Archive for April, 2012

InDesign FX: Perspective drawing and 3D shapes

Published by | Thursday, April 19th, 2012

This week’s free video reminds me of one of the key points I always try to make clear right from the start when I’m speaking about InDesign effects: always be sure you’re using the right tool for the job. When it comes to drawing tools, especially ones that can be used for creating 3D effects, Illustrator and Photoshop have InDesign beat by a mile. So if you have Illustrator and Photoshop at your disposal, and you need to create a detailed 3D graphic quickly, don’t hesitate to use them. But, if you don’t have those applications handy, or you just need a relatively simple 3D object, you can draw one from scratch using InDesign and a little knowledge of perspective.

To be truthful, “drawing” might be a bit of an overstatement. Really you’re just using InDesign to create lines of perspective that you can trace with a few clicks of the mouse. No artistic skill is required. In this tutorial I demonstrate both one-point and two-point perspective drawing.

One point perspective is useful for creating the effect of looking straight at an object that recedes to a single point on the horizon. Think of standing in the middle of a straight section of road or train tracks. Even though the sides of the road surface or tracks are parallel, they seem to converge in the distance.

To create the lines of perspective, I start with a triangle. It may be just three black lines, but with your imagination, you can start to see it as that road or train tracks leading to the horizon.

Start of a single-point persepctive InDesign drawing.

To make these three black lines into the surface of an object, use the Pathfinder tools to subtract a rectangle from the triangle. This rectangle will serve as the top surface of your 3D drawing.

Start of a single-point persepctive InDesign drawing.

Rectabgle extracted using InDesign Pathfinder tool.

With the top surface in hand, flip and copy the rectangle to make the front, and then vary the fill color and the height of each object to make anything from a pizza box, to a tall tower.

Examples of three 3D drawings made with InDesign.

Our other option, two-point perspective, is useful when you want to simulate looking at the corner of an object. To create this effect, the sides of your object each need to have their own horizon point that they seem to recede towards. So instead of using one triangle as a guide, use two.

The start of a two-point perspective InDesign drawing.

After locking the triangles, use the Pen tool to trace the lines of perspective to create the sides of your 3D object.

Tracing the lines of two-point perspective to create the sides of your InDesign 3D object.

From there, it’s just a couple steps, including the addition of some Satin effect, to create lime Jell-O. Who wants dessert?

Green two-point perspective 3D object created in InDesign.

For members, I also have an exclusive InDesign FX video this week called Drawing 3D Banners in which I show how to create a folded banner effect. This effect has been rather trendy lately and you may have seen it in action in print or on the web.

Example of 3D folded banner created in InDesign.

This is another effect that requires no special artistic skills, just a little patience and a desire to make something fun.

See you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect!


Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX course
• All InDesign courses on
• All courses by Mike Rankin on

 Suggested courses to watch next:
 InDesign CS5 Essential Training
• Creating Long Documents with InDesign
• InDesign Styles in Depth
• InDesign CS4: 10 Habits of Highly Effective Pros

Deke’s Techniques: Creating a smoke text effect

Published by | Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques, you’ll see how to create text out of thin air—well—smokey thin air. Using a photograph of smoke and some editable text, Deke shows you how to make wispy, ethereal letters using a standard text layer and Smart Objects.

You’ll start by putting your white, soon-to-be smokey, text in front of a plain black background layer, and merging these two layers to make a Smart Object. Next, you’ll work on distorting the text with a smart version of the Wave filter and managing the Randomize setting (which means clicking it until you get something you like) to make your smoke seem properly transient.

Then it’s a matter of adding appropriate Motion Blur, applying the best blend mode (in this case Color Dodge), and finishing up with some more Gaussian blur. Because Color Dodge is one of those blend modes that responds to Fill Opacity better than standard layer opacity, you’ll also reduce the Fill Opacity. The result is this completely editable, ethereal effect:

Photoshop smoke text effect

If this effect seems familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen it in action in the thumbnail graphic and introductory movie from Deke’s free Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview course (a living example of Deke using his effects in his own projects).

See you back next week with another free technique!


