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The Top Updates and Sneak Peaks from Adobe MAX 2019

Ryan Plummer

The Future of Design: An Exclusive Interview with Adobe Principal Worldwide Evangelist Jason Levine, and Much More

NOTE FROM SoM: This article covers Adobe MAX2019, but there are even more conferences in the future! Check out these upcoming events in 2022!

The 2019 Adobe MAX conference was the biggest design meetup for Adobe in its nearly 40-year history (no surprise there — it seems like everyone is, or knows, a digital artist these days), with 15,000 attendees taking over the Los Angeles Convention Center from Sunday, November 2, through Wednesday, November 6.


School of Motion was there from beginning to end, reporting live on the After Effects update and all the groundbreaking Adobe MAX Sneaks; hosting a party with Puget Systems; helping Dave Grohl trend on Twitter; conducting an exclusive interview with Adobe's Principal Worldwide Evangelist, Jason Levine (see below); and running motion design training sessions featuring our venerable leader Joey Korenman.


If you missed this year's Adobe MAX experience, follow in our footsteps as we walk you through all the highlights, including what happened, what's new and what's to come; if you were fortunate enough to attend the conference, you still won't want to miss our video recap or the behind-the-scenes look at our conversation with Jason Levine.

What Happened at Adobe MAX 2019

The School of Motion Adobe MAX 2019 Recap Video

Like most years, a lot happened at Adobe MAX 2019. In addition to hearing from keynote speakers like photographer David LaChapelle, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, musician Dave Grohl and the very fashionable duo of Billie Eilish and Takashi Murakami, attendees watched Mr. Doodle draw, Vampire Weekend perform, SOM founder and CEO Joey Korenman present, and nearly 100 creatives congregate over card-activated craft beer taps on Monday night.



On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, SOM founder and CEO Joey Korenman spoke to audiences of current and aspiring motion graphics artists, sharing — in his trademark comedic and casual style — what motion design means, as well as how one practices the art and science of motion design, enters the MoGraph industry, and actually earns a living creating animations.


During his 70-minute Design in Motion: How to Enter the Field of Motion Design presentation Joey used a combination of projects — such as our brand manifesto video, created by Ordinary Folk, Blend's Opening Titles and the FITC Tokyo Titles — and tools, including After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator from Adobe, as well as Lottie, Webflow and Cinema 4D.


As demonstrated by our 2019 Motion Design Industry Survey, in our increasingly remote- and freelance-based industry MoGraph meetups represent one of the most important ways motion designers stay motivated and foster networking and collaborative opportunities with their peers.

At Adobe MAX 2019, we joined with Puget Systems to host an industry party in downtown Los Angeles, attracting around 100 creative artists, including School of Motion instructors, Teaching Assistants and alumni, as well as senior personnel at Adobe and Maxon, makers of our most heavily used 2D and 3D software, respectively.

Mograph meet-up at Adobe MAX 2019 hosted by School of Motion.jpeg

For hours Monday night, November 3, we gathered, swapped stories, brainstormed concepts, reminisced about courses, and satiated ourselves with food and draft beer, wine and cider from First Draft Taproom & Kitchen.

What's New from Adobe, as Announced at Adobe MAX 2019


Throughout Adobe MAX 2019, massive crowds gathered in the largest event space at the Los Angeles Convention Center for insights into what inspired and what's included in the American multinational computer software company's latest Creative Cloud releases and enhancements.

New App updates for the Creative Cloud 2020.png


With new GPU-based motion design apps appearing left and right, many motion designers have been looking to their long-preferred program to "get to up to speed" (pun intended).

The good news is, what hasn't yet been enhanced in version 17.0 will be in near-future iterations, as we were informed by key members of the app's engineering team during our Adobe MAX party in LA.

While we cannot share details of the not-yet-public information the After Effects engineers provided us, we can say that the 2019-2020 release is only the beginning of a new era for Adobe's premier motion design software.

While at Adobe MAX, we asked Adobe Community Professional and SOM Teaching Assistant and alum Kyle Hamrick to share his top takeaways. In his After Effects 17.0 breakdown, Kyle covers speed improvements impacting:

  • RAM Previews
  • Shape Layers
  • Expressions
  • Content Aware Fill
  • EXRs

He also reports on:

  • The new Cinema 4D Lite, updated for Maxon's Release 21
  • Essential Graphics Panel Dropdown Menus
  • Access to Text using Expressions


In line with Adobe MAX, in November 2019 Adobe released version 14.0 of its industry-leading video editing software Premiere Pro. Among the key features of this new release are:

  • Auto Reframe, powered by Adobe Sensei, which applies intelligent reframing to your footage
  • Text and graphics enhancements to the Essential Graphics panel for smoother titling and graphic workflows
  • Streamlined audio workflows for multi-channel effects and increased range for audio gain
  • Improved performance for the most widely used formats on macOS and Windows
  • Expanded system compatibility reporting to include more drivers, ensuring your system is primed for editing
  • Faster scrolling in the Media Browser
  • Easier media cache management

In addition, and likely of utmost importance to motion design professionals, Premiere Pro now also includes fast-tracking for masking.

