer and selecting a movie that will now display as a Video Layer in the Layers panel. Importing is very fast in Photoshop Extended, with an eight minute QuickTime movie it only took a few seconds. You can then use the new Animation palette (timeline) to control the frame you want to edit. You can apply non-destructive adjustment layers over multiple frames, as well as add graphic layers to part or all of the frames. The animation palette also allows you to send frames to separate layers, so you can edit the video frame by frame with the usual Photoshop tools such as the clone tool, the text application or the scaling. You can also clone a frame in another or on several frames simultaneously. Note that the Timeline palette also appears as an Animation (Frames) palette depending on the project.