Adobe Unveils LiveMotion

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BOSTON--During the keynote address at today's Seybold Seminars, Adobe Systems let publishing professionals have an initial peek at LiveMotion, the company's new Web animation tool that is undoubtedly intended to take a bite out of the market share of Macromedia Flash.

Shades of ImageStyler

LiveMotion, the "Flash-killer" application long rumored to be in the works at Adobe, features an interface that is almost identical to Adobe ImageStyler, a Web tool for business graphics that has also gained some fans among professional Web designers.

As with ImageStyler, LiveMotion lets you drag objects--including EPS graphics and Photoshop documents--onto a canvas, where you can apply styles using a library of presets or through a series of palettes. With a few clicks, users can add bevels, drop shadows, and other effects to text and image objects.

However, LiveMotion's animation features owe a debt to another Adobe product--After Effects. Via LiveMotion's timeline window, you can choose which attributes of an object to animate, then alter the object's attributes as you move an animation slider across the timeline. LiveMotion then creates your object's animation by tweening the points between keyframes.

Friendly to Photoshop

In recent years, Adobe has sought to improve the interoperability of its applications' native file formats. That's clearly true of LiveMotion, which offers strong support for native Photoshop files.

In the Seybold demo, an Adobe representative dragged and dropped a Photoshop file onto the LiveMotion canvas. At first, the multi-layered Photoshop file appeared as a single image object that could be manipulated like any other LiveMotion object. But using LiveMotion's Explode Layers command, the Adobe rep broke up the Photoshop document into several objects, one for each layer in the original document. At this point, each individual layer object can be manipulated separately (or even deleted) as any other object in LiveMotion.

Flash on Board

Though Adobe has long been considered a critic of Macromedia's Flash technology--it is a driving force behind Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an alternative file format for vector graphics on the Web--the company's attitude toward Flash has subtly shifted at Seybold. In addition to exporting files as Animated GIFs, JPEGs, and SVG animations, it will also export Flash files. Adobe even demonstrated a LiveMotion animation playing within Macromedia's Flash player.

Prospects for LiveMotion

LiveMotion's interface suggests that if it isn't a direct descendant of ImageStyler, it's at least a close cousin. If this new product does indeed incorporate ImageStyler's excellent GIF- and JPEG-creation features with an animation interface that's easier to use than the Director-inspired interface in Flash, LiveMotion may indeed be a serious player in the professional Web graphics market.

Adobe did not reveal LiveMotion's anticipated price or ship date.

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