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©2007 Dell Inc. Dell, the Dell logo, Ultrasharp and Dell Precision are registered trademarks or trademarks of Dell Inc. Intel, the Intel Inside logo, Pentium and Core2 Duo are registered trademarks of Intel Corporation. Microsoft, Windows, Windows Vista and Windows XP are registered trade marks of Microsoft Corporation. Other trade marks or trade names may be used in this document to refer to either the entities claiming the marks and names of their products. ATI FireGL is a registered trademark of AMD. Dell disclaims proprietary interest in the marks and names of others. Response times may vary according to the remoteness or accessibility of Product location. Service may be provided via telephone or internet where appropriate. Certain restrictions apply. Dell Corporation Limited, Milbanke House, Western Road, Bracknell, Berks, RG12 1RD. Prices excluding VAT and delivery.


DigitalArts The world’s biggest creative design & technology magazine

WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK

welcome EDITORIAL Group editor Matthew Bath matthew@digitalartsonline.co.uk Editor Lynn Wright lynnw@digitalartsonline.co.uk Deputy editor Neil Bennett neilb@digitalartsonline.co.uk Art editor Chris Hodgson chrish@digitalartsonline.co.uk ADVERTISING Advertising manager Matthew Bennett matthewb@digitalartsonline.co.uk Classified sales executive Ben Hakki ben_hakki@idg.co.uk Contact Digital Arts advertising on 020 7071 3682 MARKETING CD editor Richard Clooke richard_clooke@idg.co.uk Group marketing manager Nikki Causer nikki_causer@idg.co.uk Subscriptions manager Tom Drummond tom_drummond@idg.co.uk

One thing that has come up time and again in our conversations with designers, is that design isn’t actually about design. It isn’t even wholly about creativity, style, skill or innovation. For the consumers and clients of the work you create, the main part of what you do – and what they see – is the idea. Because without an idea, design is simply art. Design, as opposed to art, is the lubricant that helps spread your idea. It can be extremely well executed, it can use every feature found in your creative weapon of choice, it can be broadcast across a range of media. But, the idea is what forms the heart of any design. But nailing down an idea can be tough. Before a morning caffeine fix, they’re as slippery as eels, and even afterwards chasing that eureka moment can be hard. This issue, we tackle ideas head on. How do you find inspiration, how do you successfully brainstorm, and how do other designers create ideas? You can read more – and hopefully get your creative cogs whirring – on page 24. If you need more inspiration, then our exploration of some of the best design books you should have in the studio could prove inspirational. Turn to page 44 to read more. We’ve also got a huge collection of great work from our readers on page 16, while this month’s masterclasses show how to create gritty T-shirt designs, Web 2.0-style graphics, and how to colour-correct digital video footage. And once you have the stirrings of a creative spark, our collection of vital client-handling tips will ensure that your ideas, work and business practices keep clients happy and coming back for more. Keep them sweet on page 32.

PRODUCTION Head of production Richard Bailey richard_bailey@idg.co.uk Ad production assistant Matthew Lane matthew_lane@idg.co.uk PUBLISHING Publishing director Mustafa Mustafa mustafa@idg.co.uk Managing director Kit Gould kit_gould@idg.co.uk CONTRIBUTORS Sean Ashcroft, Michael Burns, Joanne Carter, Simon Danaher, Simon Eccles, Alan Stafford, Jason Walsh, Martyn Williams TYPEFACES Neutraliser, Neo Tech, Palatino, Titling Gothic PRODUCTION SERVICES / DIGITAL STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY Printed by St Ives (Roche) / Stock photography from Getty Images, plus additional images from Digital Vision TECHNOLOGY Apple G5 and Dell 670 workstations, Adobe Photoshop CS, Adobe InDesign CS, QuarkXPress 7, Adobe Acrobat CS, Pepto-Bismol SUBSCRIPTIONS Call the Subscription Hotline on 01858 438 867 13 issues for £49.99 (UK) £90 Europe, £120 Rest of World BACK ISSUES For back issues call 01858 438 867 Back issues cost £5.99 each including p&p in the UK £8.99 Europe, £9.99 Rest of World ADDRESS 99 Gray‘s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8TY www.digitalartsonline.co.uk Tel: 020 7071 3615, fax (ads): 020 7405 0262 WORLD LEADERS IN IT PUBLISHING

Lynn Wright editor

DigitalArts This month’s cover illustration is by TADO, www.debutart.com

Digital Arts delivers authoritative creative advice that directly impacts on you as a designer. Digital Arts covers design, visual effects, video, interactive, 3D, and animation, and our tutorials are sourced from leading creative practitioners. Digital Arts is the leading reviews magazine, and reviews more creative products than any other UK monthly magazine.

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contents

VISIT WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK FOR ALL THE LATEST REVIEWS

in this issue

IBE! SUBSdCbR rk y artwo

e Be inspir as this gns such how and desi nd learn a – th n o ribing sc b every m su y them – b te 50 to a e e g cr a to ep al l Arts. Se to Digita our speci f o e g nta g take adva n offer includin tio k! subscrip sign boo a free de

P32 CLIENT SATISFACTION

P44 ESSENTIAL DESIGN BOOKS

P34 A SPRINKLING OF STARDUST

P38 AARDMAN CHICKENS OUT

Retaining clients is as much about making them happy as what you create. We tell you how to keep them sweet

How Double Negative’s CG work brought the epic world of the graphic novel to the screen for the Hollywood movie

Top books that every creative must own: from design principles and typography to how not to lose your soul

The animation house details how it created three mobile phone-using CG cockerels for Kellogg’s latest campaign

ON THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL ARTS CD

MASTERCLASS

free tutorial videos FINAL CUT STUDIO TRAINING In-depth, high-resolution video tutorials for Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Color from the new Digital Media Training Series 50 hi-res stock photos A full library of high-resolution images

For more information see page 96

from the Cadmium 120k+ collection

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Synfig 2D animation suite Be one of the first to get your hands on the cartoon software with this full beta Showcase All episodes of the PS3-based Heavenly Sword cartoon, plus the BioShock ad Plus! The latest demos, a Tetris plug-in for InDesign, vector art, and Masterclass files

Learn Apple’s Color! P52 KILLER T-SHIRT DESIGNS BY TRACING PHOTOS IN ILLUSTRATOR From a simple shot to stunning final artwork

P58 GIVE ICONS AND GRAPHICS WEB 2.0 SPARKLE IN PHOTOSHOP How to match the style of the next-gen Internet


at a glance P06 NEWS & PRODUCTS The very latest creative news and products P12 STOCK This month’s new stock media collections P14 PULSE Creative inspiration, happenings and gadgets P16 SHOWCASE Readers show off their stunning work

COVER FEATURE P24 STORM CHASING! Unlock the potential of your creativity P32 CLIENT SATISFACTION Keep your clients happy with these tips P34 A SPRINKLING OF STARDUST Designing epic landscapes and a flying ship P38 AARDMAN CHICKENS OUT Creating CG cockerels for Kellogg’s new ads P41 GUINNESS MUSIC MACHINE The Mill animates the action in a pint P44 ESSENTIAL DESIGN BOOKS Top creative tomes you really must read P52 KILLER T-SHIRT DESIGN Trace a photo to give your artwork depth P58 WEB 2.0 GRAPHICS Recreate the sheen of the latest Web trend P62 TEXT ANIMATION TIPS Get the very best from type in motion P64 GRADING A MUSIC VIDEO Make a low-budget promo look expensive P68 PRODUCT REVIEWS Our in-depth creative product testing P82 GROUP TEST Six photo and artwork printers reviewed

REVIEWS

P88 COMPETITION Win one of five Iomega REV drives!

p68 p71 p73 p74

Strata 3d[in] Olympus E-510 Adobe Ultra CS3 Boris FX Continuum Complete 5 p77 Electric Rain Swift3D 5 p78 Vertus Fluid Mask 3 p79 Dell Precision M4300 p79 Nik Software Dfine 2.0 p80 GridIron Nucleo Pro 2 p80 Samsung SyncMaster 305T

P62 SMOOTH TEXT ANIMATION TECHNIQUES AND TIPS FOR AE Use and move type better in After Effects

P64 GRADING A MUSIC VIDEO USING APPLE’S COLOR SUITE

P89 BUYERS GUIDE The last six months of reviews at-a-glance P96 CD PAGES What’s on your free creative cover CD P98 BLOG Readers’ letters and design musings

DigitalArts Best Buy

P82 TESTED: PRO PHOTO PRINTERS

The best inkjet printers for illustrators, photographers and designers put head-tohead to find the best for you

Get to grips with Final Cut Studio’s new tool

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news

VISIT WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK FOR THE LATEST NEWS

o Vidheeck out

an c ed You c ower light-p on Mac Silver sites o e id going Web-v dows by in ’s W ft d o n s a ro to Mic ht.net g li r e v Sil

Microsoft and Adobe in online video face-off Microsoft has released its Silverlight 1.0 plug-in that it claims will deliver the future of high-definition video on the Web, while Adobe touts a beta of Flash Player 9, which it says integrates Blu-ray levels of HD video support. Microsoft has released its Silverlight plug-in for video on the Web. Silverlight represents Microsoft’s efforts to present multimedia experiences on the Web, offering enhanced audio and video streaming and playback using Windows Media Technologies. The technology aims squarely at rival Adobe and its ubiquitous Flash Player for multimedia on the Web. “We’re finally shipping the plug-in,” said Parimal Desphande, group product manager for the User Experience Platform and Tools team at Microsoft. The 1.0 version of Silverlight is geared to providing video. Microsoft cites several

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differentiators between Silverlight and Flash. Silverlight, Deshpande said, offers high-definition video at a lower cost and functions with Microsoft’s developer tools. The company also is offering an on-demand component, Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live. “[For] customers who want to use our service for streaming video content, we have that as well,” Deshpande said. He touted a list of supporters of Silverlight, including Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment; Entertainment Tonight; and the Home Shopping Network. The ability to use Microsoft tools with Silverlight provides an advantage, says Ross Angert,

creative director for interactive media at World Wrestling Entertainment. “It’s the advantages from a development side that Silverlight offers us,” in terms of streaming video costs and displaying multiple video streams, he said. “Flash certainly is a great tool, and we have some Flash products on our site, but I think overall as a company to partner with, Microsoft is going to be a great partner going forward,” Angert said. Designers can use Microsoft’s Expression tools to develop applications for Silverlight. The company is releasing Expression Encoder 1.0, formerly Expression Media Encoder, a tool for

encoding and publishing rich media content to Silverlight. Meanwhile, Adobe detailed its response with the release of a beta of Flash Player 9, codenamed Moviestar, which includes H.264 standard video support – the same standard deployed in Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. The update also supports High Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC) audio support, as well as hardware accelerated, multicore enhanced full screen video playback. These formats will also be supported by the newly announced Flash Media Server 3, which will ship early next year. It offers improved performance, content protection, and live event support, says Adobe.


Eyeon has released an update for its Vision motion graphics software, which gives users access to a wealth of plug-ins in Fusion’s own Fuse format and the open OpenFX standard.

Canon adds two pro SLR cameras The EOS 40D and the EOS-1Ds Mark III are the latest addition to Canon’s range of digital SLRs. The EOS-1Ds Mark III has a 21-megapixel, 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor that delivers a 14-bit colour depth and 100MB image files (as 16-bit TIFs). Dual DIGIC III processors drive 5fps continuous shooting for up to 56 large JPEGs (12 RAW) – unrivalled by any other camera at this resolution, according to Canon. The camera includes many features first seen in the EOS1D Mark III, including 63-zone exposure metering, 19 cross-type auto-focus system, a three-inch LCD with Live View mode and EOS Integrated Cleaning System. The Highlight Tone Priority function expands dynamic range for more detail in bright areas. The EOS 40D features a 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, 6.5 frames per second burst performance, a newly developed AF system and three-inch LCD with Live View mode.

EyeballNYC has crafted the pre-launch commercial for PC game Bioshock. Working in collaboration with ad agency RDA International, EyeballNYC distilled Bioshock’s visual and graphic complexity into a 60-second spot. Creating suspense through erratic pacing and the power of suggestion. The team deployed meticulous colour scripting, fitted mannequins with clothing to accurately depict the movement of a character’s garments, and tracing light rays. EyeballNYC, www.eyeballnyc.com

The new Canon EOS 40D sports a 10.1mp CMOS sensor, and includes a massive three-inch LCD preview panel that supports live previewing of scenes.

As standard, the EOS 40D supports exposure settings up to ISO 1600, which is expandable to a high-sensitivity mode that Canon says is equivalent to ISO 3200. Highlight Tone Priority mode allows users to boost dynamic range for highlights when shooting above ISO 200 – reproducing more tonal detail from light-coloured objects. The EOS 40D costs £765 plus VAT for the body only, or £1,020

with a EF-S 17-85 USM lens. The EOS-1D Mark III costs £5,105 plus VAT (body only). www.canon.co.uk Entity FX has created visual effects for comic cop caper Rush Hour 3. Work on the film included 3D backdrops, digital matte paintings and screen composites that helped back up the action in several different interior and outdoor locations. One challenge involved adding a CG elevator to enhance suspense in an interior chase scene. Another required adding a sky and motion for scenes in which the stars take a transatlantic flight. Entity FX’s toolset included Autodesk’s Flame and Maya and Adobe After Effects. Entity FX, www.entityfx.com

Image credit: DreamWorks LLC, Paramount

HD war: Paramount dumps Blu-ray Paramount Pictures has revealed that it will drop support for Sony’s Blu-ray high-definition format in favour of exclusively supporting the Microsoftbacked HD DVD specification. The decision further complicates the race between the competing technologies. Officials for Paramount, which previously released movies on both formats, said HD DVD is better for consumers because it is cheaper to produce than Blu-ray – and HD DVD is a format consumers will be more willing to purchase, according to the company. The announcement affects all movies distributed by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon

Movies, and MTV Films, including titles such as the summer blockbuster Transformers (pictured). Universal already exclusively supports HD DVD while Warner Bros releases movies in both HD formats. Blu-ray still holds the lead in terms of exclusive support, however, as three of the six major film studios support Blu-ray in comparison with two studios for HD DVD. Sony, Disney, and 20th Century Fox all back Blu-ray. In terms of discs sold, Blu-ray also leads HD DVD by a margin of 2 to 1.

However, while the move deals a blow to Sony’s disc media and movie divisions, industry experts reckon that it will also harm sales of the company’s PlayStation 3.

Golden Square has helped create for AKQA a 60-second spot for the Xbox Live Vision camera that will be seeded as a viral and launched on to TV. VFX artist Harry Jarman worked on the explosions and tracking the material into the screens.

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news

P2 added to Premiere

Nikon upgrades SLR camera line, boosting capture rate to 8fps Nikon has released two digital SLRs, the semi-pro D300 and the pro-level D3. The D300 costs £1,100 plus VAT for the body only and features a 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor. It can capture images at up to 6fps – or 8fps using the optional Multi Power Battery Pack. The D300 has a self-cleaning sensor unit that vibrates at high frequencies to remove dust from the surface of the sensor’s optical low pass filter. It has an ISO range from 200-3200 plus Lo 1 (ISO 100 equivalent) and Hi (ISO 6400). Image accuracy is enhanced by the new technologies including the Nikon Scene Recognition

System, a 51-point autofocus system, and Live View, which shows a live image on the LCD screen, says Nikon. The body is built from a magnesium alloy, while the camera’s shutter has been tested for 150,000-release cycles. The D300 is also designed for a high level of dust and water resistance. The D3 is available for around £2,900 plus VAT for the body. It combines a FX-format image sensor with 12-channel read-out, a 9fps frame rate, dual Compact Flash ports, a three-inch LCD with Live View, and support for ISO settings from 200-6400. Nikon, www.nikon.co.uk

Canon debuts 12mp compacts Canon has launched two cameras with 12.1-megapixel sensors: the slimline Digital Ixus 960 IS and the PowerShot G9. The Digital Ixus 960 IS has an optically stabilized 3.7x zoom lens, which counteracts the effects of camera shake. The risk of image blur is

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further reduced by ISO Shift, which allows an instant ISO boost whenever camera shake threatens to affect image quality. The PowerShot G9 is an new version of the PowerShot G7, gaining RAW capture and a redesigned grip for improved handling. Other advancements include a high-resolution threeinch LCD, and enhanced Face Detection Technology. The Digital Ixus 960 costs £315 plus VAT, while the PowerShot G9 costs £365 plus VAT. Canon, www.canon.co.uk

West Cornwall design company Nixon has created a new Web site for The Isles of Scilly’s Tresco Estate. The Isles of Scilly has been ranked alongside Antigua and The Maldives as a luxury destination. Nixon has been working with Tresco Estate since October 2005 and the new Web site is part of an ongoing rebrand exercise that has resulted in Tresco being shortlisted as the Best Tourism Experience of the Year for 2007/2008. Nixon, www.nixondesign.com

Adobe will add native support for the Panasonic P2 camera format to Premiere Pro CS3, releasing an update probably by the time that this magazine hits newsstands, the company has announced. Panasonic P2 records 4:2:2 DVCPROHD video onto P2 solid-state media, and is used by cameras such as the HVX200. Adobe says that because Premiere Pro does not transcode or rewrap the P2 format into another file format, editing P2 footage is as quick as with other formats, and allows editors to retain valuable and export back to P2 cards. Adobe, www.adobe.co.uk

Microsoft ships HD Photo plug-in beta

New York’s RhinoFX has completed a VFX project for the movie Nanny Diaries, starring Scarlett Johansson. The team created all visual effects, including the opening diorama sequence. Arman Matin and Harry Dorrington shared the visual effects supervision. The film’s directors called on them for significant creative decisions and innovative visual delivery methods, including motion control sequences, CG freeze effects, photogrammetry, and imagebased modelling. RhinoFX, www.rhinofx.com The Subaru Impreza commercial Peel Out was the work of Sway. The 30second spot features photography of a couple as they “peel” themselves from a magazine into the Impreza. Sway used high-end animation and photorealistic techniques including photogrammetric production methods.

Microsoft has released beta versions of its HD Photo plug-in for Photoshop CS2 and above running on Mac OS X 10.4 or Windows XP/Vista. HD Photo, once known as Windows Media Photo, was introduced with the release of Windows Vista. Microsoft claims the format offers better image fidelity than JPEG, higher image compression efficiency and more-flexible editing features. The beta plug-in enables compatible versions of Photoshop to support HD Photo images. Microsoft, www.microsoft.com


Stock media library Corbis has opened a gallery in Second Life (the virtual world shown left), creating a community where people interested in art and photography can view, share and discuss imagery.

