Archive for May, 2012

Memories of a Friend: Reflecting on the life of Hillman Curtis

Published by | Friday, May 11th, 2012

Silence is the sound of finality. And that was all I heard when I received the news that Hillman Curtis was gone. Hillman was a huge inspiration to me and many of you know him from his films, books, or conference talks. He had a stunning visual sensibility, thoughtful eyes, and a kind and creative heart. I like how one of my good friends put it, “Hillman had a gentle and quiet side to him in which he allowed his work to pass through to become much bigger.”

Hillman Curtis portrait.

By any yardstick, Hillman was a big success. Yet, to be successful it typically requires talking loudly or at least talking a lot. Hillman proved that wrong in his own quiet way. He forged a path that many of us in the creative arts community follow today. And this wasn’t a passive act—Hillman was a fighter. In one of his books he wrote about the experience of feeling a bit old and tired and then going to a boxing gym for a lesson. After attempting to box, a trainer came up and said, “I can tell that you’ve boxed before, but you have a couple of fundamentals wrong.”

The trainer continued, “First, you’re crouched over, all covered up. You have to use your God-given gifts. You’re tall. Stand up straight. You’re also facing the bag sideways. Square off on your opponent; otherwise you can’t throw the right.”

Hillman reflected, “That was a pretty standard boxing lesson. But that morning I took more from it. First, I should stop covering up and stop hiding from the world. Second, I should acknowledge my blessings, stand up straight, and face my opponents. This could be anything—a client situation, a creative challenge, or a career shift. And finally, and most important, I should ‘throw the right.’ The right is the knockout punch, but by throwing it you leave yourself vulnerable to getting hit, perhaps even knocked out yourself. But you have to throw it to win—even to compete.”

Throughout his career and life, Hillman wasn’t afraid to “throw the right” and to reinvent himself. And he did so, not with ego-filled abandon, but with inspiring calm. In this way, he charted a unique and inspiring course for others to follow.

With Hillman gone, who now will lead the way?

Hillman Curtis speaking at the Flash on the Beach conference.

In the silence of trying to make sense of this loss, I started to dig through my archives. I came across photos from different conferences like Flash on the Beach (above) and Flashforward (below) from a few years back. The photo below was actually a mistake at the time – I’m surprised I didn’t delete it. I only focused on Hillman and not the rest of the crew—Lynda Weinman, Bruce Heavin, and Brendan Dawes. Now in retrospect the mistake seems to be fitting. Hillman brought such clarity and simplicity to his work. He stood apart and in sharp focus. And by his example, he provided inspiration to others with details of how he created his work in books or presentations. Hillman seemed to never have anything to hide.

Hillman Curtis with Bruce and Lynda Weinman.

That was of course until he started to show his acclaimed work. He always preferred to let it speak on its own. That’s why I love this photo of him ducking down and out of the way while his film played above. The work was his voice.

Hillman Curtis presenting at the Flash on the Beach conference.

Hillman’s voice wasn’t something that just appeared—he intentionally developed it over time. He enjoyed being with other artists and friends like in the photo below.

Hillman Curtis with friends.

Recently, while interviewing Hillman, I asked, “What character qualities should an artist nurture and develop?” He responded, “Curiosity. I think this is key… at least for me. I go into every shoot open eyed, expecting to be challenged, and expecting to be surprised. I fully expect that whatever preconceptions I might have about the shoot will get blown out of the water and something far cooler will replace it.”

Hillman was curious and kind. I think the two went hand in hand. When he travelled, he would often bring his son or family on the trip. Below are a few pictures of Hillman and his son Jasper. You get the idea. He wasn’t just a great musician/designer/filmmaker. He was a great husband, and friend, and Dad.

Hillman Curtis with his son, Jasper.

