Archive for December, 2011

Using After Effects’ render queue to be more efficient

Published by | Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

At the end of a long day of bending pixels, it is a really satisfying feeling to hit the start button on a long stack of renders in After Effects. As an example, this link shows a screen grab of a render queue I set up on a project. Long render queues like this are not at all uncommon. In my example there are 48 separate render queue entries, but I’m actually rendering out something like 100 different elements. That’s because each render queue item can generate many different outputs. This is a really efficient way to do things, and anyone who’s taken one of my classes will tell you that I’m all about being efficient.

In this edition of Design In Motion, we’re going to explore some ways to be more efficient and do more with less in the After Effects render queue. When we’re done, take a look at the After Effects CS5 Essential Training series by Chad Perkins for more great ways to work with this powerful animation tool.

Interested in more?
• The full Design in Motion series on
• All 3D + animation courses on
• All After Effects courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
After Effects CS5 Essential Training
After Effects CS5.5 New Features
After Effects CS4: Apprentice’s Guide to Key Features
CINEMA 4D: Rendering Motion Graphics for After Effects
After Effects CS4 Beyond the Basics

Deke’s Techniques: How to create a stained-glass effect with Photoshop

Published by | Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

It’s not often you hear Deke advocating the use of Photoshop’s artistic filters in his in-depth training. The effects of these filters—with creatively evocative names like Watercolor, Rough Pastel, and Fresco—often fail to yield actual results that live up to the promise of their poetic names. But in this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video you’ll see how to combine the Stained Glass filter with a little bit of Deke-tweak to turn last week’s delicate hummingbird project into an even more fragile stained-glass ornament, complete with the beveled lead and translucent color variations you’d find in the real thing. (Real stained glass, not real hummingbirds.)

Deke begins with the hummingbird and its companion mask that he showed you how to create in last week’s technique, Masking with Photoshop’s Quick Selection tool and Magic Wand. For reference, here’s where the project left off last week:

Hummingbird masked with Photoshop

Deke starts by temporarily moving the mask to another layer, applying the filter, then moving the mask back to create a strong outline around the subject. Along the way, he explains why setting the Light Intensity slider to zero is the best way to go when you’re using the Stained Glass filter and how preserving the mask will allow you to refine the edges around your ornament. You’ll also see how leveraging Smart Objects, and holding your breath as you temporarily wipe out the bird altogether, will allow you to capture the outlines between your glass pieces, change them to an appropriate lead color, and apply a Bevel and Emboss effect that really sells the technique. Add a string, and you’ll have this delightful ornament hanging from your virtual window:

Stained Glass hummingbird in Photoshop

For members, Deke also has an exclusive video in the Online Training Library® this week (Designing a stained-glass window) in which he makes the glass hummingbird part of a larger stained-glass project, complete with cracked glass.

Stained glass hummingbird Photoshop project

With these techniques at your disposal, you’ll undoubtedly start “stained-glassifying” all kinds of festive objects in your holiday-themed creative compositions.

Note: After almost a year of weekly installments, Deke will be taking a well-deserved holiday next week, but we’ll be back in 2012 with more Deke’s Techniques.

Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection
• Courses by Deke McClelland on
• All courses on Photoshop on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Photoshop for Designers: Textures
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Advanced Blending
• Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery

Creating powerful presentations: A learning path

Published by | Monday, December 19th, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of presenting all the content we hope to publish for you in 2012 to our content and production teams here at It was a wonderful opportunity to talk in broad strokes about our teams’ collective vision for the future. If you’ve ever given a high stakes presentation in front of a large group, you know that while giving presentations is a great opportunity, they can also be quite daunting to prepare and deliver.

At the outset of my planning I found myself scrambling to remember the presentation skills I learned long ago. (Oh yes, I briefly longed for my college Public Speaking 101 notes and those mortifying VHS tapes of class speeches on global issues.) After sitting for a little while with presentation anxiety, I decided to turn to the same library that would be the subject of my presentation.

Browsing the Online Training Library® as a member on a mission, I quickly found that our courses empowered me to compile and deliver a compelling and visually interesting presentation for my peers. It was exciting to find help waiting for me—and comforting to learn from the very authors I have the pleasure of working with each day.

In case you’re curious (or madly preparing for your own end-of-year or look-ahead presentations), here is my presentation learning-path that helped prepare and inspire me.

1. Duarte Design, Presentation Designer: Wanting to start with a good dose of inspiration, I turned to our Creative Inspirations documentary on Duarte Design. The opportunity to see how the pros create compelling presentations armed me with just enough confidence to think that maybe I could pull this off. It was here that I realized the Online Training Library® could empower my presentation.

2. Effective Presentations (2006): After thinking about big picture, I needed some specifics, which is precisely what I found in Effective Presentations (2006). This course is one I’ll define as a classic. Built in 2006, it still has the power to inspire today. Chapter two on Mission, Goals and Story is the one that helped me organize my ideas more clearly.