NewTek adds virtual sets NewTek has updated its desktopbased live production system. Previously known as Video Toaster, the VT[5] system features live switching and Web streaming of up to 24 cameras, and now includes LiveSet, a new live virtual set technology. VT[5] also includes improved keying capabilities, integrated SDI switching support and automated clip playback, with simultaneous output to video, projector and web stream. NewTek has also replaced the previous video-editing system with its SpeedEdit NLE. LiveSet allows separate virtual sets to be assigned independently to all switcher inputs, including all cameras and DDRs. In addition,

each input has an independent LiveMatte matting module. Each virtual set supports virtual cameras with multiple angles and zoom levels with support for secondary video sources for on-set virtual monitors. All effects are rendered with reflections, refractions, shadows, bump maps, and filtering. VT[5] will be available by the end of the year for $4,995 (around £2,740). Current owners of any previous version of VT may upgrade their software for a promotional price of $995 (£492) till October 15, 2007. After October 15, 2007, VT[5] upgrades will be available for $1,495 (£740). NewTek, www.newtek.com

Corel updates Paint Shop Pro Photo Corel has redesigned the interface of long-standing image-editing software Paint Shop Pro for the new Photo X2 version. The Graphite UI is designed to focus on the photo being manipulated, with a neutral background for unbiased colour adjustments. A new Express Lab mode can view and batch-process large numbers of images quickly. The

Lab can crop, rotate, apply colour adjustments and perform other common tasks on large numbers of images without having to open each image. HDR Photo Merge combines two or more photos taken at different exposures and uses the Clarify feature to automatically bring out the contrast. Thinify makes subjects look thinner with a single click, according to Corel. Layer Styles add drop shadows, embossing, outer and inner glows, bevels and reflections to text, photos and creative projects. Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 costs £67 plus VAT, or £41 plus VAT as an upgrade. Corel, www.corel.co.uk

First XDCAM EX camcorder debuts Sony has announced the European version of its first XDCAM camcorder to record onto SxS Pro flash memory cards, the PMW-EX1. The EX1 features three CMOS sensors, each with an effective pixel count of 1,920-x-1,080 for full HD capture, which Sony says perform well in low-light situations. It can record either 1080i or 720p footage at 50i, 59.94i, 50p, 59.94p, 25p, 29.97p and 23.98p framerates. A Slow & Quick Motion capability mimics overcranking and undercranking from the traditional film world, says Sony, allowing users

to create unique looks or special effects of slow and fast motion. Equipped with two SxS memory card slots, the PMWEX1 can record up to 100 minutes of the HD footage at 35Mbps or 140 minutes at 25Mbps using two 16GB SxS memory cards. Sony says that companies including Adobe, Apple, Matrox, Sony Creative Software and Thomson will be supporting editing footage from the camcorder. The PMW-EX1 will ship this year for around £4,000, according to Sony. Sony, www.sonybiz.net

Sony says ‘Viva video’ with Vegas Pro 8 Sony has launched Vegas Pro 8, an update to its video-editing tool that gains the ProType titler for vectorbased title generation and automation. The upgrade offers enhanced scripting capabilities, and new capabilities for editing Sony AVCHD content.

Vegas Pro 8 adds a channel-based mixing console and audio tools. Also included with Vegas Pro 8 is DVD Architect 4.5, which has been updated with 44 professional design themes. Vegas Pro 8 costs $699 (around £345). www.sonycreativesoftware.com

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ArtScience has built a virtual bowling lane for an online trailer for 505 Games’s Brunswick Pro-Bowling console game. The brief was to create a trailer suitable for both TV and online. The creative process began with static designs for the alley in Illustrator, which were taken into After Effects and animated, so the words and graphics appeared when the ball flew down the alley, with flashing arrows and lights adding a lot of impact and atmosphere. Hi-res clips were then exported into Cinema 4D, which was used to create the 3D environment. ArtScience, www.artscience.net

Pantone says new colours are Goe Hailing the development as a revolution in colour-matching, Pantone has revamped its 45-year-old colour system with over 2,000 new colours and innovative GoeSticks Pantone has unveiled the Pantone Goe System, which it says “is the first colour inspiration and specification system for the graphic arts industry since the introduction of the Pantone Matching System 45 years ago”. The System includes 2,058 new colours, plus tools designed to drive collaboration and improve versatility. Colours are arranged in chromatic order for easy, precise, cross-media colour selection and specification, says Pantone. The System includes the GoeGuide and GoeSticks,

Pantone is offering designers a world of colour that delivers over 2,000 new colours compared to the 45-year-old Pantone Matching System that it replaces.

a set of adhesive-backed chips, along with software for creating colour palettes that can be imported into applications, shared among designers, and archived for future reference. The Pantone Goe System offers a significantly expanded colour palette, yet is based on a

Film students for lights, camera, action The Times BFI London Film Festival is looking for 25 experienced filmmakers seeking to develop their feature-film career, to take part in Think-ShootDistribute held in October. Think-Shoot-Distribute brings together 25 emerging filmmakers

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with international leading film professionals in a five-day talent development programme, held during the Festival, to explore the creative, business and technical aspects of the international feature film industry. BFI, www.bfi.org.uk

smaller set of ten Pantone Mixing Bases, plus Pantone Clear, that are available anywhere in the world. This is designed to ensure colour consistency on a global basis while keeping ink inventory to a minimum for printers. The new ink mixing bases deliver technically sound colour standards that are compatible with aqueous and UV coatings, according to Pantone. The software is compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista and Mac OS 10.3 or higher. A complete Pantone Goe system costs £342 plus VAT. Pantone, www.pantone.com

Human Traffic director Justin Kerrigan has directed a tale of naïve love and bad-boy behaviour for The Twang’s new release, Two Lovers. London editing house Final Cut helped condense the video’s film-like narrative into just over three minutes. Final Cut editor Steve Ackroyd said: “You seldom get a chance to cut pure narrative in music videos. Initially we had concerns about how to convey so much story without the luxury of dialogue or time, but it worked out really well.” Final Cut, www.finalcut-edit.com

The video for The Hoosiers’ new release Goodbye Mr A sees the band assume the guise of comic book superheroes. Prime Focus took care of pushing the video’s retro look through stylised grading and compositing. primefocuslondon.com


Get the recognition you deserve. The E-510 with LiveView. Total control on every shot. Total visibility: Full time LiveView Total sharpness: Image stabilisation built-in (dust reduction system) Total control for you.

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stock

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Travel Lounge joins culture club This autumn, Travel Lounge Images is focusing on destinations that promise piles of culture. These include Egypt, with its Sphinx, ancient Luxor and the Pyramids, as well as Nile river cruises and diving in the Red Sea. It also features Istanbul, with its spires and domes, the famous

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hammams, traditional belly dancers and Grand Bazaar. Morocco is included, too, for its deserts, mountains and walled cities. Images show the distinctive landscape, camel trekking and some of the most colourful markets in the world. www.travelloungeimages.co.uk

BigStockPhoto.com now has a powerful new search engine. Feedback from its community of users and contributors inspired the redesign of the search engine, which, it claims, results in faster and easier searches and superior result accuracy. The search tools allow users to narrow results through advanced search filters, such as popular images, vertical or horizontal orientation, resolution, and image format. Users can also further refine searches by selecting “see similar” and “new images” filters. www.bigstockphoto.com


Artbeats lined up Add a personalized element to your next project with Line Elements, Artbeats’ newest royalty-free collection featuring clips of swirling vortexes and complex mazes. The collection includes a set of B&W line elements in various patterns, allowing for customized colouration to perfectly fit the needs of any production. For added production value, Line Elements also offers a lively pre-coloured selection of line images that are guaranteed to add a distinctive touch to any project. The collection contains 35 royalty-free clips and is available at tinyurl.com/2kopqd

Corbis turns to Conde Nast for fashion shots Corbis has announced a partnership with Condé Nast to license photos from the pages of Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), including many of the most important fashion shows, parties and events. The partnership gives publishers, marketers and other

creative professionals access to thousands of fashion industry images, as WWD covers the fashion, beauty and entertainment industries, and its photographers have access to A-List fashion and entertainment events. www.corbis.com

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pulse

CREATIVE LIFESTYLE AT WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK

DESIGN AND ADVERTISING AS PART OF OUR LIVES D&AD EVENT SHOWCASES THE CREAM OF CREATIVE THINKING, ANALYSING THE CREATIVE PROCESS AND EXAMINING WHAT IT HAS TO OFFER SOCIETY The D&AD is staging an exhibition to demonstrate the extent to which design and advertising is integrated into our everyday lives. The Best Advertising and Design in the World takes place at Urbis in Manchester, from October 25 to February 2008. The exhibition breaks down the creative process and

highlights the important role design and advertising can play in raising awareness of social issues such as health, children’s welfare and war. The work is selected from 2007 nominees for the D&AD Awards for outstanding creativity in advertising and design. www.urbis.org.uk, www.dandad.org

The new slimline PSP (PlayStation Portable) is now available, for €169. The PSP is 33 per cent lighter and 19 per cent thinner, says Sony, and is equipped with a video-out port, allowing users to view their content on a TV. The new PSP is available in three colours – Piano Black, Ceramic White and Ice Silver. http://uk.playstation.com/psp

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Les Jones has started a Web site offering illustration based on the pictures any name generates in Google Image Search. www.outsidethesquare.co.uk


d by a Powere olymer P m Lithiu boasts e , th D2 yback battery la p rs’ audio ’ video 52 hou rs u o h 10 rge. or up to gle cha in a sin k c a W b y m pla ffers 74 It also o sound at of t u outp . 16ohms

The iAudio D2 DAB is the first combined DAB radio and portable media player. The D2 offers support for all major audio formats (MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC and WAV), as well as XVID and MP4 video playback. It is navigated using touch-screen LCD that is housed in a lightweight, creditcard-sized casing. The 2GB iAudio D2 DAB costs £139.99, and the 4GB model is £169.99. www.advancedmp3players.co.uk

Danish artist Pernille Koldbech Fich has her first UK show, featuring her striking series of photographs, Sisters and Introducing Viola. The women in Sisters are ‘diakonisser’, which means church-ordained nurses of the Danish Diakonisse movement, founded in 1863 to help the poor and sick. A diakonisse dedicates her life to the foundation and its work, and Fich creates a series of revealing portraits. For Introducing Viola, Fich photographed a group of mutual strangers, after inviting them to enter into artificial relationships that span age, status, looks and gender. Fich likens this to a portrait of a generation, where the subjects are related but isolated. The exhibition runs from October 5 to November 17 at Photofusion Gallery in London. www.photofusion.org

London design company Airside has released through its shop a special-issue T-shirt and bag by designer Anthony Burrill, the creator of the distinctive series of safety posters for London Underground. The T-shirt and bag bear the slogan It’s OK For Me To Have Everything I Want, which Burrill first produced as a popular block-printed poster as a take on rampant consumerism. The T-shirt is £24.99 and the bag is £8.99. www.airside.co.uk

Best-known as a portrait painter and graphic artist, Harold Riley’s long and diverse photographic career is charted in Harold Riley: A Photography Retrospective 1943–2007, which is staged at The Lowry until April 2008. The exhibition features a wideranging selection of travel pictures, while portraits include former Manchester United star Denis Law and LS Lowry, a close friend of Riley’s. The exhibition also features a number of films and television documentaries on Riley’s work. www.thelowry.com

The i-Station Traveller from Logic3 is a series if portable speakers for Apple’s iPhone. The speakers’ design complements the iPhone, and they measure just 170mm across. i-Station Traveller for iPhone costs £29.99. www.spectravideo.com

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showcase VISIT WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK FOR THE LATEST CREATIVE CONTENT

The Digital Arts showcase offers you the chance to gain valuable industry exposure – so send in your work and get it seen by thousands of creative professionals and companies on the look out for creative talent. Send work to: Showcase, Digital Arts magazine, 99 Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8TY. e: showcase@digitalartsonline.co.uk

ALBERTO SEVESO

Imp Please ortant on CD, send work or via e the ad mail, d enclose ress on the le to a n SAE, w ft. If you best to e’ re submis turn work ll do our and are sions at the to you. All ow m worldw ade on a no ner’s risk, n-e id in prin e licence to p xclusive t and in u elect blish media. Copyrig ronic remain ht s yours .

Alberto Seveso, 30, was born in Milan and now lives in Rome, where he works with a number of agencies. He did not study design, but has had a passion for the subject since, at 15, he discovered Photoshop. “From that moment on I decided I wanted to work in design,” he reveals. Seveso says although his style is ever changing, his only rule of thumb is that “I use Photoshop to mix everything”. He seeks inspiration through music, saying, “I cannot work without my playlist”, but he avoids using the work of others as a source of ideas: “It makes one’s own goals weaker, and causes your work to lose its value.” The piece featured here is called Scandalo al sole (Scandal of the sun), and was created in conjunction with the fashion photographer Andrés Hernández (www.andreshernandez.net). w: www.recycledarea.co.uk

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KATE FORRESTER Hand drawing is always at the core of her work, says Forrester. “When I’m given a commission, I always start with paper and a pencil and draw the first things that come into my head.” She then scans in the doodles and textures and alters the

colours in Photoshop. “Sometimes I end up with over 100 Photoshop layers in a single image. She take her inspiration from “all sorts of things” – fashion magazines, wallpaper, markets, photographs, overheard conversations and music.

She enjoys travelling, eating, salsa dancing and trains. (“Travelling by train that is, not spotting them…”) t: 07854 008 825 e: kateforrester999@yahoo.com w: www.kateforrester.com

STEFAN LUCUT Lucut is 21 years old, and is from Ploiesti, Romania. His talents were spotted early, for in 2000 he won a painting contest, receiving eight computers for his gymnasium school. His first teacher, Rita Badulescu, is the person Lucut cites as his inspiration, and it was she who prompted him to go on to study art at Timisoara University. Since then he has worked as a freelance designer. His portfolio encompasses many disciplines, including branding, typography, illustration and interactive and motion graphics. Stefan is a full member of the eclectic international digital design and art community, Depthcore. He says: “For me, graphic design is no more than expressing life as I feel it. Free, colourful and in huge daily doses.” w: www.stefanlucut.com e: hello@stefanlucut.com

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showcase

COURTNEY JAMES Courtney James is a 23-year-old graphic designer/illustrator from Detroit, Michigan. James’s true love lies with the creation of digital art and design. Her illustrations are typically figurative, incorporating organic forms found throughout

SAREL THERON

FRANCESCO MAI Former biology student Mai’s research was born from the observation of the shapes of nature – for both form and for materials to use on his sculptures. “I love to create imaginary objects that don’t exist but that are full of life. My works are a computer simulation of the physics of objects and environments I create.” w: www.francescomai.com e: mai@francescomai.com

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Theron is a 32-year-old digital matte painter based in South Africa. Having studied illustration and fine art, he honed his painting skills in the more traditional mediums of oils and acrylics. “When I eventually took the digital road, I found that these traditional techniques gave me a solid foundation and advantage, especially with regards to form, perspective, composition and use of colour.” He works mainly in Photoshop but occasionally creates basic geometric 3D models that he then paints over. w: www.sareltheron.com

nature. “I am constantly inspired by all that surrounds me. The love and support in my life is what drives me to continually reinvent myself.” w: www.punkychicken.com e: cjames@punkychicken.com


ANTON S NELSON Anton S Nelson is a newly graduated Illustrator working in mixed media and digital media. His hand-drawn characters, textures and photographs are composited together in Photoshop, and further worked up using a Wacom graphics tablet. Nelson draws inspiration from comic book art, dystopian cinema and 50s American diner graphics, giving his work a gritty, grainy style, despite being created on a computer. Keen to break into the magazine editorial market, Anton is available for print and web projects on a freelance basis. t: 07941 561 856 e: antonsnelson@hotmail.co.uk w: www.antondesigner.blogspot.com

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h4HEMOSTSTYLISHSPEAKERSINEXISTENCEv -AC7ORLD !UGUST

4HE&(//ISAPIECEPOWEREDSPEAKERSYSTEMWITHINTEGRATEDAMPTHAT PLUGSANDPLAYSWITH46S (I &IS #OMPUTERSANDI0ODS.OWAVAILABLEAT 4HE#ONRAN3HOPANDOTHERQUALITYRETAILERS&ORACHANCETOWINA FREESYSTEMOROBTAINAFREEHOMETRIAL PLEASEGOTOWWWFERGUSONHILLCOUK


CHRIS THORNLEY After picking up a copy of 2000AD at the age of seven, and finding himself inspired by the witty and ironic stories coupled with unique artistic styles, Thornley has been hooked on the world of illustration ever since. With an online handle of Raid71, his illustrations have been popping up on T-shirts across the world, on sites including Threadless and SP:UK.

Thornley is director of Source Creative, an agency company based in the North West of England. “We’ve been creating award-winning projects for our clients since 2002,” says Thornley. He’s currently working on animations for Gola, as well as a children’s book. t: 01254 729 063 e: chris@sourcecreative.co.uk w: www.sourcecreative.co.uk

BEN MINACHI Minachi is a freelance graphic designer and Flash designer based in Washington DC. He seeks inspiration by listening to comedy albums ”and being stuck in morning traffic”. As a freelance designer trading under the name Nimble Industries, he started by creating Flash sites, moving on to motion design. Now, he works mainly in print. “Who knows, maybe clay pottery will be next?” he says. Minachi recently had his first exhibition, at a local Barnes & Noble book store. w: www.nimbleindustries.com e: ben@nimbleindustries.com

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BEN JOEL PRICE Price has an MA in design and digital media, and a BA Hons in fine art. and “gained varied experience within different creative fields”. He is now a freelance designer and illustrator, working from a studio in south east London. His most recent work was for London’s

AIMEE WHITE

BRIAN GRANT

White is a 24-year-old designer, born and bred in London. She derives inspiration “from body shapes and movement”. She says: “When putting my work together, I tend to throw in elements that communicate the main focus of the illustration. Vibrant colours and shapes that connect with the illustration are very important, as they enhance the image, maintain its attractiveness and help its universal appeal.”