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

Suggested courses to watch next:
 Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview
• Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery
• Photoshop Blend Mode Magic
• Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Advanced Blending

This week’s Featured Five: Using efficient, organized communication

Published by | Monday, April 16th, 2012

For this week’s Featured Five post, I’ve chosen five free movies from our library that emphasize efficient, organized, collaborative communication. Sometimes this means formatting your work so that people can find and use it easily, sometimes it means presenting your data in a visually organized way so that people can immediately comprehend it, and other times it means effectively using the features of your software application that are designed to help you track important collaborative notes. At the heart of it, it’s always about communicating in an organized way to make your work more efficient and your projects more successful.

1. Communicating effectively and efficiently with colleagues

Good organized communication is critical for collaboration. In this movie from chapter four of Effective MeetingsDave Crenshaw discusses the importance of the one-to-one meeting, and why establishing one-to-one meetings can not only increase effectiveness, but efficiency as well:

2. Choosing your favorite images to share from a photo shoot

Lightroom is a great program for developing your digital photographs, but it also has a lot of pure organizational power that you can use to find just the right image you (or someone else) are looking for. In this movie from his new course Photoshop Lightroom 4 Essentials: Organizing and Sharing with the Library Module, Chris Orwig shows you how to use Lightroom’s built-in ability to quickly tag photos with picks, rejects, star-ratings, and colored flag labels. Then, once you have using notations and labels down, you can use your tags to quickly find the photos you want to share:

3. Sharing complicated information visually

Sometimes complicated information is best initially understood and communicated with graphics. In this movie from chapter one of Infographics: Visualizing Relationships, Shane Snow walks you through the infographic creative process and demonstrates setup on an infographic example that contains 24 entities, or ‘characters’ as he calls them:

4. Documenting your audio post-production session in Pro Tools

Creating a film or video with a lot of moving parts takes clear, documented communication. In this movie from chapter three of Audio for Film and Video with Pro Tools, Scott Hirsch takes you though the preparation and documentation process that makes a meeting between the film’s director, producer, music composer, and other creative forces effective. This meeting is called a spotting session, because its purpose is to spot exact points in the video where sound ideas can develop:

5. Making your web site accessible to improve human and computer communication

One main reason to have a web site is to communicate efficiently with others—and with web technology, that means being able to communicate across a multitude of platforms and interfaces in a language that is clear and easy for humans to understand. In this movie from chapter one of Improving SEO Using Accessibility Techniques, Morton Rand-Hendrickson demonstrates the communication benefits of implementing strong web site accessibility practices that will improve your SEO, and your human-to-human communication:


What other things have you learned on about getting files, people, or entire groups organized? Are there any areas you’d like to see us explore in more depth?

Are you feeling inspired to explore more content? Remember, 10 percent of all content is free to try. Just click on any of the blue links on any course table of contents page in our library.

Free Movies


See you back next week with five more free selections!


Suggested courses to watch next:
Effective Meetings
Improving SEO Using Accessibility Techniques
Audio for Film and Video with Pro Tools
Infographics: Visualizing Relationships
Photoshop Lightroom 4 Essentials: Organizing and Sharing with the Library Module

Quick Tip: Setting up a Photoshop document for a web site mockup

Published by | Saturday, April 14th, 2012
The first step in creating a web site mockup in Photoshop

Click image for a larger view.

Designing for the web is a bit different than designing for print, so it’s important that you set up your Photoshop document correctly before you begin designing your web mockup.

First, in Photoshop, go to File > New. This opens up the New Document dialog box, where you can choose everything you need. Start with the Preset pull-down and choose Web. From there, you can choose the size of your document. If you want your site to appeal to the largest possible audience, don’t choose dimensions that are too wide or too narrow. A good starting place is 960 pixels wide and 690 pixels high. You can always adjust as you go, but this is a good starting size.

Leave the Color Mode set to RGB Color and 8 bit. Background Contents refers to the background color for your document. Leave it set to White. Click OK.

To help in your design layout, turn on your rulers by going to View > Rulers (or keyboard shortcut Ctrl+R in Windows, Cmd+R on a Mac). Since you’re in a web document, the rulers should display in pixels. Right-click on your ruler and select Pixels.