As Adobe's Jason Levine demonstrated live at Adobe MAX, what might historically have taken a minute or more can now be achieved in less than 10 seconds.

If you missed it live, Adobe captured Jason's presentation in full:


More so than any other previous year, the focus at Adobe MAX 2019 was centered around equipping creatives outside the office environment.  

As we learned during Adobe MAX's day-one keynote address, two of the company's longest-standing and most well-known applications, Photoshop and Illustrator, have been developed for the iPad, with Photoshop now downloadable and early-access signup of Illustrator now available as of November 2019.



As the Adobe team explained live at Adobe MAX, the iPad version of Photoshop works just like Photoshop, because it is.

Further, Photoshop on the iPad doesn't feel like a ported-over version of the desktop coding. While working from the standard Photoshop workflow, the app functions like it was built from the ground up, designed to utilize every bit of performance.

While this first release focuses on compositing features and workflows, there appears to be more than enough depth and breadth already to take your project on the go. Among the key features are:

  • Familiar workspace, with the same Layer stack and Toolbar tools as the desktop version
  • Streamlined workflow, with swipe, pinch, tap, scribble and slide features only available on the iPad
  • Portability, with all files automatically saved to the Adobe Cloud for any-time accessibility on your desktop or iPad
  • Compositing capabilities, including making sophisticated selections, creating masks and using brushes with the precise control of your finger or Apple Pencil
  • Easy layering, with compact and detailed views for navigation and organization
  • Quick retouching, with the ability to edit, enhance and remove elements from images, with features like spot healing and clone stamp
  • Multiple touch-gesture shortcuts to expedite your workflow
  • Video tutorials to shorten the learning curve

Plus, more brushing options and other enhancements are already in development and expected soon.


As was the case for Photoshop on the iPad, Adobe's demonstration for what we can expect from the forthcoming Illustrator iPad app was mesmerizing.

Like sliding through butter, the host starts off with a complex drawing hosting 10s of thousands of objects and zooms in and out of the image without any perceivable lag.

One of our favorite features is the re-thought pencil tool, which will allow you to leverage vector points to draw true straight lines. It's simple: tap to add vector points, tap a vector point, start free-form drawing, let go, and continue to tap for the straight lines.

If you prefer to mock up with pencil and paper, you'll truly appreciate the tracing feature. All you have to do is import a photo/scan of your drawing, and Illustrator will use Adobe Sensei to analyze the image and create clean vector outlines to establish your digital starting point.

While still "in the early stages" of developing Illustrator for the iPad, Adobe shared its vision — namely, to take advantage of the unique capabilities offered by the tablet — at Adobe MAX and on its blog.

There's a beta test in progress, and thousands of designers have offered feedback to date.

Core focal points for the first release include:

  • Seamless connection across your devices
  • Power and precision
  • Intuitive experience

For early access and to share your experience on the iPad, sign up today.

Adobe MAX Sneaks: What's Coming for Motion Designers


Adobe offers "Sneaks" twice a year — at Adobe MAX and Adobe Summit — and, unlike the keynote speeches that are live-streamed, doesn't broadcast them beyond the conference audience.

These highly anticipated sneak-peak events feature Adobe employees (and, sometimes, special guests) showcasing some of the company's most exciting innovations, only some of which will ever make it into Adobe products.

Co-hosted by Emmy Award-winning writer and comedian John Mulaney and Adobe Senior Creative Cloud Evangelist Paul Trani, the 2019 Adobe MAX Sneaks presentation featured demonstrations of 11 potential future releases.

While all 11 evoked oohs and ahhs from the audience, we hand-picked a few to feature for their relevance to our motion design community.


If you're like us, you've probably spent significant time zooming in, highlighting and cutting out umms and likes from lengthy audio files. With Project Sound Seek, you could save hours. Yes, hours.

As demonstrated at Adobe MAX 2019, with this tool you'd be able to simply select a couple target sound examples, and allow Sound Seek to find the rest.  


With Project Sweet Talk, the capabilities are endless; the intention, meanwhile, is obvious: animate anything, with only a static image and an audio file.

Could this be the end of the professional motion designer? Well, Fiverr wasn't.


A foreseeably democratizing force in Augmented Reality (AR), Project Pronto would combine the benefits of video prototyping and AR authoring in one cohesive system, allowing "non-technical" designers to express AR design ideas.

Imagine using your mobile device location to set an anchored placeholder, like locking a canvas in position somewhere in 3D space...


What would happen if two images danced? In a virtual world, they might morph into a single image, with one image's shape and the other's texture.

That tornado effect is what Image Tango would achieve.


Fonts are no longer the domain merely of flat typographers.

Animated texts are already everywhere, but the process of converting a letter, word or phrase into animated keyframes can be tedious, time consuming and tiring.