3. Excel for Mac 2011 Essential Training: With my ideas taking shape, I needed to dive into some data to learn more about viewing statistics, including, how often courses are watched, what courses are watched, and what members would like to see published in the future. This required me to brush up on my Excel for Mac 2011 skills, which helped me easily navigate lots of data with speed and efficiency.

4. Keynote ’09 Essential Training: With growing confidence backed up by numbers and solid data, I was ready to start putting my story for 2012′s business content into Keynote. Enter Keynote ’09 Essential Training, which helped this long-time PowerPoint user convert easily to the new interface and features. Pretty soon, I was tooling around with master slides, backgrounds, fonts, and styles.

5. Graphics Secrets for Business Professionals: I decided to keep my visuals big to maximize their impact, and I knew I wanted to keep the bullet points and text to a minimum. Needing a little help with my visual planning, I turned to the fourth chapter of Graphics Secrets for Business Professionals, How Do I Create Better Presentations? That chapter seemed like it was written just for me!

6. Time Management Fundamentals: As the week went by and I got busier with this presentation, I noticed that I could easily lose track of minutes or hours if I didn’t keep my time in check. So I decided on another quick visit to Time Management Fundamentals. Dave Crenshaw reminded me that switch tasking wasn’t worth my time and that I needed to focus in on my most valuable activities, including that presentation.

7. Effective Meetings: As I started to wrap up my presentation and prepare to deliver it, I wanted to check in with Dave Crenshaw again on Effective Meetings. What would I need to know in order to get the most out of our all-day planning session? I wasn’t disappointed. The principles of successful meetings helped me determine a note-taking strategy and the best way to absorb exciting new information from my colleagues.

8. Pitching Projects and Products to Executives: Finally, the night before my presentation, I wanted another dose of inspiration and confidence to get me ready for the next morning. Pitching Projects and Products to Executives helped me develop that confidence and focus-in on conveying my story with powerful intention.

As Effective Presentations (2006) reminded me, an estimated 30 million presentations make their way in front of an audience every day, so I was in good company as I prepared to sell my ideas up, down, and sideways. I was also, it turns out, in good company when I turned to the Online Training Library® for the tools and inspiration necessary to communicate more effectively and make a memorable impression.

I hope you’re well on your way to developing learning paths that work for your needs and your schedule. Please share your inspiration below; we love to hear from you!

Interested in more?
• All business courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Duarte Design, Presentation Designer
Effective Presentations (2006)
Keynote ’09 Essential Training
Pitching Projects and Products to Executives

Introducing Project Management Fundamentals

Published by | Saturday, December 17th, 2011

My first few years in publishing were spent writing and editing. On the page, it looked like my job was about making words work, and yet, it was so much more than that. Each new endeavor I spearheaded was truly a project, and it required me to switch between those analytical and creative hats every day. Soon, I came to realize  that my colleagues were the backbone of the project team, and the timelines and schedules I made and kept were an integral part of the project plan.

This writer somehow ended up in business—and was loving every minute of it. As a fascinated yet unintentional project manager, I wanted to embrace this role with the same attention I put into checking for comma splices and building instruction. What were the secrets to solid project management, and how could I put them to work?

In Project Management Fundamentals, author Bonnie Biafore answers these questions and more, sharing tried and true project management tips that she’s developed through years of real world experience. Whether you’re in charge of an IT installation, a web development project, or managing an event for employees, you’ll discover the value in initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing a project.

While project management may sound relevant only for those who build bridges, manufacture medical devices, or install major software systems, the reality is that you probably have project management opportunities in your career if you’ve ever worked to create a specific outcome, service, or product (deliverable) within a finite time frame using time, tools, and people (resources). Largely, this includes a range of career types including, but not limited to, information technology, creative disciplines, and business.

One of Bonnie’s best tips for new and aspiring project managers is to learn the power of asking open-ended questions. Whether you’re asking project stakeholders (the people the project will affect) to explain their needs, communicating specs to technical teams, or simply corralling the efforts of a large team, open-ended questions like “What would you do in the future to prevent this problem?” and “What’s working well here?” can get the dialogue going and take discussions to new places.

Project Management Fundamentals is suited for all skill levels, including those new to the concept of project management and those hoping to figure out how some of their past projects could have gone more smoothly. With solid project management skills, you’ll be better poised to improve your company’s bottom line by delivering your projects on time and within budget. Plus, I think you’ll learn to enjoy the process—embracing project management is a surprisingly creative process that carries the great reward of better business outcomes and happier customers.

Interested in more?
• All business courses on
• All courses by Bonnie-Biafore on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Project 2010 Essential Training
Time Management Fundamentals
Effective Meetings
Excel 2010: Financial Functions in Depth

Music Editing for TV and Film in Pro Tools

Published by | Friday, December 16th, 2011

Ever wanted to know how music gets edited into TV shows and movies? In Music Editing for TV and Film in Pro Tools, Skye Lewin shows you how putting music under picture is both an art and a science.

In this course, Skye will discuss how to edit and maneuver audio in Pro Tools, edit music to picture, create alternate audio edits, conform an edit to a picture if the scene has shifted, perform special effects, and use QuickTime to present edit revisions. He also discusses ways to utilize navigation, viewing, editing techniques, and key commands to speed up your editing process so you can focus more time on being creative.

