Blending modes in Photoshop and After Effects are often taken for granted, but neither application started out with these features. When blend modes were introduced into After Effects around Version 3, they literally blew my mind. The idea that you could mix still images together had been long established in Photoshop, and the thought of being able to do that with animation and video was incredible.
Flash forward to the present and blend modes are incredibly well documented, but even with all this documentation, I’m often asked “what can I do with them?” In this week’s edition of Design in Motion, I’ll show you some of my favorite blend modes and how you can use them for type effects and color correction.
After watching this, if you’re ready to learn a lot more, After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control from Chris and Trish Meyer is filled with tips and ideas on how to get the most out of blend modes in After Effects.
One of my favorite things about being part of the team at lynda.com is that everyone—staff, authors, and members alike—shares a passion for life-long learning. My colleagues on the Content team not only work hard to plan the best training possible on the subjects most critical to our members, but we also take advantage of the vast Online Training Library® to solve problems, learn skills outside our respective wheelhouses, or just stare hypnotically (and sometimes enviously) at the amazing stuff our lynda.com colleagues have created.
I was thinking about all this in light of my personal ambitions for 2012. It seems to me the standard (failed) New Year’s resolution has two strikes against it right from the outset. First, it usually involves some kind of annoying self-deprivation I’m not emotionally ready for. And second, I don’t usually have the resources readily at hand to shore up my chances for success.
But this year I have a new plan for 2012—one that’s made possible by the carefully crafted content my talented colleagues have created in the past 12 months. Rather than withhold good things from myself, I’m going to luxuriously dive into the lynda.com Online Training Library® to help me with some of my learning goals and intellectual curiosities. No deprivation, no willpower, no need to schlep to the gym with all the other January wannabes, just me happily keeping my resolution to learn new and useful things with the following content to help me indulge my goals:
1. Manage my time more effectively. Dave Crenshaw’s Time Management Fundamentals course was a big hit with members this year. I knew it was also resonating with the lynda.com staff when I heard the nefarious term switchtasking bandied in more than one meeting. Here’s a free-to-all movie that explains how trying to do two things at once makes them both take longer and become harder to do well:
2. Begin to understand code. As an author, blogger, and wrangler of wonderful designers dedicated to teaching design tools, I have the basic skills I need to tweak a blog post in HTML or search for structural issues in an .inx file, but that’s as close as I get to understanding code. And yet, the idea of learning programming calls at the edges of my creative consciousness the same way wanting to paint with watercolors does. Simon Allardice’s Foundations of Programming: Fundamentals is a compelling, and more importantly, non-patronizing tool for getting your bearings in the world of creating through code. This What is programming? movie from chapter one is a great sample, and Simon’s wonderful presentation makes me actually want more programming exploration:
3. Organize my 2011 digital photos (before I start taking 2012 pics). I used to be an editor of books on digital photography, including two editions of the seminal text on the subject of digital asset management. I’ve had advice from the very best. And yet, I’m still horrible about organizing my digital photos. Derrick Story’s Organizing and Archiving Digital Photos is full of practical information that you can put to use to organize your photo library without pressure or recrimination. If you’re a lynda.com member, dive into chapter six with Derrick’s Setting strategies for using keywords segment. For non-members, start with Dealing with your legacy collection in chapter three.
4. Make sure meetings are worth everyone’s time, including mine. The members of my brilliant team at lynda.com mostly work from their respective homes across the country. That being said, although I don’t have the same dread of meetings that many people who work full-time in an office do because I’m often desperate for human connection regardless, I have discovered that, from home or in an office, a satisfyingly effective meeting can really connect you to your colleagues in a way that’s critical for distributed teams. Enter Dave Crenshaw again with his Effective Meetings course, and particularly this lynda.com member-exclusive video on Meeting virtually. For non-members, check out Understanding the principles of successful meetings in chapter one.
