Archive for May, 2011

Animating text with After Effects Apprentice 06: Type and Music

Published by | Thursday, May 12th, 2011

After Effects has a very powerful text animation engine. The dark side of this power is that text animation in After Effects can be (to put it politely) difficult to master just by poking around. As a result, many artists only apply text animation presets, and have not yet learned how to modify these presets or create their own custom animations, settling for what Adobe provides.

Well, it’s time to change that. In the latest installment of the After Effects Apprentice series, Trish Meyer reveals the secret of mastering text animation in After Effects: understanding the purpose and use of a Range Selector inside a Text Animator. Once you master that, you will learn that most type animations are simply a combination of offsetting properties such as scale, color, or opacity of already set type, and then selecting (and animating) which characters get offset and by how much. Along the way, Trish teaches the two core type animation recipes (‘typing on’ and ‘cascading’), as well as how to refine, randomize, and customize these movements. She also shows how to place characters in 3D space, animate type along a path, work with Photoshop type in After Effects, and cycle lists of words. And yes, she covers text animation presets as well—including a good workflow for choosing candidates to present to a client, as well as improving them beyond their defaults.

Beyond text animation, Trish uses her background in print to demonstrate professional typesetting techniques many video people may be unaware of. Ignore them at your own risk, as knowing them can be the difference between a sophisticated- and amateurish-looking job. Her partner Chris also makes an appearance, talking about adding audio to your After Effects projects and how to time your animations to music. Chris also touches on subjects such as licensing concerns and how to best mix audio inside After Effects. These two sections will be of use to editors and animators of all stripes, regardless of what software you actually use. And for After Effects users, both Trish and Chris share numerous workflow tips and creative ideas throughout this course that you can put to use the next time you need to incorporate type or music in your work.

Deke’s Techniques #19: Splitting and modifying repoussé objects

Published by | Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Last week in Deke’s Techniques, author Deke McClelland showed you how to take a flat pie graph from Illustrator and turn it into a 3D chart in Photoshop. And this week, we’ll see how that chart is taken to the next level—literally—as Deke demonstrates how to give each slice its own depth and color. The first step is to divide the pie into individual slices, creating a 3D mesh for each object so that you can apply attributes to each piece. And while you may not want to contemplate something as questionable as tuna fish pie, the technique you’ll see here can be applied to your own 3D objects and give your business graphics that extra flavor (as seen below on the right).

Deke starts where with the extruded pie he created last week (left), and colors each slice individually by changing their Diffuse colors in the 3D materials panel and then place them in 3D space with the 3D Mesh panel in Photoshop CS5 Extended. Although it sounds complicated (at least to my stubbornly 2D mind), watching Deke step by step can help you find your bearings in 3D space. And if you’d like to see more about the 3D capabilities of Photoshop Extended, Deke’s got a full-course menu of 3D courses available now inside the Online Training Library®. Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Fundamentals covers the basic techniques for working with 3D in Photoshop, showing how to create textured type and drawing objects that can be manipulated in 3D space. The second course in the series, Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Objects, covers how to draw six varieties of volumetric objects and manipulate them in 3D space. And stay tuned for more courses featuring Deke in 3D.

Every week, there’s a new free technique from Deke. And members can see the entire Deke’s Techniques collection here, including exclusive members-only videos. In fact, this week, Deke reveals another cool feature inside Photoshop extended known by the fabulously whimsical name of Ground Plane Shadow Catcher, which allows you to create a versatile shadow for your 3D object, as you can see here:

And we’ll see you back here next week for another free technique from Deke!

Related links:
Deke’s Techniques
courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®
courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®

A quick look at Quick Response codes

Published by | Thursday, May 5th, 2011

If you’ve consumed any media at all recently, you may have noticed strange looking squares on signs, magazines, billboards, webpages, and even buildings. These squares are QR codes. QR (Quick Response) codes are a type of barcode, similar to the barcodes you see on everyday products in grocery stores. These QR codes often contain URLs that direct users to sites where they can learn more about a place, product, or particular subject.

One of the reasons that QR codes have increased in popularity is the near-ubiquity of camera phones. If you have a smartphone, you have a QR code reader. When encountering a QR code, all you have to do is snap a picture with a QR code-compatible application, and you will be taken to a site with more information about the item to which the QR code is attached. Sometimes, QR codes can even direct you to a physical location—say you’re on a walking tour or in a museum, for example, that has QR codes on its floorplan. Take a snapshot, and directions are immediately imported into your phone.

QR codes may look like complicated gibberish, but they’re pretty simple to create. There are several web sites that will create a QR code for you in just a few clicks. For example, I created the QR code above by going to the ZXing Project web site, selecting URL from the dropdown, entering a URL, and clicking on Generate.

Now, anyone with a smartphone and a QR-capable application, like the Google app (check availability for your phone on the Google Mobile App site), can snap a picture of that QR code, and be taken to the embedded URL, in this case,

QR codes are often used by businesses as extensions of marketing campaigns, to deliver promo codes, or to take users to a web site. However, given how easy they are to create, they’re also becoming more popular for personal use, like party invites and relaying contact information. Meanwhile, companies like the BBC are not only using QR codes to promote their programs, but have also started customizing their QR codes with their own logos. Because of the amount of data that QR codes can contain, they’ll function properly even if a significant chunk is obscured, depending on the size and placement of the logo:

In both cases, despite the presence of the logos, there’s enough of the QR code for a QR reader to read. The danger of adding images or logos, however, is that camera apps like Google’s will often recognize the image, and output info on the image itself, rather than take the user to the desired URL embedded in the QR code. Therefore, the images in the QR codes above were altered in ways to fool the Google app into reading only the data in the QR code.

While the QR codes above do a nice job on incorporating logos and images into the barcodes, this one made for Louis Vuitton and artist Takashi Murakami blows other QR codes away. It’s more like a piece of art that happens to have a QR code in it. If you’ve seen others great QR codes, or made some custom QR codes yourself, feel free to leave them in the comments section for all to see.

To read more on QR codes, and tips on how to use and create them, check out these pages:

13 Creative Ways to Use QR Codes for MarketingFast Company
7 things you should know about QR Codes – Educause



Deke’s Technique’s #18: Creating a 3D pie chart

Published by | Monday, May 2nd, 2011

This week’s free Deke’s Technique acknowledges something you may already know: pie can be tastier in 3D. Author Deke McClelland starts with a classic ingredient, the ability to make pie charts relatively easily in Adobe Illustrator, then kicks it up a notch with the new Repoussé feature in Photoshop CS5 Extended. As you can see below, he starts with a simple black and white segmented circle in Illustrator, imports it into Photoshop Extended, then gives it depth and color with a little transparent effect and some repoussé adjustments.

As you’re enjoying this week’s offering, remember that every week, Deke shares a new technique with everyone, and members can view the full, ever-growing menu of techniques, including some tasty members-only offerings.  And this is something you can create from scratch in your own Illustrator/Photoshop kitchen. Next week, Deke will demonstrate how to modify and move the pieces around for a really enticing effect. Get your piece of Photoshop’s 3D pie (with a little Illustrator thrown in for flavor), and we’ll see you here next week to build on this recipe. It will get you thinking about the things you can cook up with Photoshop’s extruding capabilities in your own project.

Related links:
Deke’s Techniques
courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®
courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®