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Sneaking on the Future of Creative Technology at Adobe MAX

Every year at MAX, we get to look into a crystal ball to see what tomorrow’s technology, especially as it relates to Adobe, may hold for us as technologists and creatives. MAX Sneaks are technology demonstrations and experiments that generally make waves beyond the walls of Adobe MAX itself. Like last year, when a form of “Photoshop for audio” called VoCo (which allows you to feed 20 minutes of audio into the software in order to be able to output any NEW dialog from that) was demonstrated — and ended up making interesting waves as a concept in the surge of “fake news” that emerged in 2016.

Since Sneaks are purely tech demos that don’t currently exist in any Adobe software — but may, someday, if demand and research progress align — the possible use cases haven’t been widely explored yet. And that’s part of why Adobe uses MAX as a platform to explore this future tech. This year 11 sneaks were offered up that covered automation of infographics and colorization, a new approach to working with digital color as paint, and content-aware fill for video and much more. I got a chance to take an early look at four of them and talk to the scientists and researchers involved.

Project Lincoln

Lincoln seeks to change the way designers are able to create charts and data visualizations, and if you've ever tried to make an infographic you're throwing a ticker tape parade. The origin of data visualization is Excel for charts, of course: we’ve all dealt with charts and pivot tables, and various other forms of data hell. There are a lot of infographics and charts that are created all the time for web and print and video, but they’re generally difficult and time-consuming unless you want them to be boring — there’s no obvious way to approach designing advanced charts like this because it’s really an advanced combination of programming and graphic design. There are exploratory tools and explanatory tools that exist for this, with just a little bit of cross over and not much more.

You can make this graphic with Lincoln in like 1 minute, wtf.

To tell a bigger story with data than a list of information or simple charts, you need a lot of time. Lincoln removes all that. You can bring in a spreadsheet — for example, of swimmers, their gender and country and the time they took to complete a swim — and Lincoln allows you to create visualizations of that data in a tactile way, binding it to the spreadsheet of information. Between binding information to different parameters and having access to assets that can be easily dropped in and anchored, an infographic emerges in minutes. Like, literally a few minutes for a huge visualization.

And since it’s still merely an experiment, the possible uses and applications are limitless. Interactivity, animations, everything.

Project Scribbler

Project Scribbler

Say you’re an artist and you’ve got an image in black and white you don’t have time to colorize. Maybe a portrait, or even an old photo of a grandparent. In Scribbler, you hit a button and Adobe Sensei will colorize the sketch instantly. To make this work, a neural network was trained to look at faces and people, and learned how to identify people and colorize them correctly, also accounting for different kinds of skin tones. There is some ability for users to choose different colors and make adjustments too.

It’s a really magical experience to hit a single button and see your photos come to life in a very convincing way. Textures can also be applied to the drawing and Scribbler will use those hints to colorize it as well.

Possibly even more useful on a day to day basis, drawings can be colorized instantly too — for sketches of cartoons or proofs of concept for clients. There are many use cases for art directors or illustrators who are creating spec work and want to move through the colorizing portion of their work very quickly, using it as a starting point. For me, I deeply enjoy seeing old photos of people who never had color photography come to life.

Project Cloak

So, you shoot a video on vacation and you get a great shot of your friend or an awesome building, but it’s got some annoying thing in it — a random person standing in the way, or a street lamp blocking the amazing architecture — you know, the worst thing that always happens. You could take a single frame into Photoshop and use Content Aware Fill to remove the offending image frame by frame if you want, but it super sucks when you play it one after another.

What if Content Aware Fill could work for video? Cloak does just that, and it’s nuts. In the Sneaks demo, a polygon was drawn around the object in After Effects. The mask was rendered separately and both the mask and video were input into Cloak as separate assets.

The net result? The offending item is FRICKING GONE. Weirdo people? Gone. Stains on shirts? Gone. Logos, awkward straps, even people who are originally the primary focus of the shot? All gone. Erase everyone and everything from your video. The technology demo literally did just that. You are a god with Cloak.

Playful Palette

When you’re oil painting, you can grab colors and mix them and have them all sitting in front of you in different ways. But digitally, you don’t have the same experience. You can’t blend the colors on a color wheel, or experiment with them any more than an eyedropper allows. Research teams explored these issues with many different artists and found how annoying this is to them.