Not in the future, if the predefined effects found in Fantastic Fonts come to fruition.


Are you a character animator? Looking for a speed boost in your workflow?

Cross your fingers for Go Figure, which would enable you to use skeletons and contours to smoothly and robustly track figures, even in a crowded scene, simply by defining the location of the individual in the video.

The keyframes generated could then be applied to a previously built character rig.

An SOM-Exclusive Interview from Adobe MAX 2019

During Adobe MAX 2019, we stepped away from the learning sessions and meetups to privately interview Jason Levine, who was in between his presentations.

The Principal Worldwide Evangelist for Adobe, Jason travels the globe with a mission of inspiring and educating users about Creative Cloud and all its apps.

We spoke with Jason primarily about Adobe's 3D capabilities; continuing education for professional designers; and the impact of social media, mobile technologies, viral videos and novice content creators on Adobe's development plans and priorities.


"I don't know how many of your students are aware of or using Substance, but it's amazing. It's the highest of the high end. I mean, that's why it's used in Terminator. And actually, if you get the basics of it, not unlike After Effects or C4D, it's not so difficult to use... And this should tell you where we're going, right?"

"We're absolutely going there, and C4D integration with Light in After Effects was the first step. What I'm mostly shocked about is that there's just a lack of awareness that C4D is actually even in After Effects."



"You're probably aware of the ACE exams, the Adobe Certified Expert exams? Well, we are revamping the whole certification process. We want new creators, students who want to start working, to be able to say, 'Look, I'm certified in After Effects.'"


"One of the things I'll be tasked with doing, my mantra for next year, is integrating more with the native education side. We have Adobe student channels on Facebook and Twitter and everything, but we want to broaden these communities."


"Adobe is not a faceless company. I'm out there, and I answer anything anyone asks me. We have Julieanne Kost. If you're looking for Lightroom, she's the go-to. There are so many of us who are so present that I think in the student communities it's just about making them aware that we're approachable. Go approach someone!"



With all the consumer creative apps popping up in the app store, concern has spread across the professional design and motion design communities about the future viability of our careers.

Sure, predominantly mobile platforms — like the Adobe Photoshop Camera; Premiere Rush, Adobe's video creation and digital sharing app; and Spark, the company's app for social graphics, web pages and short videos — can make our jobs easier, but might their proliferation also phase us out?

During our conversation with Adobe's Jason Levine, we asked him to weigh in. Here's what he said:

"How many people are actually going from the phone to the iPad to the desktop? Not surprisingly, not really so many, because if you're on the phone and you're shooting with the phone... I'm in Rush, quickly editing something, and then uploading it to Twitter."

"Part of why Spark took off is because, socially, I don't need to go on my desktop... If I'm going to Instagram and I want to do a quick promo for you, I can do the whole thing in Spark, with a beautiful title and some kind of animation with video in my hand — and it looks as good as anything you do on the desktop, theoretically."


"That's the promise of that next gen, right? They're doing things that, traditionally, maybe I wouldn't do, or you wouldn't do, because there's so much access to these things... and that's where we come in, because we can give you additional tools."

Does this mean these tools will replace what we've been using for decades now?

"They'll just augment what you have with something even more creative, even bigger, even brighter, even more inspiring."

"Certainly the reason for Rush being released last year was largely for the new creator. But regardless if you're a pro or a non-pro, it's just easier to have the device in your hand that everybody shoots with. Especially if you look at iPhone 11, or the new Galaxy, or the new Samsung. Their 4K is incredible."


But what about Adobe's development focus? Are your teams being pulled away from the professional design software to focus on perhaps better-selling consumer apps?

"From where I am in the organization, and what I see in terms of development, and I think something that we're pretty clear on, is the high-end professional, particularly in our cinematic space, high-end motion graphics space, the FX space, there are always going to be particular requirements, and that's not going away."


It Still Pays to Be a Pro

Thankfully, Tik Tok and Rush haven't spelled the end for our professional digital artists. In fact, the motion design industry, in particular, is growing exponentially, in parallel with the rise of the consumer content creator.


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In this free 10-day course, you'll get an in-depth look at what it's like to be a motion designer. We'll give you a glimpse into the average day at four very different motion design studios. Then you'll be ready to check out the process of creating an entire real world project from start to finish — and we'll show you the software, tools and techniques you'll need to break into this lucrative creative industry.

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Ready to truly invest in your professional future? Good thinking.

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By enrolling, you'll gain access to our private student community/networking groups; receive personalized, comprehensive critiques from professional artists; and grow faster than you ever thought possible.

Plus, we're entirely online, so wherever you are we're there too!

With After Effects Kickstart, in six weeks you'll learn the number-one motion design application on the earth, Adobe After Effects. No experience required.

We'll train you through a series of fun, real-world challenges that test each new skill you learn, and you'll be designing from day one.

You'll also be connected to an amazing group of students from all over the world who are taking the class in your session. Virtual high-fives, critique, camaraderie and networking are all part of the course experience.

Learn More >>>

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