The video used for demonstration in this course is a short film entitled Eli, starring David Anders (Alias, Heroes, 24, Once Upon A Time) and the music used is from composer Simon Hunter (CSI, Burn Notice, Iron Man trailer, Fast 5 trailer).

Watch here as Skye shows his techniques for creating an alternate music edit for a particular scene in the film:

Check out Music Editing for TV and Film in Pro Tools in the Online Training Library® today, and look out for new training on the leading digital audio workstations coming soon!

Interested in more?
• All Pro Tools courses on
• All audio courses on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Audio for Film and Video with Pro Tools 9
Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools
Jason Bentley’s Twilight Remix: Start to Finish
Pro Tools 9 Essential Training

InDesign Secrets: Why is text missing from my frame?

Published by | Thursday, December 15th, 2011

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets video, Anne-Marie Concepcion explores the case of the missing text. Quite often, you’ll find a blank area in your InDesign document where you know there should be text, but for some unknown reason, it’s missing from its frame. In this week’s free video our intrepid detective and keeper of InDesign secrets Anne-Marie takes you through a troubleshooting checklist to retrieve your lost words.

To start, Anne-Marie will show you how to spot troublesome hidden break-characters and describe the insidious ways these creatures can work themselves into your document. If that’s not it, you’ll see how to use the Story Editor to reveal text trouble spots and help gather clues. From there it’s all about troubleshooting. Is it a break instruction included in a paragraph style? Is your text color set to Paper, thus rendering it invisible? Are the indent and spacing settings correct in your Paragraph Styles? Or is something else afoot? Anne-Marie will help you unlock the mystery and free your missing text.

For members of the Online Training Library® Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has an exclusive video this week, Preview and Presentation Mode, that helps you navigate and select the preview and presentation preferences that work best for you. (Because once you find your missing text, you’ll want to check it out accurately and be able to present it to your audience.)

Interested in more?
• All the InDesign Secrets on
• Courses by Anne-Marie Concepcion on
• Courses by David Blatner on
• All InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS5 Essential Training
• InDesign CS5 New Features
Up and Running with InDesign
• InDesign FX series

Motion tracking and color keying with After Effects

Published by | Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Motion tracking (the ability to follow the location of an object in a piece of footage, and use this information to stabilize that shot or animate other layers) and color keying (the ability to make a green- or blue-screen background transparent so that you can replace it with a new image) are two essential visual-effects tasks you need to learn if you want to take your After Effects skills to the next level.

In After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying, Chris Meyer covers tracking and keying basic and essential skills including a quick tour of mocha, the third-party tracking software that is bundled with After Effects, and an introduction to The Foundry’s KEYLIGHT, an Academy Award-winning keying effect that is also built into After Effects.

Throughout the course, Chris shows you how to use the motion tracker and stabilizer built into After Effects, and offers advice on how to handle a variety of shot scenarios. He also discusses how to use tracking and keying to track a greenscreen shot with a handheld camera and replace its background.

While practice is the secret to mastering your tracking and keying skills, getting to look over someone else’s shoulder as they perform these tasks is a great way to jump-start your learning curve.

Interested in more?
• The full After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying series on
• All 3D + animation courses on
• All 56 courses on After Effects
• Courses by Chris Meyer on

Suggested courses to watch next:
After Effects CS5.5 New Features
After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control
After Effects CS5 Essential Training
CINEMA 4D: Rendering Motion Graphics for After Effects

Deke’s Techniques: Masking with Photoshop’s Quick Selection tool and Magic Wand

Published by | Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

If you’re trying to mask a challenging subject, Photoshop certainly has a hoard of sharply honed tools that will allow you to create the most nuanced selection imaginable. But sometimes, you just want to throw some brute Photoshop force at a project so you can get on with your busy life. In this week’s free-to-all Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland shows you how to quickly mask this greenish-on-green hummingbird with two very blunt instruments that you don’t hear Deke recommending often—the Quick Selection tool and the Magic Wand.

Hummingbird with green background

Deke starts by showing you how to use both of the tools to the best of their limitations, and how to incrementally save each phase of selection to a mask that serves to “collect” your progress so that you don’t undo your work. Finally, when the blunt instruments have done all they can, Deke shows you how to refine those results with the aptly named Refine Mask command. The result is this rough-hewn but ultimately useful mask:

Hummingbird Photoshop Mask

Which in turn allows you to place the hummingbird in an entirely new environment:

Hummingbird with cloud background

Of course, masking in Photoshop can mean anything from this rough-hewn utilitarian outcome to highly nuanced meticulous sections. If you’re more of the meticulous selections Photoshop user, Deke has two new courses for members of the Online Training Library® that will take you deep into the science of masking and compositing: Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals and Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Advanced Blending.

See you back here next week with two new Deke’s Techniques!

Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection
• Courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®
• All courses on Photoshop in the Online Training Library®

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Advanced Blending
• Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery