Sweet Suite Tools


onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition is the most exciting set of photo-editing tools to arrive this year.

I’ve been a fan of the software’s previous incarnations, and relied on its  Photoshop plug-ins. Now, however, I launch the new version  in stand-alone mode. Why? Because I love the interface  and the fluid workflow it enables. Everything I need is a mouse-click away. I switch between apps to perform multiple editing tasks, create my own presets,  and batch process images—all under one roof.


The Summer of CS6: Adobe Photoshop

Editor’s Note: The videos in this review can be viewed full size by clicking the full-screen button, and screen-shots can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Adobe Photoshop CS6

Adobe beckons us to dive into Photoshop CS6 Extended with a cool, sea- blue splash screen. And we’re pleased to report the experience is as refreshing as a midsummer’s swim in the Pacific.

Clearly the success of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has influenced Creative Suite 6. Photoshop’s interface now closely resembles Lightroom, i.e., it’s sleek black with the lights dimmed down to focus the user’s attention on the canvas. But if that’s not your cup of tea, you can adjust the color scheme.

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Mini Bridge is now located more conveniently below the canvas area in film-scroll mode for quick access to files.

If you click on the Crop tool you’ll think you’re in Lightroom. Note the handles and grid overlay in the screen-shot below.

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At the top of the screen you’ll see that the Delete Cropped Pixels checkbox is selected. That means once you’ve made your crop it’s a done deal. We suggest unchecking which gives you the option of tweaking the crop or returning to the original image size in the future. In addition to performing unconstrained or constrained adjustments, you can choose from a series of crop presets or create your own.

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And of course you can crop outside the margins of an image to create a border. The new tool is very flexible.



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The often overlooked Patch tool has been empowered with Content-Aware capabilities making it one of the stars of CS6. Watch the little patch video below.

See, it’s as easy as Sesame Street!


You Gotta Move!


And that’s not all relating to Content-Aware… one of the new “wow” features is the Content-Aware Move tool. This enables you to make a selection and move it to a new position while the background area is automatically filled-in. Look ma, no cloning! Here’s a quick video clip showing the tool in action.


Here’s another moving example, but just stills:

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Oh, and by the way, the demo videos in this review were edited in Photoshop CS6. Yup, read on.

Photoshop CS6 has incorporated significant video-editing features.

Although this nifty toolset won’t replace dedicated programs like Premiere Pro or After Effects, it’s a godsend for those who want to do occasional video work. It’s certainly welcome news for people who are familiar with the Photoshop environment, yet new to video. Instead of entering strange, new territory, you’ll feel right at home in Shop.

Here’s a sample video we put together called Summer of CS6:



Here’s a look at the Timeline for our video.


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Open any video file directly in Photoshop and you’ll see its timeline. You can manually scrub through the clip by dragging the time marker and  set In and Out points.


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In the above screen-shot I’ve adjusted the clip’s speed for a slow-motion effect.

In the layers panel you’ll see that each clip has its own layer. Additional clips can be added to a single track or separate tracks.

You can import still images and position them above a video track, then animate them via key frames or with preset pan and zoom effects.

You can shorten the duration of clips by dragging the clip’s edge (beginning or end) and if there are multiple clips on the track, Photoshop automatically shifts them so there’s no gap left in between.

Transitions are also a simple drag and drop affair…

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Of course you can add audio, simply Import music files to the audio track.


Got Filters?

You betcha! You’re in Photoshop, remember? You can filter or make color adjustments to your clips the same way you do with still images. Just convert the clip’s layer to a Smart Object and go at it.

NOTE: The video toolset is the same in both the Extended version of Photoshop and  the general release.


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Speed Freak

The fluidity of the video tool set is stunning. Even when we used an older laptop whose video card is not supported by CS6, there was no sense of performance drag. Everything zips merrily along.

And this is true across the board in Photoshop—performance is breathtakingly fast with operations that once seemed sluggish suddenly on steroids.

Adobe’s under the hood improvements alone make upgrading worth it.

Text Formatting

If you work with a lot of text in Photoshop, you’ll love CS6 as you can now create Character and Paragraph Styles in the manner of Adobe InDesign. This is a feature we’ve been longing for.

Artists will love the new and improved painting tools, like the ability to create spray-can effects with the Airbrush Tip, or apply paint to illustrations with a 3D conical

We painted the little seaside scene below and added touches of fog using a variety of brushes.


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Alas, we don’t have the space to cover all the features Photoshop CS6 Extended such as the new 3D controls, the powerful of Adobe Camera Raw 7, the Adaptive Wide Angle filter, new blur effects, vector layers, and many others. In fact, there’s just enough room for our “Street Smart” Editors’ Choice award which Adobe truly has earned.


Street Smart Editors' Choice Award

Get more info directly from the source

Funky Junk


Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads!

This book is a nostalgic bash—the inside poop on those novelty items every kid once dreamed of. If you’re old enough to remember how if felt to ogle the amazing, too-good-to-be-true gifts on the back of Superman and Archie comic books, then you’ll surely get a kick and some laffs out of this lavishly produced compendium of crap.

