Archive for October, 2011

Happy Halloween from lynda.com!

Published by | Monday, October 31st, 2011

A sampling of the silly and sinister Halloween personalities that made an appearance at the lynda.com headquarters today!
photos of lynda.com staff on Halloween 2011
Happy Halloween from the lynda.com team!

Scene on the Street: Focus on street photography

Published by | Monday, October 31st, 2011

Street photography captures people at their most unguarded. There’s no posing, no preparation, and no encouragement involving the word “cheese.” Just point and shoot—often without even breaking stride.

Street photography is an honorable photographic genre that counts among its practitioners such legends as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Pedro Meyer. It’s a genre I’ve experimented with when traveling precisely because of its candid quality: If part of what makes a place is its people, then capturing unposed photos of those people is a critical part of documenting the essence of a place.

In Le Marais, Paris. Photo: Jim Heid

But street photography is also potentially controversial, and we’ve noticed a lot of blog and Twitter chatter about it lately. Part of the controversy deals with privacy: does a photographer have a legal right to photograph someone without his or her permission? The general guideline, at least in the United States, is yes, provided that the subject is in a public place where there isn’t an expectation of privacy, such as a sidewalk, a park, or a street.

Another part of the controversy deals with what I’ll charitably call bad manners. Some street photographers employ a paparazzi shooting style that involves putting their cameras uncomfortably close to a stranger’s face—sometimes even hiding around corners or behind phone booths before doing so.

Besides being rude, this style of street photography destroys exactly what the genre does best: capturing people at a moment when being photographed is the last thing on their minds. Look at some paparazzi-style street shots, and you’ll see photos of people who are startled, annoyed, or hamming it up for the camera. In all three cases, the candid, unguarded moment is lost.

The blog SnapSort recently published a post showing examples of how and how not to do street shooting. The lynda.com Creative Inspirations documentary about Richard Koci Hernandez also discusses the subject. Here’s an excerpt.

Since we shot that documentary, Koci has embraced Apple’s iPhone as a tool for street photography. A couple of weeks ago, he led photo walks through San Francisco and discussed iPhone photography at the 1197 conference in San Francisco. As one of the sponsors of the event, lynda.com was there shooting video for an iPhone photography course.

Introducing Design in Motion, by Rob Garrott

Published by | Friday, October 28th, 2011

Many of you know me as an author for lynda.com , but I’d like to introduce myself as the new Content Manager for the video segment of the lynda.com Online Training Library®. In this new role, I’ll be responsible for our overall video curriculum strategy. I will also be actively working to find and recruit the very best authors for video and motion graphics. It’s a very exciting time for me, and I’m particularly excited that we’re finally able to bring you a brand new course, Design In Motion, by… me!

Weekly for members, and bi-weekly for the blog, I’ll be bringing you tips, techniques, and inspiration from the world of motion graphics using After Effects and CINEMA 4D. In this first episode, I explore the very important idea of using color to communicate a sense of emotion in a video clip.

Storytelling is much more than having a script and shooting a bunch of footage or creating animation. While those are important, there is one thing that does more than anything else to communicate a sense of mood for a viewer, and that’s color. Color has always been an important component of the psychology of art, but when color film photography techniques made color movies possible, directors were quick to incorporate the language of color into the language of film. Creating color in After Effects is a simple and non-destructive process that should have you speaking the language of color in no time at all.

I hope you enjoy this very first edition of Design In Motion! Let us know what you think in the comments section, below.

Lynda Weinman chats with founder of Khan Academy

Published by | Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Khan Academy founder Salman Khan was recently in Santa Barbara to speak at the UCSB Arts & Lectures program, and before his public lecture, he spoke with lynda.com co-founder Lynda Weinman about his thoughts on teachers, Khan Academy’s impact on education, and his future plans. Read the full interview at the Santa Barbara Independent.

InDesign FX: Getting effects into print

Published by | Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Will it print?

Those three words almost inevitably follow any discussion of graphic effects. And with very good reason. If you are designing and producing layouts for print, Will it print? is the most important question. It’s where the rubber meets the road, or in the case of an offset printing press, where the rubber meets the paper.