Later in my interview, I asked, “What’s your advice to the aspiring artist?” He responded, “Well, first maybe lose the ‘aspiring’ part. Be an artist. Period. I also think that this year could hold some real opportunities for the person who has neglected their desire to do art. Some will be confronted with less work and more free time. Embrace it. Embrace your ideas.”

Stand up straight. Throw the right. Be an artist today.

I keep thinking about how I want to do something to keep Hillman’s spirit alive. Perhaps it’s our turn to make that project we’ve been burying inside? If you have any of your own plans, ideas or memories, we would all be grateful to hear your thoughts. And thank you for taking the time to read and to collectively share in this loss.

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to Lynda and Bruce, as I knew Hillman because of them.

 

Humbly Yours,
Chris Orwig

 

InDesign Secrets: Linking a table to an Excel spreadsheet for easy updating

Published by | Thursday, May 10th, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets episode, Anne-Marie Concepcion shows you how to place Excel spreadsheets into your InDesign documents as tables, and walks you through the process of linking your table and your original Excel spreadsheet to avoid having to manually update and reformat every time a colleague updates the spreadsheet in Excel.

I have to admit I find this tip vitally compelling, particularly because tables in InDesign are still a bit of a mystery to me. (I have Diane Burns’ InDesign Tables in Depth course in my queue for this very reason.) Once I establish how I want the formatting to work in a given table, the last thing I want is to have to re-establish said formatting on an entirely new table. Of course, the second to last thing I want is to painstakingly make manual data changes to an existing InDesign table (no matter how pretty I made it.)

InDesign table example.

Example of a table with formatting created in InDesign.

In this video, Anne-Marie explains the process for creating linked tables that save you from the hassle of manual updating or reformatting. Your first step is to set the Preferences so that InDesign knows you want spreadsheets to come in as linked files. In the File Handling portion of the Preferences dialogue box, you’ll select the Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files option in the Links section.

InDesign Preferences dialogue box example.

With this option selected, when data in your native Excel sheet is updated,  you will see a notification in the Links panel letting you know that your spreadsheet has been modified. Just double-click on that notification, and the data elements of your table that have been modified will update automatically, with no need for you to reformat your table. (OK, sometimes you may need to reestablish the header row or adjust cell size.)

If you are looking for more consistent table results, Anne Marie recommends creating a table style before placing your Excel file, and then applying that table style when you are placing your Excel table into InDesign. If you are new to table styles, I recommend checking out Michael Murphy’s InDesign Styles in Depth, in this case, specifically chapter six which covers table and cell styles.

Note that you may not always want every single spreadsheet table you place to update automatically, so remember to uncheck the Create Links option as soon as you are done working with the table you want linked, or find yourself facing updates where you don’t expect them.

Meanwhile, exclusively for members of lynda.com, Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has a movie that shows you how to create electronic sticky notes in InDesign.

Stay tuned, Anne-Marie and David will be back in two weeks with more InDesign Secrets.

Interested in more?
• Start your 7-day free trial to lynda.com today
• The entire InDesign Secrets bi-weekly series
• Courses by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion on lynda.com
• All lynda.com InDesign courses

Introduction to using Evernote as a productivity tool

Published by | Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Evernote is a Cloud productivity tool and digital notebook that allows you to store various types of content, and access your content seamlessly from various devices—whether it be a smartphone, a PC, or a tablet. If you’ve ever wished you could quickly capture, store, or categorize all your conference business cards, or share your brainstorming notes with a team before meeting, Evernote may be the business solution for you.

In our new set of Evernote courses, Up and Running with Evernote for Mac and Up and Running with Evernote for Windows,  author David Rivers teaches you how to use the application’s productivity tools to become more productive yourself.

In this video from chapter X of the Up and Running with Evernote for Windows course, David introduces Evernote, and gives an overview of its functionality to help you get a feel for how you might see yourself using the digital notebook.