“I am not limited to a particular genre, but my ideas transcend through to any medium,” says Grant, who comes from a traditional illustration and fine art background. He has also “mastered skills in photography, illustration, icon design, graphic design, branding, and communication”. He says: “It has been great to work with so many huge and influential brands, and have a large impact on them. Sometimes I cannot believe that I get paid to do this. I feel so blessed.”

w: www.aimeewhite.com

e: bri@anisometriclondon.co.uk w: www.anisometric-inc.com

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world-famous toy store, Hamleys. Price is part of the Splinter Collective, trading as Ammo Dump StudiosDesign, and also sells own-brand T-shirts in a music retailer based on Carnaby Street. t: 020 8464 2604 e: benjoelprice@hotmail.com


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Unlock the potential of your creative mind – both as part of a team of designers or as an individual – with our guide to harnessing the power of brainstorming words Sean Ashcroft illustration Tado, www.debutart.com

The term brainstorming has come to mean everything and nothing. At its most frivolous, it’s an excuse to escape the rigours of a working day for some lighthearted business banter over cakes and coffee, yet at its most effective it can mean the difference between a false start and a flying start – something especially true of creative disciplines. The concept of the brainstorm was developed in the 1930s by Alex Osborn who co-founded the US ad agency BBDO in 1919. His book Your Creative Power was the springboard for the widespread adoption of his notion that, when it comes to ideas, quantity breeds

Scottish-based Designer David Airey is a prolific and popular blogger on design. In this blog on solo brainstorming on paper, he discusses and illustrates the evolution of a logo. tinyurl.com/2coo9f

quality. But is it really all just about quantity? For Tom Hopkins, senior consultant at Conchango (www.conchango.com), brainstorming is about “firing off neurons. Different people connect ideas in different ways,” he adds, “so a room of people can take old ideas in new directions.” It’s about chemistry, too, says James Wilson, creative director of Salter Baxter (www.salterbaxter.com). “One individual may have a set way of doing something, so being put together with someone who can almost turn that on its head is useful.” “All creative people need the judgment of others to refine and improve their work, whatever the discipline,” says Andy Cole, managing director of LMC Design (www.lmcdesign.co.uk). Who attends is another consideration. Including non-creatives, for example, can help strike a balance between creativity and practicality. 025


We don’t involve clients [in brainstorming] because it can muddle the process, particularly if they are not creative Andy Cole LMC Design

US author and business consultant Scott Berkun offers an incisive look at how to run a brainstorming session in this essay. tinyurl.com/2t9u6a

“Non-creatives in brainstorming sessions might typically be a project manager or admin assistant,” says Nigel Davies, managing director of 300 million (www.300million.com). “They’ll be thinking about the end user, rather than just a creative solution, and it makes things bit more rounded.” At retail design specialist JHP Design (www.jhp-design.com), the net is cast even wider in the search for balanced input. “We open them to everyone in the studio,” reveals marketing manager Austin McGinley, “because we believe everyone is a consumer. Anyone who buys a product or visits a store is welcome to contribute.” Most agencies, though, prefer to keep things intimate. Wilson believes that on project brainstorming “two can work as well as eight” but feels the optimum number is four or five. “If you have too many it becomes difficult to manage, but there are those that maybe wouldn’t talk so much if it were a smaller group.” 026

Staff at leading brand agency 300 million trade ideas during a recent brainstorming session. Suggestions were captured on a flipchart by the chair of the meeting.

The question of whether third parties – clients, end users or professional brainstorm facilitators – can help the process elicits a largely negative reaction. Involving end users of the product or service under discussion “is not usually a good idea” believes Andy Cole. He adds, though, that it’s important that target audience information is available to the group. “It’s valuable to begin brainstorming sessions with sketches of the target audience and summaries of research identifying the attitudes and behaviour of the target audience.” Salter Baxter’s James Wilson, agrees, believing end users are best left to the next stage, when “it’s all about testing the ideas that you have come up with”. It seems clients rarely feature, either. “We don’t involve clients [in brainstorming] because it can muddle the process, particularly if they are not creative,” declares Wilson. “I’m not aware that we’ve ever invited a client to join a brainstorming session,” says Austin McGinley,

observing that client input is something “that happens organically during the briefing session”. And while in the US out-of-house brainstorm facilitators are becoming increasingly popular, in the UK their use is infrequent. “We place great emphasis on client confidentiality so we couldn’t really bring in a third party to the table,” says McGinley.

Outside help for brainstorming “We wouldn’t consider a facilitator, not for what we do,” Wilson says. “I’d expect the designers here to be able to think of ideas.” He concedes, though, that for an agency involved in huge branding or packaging projects a facilitator “might be useful”. Although 300 million has never used a facilitator, Nigel Davies, does not rule out the possibility. “I think it would enable more creatives to be part of the


Creativity for Graphic Designers by Mark Oldach includes plenty of advice on how to generate more good ideas. It has two chapters on brainstorming, with tips and advice on how to brainstorm in groups and alone. tinyurl.com/yoxvo6

Generating ideas alone For many freelance designers and illustrators who work alone, sparking ideas off colleagues is not an option – yet good ideas are still the main currency of their work. Multi-persona digital illustrator Jason Cook (www.jasoncook.co.uk) has been a freelancer all his career, but the creative well has never run dry, even though he produces different styles under his different professional guises. “I read through the brief, and maybe speak to the client, and everything is kind of whirring away inside my head. I invariably have music on, which I find helps the creative process. It’s really a case of doodling and continuously thinking. I need a very secluded environment.” Sometimes solo designers or illustrators are required to brainstorm with clients. “If it’s an ad job, a book cover or a corporate brochure, it’s a case of meeting with an account handler, art director and a designer, and very occasionally a creative director. It usually takes around an hour. We’ll bash out some ideas and I’ll go away and start to execute it.” Cook says in these situations there are two things that are of vital importance if the session is to be productive. “You’ve got to want to do the job, and go in with a very positive mental attitude. And with the bigger jobs you’ve got to be prepared to be told what to do, and follow other people’s ideas. You can’t go in and expect that you’ll be given free rein.”

brainstorming in a more active way, and add a bit of impartiality, maybe.” Andy Cole can vouch for this, because he has acted as a facilitator for clients. “It can be helpful if the facilitator is little known to the group members. He or she is beyond any politics or hierarchy issues.” With UK agencies, in-house facilitators are either senior creatives or management, as the role demands experience of managing processes and people. “You need a facilitator to relay the brief, capture the notes, and keep things moving,” says Davies. “In terms of keeping things going you might break down a brainstorm into different areas that you want to explore.” “You have to recognize interesting thoughts and be able to isolate those and put them to one side,” says Wilson. “But even bad ideas are good, because it’s almost that you have to get through those before you can get to the interesting stuff.”

Conchango uses a room with a whiteboard wall for its brainstorm sessions. Senior consultant Tom Hopkins says: “User experience teams, creative teams and business teams collaborate on developing innovation for target customer groups.” Here, team members can be seen brainstorming around the idea of ‘personas’. “The use of popular graphics helps us to bring the characters to life and explore their motivations,” explains Hopkins.

At JHP, sessions are often led by one of two joint MDs, who McGinley says first outline the issues the brand or retailer faces, and detail what it is people have been tasked with. “They make clear that everyone’s ideas are welcome, no matter how insignificant they think they are. And there’s no hierarchy; in the session everyone is on the same level.” Cole’s aim as a chair is to maintain momentum while keeping an eye on the objectives. “The key thing is to not allow the session to ground to a halt through

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Designers’ use of paper and informal tools in the creative process, including brainstorming, is examined in a paper by academics from the University of Illinois. tinyurl.com/ywgtbt

The facilitator needs to control the over-confident and verbose members and draw in the meeker ones

tiredness or tedium. If necessary, stop the session and return in half an hour after a walk or a game.” Andy Cole says managing different personalities is another core skill. “The facilitator needs to control the over-confident and verbose members and to draw in the meeker ones. [You need to] take half ideas or timidly advanced thoughts and amplify them and build upon them.” One thing on which there’s consensus is that brainstorms should never be over long. “[The limit should be] anything from half an hour to an hour,” says Nigel Davies. “You can’t do much more than that because people start to lose interest and switch off.”

Andy Cole LMC Design

Less waffle. More storming One thing that will doom any brainstorming session to failure is lack of structure and preparation. Austin McGinley, marketing manager at JHP Design, says anyone invited to a brainstorm is given a few days’ notice to gather their thoughts before they come in. “We can’t afford to let people waffle on. We have to turn projects around with great speed so we need to get to the core of the issue very quickly,” says McGinley.

And, says, McGinley, someone has to own the session, “else it becomes a waste of time or resources. “The chair will make notes of the key points during the session and then summarize for five minutes or so at the end, so that we will have four or five pretty strong ideas that everyone’s agreed on for the direction of the project. We’ll then work these up in the studio and then take these to the client,” McGinley adds.

Creative freedom Staying on brief while sketching ideas is imperative for freelance illustrators, as seen here with Jason Cook’s work for William Hill’s Online Super Casino. (Commissioning and art direction by Michael Barley at Prego).

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There’s agreement, too, about how freedom to express ideas is critical if brainstorming is to work. For Wilson, this is a cultural thing: if freedom of expression exists in the studio then it will pervade all areas of an agency’s work, including brainstorming. “I think we’ve got a really strong culture here where people are recognized at any level,” says Wilson. “There is a hierarchy but it is not visible. Everyone knows they are valued and welcome. If people feel intimidated it’s going to cause all sorts of problems. The quality of ideas will be low if people are afraid to speak.” When creativity is given free rein good ideas can happen anywhere, not just in office meeting rooms. “We might chat in the pub on a Friday, and some good working ideas can come out of this,” says McGinley. “We might take these back in on a Monday with a view to working something up. Brainstorming can also happen on a plane, when you’re sitting together for a couple of hours.” Andy Cole agrees that good ideas can happen anywhere. “Some of the most productive sessions happen without planning – chats in the pub, around the coffee machine or on the


BRAINSTORMS Aim for a session of 30 minutes. Much longer and people will begin to lose interest. Make sure people are clear on the brief and what they’re trying to tackle.

We send out an email to everyone inviting their thoughts on something. We call it an e-storm

Austin McGinley JHP Design

Give people time to prepare ideas prior to the brainstorm. Communicate the brief without getting bogged down in detail. Set numerical targets. They create goals. For example, ‘Give me five reasons why...’ Write down all ideas but have a ‘cul-de-sac’ sheet to park important, time-consuming sub-issues that are irrelevant to the session. Keep the ideas going: half-formed thoughts are better than stony silence. Make plenty of food and drink available. It helps energize proceedings. Don’t hold brainstorms after lunch, when people are at their most sluggish. Invite people who have experience of some part of the problem.

The Visual Thesaurus by Chris Goveia is a brainstorming tool aimed at designers. It’s a book of brainstorming cluster diagrams that claim to mimic the action of the designer’s mind in its pictographic organization. tinyurl.com/yw8mz5

train can generate great ideas. Equally, some of the most carefully structured and planned sessions can be arid.” Email, too, is something McGinley says has a role to play. “Sometimes we send out an email to everyone inviting their thoughts on something. We call it an e-storm. You get a different response by email. It’s not a debate, so people’s responses are more uni-directional. They’ll say ‘My opinion is…’. “We’d have a round-the-table session when we needed a more lively debate about a project, particularly if it’s something where we know there will be a fundamental change in the way consumers interact with brands.” Brainstorms for pitches as opposed to live projects also call for a different approach, says James Wilson. “Because of the nature of a pitch you have to be aware that the journey you take the client on is succinct and to the point. You cannot lose sight of the problem you’re trying to answer. “You almost have to over-design.

“This sketch came out of a brainstorming session for a well-known spirits brand,” says Austin McGinley, marketing manager of JHP Design.

Remember the brainstorm is not the solution, but part of the process of finding the right execution. If facilitating, type the notes yourself after the session, as you’re the best person to weed out the good from the bad at this crucial point – not your PA.

You treat the details slightly differently than if you were to win the project. It requires a lot more meetings and constantly seeing how the pitch is evolving, and then tracking it against the brief. You need to be more questioning.” Whether brainstorming is about quality being extracted from quantity is a moot point for creatives – because ultimately it’s all about understanding clients’ needs, however that happens. “Understanding and questioning the brief is the key to producing an effective creative solution,” says Andy Cole. “[Brainstorming] helps concentrate the mind on the brief. It helps you understand the audience better, and the environment in which the message will be seen or heard.”

BRAIN DRAINS Avoid involving more than eight people – it can become a presentation rather than a creative session. No mobile phones. Ideas shouldn’t be questioned or validated in the brainstorm. If you’re note making for the group don’t be worried about spelling or legibility – it slows down input. Don’t get agitated by people who fail to contribute. Don’t insist everyone speaks, and don’t dismiss anyone’s ideas. Don’t keep ideas to yourself. Don’t be vague. No pre-conceived ideas. No agenda pushing. Don’t knock ideas. Don’t hog the biscuits.

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Servicing your client roster involves root-&-branch attention to detail – because unhappy clients quickly end up as someone else’s clients. words Sean Ashcroft illustration www.istockphoto.com

No one said that the design business was easy. To thrive, not only do you have to sweat blood in order to find clients, but you’ve then got to shed a bucketload more claret in order to keep them happy. One thing on your side, though, is that all clients want the same things, meaning that if you can build one successful, long-lasting client relationship then there’s nothing to stop you repeating this process over and over. Here, we outline a number of fundamental points to consider when puzzling over what clients want.

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OVER DELIVER

Whatever people expect, give them a little more. Clients have long memories, and over-delivering will guarantee that they’re left with a lasting, favourable impression. This is the surest way to win repeat business as well as new, word-ofmouth clients. But putting this into practice is no simple matter, because first you have to manage client expectation from pitch to delivery, on every aspect of the project – creativity, pricing and timescale. If you fail to manage expectation in any of these areas then you run the risk of over-promising and under-delivering – Route One to a failed business.


If you don’t listen to clients you cannot expect to understand their needs GUT REACTION

If you have a gut feeling that a client might be more trouble than they’re worth, then listen to your gastro-intestinal instincts. If a client has wildly unrealistic expectations of the time and cost of a project then they’re likely to make unreasonable demands of your time and resources. If this is the case, you need to call upon first-class client-management skills to keep things on track. If at the pitch the client sends its creative and marketing directors but post pitch leaves the project in the care of a pair of juniors, then you have to wonder if they’re experienced enough to communicate effectively, and whether they have the authority to sign off work once the project is under way. It could be a world of pain. In this situation, you should set clear ground rules, such as insisting important decisions are made MD-to-MD. But however well you handle them, problem clients will always impact on your time and resources, and this will affect your ability to keep the rest of your client roster happy. Better to respectfully decline such custom than imperil accounts that you value.

TWO EARS, ONE MOUTH

There are two fundamental truths about commercial design. First, clients are paying for your expertise as a visual communicator, and the most important part of any form of communication is listening. Secondly, design is about solving clients’ creative problems, not about evangelizing one-size-fits-all design theories. If you don’t listen to clients you cannot expect to understand their needs, meaning your proposed solution is more likely to leave them hopping mad than jumping for joy. At the briefing stage, speak only if asked a question, and let the client talk themselves out before asking any of your own. It’s crucial that everyone on your side takes plenty of notes, so that your questions are based on the needs of the client as captured in these notes. Notes also serve to keep you on-message as the project evolves. You might believe yourself able to remember what a client wants, but notes make it far more difficult to stray from the brief. Distil these notes into a typed document, and further boil this down into bullet points that can be used during brainstorming sessions. That way, you’ll be discussing what the client wants, and not what you feel that they should want.

NAIL THE BRIEF

You have to ask the right questions in order to understand a brief. If the brief is over-long and blurry then seek brevity and focus, and don’t stop

until happy that you have both. Don’t worry about offending the client; the reason they came to you in the first instance is for your expertise, so they’ll expect questions that are searching and incisive. A client who is unhappy with the work you deliver will not take kindly to you blaming the brief. Also, remember that briefs evolve, and that it’s important to liaise regularly with the client, so that both parties are happy with what is being worked on. Insist on staged sign-offs as work progresses.

SERVICE THE CLIENT

Every account needs an account director and a project manager. Between them they should guarantee that a client never has to call and ask how work is progressing. Even if you’re a two-person team, divide these roles between you for each project. Frequent and clear communication between these roles from the outset will prevent you from underestimating how long a job will take, how much it will cost, and will also help keep you ‘on message’. Clients generally do not welcome surprises, particularly those that hurt their pockets and schedules. Establish protocols for client communications; develop standardized tools such as memo formats, email bulletins and status reports. A mismanaged account will erode the client’s trust in you, because if you cannot communicate effectively as a team, they’ll wonder whether you can communicate to their customers.

ANTICIPATE CLIENT NEEDS

You needn’t be Mystic Meg to know what a client is likely to want before they ask for it; if you understand your client then this should happen organically. Clients will recognize proactiveness as a hallmark of quality creative thinking. Conversely, they are unlikely to be impressed if they have to make all the running.

MONEY MATTERS

Design is business, and business is money. Yes, clients want your expertise, but they also want value for money, so pricing your services intelligently and transparently is key. Draft a clear, responsive cost proposal that is based solely on client needs, encompassing only things that they have requested. This will keep costs to a minimum. But seek to impress the client, too, by offering value-added services you can provide them gratis. Maybe you could offer a credit towards a project down the road, or offer to bring the project deadline forward.

EARN THEIR RESPECT

The best client-designer relationships are underpinned by respect, something that is hard to win but easy to lose. Earning respect involves marrying all of the advice in this feature with quality work. Once you have a client’s respect, then you will earn their trust – and keeping that trust means never breaking a promise. A trusting client is one to be cherished above all others, as they’ll let you get on with what you do best – design.

CHEMISTRY LESSONS

People work together most effectively when there is affinity, and many designers are lucky enough to be able to name long-standing clients as among their closest friends. Sometimes, though, people simply don’t get along, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Character clashes not only reduce your ability to communicate effectively with the client, but make demands of your time, as the problem relationship needs managing. Head off such trouble by rejigging your project teams so that everyone gets along.

FLEXIBLE FRIEND

One of the worst things you can say to a client is, “We don’t work that way here.” You might have your systems and work practices, but the client will have theirs, too. If they prefer to meet in person rather than use conference calls then say, ‘Sure thing’. If they want to be invoiced every week (when your practice is to issue one every month) then say ‘No problem.’ Remember, their livelihood is in your hands. If you screw up you’ll only lose an account, but they stand to lose a whole heap more – marketshare, credibility, their business, even. They have every right to expect their needs to be met in a way that suits them, not you.

EXPERIENCE COUNTS

Clients expect and demand expertise. If your team is an overheads-friendly collection of graduates and lightweights, you are not in a position to deliver expertise – unless, that is, you’re after junk clients. The rule of thumb is that the sophistication of the team should match that of the client.