5. Create effective and engaging blog posts. In Online Marketing Fundamentals, Lorrie Thomas Ross had me when she said, “Blogs are facts married to opinion.” I love her advice to make your personality come through in the blog, and I’ve clearly taken it to heart. Members of lynda.com should check out this movie, Blog Content creation ideas in chapter eight, to see why Lorrie is a woman after my own heart (and in possession of some really great advice.) Non members can get a broader view of the topic with Components of online marketing in chapter one.
6. Effectively Draw at least one simple shape in Adobe Illustrator. I’ve written a book on Photoshop and created that book (and many others) in InDesign. I feel functionally comfortable with both applications, but for some reason Illustrator has always daunted me. When we launchedDeke’s Techniques at the beginning of 2011, I forced myself to go step by step through every Illustrator technique just to see if I could follow along. Deke’s video on how to draw a heart in Illustrator (lesson number 42 in the Deke’s Techniques series) gave me that “I rule” moment that convinced me I may one day be able to add this application to my skill set. (And it also prepares you for Valentine’s Day, so I’m one holiday ahead of the game.) Check it out:
7. Communicate with color in video. My esteemed colleague who handles the training courses for the Video segment here at lynda.com, Rob Garrott, launched a weekly series in 2011 called Design in Motion. Some of the content is way over my video-novice head, but this movie on Communicating emotion through color correction got me thinking I might actually be able to foray with relative confidence into communicating effectively and emotionally within the video medium.
8. Get the most from my new camera. Although I haven’t indulged in a new camera this year, the new collection of courses from Ben Long helps people who have the most recent Canon and Nikon offerings learn how to use their particular toys to take well-crafted photos. And if my budget doesn’t come through with a new camera in 2012, there’s always Ben’s general Foundations of Photography series. Try this intro from the Exposure edition and see if you can resist watching the rest of the course:
9. Set up speakers for good sound. The Audio segment at lynda.com got a huge boost of content this year. In the popular Audio Mixing Bootcamp, industry expert Bobby Owsinski covers all the tips and tricks a budding audiophile might need. And although I may never master the art of sound, watching this helpful Determining the audio listening position movie from chapter one may inspire me to get that speaker in my office out from behind the potted plant.
10. Take beautiful pictures of all the delicious food I’m not avoiding. Finally, since I have no pressure to deprive myself of gourmet meals in charming restaurants this year, I can spend some time with noted food photographer Bill Robbins’ course on Food and Drink Photography guilt-free. Chapter seven includes a great lynda.com member-exclusive video on Finding the right location and lighting in your favorite restaurant to take the best photos of your dinner. My foodie friends on Twitter will be drooling with envy.
What are your hopes, big and small, for learning in the new year? What are your favorite lynda.com movies for providing the inspiration and instruction that you need to move toward them? The Content team and entire staff at lynda.com will be working hard to bring you what you most need in 2012, and until then, we wish you the most peaceful, joyous, and learning-rich new year.
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.
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.
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.
Migrating from Final Cut Pro 7 to Media Composer 5.5 is the second Final Cut Pro course that we’ve released this week. The course is a deep comparison of the interfaces, concepts, tools, and workflow behind each of these two programs. Author Steve Holyhead covers the key differences Final Cut editors need to know to master Media Composer.
Avid’s Media Composer is used heavily in many areas of production, particularly in high-end television and feature films. Originally, this course was designed for people who learned video editing on Final Cut Pro and wanted to broaden their professional skills so they could work in more types of production environments.
With the release of Final Cut Pro X, this course suddenly has a second purpose. While the controversy has settled down a bit, some Final Cut Pro users are indicating that they may want to switch platforms. This course can be used not only to facilitate that switch, but also can be used as a comparison between the two platforms for those who are simply considering the possibilities.
This course covers the basics of editing in Media Composer, including sequence creation, project organization and navigation, importing and linking media, timeline editing techniques, and how to work with audio and add transitions and effects. This should be everything Final Cut users need to know in order to understand Media Composer. We also have Avid Media Composer 5 Essential Training for those who want dive even deeper.
Of course, we have more Final Cut Pro X titles in the works, so stay tuned.
