(First published on blogcritics.org)
I have been attending computer technology events for 25 years, and without a doubt, the Adobe MAX conferences are the most educational and fun by a long shot. Adobe, the company that brings you Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, and other industry-standard software, uses the conference to inspire creativity, train, introduce new products, and help attendees develop their careers. This year’s conference in San Diego, November 2-4, surpassed my expectations.
You can’t teach people to be creative, but you can inspire them to find their creativity. Adobe does this with its Keynote Sessions. This year’s included superstars and lesser-known, but no less creative, artists.
Zac Posen, haute couture king and Project Runway judge, shared his story of finding his way into the fashion design field. His creative journey began because he initially just wanted to design clothes for his mom and his sister. When asked about what makes something glamorous, he said, “Glamour is a form of generosity of the spirit. You share a moment of spirit, of joy with someone.”
Another Keynote speaker had also shared many moments with the public, most of them scary rather than joyful. Motion picture auteur Quentin Tarantino talked about his films and the creative process. Near the end of his interview he was asked how he’d like to be remembered.
Tarantino joked, “As one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.” He continued, “No, seriously, I was at a small film festival recently where they were paying tribute to some of the greatest films ever made. I found myself watching Buster Keaton in The General. Think about that. Eighty years after a film is made, people are still gathering in a theater to watch it. If that could happen to one of my films, that’s how I’d like people to remember me.”
Adobe MAX offers a wide variety of ways for attendees to up their creativity game, including classes, hands-on labs, a trade show, and the most popular event at the conference, the MAX Sneaks.
The classes spanned the gamut from traditional to cutting-edge media. I attended classes on how to use Adobe tools to create comic books and how to create your own virtual reality movie. YouTube star and Adobe Creative Residency participant Sara Dietschy presented a particularly useful presentation for social media mavens called “Cutting Through the Clutter.”
Dietschy explained how she developed her shows Creative Spaces TV and That Creative Life, and shared the lessons she learned along the way. As a member of the Creative Residency program, she will have a year at Adobe to continue to develop her projects, distraction-free.
The trade show, which Adobe calls the Community Pavilion, offered an unanticipated insight into the nature of the Adobe MAX atmosphere. The welcome-reception night at the trade show, at which food and beverages are provided for attendees as they walk among the exhibits, happened on the same night as the seventh game of the World Series.
Several vendors hooked up laptops to the displays in their booths so that fans could watch the climactic meeting of the Cubs and Indians. Soon you could hear chants of “Let’s go Cubbies” from around the exhibition hall. When it came time for the exhibit hall to close, and the game was still going, Adobe could have had security chase everyone out of the hall. Instead the company chose to tune all the video screens they could to the World Series and changed the exhibit hall into a giant watch party. Thank you, Adobe.
MAX Sneaks is a night when Adobe presents projects still under development that may or may not work their way into the product line. This year’s co-host for Sneaks was comedian Jordan Peele, who recently made the jump to screenwriter/director with his film Get Out which will premier next February.
Peele added laughter to the night of “oos and ahs,” explaining that he was willing to dive into the deep end of the technology pool, but that he would have to do the dog paddle. He participated in the demo of what I thought was the most unbelievable of the new technologies, Project #VoCo.
This technology allows you to edit recorded speech by altering a transcript of the speech and creates a realistic-sounding voice from the altered text. Peele had fun altering the recorded voice of his former comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key. Amazingly, the newly created audio does not sound robotic or fake. Adobe has created Photoshop for sound.
After Sneaks, Adobe invited the crowd to the MAX Bash at the San Diego Embarcadero Marina Park.
Fun and Music
The MAX Bash was one of the most (appropriately) creative outdoor events I have ever attended. Two stages featured music from Alabama Shakes and The Mowglis. Food booths were distributed among the trees, interspersed with artwork created by participants and speakers. Some of the art exhibits were interactive, allowing partygoers to become part of and play with the art or invent new creations on the spot.
My favorite food spot involved a six-inch-wide conveyor belt that snaked around a grove of trees. Inside the grove were several tables where candy and stuffed pastries were made. As the candy-makers and pastry chefs finished their creations, they placed them on the conveyer belt. Partiers could then help themselves to as many sweets as they wanted. There was free cotton candy, too.