You can also select View > Show > Grid if you want a grid to help you with your design layout, and you can drag out some guides to assist you in the placement of your design. To create a guide, click and drag from a ruler into your document. Turn on the Info panel (Window > Info) to give you the precise location of your guide. You can reposition your guide at any time with the Move tool, and if you want to remove a guide, simply drag it off the art board.

Now that you’ve set the dimensions, color space, and resolution for your working file, you can easily move ahead with the creation of your web-design mockup.

If you’re interested in more tips for converting Photoshop files into Dreamweaver projects, check out Designing Web Sites from Photoshop to Dreamweaver.


Interested in more?
• All Photoshop courses

Suggested courses to watch next:
Designing Web Sites from Photoshop to Dreamweaver
Web Site Strategy and Planning
 Creating a First Web Site with Dreamweaver CS5
Photoshop CS5 Essential Training

Visual storytelling—and—at the CPUG Supermeet

Published by | Friday, April 13th, 2012

Eleventh Annual Las Vegas CPUG Supermeet logo

On April 17, 2012, will be taking part in the Eleventh Annual Las Vegas CPUG Supermeet gathering, which is an annual highlight of the 2012 NAB Show. A valuable networking opportunity and forum, the Supermeet is a great place for the video post-production community to exchange feedback on each other’s work and get new product previews, such as the sneak peak of Apple’s Final Cut Pro X that was presented at the 2011 Supermeet.

Each year the CPUG Supermeet features great speakers, with this year’s list including Morgan Spurlock, Shane Hurlbut, ASC, and Adobe Premiere Pro product manager Al Mooney.

The Supermeet is organized by the Creative Pro User Group (CPUG) network, formerly known as the Final Cut Pro User Group (FCPUG). I asked Dan Berube, head of the Boston Creative Pro User Group (BOSCPUG), about the name change and what was gained—other than a shorter acronym.

Dan’s take: “BOSCPUG is all about visual storytelling, which comes naturally for us, and we’re very passionate in what we do for our outreach. It’s silly to define yourself by one tool—especially for a creative person. You cannot now just define yourself as one type of editor; you are a storyteller. If we have one motto, it’s: ‘We don’t care what tools you use, we only care what you do with the tools you use.’”

Does this ring true for you? How wedded are you to your editing system of choice? Have industry changes prompted you to expand your set of tools, or switch to new ones?

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, and please make sure to stop by our Las Vegas CPUG Supermeet table where you can have a look at our courses, and say hello to our staffers and authors, including CINEMA 4D expert Rob Garrott and video pro Rich Harrington. We also will be raffling an annual subscription to along with some other goodies you won’t want to miss!


Interested in more?
• All video courses on
• Courses by Rob Garrott and Rich Harrington on

Suggested courses to watch next:
CINEMA 4D: Designing a Promo
After Effects CS5 Essential Training
CINEMA 4D and After Effects Integration

InDesign Secrets: Importing a custom dictionary

Published by | Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets video, Anne-Marie Concepcion shows you how to create and import a custom dictionary. Imagine you have a long document filled with specialized words (like Blatner and Concepcion, for instance), you have Dynamic Spelling turned on and you see the ubiquitous red squigglies telling you that you’ve got a whole host of misspelled words. You know they’re not misspelled, they’re just the proper names of your favorite InDesign secret-keepers, and you have no desire to have to tell InDesign that every instance of those names is perfectly OK in your book. The answer is a custom dictionary filled with the words you deem legitimate for your particular document.

The secret is to share a custom dictionary with InDesign. In the free video above, you’ll see how this breaks down into three easy steps:

1. Create your custom word list and save it as a text file.

2. Create a new dictionary based on that list in InDesign’s Preferences dialog box.

3. Import the list using Edit > User Dictionary.

The final step would look like this:

Importing a custom dictionary file into InDesign

Voila, all those red squigglies magically disappear with the power of this InDesign secret. (And, as a bonus, I’ll never accidentally write “Blanter” again.)

