The end of the Photo Cutout

Friday, January 16, 2009

It’s a sad day in the Keynote world as we come to the end of an era. When Keynote 1 was first released, it used a pretty cool photo masking system called the “photo cutout” (for lack of a better term). This cutout was a full slide sized image with a transparent hole in it. Anything you sent behind it was masked so that it showed through the hole. While this system seemed really cool at first, it quickly showed its limitations…the first being that you couldn’t resize the hole. Many Keynote users also didn’t understand the concept of it being a hole, and we got countless users of our themes asking us how to resize their photos on a slide, to which we nicely answered, “It’s really a hole with the photo behind it, and Keynote won’t allow you to resize the hole.”

There were some benefits though, namely that ANYTHING you stuck behind a cutout got masked, so you could make fancy frames and stick a movie behind it to mask it. Another benefit was that a photo cutout could have a shadow cast INTO it, rather than out FROM it. This is something I wish Apple would bring back to the current masking system. There’s still no way to make a photo look like it’s sitting in a hole if you simply mask it with a shape.

Still, it was so limited that theme makers had to come up with some creative solutions to get around it. We at created a system where the cutout was built of lots of vertical strips that could be stretched horizontally across a slide and connected so there were no seams. The problem with this was that because the cutouts only stretched horizontally, we had to include strips with varying height cutouts. You chose one and then stuck the end caps on, then slapped in the middle section and stretched it to the desired width. You can see this in action in our Keynote Address and Candy 2 themes (with Candy we even gave the system the name Candy Machine just to be cute).

So, here were are in 2009 with the release of Keynote 09 and its new Object Transitions. Up to this point, you could still use the cutout system in a theme and it worked (even with all its limitations). With the addition of Object Transitions though, the photo cutout system is finally broken. The reason is simple: photo cutouts are objects and ALL objects get built on or off a slide when you use an Object Transition. This means your cutout gets moved off slide as well as your image, making things look REALLY weird. (This also brings up one other draw back: If you stick something on a master slide that you want as a part of the background…you can’t because it will always move on and off the slide too, but this is a topic for another article).

So here we are, at the end of an era. Sure, you could still use a photo cut theme and just stay away from Object Transitions…but where’s the fun in that? No, the photo cutout has finally been put to rest. As a theme maker, I could be sad. But I’m not. All I can say on this “sad day” is, “good bye photo cutout and good riddance. You were a pain to create and had too many limitations.” While it’s a pain to not be able to mask movies or cast shadows onto a photo, it sure makes building themes a heck of a lot easier. 🙂