A FAMILIAR FACE…

High staff turnover means time and resources get channelled into recruitment rather than your core business, and it’s also unsettling for clients, new and old. Changes in personnel mid-project can spook new clients, while return clients prefer to be greeted by familiar faces. Keep your team motivated and happy and you’ll reap the rewards, internally and externally.

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projects

A sprinkling of Stardust London-based VFX house Double Negative worked on a series of key visual-effects scenes for Paramount Pictures’ cinematic release of Stardust, including the iconic Sky Vessel. One of the most keenly awaited Hollywood films of the summer – the fantasy adventure movie, Stardust – has London visual-effects house Double Negative to thank for many of its breathtaking sequences. Stardust, directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake), is based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, in which a young Englishman attempts to win the heart of a girl by going on a quest to retrieve a fallen star. His journey takes him to a forbidden land beyond the walls of his village, where he finds the star has transformed into a beautiful girl, who is then hunted by a ragged crew of villains, pirates and witches. It was Paramount Pictures’ production VFX supervisor Peter Chiang who approached Soho-based Double Negative with the offer to provide the major visual effects for the film. The Double Negative team influenced the creative side from the beginning, reveals Chiang. “Vaughn had a very clear vision about the way the world should look, and felt the

034

simpler the process the better. This was great, as he had a completely open mind and an ‘innocent approach’ that the film benefits from.” Led by digital supervisor Mattias Lindahl and VFX producers Matt Plummer, Andy Taylor, Clare Tinsley and VFX co-ordinator, Emma Larrson, Double Negative produced 350 shots, making it the lead vendor on the film. The main areas of work for Double Negative included the extensive photorealistic environments, the Sky Vessel flown by pirate Captain Shakespeare, sky replacements, greenscreens and the

words Sean Ashcroft

magic effects used to differentiate between various witches. The most difficult challenge – the Sky Vessel – was met by the production designer Gavin Bocquet, who made some minor alterations to its balloon shape during post-production. CG supervisor, Rick Leary, designed the mechanism and dynamics for opening and closing the lightning nets. He says: “The director had been very clear in his brief: the vessel must look Victorian, and it must look the worse for wear.” A major section of the Sky Vessel hull was built within a green screen set at Pinewood, with a heavily distressed look. It was Double Negative’s task to match the Sky Vessel identically with digital set extensions in keeping with this look. “Most Sky Vessel shots needed CG topping up on the set construction, and in some shots the entire vessel was replaced,” explains Leary. The team on the Sky Vessel was led by Lindahl and Leary in tandem with 2D supervisor Paul Riddle and 2D sequence

CREDITS PROJECT

Visual effects for Stardust

CLIENT

Paramount Pictures

STUDIOS

Double Negative

SOFTWARE

Double Negative (dn) STIG dnPhotofit dnPlaneit dnRendering System dnCloud gtoMunge Autodesk Maya

CONTACT

www.dneg.com


The hardest challenge – the creation of the Sky Vessel – saw a wooden model be replaced by a fully realized CG model in key scenes.

Double Negative influenced the creative side from the beginning lead Matt Twyford. Leary began work on the film early on in shooting, modelling the vessel from blueprints provided by Double Negative’s art department. Once the full-size section of boat had been constructed on-set in Pinewood, Leary, along with texture artist Guy Williams, photographed every inch of the set to extremely high resolution. Meanwhile, the modelling crew based back in Soho (Jez Smith, Jordan Kirk, James Guy and Emily Cobb) made the boat to a high level of detail and accuracy. Guy stitched the texture reference photographs in Double Negative’s proprietary software, STIG, and used other in-house tools, dnPhotofit and dnPlaneit to project and bake the textures. Guy and look-development artist Bruno Baron undertook the remainder of the texturing of the boat’s hull and decks. Meanwhile the balloon, rigging and flags were modelled by Kirk and rigged by Gia Sadhwani.

By filming in front of a 360-degree greenscreen cyclorama, Chiang was able to offer movie director Vaughn and director of photography Ben Davis the flexibility to shoot from any angle – safe in the knowledge the ship could be invisibly extended in any direction. Whether the camera was contained within the confines of the ship or free to drift far away into the air, the compositing team delivered a seamless transition from the live action set into the precisely matched CG ship, “even in a scene set within a raging storm which had the additional complexity of dense falling rain”, says Riddle.

Also integral to the Sky Vessel sequence was the need to illustrate the passage of time. Twyford was able to facilitate this “by creating a palette of looks, from early dawn, through midday sun to falling dusk”. Another feat that taxed the team’s expertise were the CG environments. The geography is needed to show the relation of the real world to Stormhold – the film’s fantasy world – and those environments were used for the Sky Vessel sequences, and many other points in the film. Double Negative says Chiang wanted “amazing vistas that would show the huge magical Kingdom of Stormhold”, and reveals

The Double Negative team had to create extensive CG environments of the kingdom of Stormhold that formed the backdrop to exterior Sky Vessel sequences.

035


projects

A still from the movie shows the final, composited scene with CG fluid and fire effects.

that the live-action locations were in Iceland and the Isle of Skye, adding: “This provided guidance to the types of mountains and geography that were required, but outside of this, the Double Negative team was given a free hand to design the landscape as we saw fit.” For the Sky Vessel shots, TECTO Survey data of the Isle of Skye was used for the near ground, and a 3D cyclorama of mountains was constructed for the background. The sky dome was created from photography, stitched together with STIG and rendered latitude/longitude of 24,000 pixels. The vessel was match-lit, and digital doubles set up for the deck. Lindahl says: “The film is a fairytale, and so a lot of the VFX were required for major story points and had to

036

demonstrate the geography of the world that we are taking the audience into – so it was magical, but also had to be realistic. This is a fine line to walk and a challenge that we had to measure up to.” On his odyssey, the love struck lead, Tristan, finds the falling star, which has transformed into a girl named Yvaine. But he’s not the only one seeking her: a king’s four living sons – and the ghosts of their three dead brothers – all need the star as they vie for the throne. Tristan must also overcome an evil witch, Lamia, who needs the star to make her young again. Tristan encounters multiple witches, and each required signature magical effects. Lindahl says: “Lamia’s green magic effect was briefed initially as a fluid, controllable fire. However, the brief evolved quite rapidly,

Now that’s magic Some scenes called for the creation of signature magic effects from the evil witches – the green effect here was a combination of photographic elements and CG particle effects, plus softbody ‘ribbons’.

to vary the effect from a gentle twisting finger of flame to a raging inferno. The intensity of this is dictated by Lamia’s emotional state. “The evolving brief required a change of approach to the magic effects and required a far greater range of characterizations.” 2D sequence lead, Christoph Salzmann utilized both photographic elements and CG fire to realize this, while dynamics technical director Pawel Grochola developed a novel approach to generating 3D fire using particle and joint-driven softbody ‘ribbons’. Another key witch is Sal, whose magic effect Lindahl says was briefed as “black smoke”. He adds: “A great deal of design work was done in-house under the supervision of Gavin Graham, regarding its movement and technical execution.”


The final composite scene shows the placed mountains, atmospherics, and solar effects.

A walk in the clouds

Sal’s smoky magic was used to illustrate transformations, such as a mouse being turned into Tristan and back again. Says Graham, “Normally you would create a smoky figure, turn it into a cloud of smoke and reverse it, but Sal’s smoke needed to be more sophisticated than that.” In fact, the colours of the original object needed to flow through the smoke effect and then recreate themselves into the final outcome. Because Vaughn wanted this magic to feel rooted in reality Graham aimed for “gritty and dirty, like diesel smoke”. With fluid simulations being notoriously difficult to art direct, 3D artist Bjorn Henriksson used a wide variety of Double Negative’s in-house fluid tools to turn animated geometry into a target-driven fluid simulation in a manner that allowed for a

more sophisticated effect – with efficient turnaround – than out-of-the-box simulations would allow. While Stardust’s material leant itself to VFX it was a diverse project in terms of content, leading to many ‘one-off’ visual effects and meant that nothing was predictable. Chiang says: “It’s an amazing, magical, fantastical film. The design reflects the simplistic environment and a combination of the simplistic approach combined with the sophistication of the VFX toolbox creates a really exciting combination. Matthew [Vaughn] always thought hard about the look of what he wanted, identifying the bare roots that would support the narrative. This was very liberating in a way and makes you think of the effects very differently.”

All the clouds were rendered in Double Negative’s Voxel Rendering System. Clouds were constructed by the cloud team, under the supervision of 3D technical supervisor, Gavin Graham, who says: “The environment shots travel over a huge distance and needed to kept photo-real. TECTO and dnCloud were both modified since their first outing on the World War I aerial film, Flyboys, which Double Negative had worked on the year before. “The additional functionalities were a huge step forward. The Stardust environments covered huge distances that required a much greater volume and diversity of clouds. This demanded a library that needed to be extensive but also flexible, including clouds that could be made up of three to ten ‘cloudlets’, allowing the shape to be modified on demand.” Because the storm clouds required more sophistication, they were created from greater numbers of smaller particle clumps that continuously rolled, expanded and moved independently, work that was carried out by dynamics technical director Nicholas New. Says Lindahl says: “Previously, the clouds were out of a box and couldn’t do much. The modifications made for Stardust meant that the clouds could be rendered out on different channels, which allowed the compositor to grade them according to the requirements of the shot. Daytime to night-time, overcast or bright sunshine – all the tools were there, so that the artist could do what they needed.” Other Double Negative proprietary software, dnCloud and gtoMunge, were also used, providing the artist a means to preview the clouds at low resolutions inside of Maya, so they could work on layout in real time.


projects

Aardman creates trio of CG cockerels When Kellogg’s needed realistic-looking cockerels driving tractors and using mobile phones, it turned to the animation experts at Aardman to bring the concept for its new Multi-grain cereal ad campaign to life.

words Sean Ashcroft

When the hub of a brief is making a CG cockerel look comfortable using a mobile phone then it’s clear some outstanding work is called for – so who better than Aardman to pull off such a feat. In fact, the client Kellogg’s, didn’t want just one cockerel, but three, in a spot for its new product, Kellogg’s Multi-grain Corn Flakes. The spot features three breeds of cockerel taking care of their own crops, being wheat, corn and rice – the main ingredients of the new product. “We open on our hero, Cornelius, who is surveying his crop of golden wheat blowing in the morning breeze,” says Aardman director Bobby Proctor. “We expect him to give out a ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ but instead he reaches under his wing and pulls out a mobile phone.” Another cockerel overlooking a field of corn takes the call, and then speed dials a third cockerel that’s next to a paddy field. It then cuts cut to a scene outside the gates of the Kellogg’s factory, where a worker sees three cockerels driving tractors towards the factory, bringing their crops with them.

038

Proctor says: “The challenge was to create realistic CGI cockerels who had a very naturalistic physiology but who had the ability to use mobile phones and look fairly at ease with doing it.” Proctor says the original brief from agency JWT was for the CG cockerels to be realistic, but that as the job evolved and they ended up with more of a “heightened reality” look. Aardman was happy with the look because “it had a sense of reality yet also afforded us to make the film more beautifully illustrative”. The complexity of creating realistic feathers was immense. Aardman had access to a stuffed cockerel, plus stills and film footage of real cockerels, and its technical directors partially wrote software to create CG feathers prior to starting the job. “It was a month or so of detailed anatomy studies, non-feather geometry builds and then the process of feathering and rigging before our guys actually saw a fully feathered, fullcolour cockerel,” reveals Proctor. “The way the feathers software was written was very clever, in that it allowed

CREDITS PROJECT

Kellogg’s Multi-grain Phone A Friend ad

CLIENT

Kellogg’s

STUDIOS

Aardman www.aardman.com

SOFTWARE

Autodesk Maya Apple Final Cut Pro Apple Shake Adobe Photoshop Adobe After Effects Pixar RenderMan Mudbox Right Hemisphere Deep Paint 3D

the animators to choose at what level of complexity they wanted to see the feathers,” says Proctor. “For bigger action shots and wide shots they could work quickly with a rough approximation of the final feathers, whereas for the more subtle actions they could really dial-up the detail so they could see any potential intersectional problems with the feathers.” For storyboarding, Aardman stuck to the agency script “as it just seemed to work really well”, and drew up 2D storyboards to create a timed story-reel in Final Cut Pro. “This allowed us to make really quick editorial changes to the timing of each shot,” says Proctor. “It’s important to be happy with the film at this point, as changes are much more costly and time consuming later on in the production process.” Characters and set design took the form of a combination of 2D designs in Adobe Photoshop montaged into photographic stills. “We wanted to work on softening features that might look scary about the cockerels, such as beaks, small eyes, and talons,” says Proctor.


Feathering solution The complexity of creating realistic feathers within the tight deadline was immense, says Bobby Proctor. As a solution, Aardman’s technical directors wrote software to create the CG feathers, allowing the animators full freedom over individual feathers. “Every feather needed modelling to allow close-ups of the birds,” explains Philip Child, technical director at Aardman. “The solution we devised offered full control for adjusting the shape and style of the feathers.”

Feathering a cockerel – step by step

It’s one of those jobs that look simple but is very complex under the hood Once the 2D elements had been approved the team began the 3D build. Proctor says: “We use Maya on Windows for our pipeline, so everything is designed with that in mind.” They started by building the non-feathered geometry using Maya’s Polygon modelling tools, rendered as RenderMan subdivision surfaces. Fine details were added using displacements painted using Mudbox, and textures added using a combination of Right Hemisphere’s Deep Paint 3d and Photoshop. “We then moved on to using our in-house feather tools to give the cockerels their bulked-out forms using multiple feather groups to represent each part of the bird’s body,” reveals Proctor. “We wrote custom

RenderMan shaders to give the feathers their characteristic appearance, which included occlusion and iridescent effects.” The finished model was handed over to the rigging team, who set up a rig to allow for as naturalistic a performance as possible, but still left room for anthropomorphization “so they could convincingly use their mobile phones and drive tractors”, says Proctor. He adds: “We also spent a great deal of time rigging the feathers so the animators didn’t have to worry too much about how they behaved. In theory they would just need to animate to the silhouette, and the feathers software would take care of how the feathers deformed across the cockerels’ bodies.” Once the first cockerel had been rigged, the team made duplicates, with variations mostly down to feather colourings, facial details, body mass and feather distribution. For the backgrounds, stock footage was used, and the team spent weeks rifling through stock sites for suitable images. Aardman’s animators then produced a

1. The skeleton and head of the bird with the tail feathers in place showing overall proportions. 2. The bird body is sculpted in Maya in the normal way. 3. A modeller sculpted a NURBS silhouette of the bird to describe where they want the feathers to lay and how they need to flow over the body. 4. Low resolution preview feathers were generated over the body to give quick feedback for the animators. 5. Final polygon feathers were generated over the body which closely match the sculpted silhouette. 6. Finally individual RenderMan curves are generated for each feather which automatically create the characteristic splits and fluffiness seen in real feathers.

detailed pre-vis block-through, to work out timings and camera angles for each shot. “These scenes inevitably end up evolving into the actual Maya scenes we finally light and render from,” says Proctor. A third of the entire four-week schedule was allotted to animation, and two animators broke down scenes to allow them both to have a combination of wide shots and close ups. They referenced film of real cockerels, to imbue the finished work with as many lifelike nuances and mannerisms as possible. “Some of the secondary animation in the wattles and combs looked as if it was created dynamically, when in fact it was all key framed by hand in Maya,” says Proctor. After Effects and Shake were used to composite the final renders with the background footage. “The team was stretched both creatively and technically,” admits Proctor. “It was one of those jobs that although extremely complex under the hood, on the surface just looks so simple.”

039


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projects

The Mill created a frenzy of activity in full CG to represent the bubbling action inside a pint of Guinness.

The Mill makes CG music for Guinness Guinness’s latest TV ad is Music Machine – a frenetic effects-laden extravaganza courtesy of VFX specialists at The Mill, which features hundreds of CG acrobats representing the bubbling action inside a pint of Guinness. Guinness’ latest TV commercial Music Machine is an effects-laden Busby Berkeley-style extravaganza that sees hundreds of cream-clothed stunt men fired into a glass of the dark stuff where they bounce off giant Japanese drums, pluck harp strings and kick cymbals to represent the action bubbling away inside a pint. With a tagline ‘It’s Alive Inside’, the Guinness Music Machine spot was developed at Irish International BBDO by creative director Mal Stevenson, copywriter Mark Nutley, art director Pat Hamill and agency producer Noel Byrne. Red Bee Media’s Steve Cope directed the spot and Tim Hardy of Cut+Run edited the film.

Post production and visual-effects work was done at The Mill, London by production team Charlotte Loughnane and Lee Pavey; colourist Seamus O’Kane; lead Flame artist Richard Roberts; Flame assistants Leon Wood and Paul Downes; lead Shake Darren Christie, Shake artists Grainne Freeman, Becky Porter and Pete Hodsman; Smoke artist John Thornton; VFX supervisor/lead 3D artist Juan Brockhaus; lead technical director Tom Bussel, 3D artists Aidan Gibbons, Alex Hammond, Suraj Odedra, Ross Urien and James Rogers, and Final Cut Pro editor Daniel Budin. The Mill team were involved from the start of the project, working with the agency to create the design and movement of the

CREDITS PROJECT

Music Machine TV spot

CLIENT

Guinness

AGENCY IBBDO

POST FACILITY

The Mill www.the-mill.com 020 7287 4041

SOFTWARE

Softimage|XSI Autodesk Maya Natural Motion Endorphin Apple Final Cut Apple Shake Autodesk Flame Autodesk Smoke

A greenscreen shoot took place at Shepperton Studios. Three stuntman were filmed flying through the air, jumping and bouncing against a giant size drum, and kicking a marker for the cymbal.

words Lynn Wright

machine and well as creating previz for the full CG shots. “The most challenging part of the project was to create realistic moving characters hitting big drums and the complexity of the music machine,” says The Mill’s visualeffects supervisor and lead 3D artist Juan Brockhaus. “On the technical side we faced a tight deadline against a huge amount of shots and big 3D scenes. Setting up a pipeline in which we separated the animation from the rendering completely using baked meshes, gave us the ability to work on the animation and on the shading of the characters and the music machine simultaneously,” he explains. A multi-camera, week-long shoot for the Guinness Music Machine ad took place at a greenscreen studio at Shepperton, and involved one real drum, three stuntmen and some ropes. While filming took place, the spot’s CG backgrounds were designed and modelled at The Mill by Aidan Gibbons and Ross Urien. Footage of the real stuntmen was used

041


projects The Music Machine

“Creating the Music Machine environments was both creatively and technically challenging,” says The Mill visual-effects supervisor Juan Brockhaus. “We were supplied with concept art for the environments and we also had a lot of reference pictures of musical instruments under certain lighting.” Working from this, The Mill team began creating sections of the outer wall of the music machine, which represents the pint glass itself. The outer wall was broken up into four separate layers or sections, says Brockhaus. “We did this not only for organizational reasons, but also to keep the number of objects on screen down,” he explains. “It also meant that if the client had an issue with a certain area, we could just open that specific section and tweak it. “These sections were being changed and built upon all the time so we only ever had one ‘master’ section, which automatically updated in every shot/scene once altered,” he says. Another challenge was in rigging the glass. Every trumpet and button is animated pressing in and out, and growing and shrinking. On top of this, a wave-like animation was then applied to the whole environment, giving it a liquid feel. Equally challenging was lighting and rendering the environment for all 54 shots. The Mill team had to add depth to the music machine to give size, while at the same time balance the lighting and grading so that despite the complexity, the machine was still readable. “We created a lighting rig that could be transferred from shot to shot with mostly good results. Once imported, we simply tweaked where the lights were until we achieved the desired look. Rendering times were quite high on the wide shots, but in most cases the rendering times were good. We rendered approximately eight passes per shot. Sometimes we provided Flame and Shake with extra lighting passes,” says Brockhaus.

for the spot’s foreground shots while all the characters in the background and wide shots were CG. One master CG character was created, which was then cloned and duplicated to create the hundred or so characters necessary for the big shots. Based on reference photography of the stuntmen taken on the shoot, Brockhaus and his team modelled and textured the CG characters in Softimage|XSI, before taking them into Natural Motion Endorphin to create the numerous variations needed of the animated characters hitting the CG drums.