I can totally understand the desire for caution and even a bit of apprehension associated with printing transparency FX. There’s no Undo button on a printing press. In everyone’s work, there are deadlines that must be met, and often a lot of money at stake, and things have to work. At one point in my career I worked as a prepress specialist for a large publisher. It was my job to process PDFs that were used to print our books using Kodak’s Prinergy system, which many commercial printers use. We bought Prinergy because we had very complex files and we had experienced difficulties in the past getting them printed the way we wanted. We decided to take full responsibility and control over everything print-related: transparency flattening, color management, overprinting, trapping, you name it. And it worked. We got the results we wanted, and it was exciting to have almost end-to-end control of the workflow, from prototype to printing press.

Obviously that was a pretty unusual situation. Almost all designers are going to rely on someone else to output their work. And every situation is different. There are different workflows, different design requirements, different RIPs, different printing hardware. So ultimately Will it print? is a question without a single answer. I can definitively state that everything shown in the InDesign FX series can be printed, on anything from a desktop inkjet to a printing press. But the real question people are asking isn’t Will it print? but How do I get it to print in my situation? or What steps do I have to take to get it to print? Getting high-quality print output is not a passive thing but an active thing. That is why I spend most of the time in this week’s video talking about how to work with your print vendor. I talk about communicating, testing, and proofing your work so you know that what’s on the page will come out right.

To put things in context, I often like to point out that transparency is not new, cutting edge stuff. We’re not beta testers. The underlying technology is older than some of the people who use it. Its roots in PostScript are more than 20 years old. Acrobat has supported live transparency for more than 10 years. Postscript 3 came out in 1997. The Adobe PDF Print engine came out in spring 2006 (when InDesign CS2 was the latest and greatest). So it’s OK to embrace this stuff and use it. Of course, even in this day and age, there are things that should be avoided, like applying blending modes to spot colored objects. That can lead to problems because the spot color will be separated where it blends, instead of staying where it belongs, on the spot plate. As long as there is ink and paper, there will be rules and best practices to follow. So as a bonus to accompany this week’s video, here are my Top 5 Tips for Getting FX to Print the Way You Want:

  1. Start with the end in mind and think through the steps in your output process. Create new documents with Print Intent. This sets the transparency blend space to CMYK and the swatches to CYMK. For some FX, you need to switch to RGB blend space, which complicates things. Everything on the spread is converted to RGB for the sake of consistent color blending. But this does not mean that you have to deliver RGB to your printer. You can convert to CMYK at output time. In some cases that will be when you export the PDF from InDesign, in other cases that may be afterward. If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can analyze your PDFs for their prepress characteristics. You can see if black text is getting converted to rich black, which is usually undesirable. You can also use the preflight tools in Acrobat to process your PDFs, flattening transparency if necessary and converting to CMYK so your FX will print as expected on any device.
  2. Use InDesign’s output panels: Separations, Preflight, and Flattener Preview. With them, you can see and head off potential problems. For example, if a transparency effect is going to result in outlined or rasterized text, you can see that and move it above the blending to keep it as live text in the PDF.
  3. Don’t flatten transparency until you need to. When you flatten, you are choosing a specific set of output conditions, and setting the resolution of drop shadows, feathers, and glows. So the correct time to flatten is as close to the end product as possible. The Adobe PDF Print Engine can handle the flattening of transparency and optimize it for the specific conditions of the printer outputting your job. If your printer can handle PDF X-4, (which supports live transparency) you may not have to flatten at all.
  4. Talk to your printer and use the resources they give you. Many print vendors can give you PDF presets, preflight profiles, color profiles, and best practice documentation. Don’t be afraid to contact them with specific questions. They know what their equipment can and can’t do. In my experience, printers appreciate customers who ask questions and are willing to take the time to understand their press requirements and get the job right. As much as possible, work with printers who are using modern standards and equipment.
  5. Test and proof. Take some time to understand the complexities of proofing. What comes out of your office inkjet or laser printer may bear little resemblance to what will come out on a printing press and a RIP that uses entirely different software to process your files. Many things that look bad in low-res output will be undetectable on press. Before I recorded the FX video series, I sent my files to a friend of mine, James Wamser, who works at a commercial printer. James is also the lynda.com author of InDesign CS5 Print Production Guidelines. James was kind enough to run my PDFs through his system and give me the same contract proofs that he would supply to a real customer as a guarantee of how a job would output. So as I was recording the videos, and afterwards, when I took my InDesign FX show on the road, I could hold those proofs from James in my hand and say with confidence, “Yes, it will print.”

