Adobe MAX conference speaker on stage

The Adobe MAX Creativity Conference Experience


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The Adobe MAX Creativity Conference is an annual gathering of like-minded creatives who share in three days of keynote presentations, speakers, classroom sessions, hands-on labs and general inspiration. This year’s conference was held in Los Angeles, California, at the L.A. Convention Center and Microsoft Theater. There were more than 7,000 attendees, ranging from creative leaders and designers to film and video pros to tech and business strategists, photographers, and more. Notable special guests included Nick Offerman, well known as Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation, and Baz Luhrmann, director of Moulin Rouge!.






Oden sent designer Spencer King (me) and photographer/videographer Jerry Plunk. That’s us above in the amazing 360° bullet-time light painting portraits taken by Eric Paré. It would be an understatement to say we were generally blown away. Of course this conference is an easy way for creative software behemoth Adobe to pat itself on the back. But the collective creative energy from the attendees and speakers created an atmosphere of learning and excitement that was unexpected.

In this article, Jerry and I will each highlight four stories that we felt were most inspiring and memorable.





As a bona fide Apple fanboy since the mid 90s, when I saw that Susan Kare was speaking at the conference, I moved around my entire agenda for that day to see her. You see, Susan is a computer iconograper who created most of the icons and typefaces for the original Macintosh in the 80s, with Steve Jobs. She was also one of the original employees and Creative Director at NeXT, founded by Steve Jobs after his questionable exit from Apple. I had to hear her stories. I wasn’t disappointed.


Looking back, the technical design constraints seem tremendous. But at the time, the technology was cutting edge and a revelation for the Macintosh team. Susan mentioned the goals for the Mac user interface. Number one, “your Mom could use it.” Number two, it should be “like an arcade game, no manuals.” The functionality should be “discoverable.” This seems like a simple concept today. But 30-plus years ago, it was revolutionary for a computer. And it was Susan’s task to visualize every bit of functionality and interaction within a tiny 32×32 (1,024 pixels) canvas.


What she created not only solved the original goals for the interface, I think it gave the computer a personality that helped customers fall in love with the Macintosh. This could be as simple as the Happy Mac icon that greets the user at startup. Or even the dreaded Bomb at System Failure. Which she said she was told would “never be seen by anyone.” Not only has it been seen, it’s become part of pop culture.


This was an unexpected and truly inspiring story on Day Two of the conference. I had heard of Humans of New York, but had not actually checked it out on Facebook. Before this presentation was over, I discreetly hopped on FB on my phone and Liked it. It’s such a simple idea, born out of a life-changing event in Brandon Stanton’s life. The simple act of photographing someone and discovering something about them has created an amazing archive of personal stories and journeys ranging from happiness to silliness to heartbreak. And the way that these posts actually help some of the subjects gives me hope for humanity.

Please check out the video below for Brandon Stanton’s full story and presentation.






The Day Three keynote was called “Sneaks.” Which simply meant we got a sneak peak at all the crazy unreleased, unfinished projects that Adobe is brewing. I fully admit I’m a type geek. And judging by the reaction to Project Faces, I wasn’t the only one in Microsoft Theater. If you’re like me, there are design scenarios where you just can’t find the typeface that feels right in your layout. And there are times when I’ve banged my head on my desk wishing I could just create what I have in my head. Well, assuming this software is released some day, I will be able to create my own custom typeface. With Faces. This project easily received the most “oohs” and “ahhhs” and applause from the geeks.

Check out the video below. You’ll see why Nick Offerman called it “magical.”




SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE — Pictured: sharks, Empire State Building — (Photo by: Syfy)


As a graphic designer, it might seem weird for me to choose a session about film editing. I’ve rarely had a project in my career where I’ve needed this skill. But I’ve always been fascinated by the art of movie-making. Sometimes I’ll watch how a film was made more than the film itself. This is the truth. So I naturally gravitated towards film editor Vashi Nedomansky and his Day Two presentation titled From Sharks to Superheroes: A Day in the Life of a Hollywood Editor. I had no idea what to expect. What I got was a former professional hockey player who just happened to have an extreme passion for editing and filmmaking. Didn’t expect that.


He has a broad range of experience in film and television ranging from Gone Girl to Sharknado 2: The Second One to the upcoming Dead Pool. The majority of his humorous presentation was about taking on Sharknado 2 as a personal challenge. He had a history with sharks and wanted to face his demons head-on. As funny as this was, my biggest takeaway was the idea that organization and planning are just as important as creativity. Especially when you’re cranking out a movie like Sharknado 2 in just a few weeks.


Click here to check out the full session and all of the gory details.






The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet. If you’ve seen any of these films, then you know that this interview is anything but dull. Watch as Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes has a conversation with Baz Luhrmann and how quickly his raw energy turns the talk into an erratic yet hilarious discussion of artistic inspiration. Even though Ann and Baz rehearsed this interview the night before, the freshness, if not just flat out rawness, pulls the viewer right up on stage with them. Go ahead and join the circus by watching the video below.


