By Hugh John
Another year, another show, another fulsome review... Christmas festivities over, the attention of the education world turns to BETT. Adobe’s keen education pricing policy ensures that their products, most of which will be demonstrated at Olympia, are annual contenders for the unofficial ‘best value for money’ award. And none more so than the Digital School Collection, now in version 4.
And this 2010 version? Same as it ever was; that is, a suite of powerful, easy to use applications, bristling with innovative and imaginative technology and representing tremendous value.
Digital School Collection CS4 consists of five programs; Adobe Photoshop Elements 8, Adobe Premiere Elements 8, Adobe Contribute CS4, Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro, and Adobe Soundbooth CS4. It also includes a single copy of the Teacher Resource DVD which contains “project-based activities that encourage active learning and motivate student participation in class assignments... lessons, tutorials, tips and tricks, and video lesson examples”.
The primary focus of many of Photoshop Elements' new features is usability and workflow. How easily and quickly can editing tasks be performed and how effectively can digital media be organised? The huge storage capacity of modern hard drives and the sophistication of digital cameras mean that individuals and groups can build up a huge photo or video collection on a single holiday or school journey. All well and good, but editing and collating this media has, until now, been extremely laborious and time consuming.
There are some excellent standalone DAM (Digital Asset Management) resources available - Extensis Portfolio springs to mind - but the Photoshop Elements team has done a great job in beefing up the program’s existing Organizer tool, making it a more than adequate archiving tool for most users.
As ever, a whole range of improvements has been implemented in the new Photoshop Elements. Some of the most impressive are;
- Photomerge Exposure is a new tool that analyses and then combines images containing light and dark areas (one taken with Flash, one without) into a single well lit picture (flash photography is a specialism that even experienced photographers can struggle with).
- Photoshop Elements 8 can resize images and even go from landscape to portrait format without any distortion or loss of proportion (recomposition has never been easier).
- Auto-Analyzer can be directed to scan media and return search results for the best quality photographs and videos.
- The new People Recognition function can go through your digital media database and, using face recognition technology, quickly identify and tag people. This could prove to be a huge time saver when it comes to organising folders. How clever is that?
- The new autosyncing process ensures that, “media added or edited on one computer will automatically be synced to another” (teachers struggling to maintain photo and video databases on more than one computer will be delighted with this).
- The new full-screen previews enables users to make on the fly edits of photos and videos. This makes it much easier to assess and scrutinise digital media from within the Organizer.
Premiere Elements has had a similarly rigorous makeover. New features include:
- InstantMovie can help bring out the Spielberg or Tarrantino (perhaps not!) in your students. This automated feature can stitch together your best clips, add transition links and fuse the whole sequence together with a sound clip. If you don’t like it you can customise it.
- Motion Tracking ensures that graphics, text and effects move in sync with the subject. Add bubbles, birds, unicorns. . . .whatever!
- Artwork Library let’s you get as silly as you want to get. Add a moustache, glasses or clown’s hat. This is going to be a sure-fire winner in the classroom.
- If Adobe has a secret ‘Magic Button’ then this is it. Pressing the ‘Fix Quality Problems in Clip’ prompt will automatically correct shaky or underexposed footage.
This brief review barely touches on the breadth and scale of Digital School Collection. Suffice to say that, yet again, Adobe has come up with a digital toolset – and we haven’t even mentioned the excellent Soundbooth, Contribute and Acrobat applications - that allows students and teachers to capture, manipulate, present and transfer digital media in a huge variety of ways.
There’s one final twist to Graphics Groundhog Day. That’s the point when the reviewer marvels at the sophistication and of the new School Digital Collection suite and wonders whether Adobe will be able to implement the same significant improvements in the coming year and then, 12 months later...
Adobe will be demonstrating their products on stand K40. Visitors will be able to learn about Adobe Education Solutions and find out about the new Career Focused Curriculum and Adobe Certification Programs. There will be, “hands-on product demonstrations, teacher-led presentations, advice from Adobe staff and the opportunity for visitors to share their own experiences with Adobe.”
January 13-16, Olympia, London
Adobe - Stand K40