Archive for June, 2011

Author Chris Meyer talks about his new After Effects course

Published by | Sunday, June 12th, 2011

As you may have heard by now, Adobe recently released Creative Suite 5.5. Some programs in the suite, like Photoshop and Bridge, received minor upgrades, and are labeled as version CS5.1; others, such as Adobe After Effects, received more significant upgrades, and are known as version CS5.5. After Effects expert Chris Meyer recorded a training series, After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques—available on the day Creative Suite 5.5 shipped—that demonstrates how he takes advantage of his favorite new and upgraded features. Now that he’s been using the release version for a while, we thought we’d catch up with him and see what continues to stand out for him in his motion graphics work.

Q: The most buzz surrounding After Effects CS5.5 was for its new Warp Stabilizer effect. Is it just a flashy technology demonstration, or is it actually proving useful in the real world?

A: I think it’s turning out to be the main reason many are upgrading to AE CS5.5. For those in a real-world production environment, its ease of use has been a huge time saver—just apply it to a clip, do other work while it processes in the background, and now the bumps in the camera movement have been smoothed out without any user intervention required. A single parameter allows you to adjust the amount of smoothness; a simple popup allows you to completely lock down the shot. It was the first thing I demonstrated at an advanced training session I recently led at a cable network. At the end of the first morning, they were ready to upgrade and start using it on jobs they already had in production. You no longer have to think, This is a visual effects shot; I have to stabilize it; this is going to be work. Now it’s just an effect you apply to any piece of footage with undesired camera movement in order to improve it.

Aside from the Warp Stabilizer’s automated capabilities, there is a lot of additional power under the hood that users are just starting to play with, such as the ability to synthesize new edges for stabilized frames based on frames that happened earlier or later in time. And, like any semi-automated tool, there are times when it’s going to guess wrong. That’s why I spent some time in New Creative Techniques showing you how to put it back on the right path in the event it starts stabilizing the wrong object in a video, or warps the background in unanticipated ways.

Q: Stereoscopic video is also a hot topic these days. I’ve heard that After Effects CS5.5 has some new tools to make that easier as well?

A: Yes, it does. There’s a new 3D Stereo Rig tool that creates a chain of compositions to create stereoscopic output from a 3D scene set up in After Effects, as well as an enhanced 3D Glasses effect to help resolve alignment and convergence issues in already-shot stereo footage.

I admit to originally being a stereo skeptic. And I think it’s still too early to know whether or not it’s really going to catch on this time. But it’s undeniable that more people are demanding stereo content, including for broadcast, not just major films. As a result, I’ve been putting more of a focus on how to create stereo imagery that produces less strain when viewed through 3D glasses, and that also is more watchable by those without glasses. The secret is a combination of managing the convergence parameters in AE CS5.5′s Stereo 3D Rig to lock onto the most important layer in your composition, plus adding depth-of-field blur to put objects in front of or behind the convergence point out of focus. By doing this, the ‘hero’ in your frame will be in the stereo sweet spot for those with glasses, and not have colorized halos for those without glasses. Plus, those halos will be blurred rather than sharp for those without glasses, making them far less distracting. This is also demonstrated in New Creative Techniques.

Q: Speaking of depth-of-field blur, that feature also received an update in After Effects CS5.5, correct?

A: Yes! The 3D camera in After Effects has long supported depth-of-field blur, but it was slow to render, and frankly didn’t look that great when it was done. As a result, few used it; many didn’t even realize it was in there because so few of their peers were using it. But in AE CS5.5, they’ve greatly improved the quality of blur. It’s a true camera simulation now, with control over iris settings and more. Plus, it renders a lot faster. As a result, I think the default will become to use it, rather than avoid it.

In addition to the improved depth-of-field blur for the 3D camera, 3D lights also received a much-requested upgrade in AE CS5.5: lighting falloff, where a light’s strength weakens over distance. In typical After Effects fashion, they’ve implemented this feature in two ways: one that is realistic, for visual effects artists; and one that has unrealistic controls, for motion graphics artists. In general, it’s nice how the After Effects team keeps their focus on easing real-world production tasks, rather than sticking to a theoretical or engineering-based ideal.

In addition to the topics discussed above, Chris also demonstrates numerous other new and improved features in his After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques course. This includes taking advantage of Adobe’s advanced audio program, Audition CS5.5, which has now been ported to the Mac and is available in both the Production Premium and Master Collection suites. Whether you’ve recently upgraded, or are still deciding whether or not to upgrade, take a look at Chris’ After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques to quickly get up to speed with After Effects CS5.5.

Also, be sure to check out Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series, an indepth project-based series of courses designed to help you get the most out of this powerful motion graphics software. Seven of the nineteen total installments are available now in the Online Training Library®. The series is appropriate for the CS4, CS5, and CS5.5 versions of After Effects.

Doyald Young documentary selected for London film festival

Published by | Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Doyald at his drafting table.

We’re very pleased to announce that one of our Creative Inspirations documentaries has again been accepted into a major film festival. Doyald Young, Logotype Designer has been selected to screen at the Open City London Documentary Film Festival on June 17, at 1:30 p.m. BST.