Playful Palette brings traditional palette experiences to digital. For example, you can start with a skin tone in an oil painting and tap on it to add it to a digital palette dish. Then you can add a few other colors from your color wheel. But then? You can mix them together in different fluid ways — or even un-mix them. Once you’re happy with the mix, you can freeze it, select a color, and start painting. Swatches are created around the dish so you can always go back and grab the color again or adjust it for a new shade. And if you get to a point in your painting where you wish you had used a different color, instead of setting fire to the painting physically and starting over, you can actually adjust that color independently even though it’s been used already.

I'm a big fan of Physicspak.

Other sneaks included Scene Stitch, which remove parts of a scene Content Aware Fill can't properly fill and replaces them with semantically appropriate objects from another library; Physicspak, which fills a space with graphics - like when you need a shape filled with certain types of graphics, it calculates the size and shape of all the filler graphics; Sonicscape, which allows a tactile and visual approach to arranging 360 audio inside 360 video; Sidewinder, which provides depth to 360 video; Quick3D, which searches for 3D models based on crude drawings; Puppetron, which applies machine learning to remixing images to apply styles to facial photographs; and Deepfill, which fills in gaps within incomplete images using synthesized image patches.

You can see videos of all the Sneaks on Adobe's blog.

After Sneaks, time to Bash.

Day 1 at Adobe MAX: Things People Said

This is my first MAX, and I naively looked at the map and my schedule and said "ah, this will be easy. It's like a fraction of the size NAB is, so I won't die!"

MAX starts early, ends late, and now 11,000 steps later I feel I did not emotionally prepare.

But don't let me whining fool you: it was the bomb so far. I've got a couple of cool stories in the works and I'll definitely have some fascinating stuff to share later today after MAX Sneaks -- the session where Adobe shows off new tech in progress/shows us resistance is futile -- but for now, I wanted to tell you the best things people said.

Between Adobe Spark and Dimension offering new tools I didn't even know I needed, and the focus on immersive technology and machine learning through Adobe Sensei and the new VR tools in Premiere and After Effects, a lot of the conversation was focused on how to continually remove the technical barriers between humans and machines.

"Artificial intelligence will evolve and learn to harness the entire creative community, anticipating what you want to do so you an have the freedom to focus on creativity....When you put put art and science to work, magic can happen." -Shantanu Narayen, CEO, Adobe

Because of the increased accessibility to tools, "user expectations have changed....We have a generation that has grown up on mobile devices. We're taking into consideration the expanding needs of design." -- Jamie Myrold, VP of Design, Adobe

Adobe Sensei will "amplify human creativity and intelligence." - Bryan Lamkin, Executive Vice President & General Manager, Digital Media, Adobe

"Is VR dead because AR is big? I hope VR is dead because it’s going to kill me." - Matt Lewis, Practical Magic (he was joking)

"I just started doing yoga and part of that is learning how the mind and body are two different entities and being a person is a collaboration of both. When you’re watching a film, you’re usually also kind of thinking about other things while your body is sitting there. In VR, you’re completely involved as a whole person. Because this is all contained in one environment, it becomes the ultimate teaching tool. What you teach is up to your imagination. From there it’s about making sure those tools are accessible, so you can teach many things to different kinds of people." - Olivia Peace, 2017 Sundance Ignite Fellow

"I want the story to connect with other humans. This is taking it to another level. It’s less about interpretation and more about feeling. We want one human to tell a story to another human with no technical barrier." - Stefano Corazza, Sr Director, Engineering, Adobe

Posted by: Kylee Peña on Oct 19, 2017 at 3:54:50 pm adobe max, vr, ar, immersive

Yes, Adobe CC Video Apps Updated at MAX

[I'm at Adobe MAX this week. You can also follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates and/or breakfast-related observations.]

It might only be Halloween, but Christmas has come early for Premiere, After Effects, and other Adobe Creative Cloud video apps users.

At IBC, Adobe announced its next round of integrated workflows and performance enhancements. This morning at Adobe MAX, a creativity conference in Las Vegas, those updates were released into the wild.

If you’re only recently accepting that Final Cut Pro 7 is probably not going to keep working for you forever — especially considering Apple’s unsurprising recent announcement it won’t be supported in High Sierra — maybe it’s time to look at what Adobe Creative Cloud has to offer because some of the updates will seem a bit familiar. The rest of it – from VR to AI – could hardly have been fathomed the last time FCP7 was updated.

Today’s release includes announcements sprinkled throughout the year, including Motion Graphics templates from After Effects to Premiere, which allow ease of use of graphics packages for lower thirds and bumpers.