042

“Endorphin’s ability to mix between poseanimation and simulating physical behaviours of characters was the best way to achieve the animation of the characters flying through the air, hitting drums, and sliding down ropes,” explains Brockhaus.

Liquid look-&-feel To enhance the feel of a liquid environment, the CG characters leave bubble trails and burst into bubbles when they hit the drum. The bubble trails were created in Maya using particles with the CG characters acting as emitters. “Several force-fields were used to

A master character Based on the real stuntmen from the shoot, The Mill team created a master CG character, which was then cloned and duplicated to create the hundred or so characters for the wide shots.

drive the particles and give it a liquid motion,” says Brockhaus. “And then several layers including a colour-pass and a highlight pass were used to achieve the final look of the bubble trails.” For the explosion effect, a CG character was rotoscoped to the real stuntman, with the footage projected onto the CG character to ensure colours matched. Again the CG character was used as emitter for the explosion, with the real actor painted out of the frame and several layers of particles combined together to achieve the final look.


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l a i t n e s edessign books you

d a e r t s mu

Delve into the creative minds of some of the best designers, animators, studios and artists on the planet with our guide to essential books you simply must read. words Sean Ashcroft

In a creative world dominated by Facebook, Wikipedia, Google, online tutorials and interactive forums, reaching for a paper-&-ink book seems to have become an arcane art. Yet there are some incredible words of wisdom and pages filled with inspiration that can sit, poised, on your home or studio bookshelf just waiting to offer advice, guidance or a starting point for your next creative project. From practical advice on dealing with typography and design through to producing an indie movie or crafting animation worthy of a Pixar release, we’ve scoured the world of creative publishing to bring you the best design books that everyone should own. These represent the best thinking and offer the best starting points for students and professionals alike – and everyone can benefit from their pages. So log off the Internet, fill up a mug of coffee and prepare to turn over a new leaf. 044

THE BARNBROOK BIBLE: THE GRAPHIC DESIGN OF JONATHAN BARNBROOK Author: Jonathan Barnbrook Publisher: Rizzoli Year of publication: 2007 Pages: 320 Price: £35 UK designer and typographer Jonathan Barnbrook is a sociopolitical designer, something that extends even to his fonts, which bear names like Bastard, Exocet and Manson. The Barnbrook Bible is a monograph by and about this activist, designer and font maker. Barnbrook has been dubbed a ‘craftsman with a conscience’, and believes design should be a catalyst for discussion and change. In addition to art directing the Adbusters magazine, Barnbrook puts great effort into producing copyright-free work that highlights political and social injustices. Here, he mixes images, text, and wordplay, to create a unique project that reflects his revolutionary typefaces and graphic designs, while presenting a body of new and unpublished work.


DESIGNING DESIGN Author: Kenya Hara Publisher: Lars Muller Date of publication: 2007

JOEL DESGRIPPES AND MARC GOBÉ ON THE EMOTIONAL BRAND EXPERIENCE

Pages: 470 Price: €39.90

Authors: Joel Desgrippes and Marc Gobé Publisher: Rockport

Representing a new generation of designers in Japan, Kenya Hara pays

Date of publication: 2007 Pages: 208 Price: £29.99 (hardback)

tribute to his mentors, using long overlooked Japanese icons and images

This title shares the expertise of the world-renowned Desgrippes Gobé

in much of his work.

team on a design subject for which they are widely recognized – emotional

In 2001, he became a board

branding. The authors provide practical information by not only reviewing

member for the Japanese ‘brandless’

their own work, but by looking at other strong work in the field. They seek

label MUJI, and has moulded the

to provide a better understanding of how to offer clients designs and branding

identity of this successful corporation

strategies that make a difference by connecting on an emotional level.

as communication and design advisor ever since. Hara stresses the importance of “emptiness” in both the visual and

Using sketches, notes and final pieces, the authors reveal the design processes that have made them so successful. They explore the successes and failures of particular projects to help readers understand how they achieved the end result.

philosophical traditions of Japan, and its application to design, made visible by means of numerous examples from his own work with MUJI. He also examines his designs for the opening

1000 GRAPHIC ELEMENTS: SPECIAL DETAILS FOR DISTINCTIVE DESIGNS

and closing ceremonies programs for

Author: Wilson Harvey Publisher: Rockport

the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Year of publication: 2004 Pages: 320 Price: £27.50 Wilson Harvey is a London-based integrated design and marketing agency with a focus on producing high-end communications for a wide

AGI: GRAPHIC DESIGN SINCE 1950

range of clients. In this book, it explores the small details that make a piece shine, examining 1,000 embellishments that are available to

Authors: Ben and Emily Bos Publisher: Thames & Hudson

graphic designers across all kinds of projects, including books, brochures,

Date of publication: 2007 Pages: 800 Price: £36

invitations, menus, CDs and annual reports.

The AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale) unites the world’s leading

Content is organized by embellishment type:

graphic designers and artists in a professional club of common interest

a designer searching for an unusual binding will

and achievement.

find a selection of ideas in a binding section.

Since its inception in 1951, its members have been responsible for the

Other topics covered include fasteners,

identity design of most of the world’s top corporations and institutions,

graphics, unique materials, embossing,

as well as for countless examples of globally known packaging, publications,

debossing, speciality inks, type treatments,

illustration and posters.

interesting colour usage, add-ons, and die-cuts.

This book presents biographies of every AGI member to date – about 600 – illustrated by examples of their work, as well as a history of the AGI

THE ELEMENTS OF TYPOGRAPHIC STYLE VERSION 3.0

and its landmark achievements. Among those featured are Alan Fletcher,

Author: Robert Bringhurst Publisher: Hartley & Marks

Adrian Frutiger, Milton Glaser, and Irma Boom.

Date of publication: 2005 Pages: 352 Price: $29.95 (£15.93)

THE ART OF LOOKING SIDEWAYS

When The Elements of Typographic Style first appeared in 1992 it

Author: Alan Fletcher Publisher: Phaidon Press

was hailed as a classic in its

Date of publication: 2001 Pages: 1,067 Price: £24.95

field. Amateurs and professionals

Alan Fletcher, who died in 2006, is among the most influential figures in

since have embraced the book for

British graphic design of the past 40 years. The Art of Looking Sideways is designed to be opened at random, and, at over 1,000 pages, it’s a spectacular treatise on visual thinking.

the clarity it brings to the art of

As a “guide to visual awareness”, it is a concoction of anecdotes, quotes,

typography. Version 3.0 encompasses the technological changes that have

images and bizarre facts that offers a wonderfully twisted vision of the

been introduced since the first

chaos of modern life. Fletcher’s mastery of design mixes type, space, fonts,

edition. These technological shifts

alphabets, colour and layout combined with a “jackdaw” eye for the strange

have made font editing more

and profound.

important to good typography

Arranged into 72 chapters with titles like Colour, Noise, Chance,

than it was. This new edition will

Camouflage and Handedness, Fletcher described the book as “a journey

appeal to serious typographers and

without a destination”. While designers and students might rifle through

everyone intrigued by the beauty

its pages for ideas, others will enjoy its gently provocative mind-teasers.

of human language.

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STOP STEALING SHEEP AND FIND OUT HOW TYPE WORKS American type designer Frederic Goudy once said, “Anyone who would

PAINTING THE DIGITAL RIVER: HOW AN ARTIST LEARNED TO LOVE THE COMPUTER

letterspace lower case would steal sheep.” Spiekerman and Ginger sink

Author: James Faure Walker

decades of typographic experience into a unique guidebook that shows

Publisher: Prentice Hall

type is easy to use, easy to understand, and in the right hands, a powerful

Date of publication: 2006

communications tool. They explain what typography is, and offer design

Pages: 352 Price: £17.99 (hardback)

guidance in choosing type for legibility, meaning, and aesthetic appeal.

This is James Faure Walker’s personal

Authors: Erik Spiekermann and E.M Ginger Publisher: Adobe Date of publication: 2002 Pages: 192 Price: £22.99

The reader is guided through all aspects of typography, from the

odyssey from his first work with

history and mechanics of type, to training the eye to recognize and choose

traditional media to his pioneering

typefaces. First published in 1993, the book is now updated with new

experiments with digital tools.

typefaces, fonts and illustrations.

A witty attempt to make sense of the introduction of computer tools into the creation of art, the book

TYPE & TYPOGRAPHY (2ND EDITION)

explores the nature of art in a high-technology world. Drawing on his experiences as a painter and digital artist, Faure Walker tells of learning

Authors: Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam Publisher: Laurence King

to paint with the computer, of misunderstandings across the art and

Date of publication: 2005 Pages: 224 Price: £22.50

science divide, of software limitations, and conversations between the

Carefully structured and brimming with clear examples, Type &

mainstream and digital art worlds. He also challenges the assumption

Typography takes the reader through every aspect of typography,

that digital means different – a common challenge for all artists.

from the history of language and writing systems to the invention of movable type and the evolution of the digital systems of today. It provides an overview of the bewildering variety of typefaces available and is a practical guide to using type as a meaningful element

DESIGNING INTERACTIONS Author: Bill Moggridge Publisher: MIT Press Date of publication: 2006

of design in all media. In addition,

Pages: 800 Price: £25.95 (hardback)

you’ll discover a valuable ‘road map’

Author Bill Moggridge introduces us to 43 influential designers who have

for navigating the bewildering variety

shaped our interaction with technology. Moggridge – who in 1981 was the

of typefaces, as well as scores

designer of the first ever laptop – traces the evolution of their ideas, from

of techniques for using type as a

inspiration to outcome. His interviewees include Sims creator Will Wright

meaningful element of design and

and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

layout in all media. Phil Baines has worked as a

Moggridge and his interviewees discuss questions such as what made Palm’s handheld organisers so successful, what turns a game into a hobby,

freelance designer for 20 years and is

and why 30 million people in Japan choose the i-mode service for their

noted for his letterpress work. Andrew

mobile phones.

Haslam has run his own studio since 1987, creating textbooks for children.

WHAT IS GRAPHIC DESIGN? Author: Quentin Newark Publisher: RotoVision Date of publication: 2002 Pages: 256 Price: £19.99

Moggridge also tells the story of his own design process and explains the focus on people and prototypes that has been successful at his design company, IDEO. The book is accompanied by DVD containing segments from all 43 interviews, inter-cut with examples of the interactions under discussion.

Now available for the first time in paperback, the bestselling What

DIGITAL MULTIMEDIA (2ND EDITION)

is Graphic Design? explores all the issues that shape design today:

Authors: Nigel and Jenny Chapman, Publisher: Wiley

economics, ethics, technology, theory, and developments in other arts.

Year of publication: 2004 Pages: 698 Price: £29.99

It looks at how graphic design

This is a core text for undergraduate and masters courses in multimedia.

has evolved over the centuries, from

It combines a broad account of technology with an inside understanding

the development of book printing in

of multimedia content and its practical applications.

medieval Germany to the present

and social context, before examining hardware and software requirements

branding, television titles, films, and

for its creation and delivery. There are chapters devoted to each media type,

Web sites.

detailing how it is represented in digital form and what demands are placed

The book breaks down design into its elements: typography, how

046

Coverage begins with the nature of multimedia, including the cultural

day, including magazines, corporate

on computer systems. Later chapters cover design principles and accessibility, XML, SMIL and

text and images combine, and how

SVG, creating interaction through scripting and networking media. There are

the process of reproduction underpins

end-of-chapter exercises, as well as suggestions for substantial projects and

every aspect of design.

a detailed glossary of terms.


THE DV REBEL’S GUIDE: AN ALLDIGITAL APPROACH TO MAKING KILLER ACTION MOVIES ON THE CHEAP

THE ART OF 3D: COMPUTER ANIMATION AND EFFECTS (3RD EDITION)

Author: Stu Maschwitz

step guidelines to the entire process of creating a fully rendered 3D computer

Publisher: Peachpit

animation or still image. It covers the latest techniques and technology,

Date of publication: 2007

including 2D/3D integration, non-photorealistic rendering, model rigging,

Pages: 320 Price: £31.99

and real-time polygonal models.

This offers a DIY approach

Author: Isaac Victor Kerlow Publisher: Wiley Date of publication: 2003 Pages: 464 Price: £42.50 Isaac Victor Kerlow is director of digital production at Disney, and in this new edition of his seminal platform-independent 3D manual he offers step-by-

Full-colour examples include visual effects, animated movies, TV shows

to great movie-making. Stu Maschwitz is co-founder of the Orphanage,

and computer games from companies such as DreamWorks, Electronic Arts,

responsible for award-winning effects in such movies as Sin City and

Pixar, and Sony.

the Harry Potter flicks. It’s a must for filmmakers and students who want impressive visual effects but don’t have Hollywood-style budgets. the necessary cameras, software, and equipment, to creating special

CRACKING ANIMATION: THE AARDMAN BOOK OF 3-D ANIMATION (NEW EDITION)

effects such as gunfire, Kung Fu fights and dismemberment, to editing

Authors: Peter Lord and Brian Sibley Publisher: Thames & Hudson

and mixing sound and music.

Date of publication: 2004 Pages: 224 Price: £19.95

This guide details exactly how to do this, from planning and selecting

Readers learn how to integrate visual effects into every aspect of

Cracking Animation tells the compelling story of the Wallace and Gromit

filmmaking – before filming, during filming and with in-camera shots,

creators Aardman Studio, and provides a unique guide to making 3D

and with computers in postproduction.

animation. Originally published in 1998, it offers practical, fully illustrated step-by-step descriptions of how to create effective characters,

HOW TO BE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL

a storyboard, sets and even how to make an entire film. This new edition adds an 32 pages, incorporating the making of Chicken Run, and

Author: Adrian Shaughnessy Publisher: Laurence King

an exploration of computer graphics, which was

Date of publication: 2005 Pages: 160 Price: £17.95

nascent on the book’s first publication.

This is a book for independent-minded designers. It addresses the concerns

Peter Lord is the founder of Aardman, while

of young designers who want to earn a living by doing expressive and

Brian Sibley is also author of The Disney Studio

meaningful work, and who want to avoid becoming a hired drone working

Story.

on soulless projects. already chosen to forge a career as a designer, or is already working as

DON’T MAKE ME THINK: A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO WEB USABILITY (2ND EDITION)

a professional designer but looking for guidance, inspiration and practical

Author: Steve Krug Publisher: New Riders

It assumes that its reader knows the basics of graphic design and has

advice. This book offers just this, through a series of one-on-one interviews with American and international designers, who tell of their personal experiences.

THE ANIMATOR’S SURVIVAL KIT: A MANUAL OF METHODS, PRINCIPLES, AND FORMULAS FOR CLASSICAL, COMPUTER, GAMES, STOP MOTION, AND INTERNET ANIMATORS

Date of publication: 2005 Pages: 216 Price: £24.99 Usability design is one of the most important though least attractive tasks for a Web developer. In Don’t Make Me Think, author Steve Krug lightens up the subject with good humour and excellent to-the-point examples. The title of the book is its chief personal design premise. All of the tips, techniques and examples presented within it revolve

Author: Richard Williams Publisher: Faber & Faber

around users being able to surf

Year of publication: 2001 Pages: 352 Price: £14.95

merrily through a well-designed

This is the one book every animator should have on their desk – whether

site with minimal cognitive

they work in film, computer graphics or video-game animation.

strain.

Richard Williams is the pre-eminent figure in motion-picture animation.

Much of the content is

In recent years, the Academy Award for animation effects has been virtually

devoted to proper use of

guaranteed to go to a student of Richard Williams, whether the movie in

conventions and content

question is Toy Story or Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

layout, and the “before and

This book is based on masterclasses that Williams has given to

after” examples are helpful.

professional and would-be animators over the years. Companies such as

Topics such as the wise use of

Industrial Light and Magic, Disney, and Dreamworks send their animators to

rollovers and usability testing

study at Williams’ feet, as he’s regarded as the link between the ‘golden Age’

are covered, using a consistently

of Disney and the new-style computer animation exemplified by Toy Story.

practical approach.

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Academy award-winning Autodesk® Maya® software is the industry-leading 3D animation and effects software used in movies, special effects, games, cartoons, short films, commercials, and other animation. It is used by game companies, ad agencies and film studios for animation and effects in such films as Grindhouse, Pan’s Labyrinth and Spider-Man 3 and have been used to create dynamic and realistic 3D content for video games like Tony Hawk’s Project 8. The software consists of modeling, animation, dynamics, and rendering modules. Our collection of official Autodesk® Maya® books provide dozens of tutorials, tips and techniques to learn and improve 3D skills. Our books target a broad audience of students, instructors, professional trainers, professional graphic designers, as well as directors in movies, games and video. All of the books come with either a CD or DVD with supplementary materials and demo software.