Let’s come out and say it: The launch of Final Cut Pro X has been controversial. With FCPX, Apple has released a new piece of software that is not only different from its previous version, but completely different from any other application in its field. I wouldn’t dare tell you whether these changes are right or wrong for your editing workflow. I’m not a journalist or an evangelist. I can’t even say that I’m a video editor—I gave up the freelance editing life nearly three years ago. What I am is a teacher. This is a great time to work for lynda.com, because what editors need most right now is to learn what Final Cut Pro X is really capable of.
Lately, it seems like the Internet has gone crazy over FCPX. Initially, the word was that professional editors were angry about the drastic changes in Final Cut Pro X, while consumers and amateur editors were curious about this new editing tool. But in the last few days, I’ve seen that tide changing a little bit. Professional editors seem to be giving FCPX a bit of a chance. They are learning that it introduces incredible new tools like clip auditioning and connected clips. They are learning that some of the bad things they’ve heard are simply not true, like the rumors that said Final Cut 7 and FCPX could not be installed on the same machine or the rumors that said 3rd party plug-ins were not supported. They are hearing announcements directly from Apple saying that certain valuable features are going to be added via software updates, including Multicam and support for exporting XML.
As a lynda.com Training Producer, I’ve been working closely with author Abba Shapiro, feverishly pushing to record and publish FCPX training in the lynda.com library as quickly as possible. I’ve been learning incredible things about FCPX that have honestly changed my perspective. Abba knows things about this application that nobody else in the world knows about, short of the engineers that built it. I’m thrilled that he is working with lynda.com to get that knowledge out to the world.
Also, I just finished listening to episode #250 of the Macworld Podcast, hosted by another lynda.com author, Chris Breen. In this show, Chris interviewed Gary Adcock, a well known Final Cut and video production veteran. Gary paints a very enlightening and balanced picture of the FCPX release, the reactions of pro editors, and the true potential of the application. It’s clear from listening to Gary that the more professionals learn about FCPX, the more their attitudes are changing.
All of this leaves me with the following conclusion: I can almost guarantee that FCPX is not what you think it is. This is truly a case where learning everything you can about an application is one of the most valuable things you can do. I am extremely proud to be a software trainer right now, and to work closely with Abba Shapiro, an even better software trainer. It’s a joy to watch Abba assemble a piece of training that I know will immediately effect the lives and professional development of thousands of people. When we publishedCreating an Effective Resume, I felt the same way. Building something that will help people make the right choices in their professional lives is extremely rewarding.
I hope you check out our FCPX courses when they are released in the lynda.com Online Training Library®. And I hope those courses help you make informed decisions for your next video project, whether that be a feature film or cherished family video project. Abba Shapiro is working on two FCPX courses that will be released this month. Here is a quick look at the first one, Migrating from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X.
In this latest installment of his series, Douglas visits his friend Gerd Ludwig, a photojournalist best known for his work in National Geographic magazine. Ludwig has taken a special interest in Russia and the former Soviet Union—in particular, the people and stories surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Ludwig has photographed Chernobyl several times over the years. He wanted to return to document the conditions there today, but support from the traditional publishing industry wasn’t there. So he turned to the crowd—specifically, to Kickstarter.com, the crowdfunding website. He created a project proposal containing text and video descriptions of his project. He raised more than $23,000 from 435 backers and in March, he departed for Chernobyl.
Douglas visited with Ludwig in his home on the day before he left, and the course includes a tour of his gear and a look at how he packs for an expedition. When he returned, he and Douglas met in our studio to look at Ludwig’s photos and talk about Chernobyl today.
Capturing the conversation between Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig (Jim Heid photo).
On his latest trip, Ludwig also shot video in the depths of the poisoned reactor using a tiny video camera strapped to his protective helmet. As he says after he and Douglas watch the footage, video is “the new work of a photojournalist or documentary photographer.”
And Ludwig’s photos? They’re powerful and moving visual essays on the nightmare of Chernobyl and on how the area is being changed by residents who have moved back, and, incredibly, by tourists who visit to take photos.