The documentary team at is honored by the recognition that our films have received, and we’ll continue to strive to deliver excellent, compelling and inspiring stories.

Deke’s Techniques: Creating a simulated wood grain

Published by | Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

If you’ve been following these Deke’s Techniques blog posts for a while, you know my favorite techniques are those that require nothing but Photoshop; that is, Deke takes a mixture of effects, smart objects, filters, and color information, and with no source material whatsoever, creates something that looks like something else. After watching this week’s episode, I know if I were stranded on a desert island (with Photoshop and a power supply for my laptop, of course) I would be able to create 100% synthetic, natural-looking wood purely from Photoshop (to go with my faux starscape and fake curtains created in previous weeks’ techniques.)

The fake woodgrain is created from a combination of the clouds, emboss, high pass, and noise filters, plus an adjustment layer or two, and a color overlay effect. After watching this week’s free movie, you will be able to create something like this:

Without a single pixel harmed or tree destroyed!

For members, Deke has created another exclusive video inside the Deke’s Techniques course in which you’ll learn how to put several of these wooden slats together and carve a message into them. In fact, members can see the entire collection of Deke’s Techniques in the Online Training Library®, with plenty of great tips and tricks for creating your own world of real and imagined textures, words, and images.

See you next week, with 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®

Talking HTML5: Graphics and Animation with Canvas with Joe Marini

Published by | Friday, June 3rd, 2011

To round out our week of HTML5 content, today we’re releasing Joe Marini’s new course, HTML5: Graphics and Animation with Canvas. Joe also created HTML5: Web Forms in Depth, which we released on Tuesday, and has created many other courses on web development subjects. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What got you interested in HTML5?
A: The new scenarios that it unlocks. The web is marching inexorably toward being a true distributed application platform, and HTML5 is another milestone in that progress. Already we’re seeing web sites take advantage of the new features, and I think that’s great.

Q: Where do you get your information about HTML5?
A: I usually go straight to the source—either the W3C or the WHATWG specifications. Other than that, I try to keep up with the various vendor-related web sites that document what they are doing in their specific browsers. There’s so much to keep up on, I created a tab group in Internet Explorer just focused on these sites. I typically visit each one of the sites in the group once a week or so.

Q: What are some of your favorite HTML5-oriented web sites or blogs?
A: Well, I document what we’re doing in IE Mobile on the Windows Phone Developer Blog , but I read most of the other vendors’ blogs as well. I also keep up on what the other authors are doing here on as well. There are some really great example sites out there too— and the IE Test Drive are some of my favorites.

Q: What is your favorite gadget? What do you wish you owned?
A: My Windows Phone 7. But I really wish I owned a Light Saber or maybe a cloak of invisibility.

Q: What’s one thing you’d love to see in future web technologies?
A: Being able to build applications that push outside the boundaries of the traditional browser. That will really enable some great scenarios and allow developers to broadly expand the kinds of applications that they can create.

Discussing HTML5 video and audio with author Steve Heffernan

Published by | Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

As part of our series of courses on HTML5, we’ve released a new course called HTML5: Video and Audio in Depth. I had a chance to catch up with new author Steve Heffernan to talk to him about this topic. Steve Heffernan is a web front-end developer with 12 years of experience, and an HTML5 video enthusiast. He has spoken on HTML5 video at the Open Video Conference, and is the creator of the popular HTML5 video player, VideoJS. He is also co-founder of Zencoder, a cloud-based video encoding service.

Q: What got you interested in HTML5 video and audio?
A: Years ago I built a Flash video player for the university I was working for. I enjoyed that project a lot, and learned a ton about web video in the process. While Flash is a great platform, I’ve always preferred browser-native technologies (HTML/CSS/JS), so when the opportunity came to use an HTML-based player I jumped on it. I was on a team in the ’09 Rails Rumble, and we were attempting to build a video platform in 48 hours. HTML5 video was still very young at the time and so probably not the best choice for such a time-sensitive project, but we got it working, and I’ve been working with it ever since.

Bill Weinman discusses HTML5: Local Storage and Offline Applications in Depth

Published by | Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

The latest course in our series on HTML5, HTML5: Local Storage and Offline Applications in Depth, is all about local storage: using the new features being implemented in modern web browsers that enable saving and managing data on a local client, whether it’s a desktop computer or mobile device. Author Bill Weinman has created many courses for on web, database, and mobile application development subjects. Here are his thoughts on HTML5.

Q: What got you interested in HTML5?

A: I’ve been interested in HTML since the early ’90s. HTML is what makes the web accessible for anyone who wants to publish something and find an audience. Early versions of HTML served that purpose well, for those whose major expression is the written word, but for everyone else HTML had to evolve. By the time Lynda and I wrote the first edition of Creative HTML Design (New Riders, 1997) we could use the web for some rudimentary presentation, and we could publish other forms of media by using ‘helper’ programs that would be launched by the browser, but HTML5 finally brings reality to the promise of the web: a fully interactive rich media experience.