Evernote has a very extensive list of features, and applications. Here are a few stand-out functions:

  1. You can sync your Evernote account across multiple devices, including your PC, Mac, tablet, and smartphone, and have complete access to all your stored data, notes, and other items from all places.
  2. You can create notebooks to share collections of notes with certain teams. For example, your Marketing Ideas notebook can be a joint collaboration with the marketing team while your Recipes to Try notebook might just be one you share with your spouse so you’re both inspired when it’s time to plan meals.
  3. Thanks to Evernote’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, you can snap a picture that includes text, signage, or other lettering, and Evernote will recognize and store that data along with your picture, making it easy for you to search a keyword term and find the photo you’re looking for later.
  4. Advanced tagging features let you associate data with each note and notebook, so you can easily create a personal library of well-tagged notes that can be searched by keyword.
  5. Evernote’s Web Clipper, a new alternative to bookmarks in your browser, lets you save your favorite links easily for later perusal.

Evernote has made it easy for me to collect business course requests, jot and tag notes about inspiring business people, and keep running lists of multiple tasks. I also love being able to snap a quick photo of a white board with planning notes knowing I will be able to search for the image with keywords later on.

What do you use Evernote for? Please share with us in the comments section.

 

Deke’s Techniques: Placing type on a circular path in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

This week’s free Deke’s Techniques is the first recorded in Illustrator CS6, but aside from the new dark interface atmosphere, there’s nothing in this technique that can’t be done in earlier versions of Illustrator. Which is to say, placing type on the top and bottom of what appears to be the same circle still requires some finesse, even in this era of Illustrator CS6. In today’s tutorial, Deke will show you exactly how it works.


This technique is ultimately a matter of understanding how to stack two different circles, using the alignment setting and Smart Guides to your advantage, and then adjusting the scale and tracking of the text to finish the effect. The result is type placed on a circular path, with the center of each letter aligned, like you see in this fiercely aligned logo:

Photoshop logo with text places evenly around the entire circle.

For members of lynda.com, Deke’s got an exclusive follow-up movie called Making flared type on a circle that demonstrates how to convert your text to an art brush for those times when you need your letters to bend and flare with the curve of your circle, rather than aligning at the center of each letter. This technique is especially handy when you need to change a long word like tortellini to a word like milk that is much shorter and contains a very wide first letter.

See you back next week when Deke shares another free technique!

 

Learn more:

• The entire  Deke’s Techniques series on lynda.com
• All Illustrator courses on lynda.com
• All Design courses on lynda.com
• All courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com

Strategies for using a de-esser to eliminate sibilance

Published by | Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

We’ve all heard that annoying hard “s” sound that happens when a vocal track is recorded with a less-than-optimal microphone choice. That high-pitched irritation is called sibilance and it can be found on all kinds of vocal tracks, whether your recorded voice is singing, or speaking words for a podcast or a book on tape. This challenge is very prominent in the recording world, and for anyone recording an individual with a natural accentuation or particular penchant for emphasizing words that contain the letter “s,” a de-esser can be a welcomed friend of the ears.

Also known as a frequency-dependent compressor, a de-esser is made specifically to only compresses certain frequencies that we want it to reduce in volume, and does not compress the rest of the track’s frequencies. For vocal tracks, this usually occurs in the frequency range between 6-8 kHz. When the de-esser compresses the particularly offending frequency, it leaves the rest of the frequencies in the signal alone, which maintains the natural sound of the original performance.

He won Pro Tools 10, and you could win the Adobe CS6 Master Collection

Published by | Monday, May 7th, 2012

In February 2012 we offered our lynda.com members, and blog followers, a chance to win a copy of Avid Pro Tools 10. Please join me in extending a big congratulations to David Carel, the lucky man who took home the prize.

Dave Carel holding the copy of Avid Pro Tools 10 he won from lynda.com.

Feeling inspired to win? Now through June 3, 2012, lynda.com will be giving away a copy of the Adobe Creative Suite 6 Master Collection. Just like us on Facebook, and join our mailing list for a chance to win the CS6 Master collection which includes Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash Professional, Premier Pro, After Effects, plus eight more. Enter here!