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masterclass: adobe illustrator

WHO JOSHUA M SMITH Joshua is an extremely cool US designer specializing in vectorbased illustration and design. He has created work for the likes of Evoke LA, Flicker Records, Boom Magazine, E360 Magazine, Comet Skateboards, and apparel for the likes of Ripcurl and Quiksilver. He has recently redesigned his Web site, which features a wide variety of his work. CONTACT www.hydro74.com SOFTWARE Adobe Illustrator TIME TO COMPLETE 3 hours

ON THE CD

Vector-based T-shirt graphic design US designer Joshua Smith shows you how to create a killer T-shirt design using a 3D object as a starting point in Adobe Illustrator. In the age of clip art books and simple solutions, it’s rare to find good illustrations that someone invested some time into that will make its way on a shirt that we, the consumer, can be proud of. However, if your favourite T-shirt is a slogan-based one, with the likes of ‘I’M WITH STUPID’ or ‘NICE RACK’ with a simple illustration of a gun-rack, then this probably isn’t for you. This whole concept stems from the idea that we want to broadcast what we are most

passionate about. Only a few brands in the industry have amazing illustrators working for them, or a brand might be a spawn of something that’s already illustration-based, such as Tokidoki & Obey Giant. Brands like RVCA, Monarcy, Drifter, and others in the same field strive to have illustration as the message that carries their themes. This tutorial shows how I would attack a T-shirt design if someone commissioned a piece.

All files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD.

step

I love skulls, and I actually have one handy in my office that I can snap a quick photo of. Since I’m lazy and don’t need any high-end technology to do this, I just did it with my iPhone since I can pretty much drop it into iPhoto and drag it into Adobe Illustrator. You can do this with a sketch, doodle or whatever you want to pull from.

01

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Eduction


masterclass: adobe illustrator

TIP

03

step

If this piece is pretty much a straight-on view, place a guide-line right in the centre of the photo so you can save yourself a bit of work in the long run. That way, you can focus on just one side for now and once that is done, flip it over and edit.

05

As you’re illustrating your piece, explore some ideas in shading, or just add to it. I would never suggest coping the piece straight up, but allow yourself to be creative. Also, don’t rush it. As you’re only focusing on one side of this piece, you’re already saving yourself time. Let the lines flow and add your own perspective on the piece.

step

04

06

Once you get the first side done, copy your line art and flip it. Once you do this, line up the sides so they are almost flush. At that point, you’ll discover that certain spots look flat or odd. This is your chance to go in and clean that up and also blend the middle a little bit so it will feel more unique.

Adding colour is quite fun. Create a new Layer under your line art. Lock the layer that has your line art on it, and also hide or click off of the layer with photo. You want to avoid any distractions and work with a clean background. First you want to drop a base colour down.

step

step

02

Start the line art. Do what you’re used to doing. I personally don’t use strokes in Illustrator because I like to have more control over my lines, but honestly, do what you feel the best at doing. I like to start from the eyes because that is the most central part of the illustration. Then just build around it.

step

step

Knock the transparency down to 50 per cent. This will help avoid any confusion when you start dropping in your line art. One other thing I do is set up another layer, so the image is on one, and the line art is on another. This way I can click the image on and off just to see progression and to see if I need to fill in any certain area of the actual illustration.

There are many occasions when I start from scratch and just find good reference points to start a illustration from but, for the most part, I like to have the correct perspective, so having something to trace from helps. Once the basic tracing is done, be creative and see were it takes you. Save the files often, also, duplicate the illustration to the side if you want to explore some other things with it by adding some organic styled pieces or even some hand-drawn elements.

07

055


masterclass: adobe illustrator

TIP You can make any colour a spot color simply by holding down the Command/ Ctrl key when you click the New Swatch icon. To make a Global spot colour, press Command/Ctrl + Shift while clicking the New Swatch icon.

11

I also recommend just playing around with bitmap files or dirty vector files and place it on top or around the piece to give it a little bit more of the raw effect.

step

step

I generally work in greyscale, then change it to colour later to save me some time, however it’s your call. You don’t have to be perfect when dropping in colour, it’s a matter of just filling in the areas that you want to pop out. Take time to throw a few shades of darker colour or lighter colour for shadows or light reflections. Doesn’t have to be over the top, but enough to give it some depth.

08

09

10

step

I generally take advantage of clip art elements or create my own elements like hair, or little flourishes that I can throw all over the piece. This is where you can have fun with the piece and just let it become you. That’s really what this illustration is all about. It’s not about coping this skull, but it’s about your own perspective and take on this skull (or whatever you are illustrating).

056

12

At this point, you are pretty much done. I would expect at least 3-6 hours for a decent vector illustration, maybe more depending on how detailed you really want to get with it. Also don’t be afraid to rehash elements in it if it saves you time. Hair is a great thing, because if you do it right, you can pretty much rotate it and now you have a whole different piece to work with.

step

step

When you finish the colouring process, create another layer for your background elements. That way if you need to go later for more colouring, or more line art, you can, besides, keeps the file really organized.


masterclass: adobe photoshop

TOMMY MALONEY Tommy Maloney started his Photoshop career with Photoshop 2.5. After working for some of the biggest names in the Photoshop-industry, he created www. photoshoplab.com as a creative outlet and Web development. CONTACT www.photoshoplab.com SOFTWARE Adobe Photoshop TIME TO COMPLETE One hour

ON THE CD All files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD.

058

Create Web 2.0 style graphics Slick, reflective Web 2.0 icons and graphics can bring your Web site firmly into the 21st Century. Here’s how to spruce up your Web graphics. Web 2.0 is a buzzword that has been used to describe new trends in Web development and design. While some see it as cliché, it has definitely been widely adopted across the Internet. With Photoshop, these new design styles can be fairly easy to create. The goal here is to teach the method for creating these styles and not just how to create a specific image, allowing you to use your own creativity.

Web 2.0 itself is a term used to define Web sites that are based around usercreated content. Blogs with trackbacks and comments, Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube are prime examples. What many of them feature is an adopted reflective, aqua-style of graphics – first widely seen in Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. The style has risen hand-in-hand with Web 2.0 sites as an iconic signature style.

01

The first step is to create some Web 2.0-style gradients. Create a new Gradient Fill Layer by going Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient... or use the Fill Layer button at the bottom of your Layers palette. Inside the Gradient Fill dialog box, click on the Gradient colour bar to bring up the Gradient Editor. Click on the Foreground to Background preset in the Presets box to reset the Gradient Editor. This is usually the first preset in the list. To make this more flexible, I’m going to use variations of grey, though you can use the colours you would like.

step

WHO


The reflection effect is most commonly used with text, but can be used for almost any object

04

TIP

02

Press Ctrl + T to bring up the Free Transform on your duplicated Layer. Right-Click within the Free Transform binding box and choose Flip Vertical. Drag your flipped Text Layer down to match the bottom of your original Text layer. Press Enter to apply the Free Transform.

05

If you want to get a little closer to the action without the distraction of desktop clutter, press F to cycle between three different Full Screen modes (or use the buttons near the bottom of the Toolbar). Press Shift + F to toggle the menus in Full Screen Mode.

03

The next step is to apply a Layer Mask to your flipped layer by going Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All or clicking on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers palette. With your Layer Mask applied, you shouldn’t see any difference in the image, just the icon in your Layers palette.

step

step

If you created a grey gradient and would like to add some colour, create a new Solid Color Fill Layer by choosing Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color... or, again, use the button at the bottom of the Layers palette. Try choosing a bright colour and set the Layer Mode to Overlay. You can play around with different colours and different Layer Modes. That’s really all there is to creating the Gradient effect.

06

07

Press D to reset your colours. Choose the Gradient tool ‘G’ and select the default Foreground to Background gradient. While holding Shift, drag the gradient tool from top-to-bottom until you get the desired reflection. You may have to start the drag outside of the document area, or try selecting a Grey Foreground Color to get a better effect.

This step is optional, but I’ve seen this effect altered a bit on several occasions. If your Reflection layer is Type, you first have to Rasterize it by going Layer > Rasterize > Type. If it’s not Type, you can ignore that. Press Ctrl + T to bring up the Free Transform Tool. Right-click inside of the Bounding Box and choose Perspective. Click and drag one of the lower corners outward. Right-click again and choose Scale and bring the bottom of the reflection up to shrink it a bit.

step

step

step

Click just below the Gradient editor bar to add two more markers for a total of four. I’ll refer to them as Markers 1 to 4, from left to right, respectively. Click on a Marker and then click the Color box to bring up the Color Editor. Here are the settings I used, feel free to choose your own: Marker 1: #363636; Marker 2: #404040; Marker 3: #565656; Marker 4: #767676. Select Marker 2 and change the Location to 50%. Do the same with Marker 3. Type in a Name for your Gradient and click New to save it.

step

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The reflection effect is most commonly used with text, but can be used for almost any object. We’ll start with some raw text. Select the Type tool ‘T’, select your font and create your text. Make sure your document size is at least twice that of the object you’re reflecting. Duplicate the Text Layer by pressing Ctrl + J.

08

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masterclass: adobe photoshop

09

TIP A tutorial such as this can require a lot of close zooming. You can save significant time by creating a second view (View > New View). Zoom in one of your views and leave the second at 100 per cent. What you do on the zoomed window will be shown on the 100 per cent window as you work on it, giving a live update.

Hide your Background layer by clicking the Eye icon next to it in the Layers palette. Press Ctrl + A to select the whole document. Go to Edit > Define Pattern and enter in a pattern name you will remember. Your pattern is now ready to use.

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Photoshop has an easy way to create rounded rectangles, but I find that it doesn’t work in all situations or will leave unclean lines. This method is a few more steps, but usually comes out a bit cleaner. You can start by creating a regular square selection with the Rectangle Marquee tool smaller than your document. Then create a new Solid Color Fill layer by going to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color.

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With your blurry square selected in the Layers palette, bring up the Levels Adjustment dialog box by pressing Ctrl + L. In the very left box, with the default value of 0, set the value to 115. Leave the middle value at 1.0. Set the third value, default 255, to 135. This should give you nice rounded corners, while keeping the box dimensions the same.

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With the Line tool still selected, align the centre of your cursor with the lowerright corner of your document. While holding Shift, drag a line at a 45-degree angle to the upper-right. Align the cursor with the same corner and while holding Shift, drag a 45-degree angle line to the lower left. Do the same in the upper-left corner.

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These steps will be nice and short, as all of the techniques are explained above. Create a new Gradient Fill Layer by going Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient. Choose the Web 2.0 Gradient you made before. Add a 2-pixel stroke by going Layer > Layer Style > Stroke. Choose a colour that blends with your gradient nicely. Now round the corners of the Fill Layer.

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Create a new Layer in your document by pressing Ctrl + Shift + N. Now would be a good time to zoom in to around 600% or so. With the Line tool still selected, hold the Shift key and draw your line from the upper-right corner to the lower-right corner. To best make sure your line was drawn directly down the centre of the diagonal axis, put the centre of your cursor directly on the corner of your document.

step

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Create a slight blur by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur. The amount of blur you add will be relative to how rounded you want the corners. Smaller blur (pixels) will create less of a rounded corner; while higher will be more rounded. The usual blur amount is 2.0 to 4.0 pixels.

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Add your Type Layer and reflect it. In the Layers Palette, click on your Gradient Fill Layer to highlight it, then hold the Ctrl key and click on that layer’s Layer Mask to load it as a Selection. Create a new Pattern Fill Layer by going Layer > New Filler Layer > Pattern. Create another new Gradient Fill Layer above your Pattern Layer and choose colours similar to your Web 2.0 style gradient. Press Ctrl + G to create a clipping mask. Adjust the Opacity of your Pattern Layer until it blends in a bit.

step

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Getting a good diagonal pattern can be a bit tricky sometimes, so this may take some practice to get it perfect. Create a New Document Ctrl + N with a width and height of 25-pixels. Press Ctrl + D to reset your colours. Let’s make an 8-pixel thick line. Select the Line Tool ‘U’. In the Options Bar check Fill pixels, set your Weight to 8px and un-check Anti-alias.

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Solution Expert Video


masterclass: adobe after effects

03

step

Twirl open Animator 1, and set the opacity of Animator 1 to 0%. The type should no longer be visible. The type is no longer visible because the brackets surrounding the type define a range where this 0% opacity begins and ends. Twirl open Range Selector 1 to reveal the Start, End, and Offset properties. Start and End define the area that is affected by the animation property, in this case it is opacity that is set to 0. Therefore, all of the type within the range (between the start and end) has a 0% opacity. This can easily be keyframed to animate the type.

Using the Horizontal Type Tool, create some type that you would like to animate. I am starting out with one of the presets as discussed my previous article on type effects (Digital Arts September 07).

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Animated type effects

CONTACT graymachine.com SOFTWARE Adobe After Effects TIME TO COMPLETE One hour

ON THE CD All files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD.

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This article will explore the amazingly versatile Type Tool in Adobe After Effects. The Type Tool has a lot of features that are commonly overlooked by many After Effects users. This masterclass explores the controls that allow the type to be animated in a variety of ways – and you can generate lots of results with a few changes of your own. These transitional animation examples will provide many options with this versatile tool. We’ve included the AE project file, plus FFX variations on the CD, for you to try out – and you can download the typeface used for free from www.dafont.com/alba.font

At 0.0 seconds, set a keyframe for Start with a value of 0%. Move to a time of 2.0 seconds and change the Start value to 100%. If you play this, you’ll see that the type is fading letter by letter because the range is changing and letters are now falling outside of this range. This is a great alternative to dissolving your type, as it’s quick-&-easy. Now that you understand Start and End, I am going to suggest getting in the habit of using the Offset property instead of Start. The reason for this will be clearer when the Advanced settings are covered. The function of Offset is to simultaneously move Start and End, while keeping their relative separation the same.

step

HARRY J FRANK Harry stumbled into motion graphics as a starving musician. He lives in Detroit south of 8 Mile, earning a living as a designer, teacher and rock star.

Learn how to master smooth text appearances and animation using Offset and Ramp Up settings in After Effects

Twirl open the type layer to reveal the layer properties. The pop-up menu labelled Animate reveals the properties that can be animated (such as position, scale, opacity, and blur). From this menu, select Opacity. As soon as the opacity property is selected, several things will change: two brackets will appear at the beginning and end of the type. You’ll also see appear Animator 1, Range Selector 1, and Opacity.

step

WHO

01

02

04


To explore just a few of the possibilities, a few variations on this type animation are presented below

TIP

05

the value of Offset to 100. Changing the offset will move Start and End together, creating an animation that looks the same as before.

When working with more than a few layers it can become difficult to select a specific layer in the Composition panel, particularly if you use adjustment layers. A quick solution is in the Composition panel, move your cursor over the layer you want to select, right mouse button click (Opt+Shift on the Mac), then from the bottom of the context menu choose Select, then the name of the layer you want. This is the same as right clicking in Photoshop with the Move tool selected and is handy when you have a lot of 3D layers.

My example has a space in the type. As this transition happens, After Effects is currently treating these characters as a part of the transition. To eliminate this, locate the Based On property, and select Characters Excluding Spaces. Set the Ease Low property to 100, so the type ‘eases in’ as it animates. This will be useful when animating position as a property. That covers the basics. To explore just a few of the possibilities, a few variations on this type animation are presented below. The presets and compositions are included with this lesson.

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Reset the Start property to 0 and remove the keyframes. Create a keyframe for the Offset property at 0.0 seconds. At 2.0 seconds, change

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Variation 1

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Click the Add button next to the opacity, and select Property. This reveals properties that can be added to Animator 1 that will be affected by Range Selector 1. Select Blur and this blur property will get added below opacity. Change the Blur

value to 10. If you play the animation, you’ll see that each character is now fading and blurring on. Notice that the blur and opacity only change on one character at a time. It’s as if the range is shaped like a vertical line passing through the letters.

Add Position as a property to Animator 1. Set the X Position to -500. The letters will all start -500 offset in X and gradually move back into position. Variation 2

Set the Y Position to 300 and turn Randomize Order On. This is located just below Ease Low. Variation 3

Add Scale to Animator 1 and set the scale value to 250%. step

Twirl open the Advanced section to reveal even more properties. Locate the Shape property. Currently, it is set to Square, which yields a one-character-at-atime look. Set the Shape to Ramp Up. This will

07

radically change the shape of the range, so adjust the starting Offset value to -100%, to accommodate how wide the range is (this is why Offset is used instead of Start). Notice how smooth the type transition is with this setting.

As you can see, the variations are limitless. Ten FFX presets and AE compositions for you to use on your projects to get your ideas flowing are included on the cover CD.

063


masterclass: apple color

CONTACT mytherapylondon.com SOFTWARE Apple Color TIME TO COMPLETE 2 hours

064

Colour correcting a music promo The advent of Apple Color in Final Cut Pro has made professional colour grading available to a broader range of film editors. Dado Valentic shows how to grade a music promo using Color. Every movie, TV show, music video and commercial has been colourcorrected or graded. In most cases, this has been done for image-legalization reasons, but colour correction offers more. In simple terms, colour correction brings enhancements that adds to the emphasis and meaning of images. Colour increases production value greatly. Colour correction is the most expensive part of the post-production process. Until now, the tools required for colour correction, have been expensive and few in number.

This situation changed when, with the advent of digital cinema cameras, Apple purchased Silicon Color, re-released its software under the new name Color and bundled it with Final Cut Studio 2. Thus opening up professional-level colour grading to all. Yet as an application created for professional artists, Color’s lack of presets and learning tools means FCP users may find it hard to get to grips with its feature set. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to make the most of Color and create cool looks for your music video project in just a few simple steps.

01

The easiest way to open a sequence in Color is to do so from Final Cut Pro using command Send to Color. Your project should automatically open in Color. Once opened, go first to Setup Room and Project Settings tab. Here, we first need to set Render Directory, which should be on a fast media drive; QuickTime export format as Output Format (ideally uncompressed or ProRes); and since we are outputting for TV, switch on Broadcast Safe. Set Ceiling IRE to 90 and Composite Limit to 95.

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DADO VALENTIC Dado Valentic is a colourist and online editor working for the D-Cinema facility Mytherapy in London. He started out with Apple in 1998 and later worked for Sony Broadcast and Professional Europe in technical support and development of NLEs. His technical background and traditional filmmaking skills has seen him gain a strong reputation in the post-production industry.

02

Make sure that Limit Shadow is on and internal pixel processing is set to 32-bit floating.

step

WHO


In simple terms, colour correction brings enhancement that adds to the emphasis and meaning of images TIP

step

First, we will start by balancing the image in Primary In. Click on Luminance setting for the shadows (third bar) and drag with your mouse down, looking at the RGB Parade. The darkest parts of the image should just be touching the 0 point mark.

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We’re going to desaturate the image slightly and move saturation to 0.8.

One important thing to keep in mind if you’re coming to Color from another tool, Color doesn’t respond the way other applications do when it comes to key frames and masks. Remember that you have to add your keyframe first, then adjust your mask.