Side note: You’ll also get to find out just what exactly is an “Electronic Collage Machine” of the Dark Ages.






If there’s one thing that I learned from Chris about being a professional photographer, b2b or b2c, it was how important it is to harbor the most clear and open presence with the people on your team and with whom you deal. This man is the avatar of instant and pure. And this is why he is an ace with people as an artist and as a teacher. The upside of this is you feel connected at once and you see that he has a passion for connecting with the people, too. The downside of this is that you gotta be ready for him to call “Popycock!” when needed in order to be clear 100 percent of the time. He’s quite liberating that way and he keeps the attention on you. A true controller of his time.


Lightroom, PhotoShop and workflow – in the two classes I had with Chris, we discussed the functions of these applications and how to best set up a workflow between them in order to optimize time and the integral power between them. From the heights of how to batch-develop hundreds of images at once to the depths of key commands for the tools in both. He also applies some great insight on the hows and whys of retouching and the best ways to use the most popular tools. Both of these programs offer multiple ways of doing what photographers and retouchers do, and watching him first-hand offered a glimpse into his
techniques that were priceless.


About Chris: Not only is he a great photographer for such companies as Google, Adobe, Patagonia, Rolling Stone, and Esquire, to highlight a few, he is also on the faculty at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California, as a teacher, a regular author on, a speaker on TEDx and a three time published author on creativity and photography. I could go into the technical aspects and shop jargon that he teaches, but to really understand who this person is, you gotta hear him present.

So to truly take in how he uses his imagination and visuals as he talks, take a peek below and watch him do his thing, to the fullest degree.

Imagery above belongs to Chris Orwig.







“The best keynote speaker ever.” Seriously, that’s how it is listed. And yes. He actually IS singing in that still to the left. If you’ve seen the Baz interview, this runs second only to it, in the energy category. I could have listened to this guy all day. His discussion was on Audition, Premiere Pro and After Effects and how the latest versions integrate flawlessly to provide the user a much broader stroke of the brush, including face tracking with detailed features that allow the eyes, nose, mouth and ears to be tracked. Even more is uninterrupted previews, Adobe Stock integration, Adobe Audition Remix, Dynamic Link Video Streaming, Creative Synch and the “POWER OF LUMETRI”! Yes, he screams that part.


To see more features and some full-blown theatrics, click below. And bring tissue.





“YA mogu ponyat’ etot klass na video szhatiya.” 


That is what I heard when I walked into the class and  Jeff Greenberg was speaking with another student. No, he wasn’t speaking Russian. But he could have been, for all I knew. It was Compressionese.


My first thought was, “This guy knows his s#!+,” and there’s no doubt in my mind he is related to Stephen Hawking. Fortunately, the other student was a coder. You know, the smart kind who makes all of the pretty stuff work. After a few minutes, Jeff put me at extreme ease by asking the class, “Let’s agree that it takes $300 to eat for a month.” “Ok, this is more my speed,” I thought. “What’s the average you need per day?” he asked. I thought, it’s got to be harder than this. He said, “Yup. $10! That’s a constant amount of spending.” I followed,  my mouth agape, still doubting I truly understood. “A variable amount of spending per day would be $15, $5, $7, $12… That’s CBR, Constant Bit Rate (spending the same each day) and VBR, Variable Bit Rate (spending around an average).” “Uh huh,” I grunted, unsure of where he’s going with this. “If you have $10,000 a month, it’s easy. If you have $240 a month, it’s harder. If you have unexpected expenses one day, it’s even harder.” “I’m getting this…” I murmur. So after a flurry of words that revolve around spacial compression, data flow and lots of math, I finally understood, at least for the moment, why we are compressing video the way we do for distribution and for editing. Basically, it’s a balance of quality and time.


Then we went to codecs and multipass VBR, but the thing that I rejoiced in hearing from Jeff was, “…but there are presets with all of this in them.” “Thank ye, Adobe,” I said out loud. From there it was as if I had made it through the mud, under the barbed wire and back up off of my hands and knees. I felt as if I had made it through boot camp in 75 minutes. I don’t remember college classes being this robust.


All in all, it stands to reason why there are people like Jeff Greenberg who live and breathe these types of statistics and analytics. It’s because video ain’t going anywhere and it is essential that we understand how all of this works. With more and more devices being developed, better displays, faster processing times, more complex applications that can handle various types of distribution or editable data, we are as quality-focused as ever and we have to know how to manage it.


So now I can honestly say, in English, “I can almost understand this class on video compression.”


As in-house photographer, videographer, and image specialist for more than 16 years at Oden, I work at the art of bringing together brand standards, client communication objectives, time and budget constraints, and creativity to help audiences experience consistency and excitement across various touch points.


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