Suggested courses to watch next:
Photoshop CS6 for Photographers
Illustrator CS6 New Features
After Effects CS6 New Features
Premiere Pro CS6 New Features

How to switch from Windows to Mac

Published by | Saturday, May 5th, 2012

If you’ve recently switched jobs, changed industries, or taken up creative endeavors on the side, you may be faced with the critical question: How do I go about switching from Windows to Mac?

In the most recent update to the Switching from Windows to Mac course, author David Rivers shows you how to switch from Windows to Mac OS X Lion, and he demonstrates smart ways to use files, folders, search, and applications in your new Mac interface. If you’re a Windows user ready to discover the Mac interface, efficient ways to get your work done, and new Mac shortcuts and tips that will save you time, David’s course is a good place to start.

In this tutorial from chapter one of the course, David discusses Mac terminology, and shows you how to understand, and refer to, the Mac equivalents of the Windows tools you may be used to using:

Here are a few of David’s favorite tips to help you switch from Windows to Mac:

1.  PC and Mac files have never been more compatible! If you currently use Microsoft Office on a PC, you can save your Office files to a DVD or a USB drive and work on those same files with Microsoft Office 2008 or 2011 for the Mac. No conversion necessary—the file formats are compatible. You’ll also find the same easy compatibility within other applications like FileMaker Pro, Quicken, QuickBooks, and many more.

2.  You may already be familiar with Windows Explorer as a tool for finding things on your computer. Once you switch, Mac’s Quick Look feature allows you to preview files you’re browsing before opening them. The Quick Look feature can be found by opening any file folder, and then clicking on the eye-shaped icon at the top of the window (see the image below for a visual). Clicking the Quick Look icon allows you to preview your files in a Quick Look pop-up, an instant slideshow, or full-screen. If you are a keyboard shortcut user, you can also highlight the item within your folder you want to preview, and press Command + Y on your keyboard to call up a Quick Look preview.

 

Mac Quick Look example

The Quick Look button can be found when you open any folder, or the Finder window.

Previewing an image with Quick Look.

Previewing an image with Quick Look.

 

If you found these highlights helpful, check out the full Switching from Windows to Mac course for more tips and tricks to help you make your transition as seamless as possible.

 

Interested in more?
• The full Switching from Windows to Mac (2012) course on lynda.com
• All business courses on lynda.com
• All courses from David Rivers on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:
Mac OS X Lion Essential Training
Small Office Networking to Connect, Share, and Print

Word for Mac 2011 Essential Training

Excel for Mac 2011 Essential Training

Two ways to create a reflective floor in After Effects

Published by | Friday, May 4th, 2012

Floors create a sense of visual depth and give your designs a sense of space by giving your graphic elements something to ‘sit on.’ Making a reflective floor can be a great way to add an elegant look to your motion graphics layout. When you first see a reflection on a graphic element, trying to recreate it can seem like a daunting task. Really though, there are some techniques that have been carried over from the world of Photoshop that are simple to do, look great, and render fast.

On this edition of Design in Motion, we’ll see two different techniques for creating a reflective floor, one that explores transformation of a duplicate layer, and one that creates your reflective floor with a mirror. Both techniques yield final products that look very similar. The real difference in the two will be the amount of control you need. Using the reflective mirror route allows you to finalize this technique using only one layer, but this route gives you less control. Using the transformation of a duplicate later route you will end up with more layers, but also more control.

If you’re interested in learning more about working in After Effects, a great place to start is the lynda.com After Effects Apprentice series from Chris and Trish Meyer.

Interested in more?
• The complete Design in Motion weekly series on lynda.com
• All video courses on lynda.com
• Courses by Rob Garrott on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:
After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying
After Effects CS5.5 New Features

After Effects CS5 Essential Training
• After Effects Apprentice 02: Basic Animation