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In order to recover some detail in the shadows, we’ll add a Lift node just after Bleach Bypass and set it to 0.05.

05

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As the image seems to be too ‘hot’, we’ll drag the Exposure Operator and drop it just above Bleach Bypass node and connect its output to Bleach Bypass Input. By adjusting Exposure to -0.1, we will be able to correct the Bleach Bypass FX output. It should still preserve enough detail in highlights and shadows to not look washed out.

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Next, we can go about creating a slight glow effect. Drag and drop HSL Key to the stage. Switch off Hue and Saturation Controls and set Luminance controls so that you’re able to isolate just the highlights. The result should be something like this.

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step step

Drag the Primary midtone ‘ball’ into direction of warm colours. This time judge by monitoring your image on your reference monitor: ideally, you should give the image enough warmth without distorting skintones too much.

Next, switch to the Color FX tab. Drag-&-drop the Bleach Bypass operator onto the FX stage. This FX will give us the desired filmic look of reverse stock that’s regularly used on music video productions.

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04

Click-&-drag highlight Luminance, watching the Histogram. You should have enough detail in mid tones and highlights without clipping the highlights too much in the RGB Parade.

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masterclass: apple color

Add them to the render queue, then choose Render and send back to Final Cut Pro

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You should be getting a healthy looking RGB Parade with the full spectrum represented. There should be no heavy clipping in shadows or highlights area. Also, your Histogram should be free of any heavy clippings. If necessary, use Primary Out to correct your output image.

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Add blur by connecting the output of HSL node to the input of a Blur node and setting blur to 8.0. Next, add the Add node and connect Blur Output to Left Input while leaving parameters of Add the way they are.

TIP A little-known feature is that Color can update Scopes during playback. To enable this handy feature, in Setup > User Preferences, select Update UI During Playback and Update Secondary Display.

12

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Add an Alpha Blend node and connect it as in the image above. Lift Output to Input 2, Add Output to Input 1 and Vignette to Alpha In. The next step is to connect Alpha Blend Output to Output node.

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In order to duplicate this FX room setting to more clips in the sequence, go to Setup > Shots. Select all clips that you wish to copy the setting to by clicking and pressing Shift. Switch to the icon view and press G. This will create a Group. Now drag the CFX bar from the time

step

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Since we want to limit glow FX only on the outside border of the image, we shall create a Vignette node. Set parameters to size 2.8; Aspect 1.14; Softness 0.05.

line and drop it on the group icon. The next step would be to correct Primary settings for each clip individually and possibly isolate portions of image by using Secondaries. Add them to the render queue, then choose Render and send back to Final Cut Pro.


reviews

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Digital Arts testing Digital Arts only reviews the finished versions of software packages. All products are submitted to the leading IDG/Digital Arts labs for testing and all tests are carried out with benchmarking. Buying notes Prices in product reviews are listed without VAT and are correct at press time. Some manufacturers are forbidden by law to supply prices, in which case an average street price will be given. Digital Arts rating and Best Buy

DigitalArts The prestigious Digital Best buy

Arts Best Buy award is

given only to products that are in the top-flight of their class. These products are compelling solutions, delivering innovative technology or unique tools, or are simply the best of their kind. The best product in its class Fantastic package – almost perfect Highly recommended Above average with some flaws Average Below par with serious limitations Fundamentally flawed Lacks any redeeming features Avoid

068


PHOTOSHOP PLUG-IN COLLECTION

Strata 3D[in] With version CS3, Photoshop offers support for 3D content for the first time, but it’s still a rather limited form compared to most 3D applications. Strata, on the other hand, is well known for 3D content creation and three of the latest plug-ins dovetail neatly with the new Photoshop Extended 3D capability. Here we’re looking at the Design 3D[in] suite, the imaging tool Foto 3D[in] and Strata Live 3D[in]. Foto 3D[in] builds 3D models from a series of related 2D images, and it does it rather well. Taking multiple shots of a clay figurine and then a shoe from every angle, the software wizard was able to piece together the images and produce a texture map of the entire surface, and also generate an underlying 3D mesh. Controls are on hand to subdivide the mesh or lower its resolution, and there are a number of useful tools on hand such as Automask. Foto 3D[in] works as a filter or as standalone. Strata suggests you mask each image in Photoshop Extended CS3 for greater control, and supplies a script to load all the images into a layered stack for this purpose. Apart from the task of

masking each layer, it’s a quick and painless way to bring 3D objects into Photoshop. Design 3D[in] is the most full featured of the packages and is accessed from within the Photoshop Filter menu. It can also be used as a standalone application. Although you can use the filters in any way you want, Strata suggests the following workflow. First, the Model[in] New filter is used to create a new 3D object from a selected 2D image within Photoshop file. Model[in] Edit can be used to change or fine tune the existing 3D object, Match[in] is used to correctly place and scale the 3D object in a 2D document and Render[in] generates photo-real images of the object for integration into a Photoshop project. In practice, it all works rather well. Like Vanishing Point, the Design 3D[in] plug-ins use grids to help position 3D objects – and the first stage of using Match[in] is the creation of planes in the Vanishing Point filter itself. You then switch to the main work area of the plug-in to match 3D objects to the perspective of your 2D image. This is presented as a three-window

The Design 3D[in] plug-in environment offers a selection of transformation and modelling tools, as well as the usual creation tools for inserting primitive objects into the scene.

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reviews

The Image Texture dialog offers channels into which individual images can be loaded or a single layered Photoshop file can be configured to fill in these channels automatically.

Once you’ve called up a plug-in from Photoshop, a special Ps Camera window is automatically generated to synchronize data, while user-defined planes are brought in from Vanishing Point as grids.

layout, offering the standard 3D view selections (top, front, isometric), a choice of preview rendering options (OpenGL or Toon-based) and a slider that offers orthographic, wide-angle and 50mm lens settings. You can adjust the orientation and rotation of the imported object in a copy of the master image, or along one of the grid views. We had difficulty transferring an accurately-placed grid across to the plug-in and things at this manipulation stage certainly become more difficult

factor in the software’s favour is that the texture can be linked to the Photoshop file so that future changes made in Photoshop will be updated in the Design 3D[in] model. This roundtrip editing applies across the board – while you’re working with any of the Design 3D[in] plug-ins, you return to Photoshop by clicking the Return to Photoshop button. You can click the Un-Plug button at any time when working within Design 3D[in] to break this connection, if you need to work with Photoshop while extensive rendering is taking place. Otherwise it works like most other filters and reserves Photoshop system time for itself. When working with the Render[in] plug-in, it’s best to work within the automatically created Ps Camera Window as this gives a good preview for positioning. The environment tab is

used to add or adjust lighting in the scene – including options for the lightdome, which can make use of HDRI-based images. Lightdome illumination is not displayed in the Modeling window or any of the OpenGL preview renderers, so any changes you make aren’t updated until you render the image using either Raytrace or ‘Raydiosity’ methods. Comprehensive settings are available for these renderers, accessed via the Render Image dialog.

In Design 3D[in], a model can be manipulated while remaining constrained to the ‘floor’, using the Object Move tool and handles of the Object Rotate tool.

Available in the Environment Tab of Design 3D[in], the Lightdome lighting selector gives access to environment-based lighting.

if the original grid is not true to the angles in the scene. It’s essential to make sure the planes in Vanishing Point are aligned correctly in the first place, but will probably need tweaking once imported into the plug-in. The close integration with Photoshop is evident when applying textures. As in other 3D packages, image textures are projected images that wrap around the surface of 3D objects – here this is controlled via image maps loaded into the channels of the Image Texture dialog. A key

Once an object has been rendered using Render[in] back to Photoshop, any of the resulting rendered layers are fully editable and are grouped separately as a Full Color Composite, Color Compositing Layers and Masks & Selection Layers.

070

Return to render When you’ve finished rendering and finally click Return to Photoshop, a multi-layered group named Rendering Result is sent to the image-editing package. This folder contains a fully flattened version of the image, a layer group folder (colour compositing) containing the elemental images


10MP DIGITAL SLR

E-510

The 3D PDF[in] component of Strata Live 3D[in] outputs live 3D content within a surrounding static document as a 3D-ready PDF file, while 3D Web[in] outputs HTML and Java Web-ready files.

used to create the final image, and a layer group folder (masks and selection). Splitting the render into these sets makes it a simple process to manipulate parts of the image in Photoshop and, by modifying the individual colour compositing layers we were able to tweak the appearance of the objects without re-rendering. Design 3D[in] has the ability to be a powerful complement to Photoshop – we’d like some of the controls to be larger in the Render filter however and found the Object rotation controls a bit fiddly in Match[in].

Live 3D on the Web We saved Live 3D[in] for last as it’s a tool for converting Photoshop files with 3D layers into Web pages and PDF documents with interactive content. There are three parts to the plug-in: 3D PDF[in], 3D Web[in] and 3D For Scripting. The latter generates an .xmm file, which can be opened with the standalone Live 3D[in] application for further editing. Using the first two from within Photoshop, you select the 3D content by the area, layer or document where it is situated in and set an image quality for the output. A navigation bar can be added that can be used to control the embedded 3D object. Simple, but very effective. Michael Burns

The wireframe wizard offers up mesh optimization options, with it intelligently generating a model from a series of images. In this case, a series of photos of a clay figure were captured, then converted into a 3D model.

SCORE: Contact details Strata, www.strata.com XChange International, www.xchangeuk.com; 020 7490 4455

While many digital SLRs priced around £500 have severely limited features, Olympus’s E-510 bucks the trend. This 10.2-megapixel camera is designed for photo enthusiasts who have a basic command of photographic technique and want a camera that can handle almost any situation. And though its multitude of features might make it a bit daunting, the E-510 is a solid camera that takes very good pictures under most conditions. Together, the camera and its standard lens weigh less than 900g. The E-510 doesn’t feel flimsy, however. The body is well-built, and the grip felt comfortable in my hand. When you’re ready to start taking pictures, the shutter and exposure compensation buttons are easy to find, and the big control dial on top invites you to select the shooting mode you want. The dial offers five dedicated scene modes, and 13 other modes. Unlike some digital SLRs in its class, the E-510 has a great many features built in. For example, in addition to offering exposure bracketing, this model can bracket shots for flash and white balance. You also get two levels of image stabilization to help minimize camera shake, a depth-of-field preview button, multiple metering modes,

and a dust-removal feature. The E-510’s Live View mode lets you use the 2.5-inch LCD as a viewfinder. It’s not really designed to be used all the time; overuse can heat up the camera’s sensor and introduce noise into your images. The interface to some of the advanced features is a bit clunky, but that’s counterbalanced by the fact that access to the primary features is intuitive and easy. Colour fidelity and saturation were very good, and the E-510 handled most shooting conditions easily. At lower ISO ranges, the E-510’s images show very little noise; as you reach and exceed ISO 800, colour noise begins to appear, though it’s no worse than on other cameras of a similar price. Rick LePage SCORE: Contact details Olympus, www.olympus.co.uk 00800 67 10 83 00

Info/System requirements format: : Mac, Windows price: £509 plus VAT (with 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens)

Summary pros: Wide range of features. Solidly built. Live View mode. cons: Images can be noisy.

Info/System requirements format: Mac OS X 10.4, Windows XP/Vista price: Design 3D[in] £79. Live 3D[in]. Foto 3D[in] £79. 3D[in] bundle £189. All prices are plus VAT minimum specs: Photoshop CS3 Extended

Summary pros: Straightforward, full-featured workflow to complement Photoshop Extended; advanced rendering and HDRI support; wizards in Foto 3D; simple 3D export to Web and PDF. cons: Requires Photoshop Extended CS3; some controls could be streamlined; modelling tools on the basic side.

071


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reviews

KEYING SOFTWARE

Ultra CS3 Adobe Ultra is tool for keying, compositing and virtual set work derived for the most part from technology from the Adobe acquisition of Serious Magic. It’s available as part of Production Premium and Master Collection editions of Adobe CS3. However, on both versions it runs on Windows only. Intel Mac users could run it through Boot Camp or Parallels, though, but this is hardly an ideal solution. On the first encounter, Ultra looks a fairly slick and comprehensive package. It’s simple to implement a virtual set from the supplied library, then add in some keyed footage or work from a live feed. The procedure is the same for both input paths – select the footage, assign points to pick up the key colour, then click apply to knock out the colour. If the set supports it, multiple input and inset clips can be used. Opacity of the keyed footage can be adjusted with a Transparency slider, one of many controls found in the tabbed dialogs (in this case the Keyer tab) along the base of the interface. The controls in the tabs are fairly straightforward if you’ve used any type of compositing package or the more advanced video editors on

Ultra can insert virtual shadows and reflections, based on the input clip, into the virtual scene, which can be adjusted to give a more natural feel.

Pre Processing sliders in the Colour Tab can increase saturation to give a better key. The complementary Post-processing features come in handy to reduce the saturation of the finished clip to more normal levels.

the market – lots of sliders for quick colour correction and matte-tweaking, with additional controls for setting clip timings and image placement (including cropping, scaling and orientation). Ultra has some proprietary offerings scattered among the Tabs – such as the ability to add shadows and pan and track through a still image or clip. Plus-90 mode allows you to generate footage from a Standard-def camera that can be composited into HD scenes – basically you shoot with the camera rotated at 90 degrees.

The virtual sets included are OK if you’re after a Letterman-style chat show look, and there’s even a lurid Teletubbies style set. Alternatively, you can make your own by using some high-res images.

The keying tab offers a GPU Boost button for rapid increases to keying speed if you have a powerful enough graphics board – our GeForce880 GTX SLI setup proved the point with almost instantaneous results.

Colour saturation The quality of the input clip is all important – like most compositors Ultra tends to be unforgiving with anything but a perfectly keyed out clip, so results will be better if the background in the input clip is well saturated and well lit to begin with. However, for clips that don’t deliver a decent key, help is at hand in the form of the Pre-Processing controls on the Colors tab. This offers controls to increase saturation of the background colour to make it more keyable, but can have adverse side effect on the colours in the main subject. In practice, we had to do quite a bit of fiddling with the colour controls to clean up one such clip, but found the Shrink Matte controls in the Keyer tab to be of significant help too. Though Ultra is not a unique selling point for the CS3 suites, it offers quick integration with Premiere and After Effects, it’s simple to use and

Ultra has support for 4,096-x-4,096 graphics and HD video so when tracking through your virtual set, the pan and zoom capacity lets you zoom in on a high-resolution image that remains unmarred by the artefacts that comes from enlarging low-resolution graphics.

so is definitely worth experimenting with. It would be handy for knocking out a quick pop promo or business presentation, though it probably wouldn’t fit a quality broadcast setup. Adobe provides two extra volumes of virtual sets in addition to the supplied US-centric examples, but these will set you back around £350-£400 each. Michael Burns SCORE: Contact details Adobe, www.adobe.co.uk 0800 028 0148

Info/System requirements format: Windows XP/Vista price: Creative Suite 3 Production Premium, £1,409 plus VAT, upgrade from Production Studio (Standard or Premium), £599 plus VAT

Summary pros: Quick, straightforward workflow; keyer takes advantage of powerful GPUs; Plus-90 mode; mask painting and control; pan and track. cons: Windows only; generic supplied virtual sets of limited use; available only as part of Production Premium and Master Collection CS3.

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reviews

VIDEO-EFFECTS PLUG-INS

Boris Continuum Complete 5 Boris Continuum Complete 5 (BCC) is a library of filters and presets for four of the leading video/motion graphics technologies on the market: Avid’s AVX 2.0 software, Apple’s FxPlug-based applications, Autodesk’s Sparks systems, and the AE compatible applications from Adobe. We’ve been looking at the latter, running BCC 5.0 from within Adobe Premiere CS3 and After Effects CS3, both running on Vista, but all versions share common functionality. In each application, the filters appear as ordinary video effects and are organized into folders such as Time, Wipe Transitions and so on, and include established Boris Continuum features such as PixelChooser. A handy help button is available within the controls of every filter for quick on-thespot information. In this size of review we’d never get through looking at the 180 filters and 1,500 presets available in BBC 5 AE, so we’ll be concentrating purely on the new highlights. The first of these is the rescaling tool UpRez, which is particularly useful for converting SD footage to HD. The most notable thing about the effect is the choice of image quality settings – UpRez supplies a range of sharpening algorithms to complement the resolution change, with the Magic

Flickering is the order of the day with the LED Filter, which applies an effect to clips and images to appear as if they are made up of an array of bulbs.

Sharp setting being particularly effective in our test. The next highlight is a match-move filter, which makes use of the built-in motion-tracking function, but also rather neatly adds DVE functions to the mix to tweak the compositing process. You can thus add such features as tumble, spin and rotate, as well as lighting and light wrap features to more closely match one clip to another. Animating still images with a rostrum camera effect is quite common in compositing and NLE packages, but the BCC Pan and Zoom effect offers tighter control than normal. Semi

automatic (user-defined keyframes for speed of the image animation) Fully automatic (no user keyframes) or fully manual workflow modes are available, with on-screen info and sharpening algorithms provided to fine tune the process. A deflicker option is another nice touch. Scanline, which as the name suggests, can generate rolling CCTVlike scanlines and similar noise over footage, while the related Damaged TV filter takes things to the next level by offering presets for all manner of ‘bad signal’ emulation. Both give highly realistic results and Damaged TV in particular offers a quick shortcut for

what must require a laborious multifilter process otherwise. Further disruption is offered by the Noise Map 2 and Turbulence filters – the former generates resolutionindependent, auto-animated clips that are useful for backdrops, while Turbulence takes the input from Noise Map 2 and applies it to an image, outputting a randomly distorted composite as a result. All the new BCC filters are multiprocesser-aware, to take advantage of multicore architecture, and are OpenGL accelerated. Our system, running the latest driver for the nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX, threw up a warning with some of these new filters, but a solution involving manually enabling OpenGL for the filters seemed to work OK, but your mileage may vary. You might be able to find standalone plug-ins to do a lot of these tasks, but buying them as a unified set like this makes very good sense both economically and from a workflow point of view. Michael Burns SCORE: Contact details Boris FX, www.borisfx.com

Info/System requirements format: Mac OS X 10.3/4, Windows 2000/ XP/Vista price: for Final Cut Studio/After Effects/Avid Xpress Pro $895 (around £445), upgrade $295 (£145), for Media Composer/Symphony $1,995 (£990), upgrade $599 (£299) hosts: Final Cut Pro 5/6, Motion 1/2, After Effects 7/CS3, Premiere Pro 1.5/2/CS3, Combustion 3/4, Avid Xpress Pro, Media Composer, Symphony

Summary pros: Comprehensive offering of effects in unified and integrated format. OpenGL and multi-processor aware functionality. Contextual help. UpRez is intended for editors who need to reuse SD clips in HD projects. Sharpening algorithms deliver that all-important final touch.