Virtual reality is now possible inside Premiere, with editors being able to work while wearing VR head-sets. VR mode in Premiere and VR Comp Editor in After Effects will allow VR producers and editors to take the next step forward in immersive storytelling, scrubbing the timeline through the headset or switching between different formats to make sure it’ll work no matter the platform. Audio editing in VR allows audio to be determined by orientation or position as well.

Character Animator 1.0 is now available, with many changes to its core functions including accurately matching mouth shape thanks to Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s artificial intellifence and machine learning platform. Sensei also drives auto-ducking in Audition, which automatically lowers soundtrack volume during spoken dialog.

“Adobe continues to lead the creative revolution, driving modernization and innovation that will accelerate the creative process across all platforms and devices,” said Bryan Lamkin, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Media at Adobe. “Today, we unveiled a new generation of Creative Cloud, with a wide spectrum of capabilities—from new experience design, 2D animation and 3D rendering apps to an all-new, cloud-based photography service. These tools enable creative professionals and enthusiasts to express themselves and reach their full creative potential anytime, anywhere, on any device.”

And maybe most important for us video nerds: the ability to open multiple projects and share projects with locking, as well as continued support for more formats in the timeline. Team Projects should become a solution for collaborative workflows that many users have been demanding for many months. Keyboard shortcut mapping has also been creatly improved with a visual shortcut editor.

Having multiple projects open means being able to have a more traditional, streamlined workflow: splitting acts up into projects, having multiple episodes available, or just being able to pull from a template project in a tab-based structure.

Project locking allows users to lock projects in order to alert others when a project is currently being edited so other users cannot overwrite edits. Users can assign read-only access to those that need it for viewing purposes only.

Both of those updates will be familiar to Avid and FCP7 users, as many Premiere users have been trying to find workarounds to edit this way for quite a while.

While many of these features have been in beta for a while and have had reviews hitting the internet in the months since, putting them to work in real working environments will be the real test in seeing how Premiere continues to take hold, especially in high level workflows in Hollywood. Premiere has already been hitting LA hard, being the NLE of choice for David Fincher’s “Mindhunter” series, Al Gore’s “An Iconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, and the feature film “6 Below” among many others.

There will surely be more for Adobe fans from MAX this week as the creativity conference continues through Friday and includes MAX Sneaks, a session on futurist technology being worked on at Adobe. Follow along online with MAX keynotes:

Posted by: Kylee Peña on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:00:52 pm adobe, premiere, after affects, max, fcp7, avid

Power Dynamics Below the Line in Hollywood (and everywhere else)

If you’re anywhere near Hollywood this week, you’ve got a hot take on Harvey Weinstein. I’ve only been here a few years, exclusively “below the line”, and I heard all the rumors too. I dreaded ever having even secondhand contact with the man and his company: a powerful star maker with the ability to squash any career he chose, a blatant chauvinist, and an indecent human being whose participation in the entertainment industry seemed immoveable.

So many of us, especially women, are or have been explicitly sexually abused, assaulted or harassed. Some of us have been raped – one in five women will be raped in their lifetimes. A lot of us have also never spoken of sexual violence. Some of us, myself included, have never publicly acknowledged being emotionally abused, gaslit and manipulated for years.

If you ask yourself why we don’t speak up immediately, look at the women who have come forward to talk about Weinstein, Bill Cosby, or — god help us — our president. Come forward when it happens and you’re lying and must show proof. Wait until you have strength in numbers to report and you’re a bandwagon attention seeker. Keep quiet forever and well I guess it wasn’t really what you said it was, drama queen. And often a lot of these accusations go nowhere. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits are waiting in a backlog right now.

And the men still win awards, accept paychecks, get elected to office. They continue to hold their power regardless of what they’ve done.

A lot of the conversation has been among above-the-line people over the last week: directors, actors, writers, and similarly visible individuals in the entertainment industry. Abuses by these kinds of people on below-the-line individuals — art department, editors, camera department, technicians, make-up artists — aren’t at all uncommon. But for those of us below-the-line, most of the abuse we face each day isn’t necessarily manifested in a villain like Harvey Weinstein who we can now shame and run out of town. Not everyone has been cornered by a man who tries to expose himself to us or asks us to take a bath with him (although good god, too many of us have).

But all women in our below-the-line workplaces – especially technical roles like in post production where we are vastly outnumbered – are affected by these same power dynamics. It’s the same gender power dynamic that would convince a man to try to force himself on you which exists to some degree in the mind of a man in charge of hiring or promoting you (or not), by nature of how our society is constructed around bias and stereotypes.

And in many ways this is even more damaging and dangerous: the villain isn’t the vile man with the “open secret” of abuse, he’s the Self-Described Nice Guy who thinks he’s doing nothing wrong.

