Sunday , May 26 2024
Adobe MAX

Adobe MAX: Creativity, Software, Hardware and ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Adobe MAX, took place last month at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The annual conference brings Adobe users, trainers, and executives together to learn and to celebrate creativity. The software and training create a Wonderland for creatives and nerds, and this year, there were rabbits, too.

Besides the many classes, workshops, and presentations, a key element of Adobe MAX is the Community Pavilion. It’s a trade show for companies that make Adobe related hardware and software, and other products that make things easier for or inspire users. It is also a lounge for attendees. They have walls you can draw on and, no, your mother does not yell at you. You can watch web podcasts being created live, read and buy books, get your social media portrait taken, hang out in a simulated campground next to an Airstream RV, and party.

I’ll focus on the hardware, software, and rabbits.

Thank You, HP

If you’d like to carry less equipment with you to shoot locations or client offices, Hewlett Packard may have what you need. Announced at Adobe MAX and available in December, the HP ZBook x2 packs more power in a small package than ever before. It looks like a laptop yet has the power of a video editing workstation. It works as a traditional laptop or a tablet. Its “detached mode” lets you continue to use it like a laptop with the screen disconnected. Finally, in docked mode, through the HP ZBook Dock you can attach it to dual 4K displays, taking advantage of its Thunderbolt 3 support.

Adobe MAX
The HP ZBook x2 works in detached mode and can supprt dual 4K displays

Sound like a dream machine? That was HP’s idea. They talked with graphics professionals to understand their pain points and workflows. They then designed this ZBook from the circuits up to be exactly what creatives needed.

Other features that will make creatives happy: It is touch and Wacom compatible with over 4000 pen enabled pressure points and angles; 18 hotkeys built into the side of the screen; HP worked with Dreamworks to Dreamcolor enable it; front and rear facing cameras; it can connect directly to a video camera; certified to work with Adobe products; and, it weighs only 3.6 pounds, with another pound for the keyboard.

When you get it to the field, then what? It has a battery life of ten to twelve hours. If you are doing heavy video editing that may reduce to five or six. However, with HP fast charge you can be back up to 50 percent battery power within 40 minutes.

Prices will start around $1,800. A data sheet is available at


It’s not really a studio; it’s a little white box. But, this little SlingStudio white box allows you to record, switch and stream live HD video to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and other sites. It supports multiple cameras wirelessly, freeing you from cable jungle. It includes a fully functional audio mixer and will support live graphics such as titles, lower thirds, and scoreboards.

Adobe MAX
SlingStudio allows you to record, switch and stream live HD video

What impressed me most was its ability, after your live broadcast is completed, to transfer the entire production to Adobe Premiere Pro, preserving all the cuts and graphics you did live.

The SlingStudio weighs only 1.43 pounds and is silent (no fans or vents). Its battery life is 2 to 4 hours depending how you are using it. Additional battery packs can be purchased.

If live streaming is where you want to go, check the SlingStudio website. Prices start around $1,000.

Wall Contour Graphics

This is neither software or hardware but a mash-up of the two. All businesses need signs from time to time and designers need a reliable place to get them. Enter SignLab.

On the floor of the Community Pavilion a rare event occurred. They demonstrated a product that I had never seen before: Wall Contour Graphics.

Adobe MAX
Amazing posters by SignLab that look painted onto contuoured surfaces

At their booth, I saw a sign on a brick background. It looked like it was painted onto the bricks. “This must be expensive,” I thought. For what you get, it isn’t at all.

As a designer, you create the design. The resulting poster, in sizes from 12” x 24” to 48” x 96”, arrives with a peel off background. You can apply it to any textured surface, including bricks, stucco or concrete. The paint like appearance is amazing and SignLab says that it will last up to a year and is fade-resistant.

SignLab also provides a wide variety of other kinds of signs and has some free tutorials on its site.


Want to get your feet wet in virtual reality (VR)? Google has a way.

Adobe MAX
A VR cycle built with Google Blocks

Google Blocks is a free app for the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Using six tools – shape, modify, stroke, paint, grab, and erase – users can design, according to Google, “Models as simple as a mug or as complex as a spaceship.”

The demo reminded me somewhat of Minecraft, but in VR. I didn’t have time to create anything complex, but the tools were easy to use, and I felt I would become quite comfortable with them in a short time. This looks like a good way to get started building in VR, not just playing in it.

Google also offers a site to share your work and check out other people’s creations.


The entire Alice in Wonderland feel to the Adobe MAX conference was implemented literally this year at Adobe BASH. Traditionally, after the Adobe MAX Sneaks on the Thursday of the event, the conference party follows. There are more classes on Friday. It’s a test of your constitution to stay late at the BASH and make an 8:30 AM class.

Adobe MAX
Max BASH had an Alice in Wonderland theme

This year’s party was held behind the Linq Casino. There were giant white rabbits, an Alice in Wonderland maze, seating taken from old Alice in Wonderland amusement park rides, and more walls to write on. What people write on walls gets a lot more interesting after an hour of free drinks.

Next year’s Adobe MAX is scheduled to return to Los Angeles, but I hope Adobe reconsiders and take MAX on the road again. Either way, artist, photographer, designer, or filmmaker, this is an event that will amp up both your knowledge and enthusiasm. You can watch videos from this year’s event and start planning for next year at the MAX website.


About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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