Meanwhile, Anne-Marie’s partner in secrecy, David Blatner (not Blanter) has an exclusive video this week for members of the library called Changing document orientation and page size. In this movie David goes beyond the Document Setup feature—which just changes the orientation of your page—to explain how to change the orientation of your whole project, including altering the orientation of your page objects, one page at a time.

David and Anne-Marie will be back in two weeks with more InDesign secrets!


Interested in more?
• The entire InDesign Secrets bi-weekly series
• Courses by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion on
• All InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS5 Essential Training
Creating Long Documents with InDesign
• InDesign Styles in Depth
InDesign CS4: 10 Habits of Highly Effective Pros

Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6 new features revealed

Published by | Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Workflow, speed, and efficiency make for a strong CS6 update to veteran production applications Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. Next week, Adobe will be revealing the updated Premiere and After Effects apps at the NAB convention in Las Vegas, and authors Chris Meyer and Rich Harrington have created two tutorials that walk you through the important new CS6 features.

In After Effects CS6 New Features, Chris Meyer explores the brand-new 3D camera tracker, which analyzes a piece of video footage and reconstructs a virtual digital camera that matches the scene perfectly. With that camera and tracking data, motion graphics and visual effects artists can seamlessly place digital elements into moving video. In addition, there is also a completely redesigned Global Performance Cache that dramatically speeds up interactions by saving crucial information about layers and how they’re put together into a locally stored data file. This locally-stored data allows After Effects to quickly undo changes, and present ram previews much faster. It can even reload cache after quitting and relaunching the application.

In this clip from After Effects CS6 New Features, Chris Meyer shows you the process of exporting 3D tracking data to CINEMA 4D:

Looking at our second featured course, Rich Harrington sums up the big changes to Adobe’s flagship editing application in Premiere Pro CS6 New Features. The elegant new Premiere Pro editing interface is exciting, but it’s the introduction of adjustment layers that will make heads turn. Adjustment layers have long been a part of After Effects, but the accelerated effects of the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro mean that editors can now use adjustment layers to apply effects like color correction to an entire timeline, and make changes in real time without stopping playback.

In this next movie from Premiere Pro CS6 New Features, author Rich Harrington shows off the new three-way color corrector in Premiere Pro CS6:

These two New Features courses are great for long-time users of Premiere and After Effects. For a ground-up introduction to each, keep an eye out for our Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6 essential training courses coming soon.


Interested in more?
• All video courses on
• All courses on After Effects and Premiere Pro on
• Courses by Chris Meyer and Rich Harrington on

Suggested courses to watch next:
Premiere Pro CS6 New Features
After Effects CS6 New Features
After Effects CS5 Essential Training

After Effects Apprentice 15: Creating a 10-second promo video in After Effects

Published by | Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

In After Effects Apprentice 15: Final Project (the fifteenth, and final, course in the After Effects Apprentice series based on the second edition of Trish and Chris Meyer’s book After Effects Apprentice) you will pull together skills you’ve learned in the previous After Effects Apprentice lessons to create a real-world video promo. In the first half of the course Trish leads you through building the artwork and components used in the final piece, and then Chris demonstrates how to assemble your precompositions into a 3D world, timed to music. Skills covered include how to use masks, effects, shape layers, text, layered Illustrator files, blending modes, track mattes, collapsed transformations, nested compositions, motion blur, expressions, animation presets, audio, a 3D camera and light, and more.

Throughout the course, Trish and Chris share with you their process and thoughts as they design component elements, work towards assembling a final composition, and deal with handling change requests from clients. Chapters 11 and 12, the final two chapters of the course, are essentially mini-courses in themselves. In chapter 11, Chris breaks down several strategies for efficient rendering, including how to create versions for archiving, non-linear editors, widescreen, center cut, and the web, and chapter 12 dives into the process of recreating a dial Illustrator logo using shape and text layers inside After Effects.

Although After Effects Apprentice 15: Final Project concludes the After Effects Apprentice series, this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of Trish and Chris as they’ve already promised to update their After Effects Apprentice book based on the next version of After Effects, and afterward will release additional Apprentice videos covering the new features, plus a new final project.