The Self-Described Nice Guy* is different from the Abusive Monster. The Abusive Monster in these circumstances often knows explicitly what he’s doing is bad and just doesn’t care. He’s drunk on power, taking it out via sexual violence. He gropes, touches, rapes, suggests, intimidates. There’s no grey area to what he’s doing to everyday folk: it’s definitely bad and easily condemned once airing the dirty laundry is normal. Go away, Abusive Monster.

(Whether he actually goes away or gets another powerful job is a whole ‘nother thing.)

The Self-Described Nice Guy is more pervasive and harder to avoid. The Self-Described Nice Guy’s implicit gender bias prevents him from making good judgements about what women are capable of in tech jobs. Nice Guy thinks his assumptions about women are progressive and helpful – women just want to have babies (no they don’t), they’re not as mathy (yes they are), they need my protection (no they don’t) – when in reality they’re backwards and harmful. The Nice Guy sees himself in young men and naturally wishes to mentor and promote a younger version of himself. The Nice Guy seeks to make hiring decisions through a meritocracy, ignoring privilege and artificial barriers that exist.

White male privilege by Swedish artist Emanu

He too is drunk on power, but he doesn’t know it until it’s threatened: he hears the word “diversity” and writes a 100 page memo on why women are biologically unsuited for this work. Thanks Nice Guy, people say, maybe we should listen to your insight.

But these wrongful assumptions and scientifically incorrect facts are actively keeping women from being successful in below-the-line technical jobs.

Only about 18% of picture editors and 3% of directors of photography in television and film are women, and that number hasn’t improved in 20 years and continues to drop off in other technical classifications. Expanding beyond the entertainment industry into adjacent fields where data is more widely collected, we see women graduating at increasing rates in engineering and computer science and leaving their jobs by mid-career. In fact, over 40% of female engineers leave by age thirty, and only a quarter of those leave for family purposes. The other reasons? A lack of promotional opportunities and mentorship – far more barriers to climbing the ladder than men -- yes, they also leave jobs because they're frustrated, but at a much lower rate.

And it’s not just the big picture stuff, like mentorship. Women die a death of a thousand cuts from Nice Guys during their career, eventually exiting when they’ve had too much. Things like being overtalked in meetings, having credit for their ideas co-opted, being passed over for a gig because they probably can’t lift a camera, being called a bitch or a prude depending on the circumstances, or being corrected on tone happen every single day. Being accused of making everything “a gender thing” when suggesting more inclusive language is common. Being laughed at for suggesting an organization seek a woman for a panel of experts. Being complimented on appearance but never job performance. Being accused of tokenism for hiring another woman.

Reed Morano, ASC -- Emmy winning director/woman able to lift a camera.

In a ten year pan-industry study, IZA Institute of of Labor Economics found that this gap didn’t exist because of skill or bargaining power or motivation. Men just valued women less than they valued men.

These acts are committed by Nice Guys who just want to keep things fair in the industry. They often consider themselves allies, but they don’t internalize the fact that the industry’s narrow path to success was built to sustain only people like them. And many women choose never to speak of it. When we come forward when it happens, we’re accused of embellishment and must show proof. If we wait until we have strength in numbers, we’re bandwagon feminists who get pushed in a room alone together, separated from the network of influence. And if we continue to keep quiet forever, we’re an example of how this problem obviously just doesn’t exist at all.

It’s all the same power dynamic as a physically, violently abusive person. It just happens in micro-interactions every single day instead.

While Abusive Monster usually knows his power, Self-Described Nice Guy often doesn’t because he’s just too nice to leverage something like gender dynamics, right? But when Self-Described Nice Guys refuse to listen to women, accept their male privilege, and ask how to help, their place in the power structure is solidified.

If Weinstein is to be a turning point for Hollywood, it needs to be a turning point from the bottom up too. I hope that being able to tell the world about the horrifying crimes against women that these powerful men commit becomes normal and drives these monsters out of the mainstream, and that accepting that women are generally telling the truth becomes normal. I want to believe that openly talking about gender power dynamics more and more will help level the playing field, so women who come forward can feel safe and find justice instead of being called sluts and accused of attention-seeking.

But the truth is that men still hold this power, and without true, committed allies willing to actively share it, this is just another week in Hollywood.

(*Women can be Nice Guys too.)

Posted by: Kylee Peña on Oct 12, 2017 at 11:15:39 pm gender, power, privilege, hollywood, film and television

Focusing on post-production, from editing and motion graphics to personal experiences and the psychology of being an editor.


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