For lynda.com members, I have another new video this week exclusively in the Online Training Library® called Getting FX Into Ebooks.

And I’ll see you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect.

• InDesign FX complete course
• courses on InDesign in the Online Training Library®
• courses by Mike Rankin in the Online Training Library®

Deke’s Techniques: Making a faux HDR image in Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

In this week’s free movie, Deke continues the theme he began last week: presenting timeless techniques in seasonally appropriate situations. For instance, the faux HDR technique that Deke shows you how to create this week is useful throughout the year for creating a striking ambiance, but as Deke demonstrates, it’s particularly suited to the creation of zombies. And what better time of year to turn portraits of your unsuspecting friends into scary undead creatures? Take this admittedly hapless but certainly unscary fellow, for instance:

Deke begins by converting the image to the Lab color space and then applying a Shadow/Highlight adjustment to exaggerate the shadows and highlights. He’ll show you how to protect your Lab-based modifications by placing your layer inside the protective covering of a smart object (even Lab-created zombies need protection). Before applying a Levels command to sink the midtones, he’ll create a mask with the Color Range command. And when Deke describes a face “riddled with marching ants,” you can be comforted by the fact that he’s really just talking about a Photoshop selection. Apply some sharpening, and the result is this frightening creature:

For lynda.com members, there’s an exclusive video over in the Online Training Library® where Deke takes this effect to even more macabre extremes—going full-zombie with this effect:

Lab-created creatures, sharpening, marching ants, and masks. Photoshop, in Deke’s hands, has everything you need for a creative and creepy Halloween.

See you here next week with more of Deke’s Techniques!

• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection
• courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®
• courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®

Altering 3D space in After Effects Apprentice

Published by | Friday, October 21st, 2011

The After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space course from Chris and Trish Meyer has a split personality. Despite the Intermediate rating, most of the course is devoted to a very gentle introduction to using 3D layers, cameras, and lights in After Effects, and is suitable for those relatively new to the program or those who have never used 3D in After Effects before.

However, there are also a pair of higher-level chapters that demonstrate different ways to integrate After Effects and Photoshop to create 3D objects. These techniques include importing 3D models (including mapping a video file onto a surface of that model), using Adobe Repoussé to extrude text or other selections in Photoshop, and using Vanishing Point Exchange plus the ‘Kid Stays in the Picture’ technique to convert flat photographs into compositions you can move a 3D camera around. (Also remember that Chris Meyer has a separate course on lynda.com dedicated to integrating the popular 3D application Cinema 4D with After Effects.) A series of ‘sidebar’ movies at the end discuss rotation and scaling issues in 3D, OpenGL acceleration, and different axis modes for manipulating the position of 3D layers.

If you’ve been looking for a course to take your After Effects skills literally to the next dimension, this is it.

Watch the entire After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space course.

Frame Blending in After Effects Apprentice 10: Time Games

Published by | Friday, October 21st, 2011

Each of Chris and Trish Meyer‘s After Effects Apprentice courses are based on variations around a central theme. After Effects Apprentice 10: Time Games—released just a few weeks ago—is based around several different ways of manipulating time. At just under an hour in duration, it’s also the most standalone of the Apprentice courses, as users at different levels can jump straight in and learn some cool tricks without first having to work their way through the prior Apprentice courses.

In After Effects Apprentice 10: Time Games, Chris first covers Frame Blending to make slow motion look smoother. He compares and contrasts the two different algorithms After Effects supplies for blending—Frame Mix mode (crossfading) and Pixel Motion mode (optical flow)—discussing which works better on different types of source footage. He then demonstrates creating even slower frame rate stop-motion effects, as well as how to create freeze frames. This leads into Time Remapping, an advanced function in After Effects where you get to ‘keyframe time’. This course also includes a few application ideas, including how to re-use one element multiples times and make each instance appear different. This last idea is offered as a free movie to non-members, so everyone can get a taste for the After Effects Apprentice courses.