Here are not only the garish ads, but photos of the actual junk that was peddled & hyped. Kirk Demarais divides his commentary into four categories: “We Imagined”…They Sent…Behind the Mystery…Customer Satisfaction.”  Of course most of the stuff—like X-Ray Spex and Gigantic Dinosaurs—turned out to be a mondo downer. Dreams crumbled and dissolved once the  Polaris Nuclear Sub arrived or the  Ventriloquist Dummy, complete with plastic head and “held together with scrap fabric, cardboard, and rubber bands.” (Sob)

Well, at least if you order Mail-Order Mysteries, you won’t be disappointed, just surprised.

Satisfaction Guaranteed.

The Sound of Magic


OK, I’m back… my book is finished and it’s time to report on some good books for the holidays. I’ll start at the top of my list, with more in posts to follow.


Sondheim fans (of which I am one) are lining up for this…


The second volume of his collected lyrics:

Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany

You don’t have to be a lyricist or even a theatergoer to enjoy it—just a word-lover. Anyone interested in the creative process will find it fascinating. 

Writers of all stripes can learn from Sondheim’s approach to composition. Overcoming obstacles, finding flow and pulse. One minute he’s dissecting his art in great detail, the next he nails his point like a poet:

“There will always be a public for the past.”

You’ll find rabbits in his hat, of course—Sunday in the Park with George—so prepare to be dazzled.

Order it here from B&N

Calling All Collage Graduates


If digital collage and photo montage is your cup of tea, AKVIS Chameleon 7.5 is a wonderful tool that simplifies the process. Instead of creating time-consuming masks and selections, Chameleon does most of the work for you via four modes: Montage; Chameleon; Blend; and Emersion.

Here’s my test of Montage mode. I decided  to use this photo of my wife and put it on a different background.

original image for foreground

First I launched Chameleon and opened a background image. Next, I imported the foreground photo and positioned it above the background.


Using the program’s Keep Area pencil tool I drew rough blue lines within the figure. (Click on the screen-shots for a larger view.)  Then switching to the Drop Area pencil I drew rough red lines within the background.

What’s cool about this is you don’t have to draw an accurate outline of either area, just a rough scribble seems to do the trick.


Presto! You’re a quick-change artist.

To find out more about Chameleon, CLICK HERE.

Too Close for Comfort

CLOSE-UP by Esther Verhoef

This seductive psychological thriller by Esther Verhoef (translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent) begins with an icy, sociopathic voice describing a carefully calculated murder.

While the bath was filling up, my eye fell on the razor in its case. Not the disposable kind, but a handmade cutthroat razor, the sort you sometimes see in Italian barber shops, extremely sharp. My heart skipped a beat, such was the feeling the sharp razor awakened in me and the ideas—new ideas—that occurred to me. Then I shook my head. No. Stick to the plan. No improvisations. There’s always a next time.

With the promise of “a next time,” a nasty little ball is set in motion  and the reader begins to squirm.

Verhoef switches to a first person narrative of her heroine, Margot, a lonely, insecure young woman  trying to shake the memory of a relationship gone bad.

Verhoef cunningly draws us in close to Margo until we begin to share her vulnerability. We’re ultimately seduced by a growing sense of menace when she travels to London for a weekend getaway.

Be warned, there’s an undertow just below the surface of the text. Its inherent, erotic creepiness reminds me of Derek Marlowe’s haunting novel Nightshade

 Esther Verhoef

CLICK HERE to order the book on Amazon.

Close-Up is published by Felony & Mayhem in their superb “Foreign” series, which offers American readers the opportunity to discover an  unfamiliar realm of mysteries.


Founded by Maggie Topkis,  Felony & Mayhem Press is a house to keep your eye on. Although the publisher’s web site is in the process of renovation, if you  stop by now you can  enter your e-mail address and they’ll keep you “clued in.” CLICK HERE

[NOTE TO MAGGIE TOPKIS: Marlowe’s book has been out of print for many years and would make a wonderful addition to your list.]

Sweet Magic

Red Giant Software’s release of  Magic Bullet Suite 11 is a  potpourri of wow. This powerful bundle of wonder-plugs features  nine applications: Colorista II, Denoiser, Grinder, Instant HD, Looks 2, Mojo, Cosmo, PhotoLooks and Frames. The emphasis here is on professional color correction, “digital makeup,” and a wide range of cinematic “looks” that fit every genre.

With Magic Bullet Mojo you can apply a variety of tints and effects to your video.

What makes each app  stand out is the ability to fine-tune multiple parameters and  achieve the precise  “final cut” you’re seeking. Dragging a plug-in and dropping it on a clip in the timeline is only the beginning.


The screen shot above shows a partial view of  the Looks Builder interface as launched from Photoshop CS5—yes, it’s cool with still images. too!

I find this enormously helpful since I often shoot stills in advance of a video project and can experiment with various looks. I can tweak the effects and when I’ve got what I’m looking for,  save the “look”  and, later, apply it directly to my video  in Premiere Pro.

Also included in the bundle: Denoiser which preserves  definition while eliminating noise from your clips); Instant HD up-converts DV video into a variety of HD formats;  Grinder is for video conversion (Mac only – untested) ; and Frames which gives interlaced video the 24p cinematic look .

Download a  trial version and see for yourself just how sweet this new suite is.