2010 in review: The year for creatives

This has been a busy year for creative folk—both for the pros and those right-brained among us whose avocation may be in the creative arts, but who earn their living (or not) in some other way.

Adobe and Apple have been in the forefront of the news for most of the year, sometimes together, often clashing. The year 2010 has also seen a heightened consciousness about HTML5, an accelerating popularity of consumer video, the debut of the iPad ( ) as a major artistic and publishing platform, a complete overhaul of Pantone’s venerable color system, and, of course (like it or not) Flash.

All Adobe all the time

Adobe has been bustling all year. And while the company made waves in a number of high-profile areas, it’s possible to sum up Adobe's 2010 contribution to the creative process as, simply, CS5.

With the mid-April launch of 15 pro-level applications and four online services, the fifth version of Adobe’s Creative Suite was a monumental effort that no creative pro or advanced amateur could ignore. Photoshop CS5 was, by most accounts, an unqualified home run. Premiere Pro CS5, featuring the new Mercury Playback Engine and other innovations, acquitted itself nicely. Most other apps in the suite also earned positive reviews. Technically part of CS5, but not released concurrently, was the long-anticipated Acrobat X and its companion, Reader X. And not technically part of CS5, but closely related, was the upgrade of Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom ( ) photo management software.

But pros weren't the only ones feeling the love. Adobe also introduced a brand new consumer video editing program for the Mac, just like the one it has for Windows PCs. Premiere Elements 9 made a respectable debut (complete with a matching Windows version number), and was welcomed by the Mac community.

Adobe has not neglected the audio creatives, either. It is now readying a new Mac version of Audition, the audio file and multitrack editor, which is still in beta.

Flash in your face

Blaring headlines this year focused on Flash. As part of the massive CS5 release, Adobe rethought its Flash concept and reevaluated its multimedia content creation user base. It then gathered together Flash Professional CS5, Flex Builder (renamed Flash Builder 4), and the brand new Flash Catalyst design program under the Flash banner and integrated them with new online services and the Omniture Web analytics tool.

But Adobe also did something else with Flash Professional of which it was immensely proud: It promoted Flash CS5 as a new app-maker for the iPhone. Before long though, Apple's legendary black-turtlenecked CEO let loose a withering broadside that not only reinforced the existing Flash ban on Apple's mobile devices but nixed any hope that Flash developers would be able to use the program's new Packager for iPhone to create apps for the popular Apple smart phone. Tempers flared and then cooled, as Apple later loosened those restrictions, and subsequently ended the auto installation of the Flash player for all new Macs.

Everything's back to its usual slow burn—for now—but 2010's protracted Flash controversy will likely be remembered as one of the sharpest rifts between two formerly close (at least nominally) allies in the tech realm.

The i’s have it

Meanwhile, in Cupertino, a mere 15-minute commute from Adobe's San Jose headquarters, Apple finally got it together to release a new version of iLife—well, at least the iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand parts of the suite—but it managed to dismay a lot of folks by ignoring its own Web builder, iWeb ( ).

Targeted to creative consumers, the new iLife '11 earned some respectable reviews. But, in keeping with the rising popularity of consumer video, it was iMovie that received most of the kudos for the iLife upgrade.

On the pro side, Apple also updated its Aperture photo management program.

One of Apple's most notable releases for artists this year, arguably, has been the iPad. While not geared specifically for artists, the sheer abundance of drawing and painting tools developed for it—Autodesk's SketchBook Pro, Lucky Clan's ArtStudio, and many others—more than qualify it as a killer creative tool. There’s even a Mobile Art Conference now devoted to art creation on the iPad and the iPhone.

HTML 5

Underlying the Flash/Apple/Adobe brawl was the continuing advance in HTML5 development. Begun as an initiative some seven years ago, and still far from complete, 2010 saw an exponential leap in public consciousness concerning the Web's markup language and the role a new version is destined to play in the future of Web video.

More importantly, the spec itself has gained support from a number of quarters.  Apple is perhaps its most vocal cheerleader, but Adobe, Google, Microsoft, and other large vendors are also getting on board. That’s despite (or because of) the fact that, at least in some quarters, it's considered the most promising path to a Flash alternative for video on the Web.

Colors everywhere

If you work with color—and who in the graphics field doesn’t—there was some fairly momentous news from Pantone. It's not often that a company completely overhauls its product line. But this year, Pantone replaced its famous Pantone Color Matching System (or PMS as it’s affectionately known) with the new Pantone Plus system. Pantone Plus is aimed at helping designers more easily choose, specify, and match colors. Its new features include the chromatic arrangement of colors, an expanded palette of spot colors, additional new metallics, and a broader range of neons.

Up ahead

Adobe is planning to make available its new Digital Publishing Suite in the second quarter of 2011. This set of hosted services and companion viewer technology will let publishers create, publish, optimize, and sell content directly to consumers via content retailers or in mobile venues such as the Apple App Store.

As consumer video becomes more commonplace, expect to see an increasing number of still cameras (including DSLRs) shooting video, and an increasing number of video cameras shooting impressive stills. Already, smart phones like the iPhone 4 are becoming the tools of choice for on-the-spot video. And video recording is going 3D: Panasonic's new HDC-SDT750 handheld video camera, the first consumer-oriented 3D camcorder, is likely just the beginning.

Finally, video editors on the Apple platform are awaiting word about what Apple intends to do with Final Cut Studio, its professional editing suite that was last updated in 2009. For the video community, it's fair the say that the suspense is palpable.

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