Where’s The Danged CS5 Software?
It’s no surprise that the question we get asked the most is “When are you going to release CS5-compatible versions of your software?” We’ve been working on it for a long time now and things are finally to the state that we can talk about them. This message is a bit long but it gives you a glimpse into the world of software development and might help you make decisions about what kinds of jobs you'll be able to do in the coming months. As vocal as the CS5 folks are, we've recently had quite a bit of feedback from people who are still running CS4/CS3 and who would like the new features as soon as possible. As you'll read we are going to accommodate you guys too.
When I worked in production I used to talk to software companies and wonder how they could possibly work so slowly. As a production guy I could get a dozen projects done in the time it took them to come out with one measly bug fix. Now that I work in software I have a different perspective. If Zaxwerks plug-ins were simple it would be a different story. If only we’d stuck with filters and effects instead of workflow and interfaces we would have been done long ago. But as luck would have it we don’t write simple plug-ins and we feel that interface and workflow is King, so we ended up firmly laying in the bed of our own creation.
Recently some folks have remarked that there’s not much going on in the Zaxwerks camp. To the outside observer that’s probably true. But I wish you could see the amount of action that really has been going on at Zaxwerks over the past two years. Software development is horribly front-loaded. You can’t do a 2-week project and release it; or a 2-month project. Software projects are much bigger. In our case this version has been a 2-year project.
The biggest problem with our CS5 conversion has been that it caught us while we were already in the middle of adding features. In order to add the new features and take Invigorator/ProAnimator to the next level we also had to rewrite the entire user interface. 4-view windows, movable panels, built-in vector drawing, better text handling, how the whole program flows and works as a unit, none of these could have been done with the old way the program was written, so we had to rewrite.
We were well into the middle of this project when Adobe let us know there would be no support for 32 bit plug-ins in CS5. That was a bombshell. We had to convert to 64 bit, but you can’t rewrite your code, add new features and do a conversion all at the same time. There wasn’t anything we could do except to finish the new features before we could start the conversion. This means we’ve been sitting on new software with new features for months, but couldn’t release it because it’s not compatible with CS5. Talk about frustrating!
To fill the void caused by the conversion delay we started the newsletter. I figured that a new tutorial and user story every month would at least help you learn new things and perhaps inspire you with examples of work others have done. While writing the newsletter we have uncovered lots of interesting projects and have discovered some real treats in the production world. If you’ve missed any newsletter all the back issues are available on our website. Sorry, however, if that made it seem like we weren’t working on the software. If it makes any difference please know that the newsletter hasn’t detracted one bit from the forward progress of the programming.
Do I wish we had all the CS5 versions done right now? Hell yes. Is CS5 compatibility our top priority? We have been working on nothing else for months. Have we been making progress? Absolutely, and the end is in sight. I hesitate to share formal release dates because in software you can get blindsided pretty easily and we’ve been blindsided on this conversion several times now.
So is there any good news? Fortunately there is. The Windows conversion has gone very well. There are actually two parts to the conversion, one is converting to 64 bit and the other is converting old Carbon calls on the Mac to the new Cocoa calls. Windows doesn’t have the Carbon/Cocoa issue so its conversion is nearing completion. The Mac conversion however involves thousands of changes which will still take a few more months to finish. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start releasing CS5 compatible plug-ins as they are completed.
So here’s the projected release sequence. As usual I need to give you a disclaimer that plans can change and no matter how likely it seems that things are on track schedules can shift in dramatic ways, but with that in mind here’s what we project as our likely release schedule.
First to be released will be 3D Reflector for both Mac and Windows. This plug-in has no interface other than what you see in the After Effects, Effect Controls Window. So its conversion has gone the smoothest. 3D Serpentine will be next for similar reasons, followed by 3D Warps. We have to do a bit more work on Warps but it’s not too bad. The good news is that both the Mac and Windows versions can be released at the same time, so the CS5 version of 3D Reflector is expected to go public two weeks from today. The others will follow shortly.
After that we’ll release 3D Flag, Layer Tools and Werks1… but only for Windows. The Mac versions require the big switchover to Cocoa because of all the custom interfaces we built for those plug-ins. So the Mac versions will be delayed for a month or two but at least you Windows guys will be up and running. In my mind it’s not ideal to release for one platform before the other but if we can make half of you happy that’s better than none of you. Also, releasing the Windows versions first doesn’t slow down the Mac programming so you Mac users can rest assured that you’ll get your updates as soon as is humanly possible.
Next we’ll release the standalone versions of ProModeler 5 and ProAnimator 5. Since the standalones are not restricted by the 64 bit or the Cocoa issues, these programs will stay 32 bit for the time being. The upside to this is that we’ll be able to release both the Mac and Windows versions at the same time. This will be the debut of all the new features we’ve been working on. It should be exciting. Also around this time we’ll release the 32 bit version of the ProAnimator 5 plug-in. The 32 bit version will run in AE CS3 and CS4. The CS5 version will come later.
Following this will be the Windows-only releases of 3D Invigorator Classic, Pro and Photoshop. More excitement, with champagne popping around the office.
At this point all of our Windows software will be released and compatible with CS5. Next it’ll seem like we’ve gone dark for a month or two as we feverishly work on the Cocoa updates for the Mac. If you are a Mac CS5 user you’re probably cursing under your breath right now, and I apologize for that, but these are the cards Apple and Adobe have dealt us. Once we’ve rewritten our windowing system we’ll knock out each plug-in in order of complexity. First 3D Flag, Werks and Layer Tools for Mac, followed by 3D Invigorator Classic/Pro, and finally ProAnimator. Then some serious champagne popping and maybe a day or two off. Whew.
So I hope this talk has helped you understand what’s going on inside Zaxwerks. I understand and share your frustration at not being able to use our software inside of CS5 yet, and even if you aren’t happy with us perhaps you can at least appreciate the road we’ve been on for the last two years and how it’ll finally see fruition in these next few months.
Stay tuned. There’s going to be a lot of software coming out of Zaxwerks in the near future. Those of you who have purchased recently will qualify for free upgrades to the new software. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if you qualify.
Thanks for listening.