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Colour in clips can also be manipulated, with the Prism filter on hand to simulate chromatic aberration effects.

cons: Rather expensive unless majority of effects are required


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reviews

3D ANIMATION SOFTWARE

Swift 3D 5 Swift 3D is a tool for creating 3D interactive Flash material for the Web and mobile devices, rendering 3D objects as vector files. Though it deals with sophisticated content, it has a number of features that make it as straightforward as Flash and even more user friendly. Lathe and Extrusion editors make short work of 3D object creation, while tools under the Advanced Modeler stage allow the assignment of smoothing groups to blend hard edges and the fine-tuning of surface meshes. Though the tools are nowhere near a replacement for a full-fledged 3D suite, the Swift 3D workflow does offer some unique gems in the workflow. One of these is the Advanced Modeler’s Surface Groups feature that, by assigning groupings to selected points or face selections, makes it easy to edit individual parts of the model and apply materials to these sections. One of the standout features is Mesh Morphing, which is a way of animating deformations to the vertices of a solid mesh. Working in the Advanced Modeler, you set up morph groups (regions of polygons that are affected by the deformation) and

morph targets (instances of the deformation that act as a starting and ending point) and animate them in the Scene Editor’s timeline. Once you’ve set up the animation you can apply materials and lighting to the scene as normal. It works well and has the potential to be a powerful tool. Viewports have been tweaked for this version, with any Viewport in the Scene Editor able to now display an Orthographic view, which is handy for positioning and comparing sizes of objects. Another notable feature is a yellow Layout bounding box that works like a video safe area, only rendering content within the bounding box in the final stages – the Render Preview however will display the contents of the entire viewport. Also new are the real-time updates that occur to the other viewports when changes are made in the active area, though this has to be activated by clicking the Redraw All Viewports box. Electric Rain has introduced new features to its RAViX rendering engine, with useful touches such as variable compression settings to the Optimization dialog, along with a live

Any Viewport in the Scene Editor can now be switched to Orthographic view, while a yellow layout bounding box represents the active stage size.

As well as a streamlined interface, version 5.0 ships with a well-stocked library of content, textures, lighting setups and animations (paths, deformations and others).

preview of the effect as it renders, as well as the ability to export to XAML format for creating 3D interface elements for Windows Vista. The most important output feature, though, is the ability to export true 3D models using 3DS files. These can be exported as individual objects or an entire scene, though some settings like Mesh Morpher animations, Environment and Background Color aren’t maintained. Taking these setbacks into account however, the 3DS export and the animation enhancements still make this a very interesting upgrade for a unique tool. Michael Burns

SCORE: Contact details Electric Rain, www.erain.com

Info/System requirements format: Windows 98/NT/2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS X 10.2/3/4 price: $275 (around £135), upgrade from version 4.5 $79 (£39), upgrade from previous version $149 (£74) minimum specs: 600MHz processor, 128MB RAM, 25MB free hard disc space.

Summary pros: Mesh Morpher animates surface deformations; interface enhancements. cons: Some attributes aren’t maintained when exporting to 3DS format.

The Mesh Morpher can animate the vertices of a solid mesh, so any mesh deformations that models are subject to can now be put into motion.

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reviews

PHOTOSHOP PLUG-IN

Fluid Mask 3.0 As every creative knows, cut-outs are a pain. Extracting objects from backgrounds by hand is one of those mundane jobs that takes time that could be spent more creatively. Fluid Mask automates the creation of cut-outs, an area where it faces strong competition from the likes of OnOne’s Mask Pro 4.1 and Digital Anarchy’s Primatte 3 for Photoshop. It’s also up against Photoshop CS3 itself, which added the Quick Selection tool – although this is simply one step up from the original Magic Wand. Fluid Mask runs as a plug-in for Photoshop, as well as a standalone application. Using it as a standalone application is suited to creating a large number of cut-outs, as Fluid Mask runs faster without Photoshop running beneath it. However, it can output only PNGs, so further processing is necessary before use in production. Even as a Photoshop plug-in, Fluid Mask 3.0 is noticeably faster than the previous version. There are three main toolsets for creating cut-outs within Fluid Mask 3.0. As before, the software will create a web of similarly-coloured areas that you can select areas that you want

to keep or remove in a ‘painting-bynumbers’ fashion, best for objects with hard edges. For intricate details such as hair, you can paint areas as ‘keep’, ‘remove’ and ‘blend’, with it working out the detail in the ‘blend’ area. The latest version of Fluid Mask adds the Color Workspace, which allows you to keep or remove pixels based on shade. It gives you a graph or colour map of two properties selected from hue, lightness, saturation, red, green or blue. You can then draw on areas to keep, remove or blend. The Color Workspace provides an excellent way to touch up areas that are too small or fiddly to do using Fluid Mask’s other tools, or even manually. The new Patch tool lets you mark out areas and work on them without affecting the rest of the image. Patches allows you to work on nooks and crannies and tufts of hair individually without ruining the rest of your image. For example, when cutting out a full-length shot of a person, you’d use the ‘painting-by-numbers’ technique for their clothes, then use the Patch tool to paint on their hair. Then use Patches to fine tune problem areas. However, while the rest of the interface has been moved to a

Fluid Mask 3 in action. Here, a challenging task of isolating monkeys from their background is handled well.

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Fluid Mask 3 offers plenty of cut-out finesse – and the latest version delivers a significant speed bump.

CS3-style panel structure, the Color Workspace and Patch controls are in floating palettes that often get in the way. It also doesn’t run as a Smart Filter – a hindrance when you need to go back and change a cut-out after seeing how it interacts with other elements of your composition. Now it can produce paths instead of alpha channels, which can be a timesaver for designers. Fluid Mask 3 is the best cut-out tool on the market. It’s just as adept at producing cut-outs of simple objects such as product photos as it is at helping you create better compositions from intricate images with hair and similarly coloured foreground and background. Neil Bennett

SCORE:

DigitalArts

Contact details

Best Buy

Vertus, www.vertustech.com

Info/System requirements format: Mac OS X 10.3/4, Windows XP/Vista price: £159 plus VAT, free upgrade for current owners minimum specs: Pentium 4 or Power PC G4 processor, 512MB RAM, Photoshop CS2

Summary pros: Fastest, most accurate cut-out tool available. New Color Workspace and Patches improve fine tuning work. cons: No path creation. Standalone version can output only PNGs. Can’t run as a Smart Filter.

The resulting image shows Fluid Mask 3 able to handle opaque elements such as hair impressively.


15-INCH MOBILE WORKSTATION

Precision M4300 The Precision M4300 is an upgraded version of the popular Precision M70 mobile workstation – featuring the latest generation of chips and chipsets from Intel’s Santa Rosa platform. As with the M70, the M4300’s chassis is based on Dell’s Latitude line of notebooks for businesspeople, and its looks are as corporate as a pinstripe suit. Though the design hasn’t changed much, the M4300 does boast a screen that’s up to ten per cent brighter than the M70, according to Dell. Our test unit had a hi-def 1,920-x1,200 screen, which some users will find too compressed on a 15.4-inch screen – but you do have the option of a 1,680-x-1,050 resolution or even 1,200-x-800. The Santa Rosa platform doesn’t up the speed of Intel’s processors by much – the included, top-of-theline T7700 chip runs at 2.4GHz, only 66MHz faster than the 2.33GHz T7600 available in the M70. However, the new chips do deliver a power boost due to improvements in the underlying architecture, which sees the front-side bus speed increased from 667MHz to 800MHz. The overall boost works out at between five and 10 per cent. However, in our tests the M4300’s performance was mediocre. It was faster than the HP 8710w in our After

Effect CS3 and Cinebench rendering test – unsurprising as the 8710w has a 2.2GHz chip – but the difference in power was tiny. The M4300 was slower than the 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro in Photoshop and Cinebench rendering. The Quadro 360M is the second lowest-powered graphics chip in nVidia’s mobile workstation line – and it was soundly beaten by the Quadro FX 1600M used by the HP 8710w. The M4300’s battery life score of 159 minutes was mediocre, too. We used Cinebench to test the Precision M4300. The M4300 received an OpenGL score of 2,786 and a rendering score of 4,662 (1.84x) in the new Cinebench 10. We’ve yet to see a truly great mobile workstation using the Santa Rosa platform, and the Precision M4300 isn’t it. Neil Bennett SCORE: Contact details Dell, www.dell.com/uk 0870 152 4699

Info/System requirements format: Windows XP Professional price: from £1,081

Summary pros: Fast processor. Bright screen. cons: Uninspiring performance.

PHOTOSHOP PLUG-IN

Dfine 2.0 Dfine is a Photoshop plug-in that eschews bells-&-whistles for a tight feature set focused on a single task – removing noise from photographs. Dfine offers two ways of working. First, you can work on the whole image in a plug-in dialog box. The first step is to measure the level of noise automatically, or by manually selecting points of noise. You can then adjust the Contrast Noise and Color Noise settings to reduce variations in brightness and shade. We were impressed by Dfine’s fast, automatic reduction of noise. This feature has been improved in version 2.0 with more functions. These include horizontal and vertical split views to see before&-after effects, and the ability to view individual RGB or luminance/ chrominance channels to prejudge what settings to go for. Also new in Dfine 2.0 are U Point Control Points, which allow noise reduction to be applied selectively to objects in your scene, which Dfine makes a decent job of identifying. The only complaint is minor. The Zoom tool has three settings only: fit, 100 per cent and 300 per cent. With hi-res images such as our 10mp test shots, you are likely to want to zoom in a tad, but not to 100 per cent.

The automated process will make most images usable, but if you’re dealing with a particularly poor photo or need to improve an image for cosmetic reasons, Dfine provides manual painting tools. There are four tools: Paint, Erase, Fill and Clear. The tools’ properties are governed by the type of effect selected: Skin, Background, Sky, Hot Pixels, Shadows, Fine Structures and Strong Noise. Most types of noise can be easily dealt with one or other of these tools. Dfine 2.0 is an excellent, if niche, plug-in, worth having in your collection even if you only use it on the odd occasion. Neil Bennett SCORE:

DigitalArts

Contact details

Best Buy

Nik Software, www.niksoftware.com

Info/System requirements format: Mac OS X 10.4, Windows 2000/ XP/Vista price: $99.95 (around £50.40), upgrade $69.95 (around £35) minimum specs: Pentium III or Power PC G4 processor, 256MB RAM, Photoshop 7 on Windows or Photoshop CS2 or Mac

Summary pros: Very effective at noise reduction. Includes both automatic and manual tools. Much better than Photoshop’s own filer. cons: Niche tool. Zoom lacks options.

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reviews

AFTER EFFECTS PLUG-IN

30-INCH LCD MONITOR

Nucleo Pro 2.0 Nucleo Pro is the big-brother of Nucleo, the must-have plug-in for After Effects 7.0 that allowed you to take advantage of multi-core and multi-processor systems for previews and renders. The Pro version isn’t as essential, but adds some very useful functions, including the ability to render in the background and ‘speculatively’ create previews and renders – building them in the background whenever your After Effects is idle. Add up the seconds you spend every day drinking tea, talking to colleagues and Facebooking, and there’s lot of time that Nucleo Pro can utilize to help you work faster. Version 2.0 of Nucleo Pro adds precomposition proxies and the ability to manage the rendering of projects from 3D suites including Maya, Cinema 4D, LightWave, 3DS Max and Softimage|XSI. 3D rendering fits well into the workflow of motion-graphics artists who need to go out to 3D suites to create custom elements while working on a project in AE, as you can then set the scene rendering and then go back to work in AE. We tested this with using Maya 8.5 on an eight-core Mac Pro with 4GB RAM, and the process was smooth enough. AE was responsive while

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SyncMaster 305T

rendering – though we do wish it could automatically import rendered files into AE when it’s finished. Pre-composition proxies makes AE’s arcane proxy system easier to use. It’ll render nested compositions in the background so that performance in your main comp is improved. As all it requires to turn a nested comp into a proxy file is selecting a single menu item (or a keyboard shortcut), its workflow is much easier. With multi-processing support now added to AE CS3, the standard version of Nucleo 2.0 is no longer available – but the ability to render scenes in the background, use proxies and create 3D scenes makes Nucleo Pro 2.0 a winner. Neil Bennett SCORE: Contact details

DigitalArts Best Buy

GridIron, www.gridironsoftware.com

Info/System requirements format: Mac OS X 10.4, Windows XP/Vista price: $395 (around £195), upgrade from Nucleo Pro $99 (£49), upgrade from Nucleo $350 (£175)

Summary pros: Boosts your workflow in AE. New version makes proxies easy. Renders 3D. cons: Rendered 3D scenes aren’t imported.

Over the past two years, we’ve seen the price of a professional-level 30-inch display drop from just under £2,000 to around £1,000. This has largely been driven by the entry of big brands such as Dell into the market. The latest big brand to release a high-end 30-inch monitor is Samsung, with the SyncMaster 305T. It combines a bright, high-resolution screen with a fast response rate – though we’re not sure who would benefit from this. The 305T’s response rate of 6ms wouldn’t be anything to shout about on 20-inch display, but on a 30-inch display it’s pretty nippy. It compares favourably to Apple’s 30-inch Cinema Display (14ms) and Dell’s UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC (8ms). However, low response rates are mainly of interest to 3D animators, as it means you can move models at high frame rates without glitching. The 305T’s resolution of 2,560-x-1,600 will put such an extra strain on your graphics card, that most animators will prefer to use a 23/24-inch model with a 1,920-x-1,200 resolution and

better overall performance. We tested the 305T using a spectrophotometer, and found its colour gamut to be similar to that of Dell’s monitor – but less than that of the Cinema Display. Its output was as bright as the Cinema Display, which video pros will like. Like the UltraSharp, the 305T has a four-port USB 2.0 hub – though it lacks that monitor’s media card reader, or the Apple’s FireWire ports. The SyncMaster is also about £100 more than its rivals, which are more compelling purchases. Neil Bennett SCORE: Contact details Samsung, www.samsung.co.uk 0870 726 7864

Info/System requirements format: Mac, Windows price: £1,149 plus VAT

Summary pros: Fast response rate. Bright output. cons: High price. No media card or FireWire ports.


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group test Model: Epson Stylus Photo R2400

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HOW WE TESTED Each printer was profiled using the Colour Confidence Profiler system. This includes a GretagMacbeth Eye-One Photo for measuring monitor and printer output. We first calibrated a LaCie 526 monitor using the system, then printed a series of photographs using the manufacturer’s provided profiles. These photos emphasize colour accuracy, detail, contrast and hard edges – and were studied by eye using a loupe. Our selection of photos included both 8-bit TIFs and 16-bit PSD shots, and were printed at both 100 per cent and stretched to fill paper sizes. All were printed using Photoshop CS3, using the manufacturer’s output plug-ins where possible. We then used to Eye-One Photo to scan the unadjusted output of each printer to create an accurate profile of its colour gamut. This profile was taken into Chromix’s ColorThink Pro software to create graphs of the gamut of each printer against the human eye’s capabilities. Using these measured profiles, we printed out the photos again to check how each printer performs in optimal circumstances. We also printed the vectorbased cover of the June issue of Digital Arts using EFI’s Designer Edition RIP to check out how each printer performs creating prints from vector artwork.

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STORAGE TESTED Canon Pixma Pro9000, Canon Pixma Pro9500 Epson Stylus Photo R800, Epson Stylus Photo R2400, HP Photosmart Pro B8350, HP Photosmart Pro B9180

Professional art and photo printers Free your designs from the confines of your monitor and create stunning prints of photographs, illustration and artwork, with the latest generation of photo printers words Neil Bennett

Despite the huge number of ways to view photographs and artwork online, you can’t beat the beauty and detail of a properly produced print. Whether you’re creating characters in Illustrator, photomontages in Photoshop, or traditional photographs in Aperture or Lightroom, your work looks best when it’s displayed on someone’s wall. It’s easy to set up a site and start selling your artwork, illustration or photos – but producing them is more difficult. You need a professional-level photo printer, and the sub-£150 scanner/printer/fax/sandwich-maker combos found in every large supermarket just won’t make the grade. The printers we’ve looked at here are designed for a reasonably modest amount of output – less than a few hundred prints per month, if you want the models to last. If you regularly produce large runs of prints, it’s best to invest in a heavy-duty, large-format printer from Canon’s imageprograf, Epson’s Stylus Pro or HP’s Designjet ranges – or strike a deal with a commercial printer. There is finally a full field of choices in this market. Canon’s Pixma Pro 9500 was announced in February 2006 with an original expected shipping date of last autumn, but began shipping only this summer. Release dates of high-end products often slip, but this is extreme, even by these standards. The Pixma Pro 9500 is the first 10-ink A3+ photo printer. Most of the models we’ve looked at here have eight inks, with one – HP’s Photosmart B8350 – offering six. In principle, the more inks a printer has, the more subtle the shading it can reproduce – but it’s more complicated than that. There are two types of ink that manufacturers can base their printers around: dye or pigment. Dye-based inks offer a wider

colour gamut than pigments, but pigments last longer before fading – which is what you want if you’re selling photographs or artwork. Pigments are also less susceptible to water damage – again a plus for commercial prints. To match the colour gamut of printers with dye-based inks, pigment printers generally include more inks. Canon and HP offer a choice of dye-based and pigment ink printers, while Epson uses its UltraChrome pigment inks in its Stylus Photo R800 and R2400 models – which it claims offers both the wide colour gamut of dye-based inks and the longevity of pigments. Most of the printers we’ve looked at feature separate ink tanks for each colour – so you save money by replacing individual tanks when they’re empty. Cheaper printers often feature combined cartridges, which leads to wasted ink. Speed is less of an issue than it used to be a few years ago, when printing a top quality (mediocre quality by today’s standards) A3+ print could take an hour. However, it’s still an important factor if you want to produce ten or more prints in a single block. Ensuring that prints appear as you’d expect means delving into the expensive, complex and often frustrating world of colour management. Recently though, manufacturers have been working on ways to make this easier and less expensive. One of the core problems is that the colour management settings in your application can clash with the settings in the printer driver, leading to colour profiles sometimes being applied twice, or not at all. To avoid this, some high-end printers ship with a Photoshop plug-in that controls both what Photoshop gives to the printer and what the printer does with this to create the output – without you having to waste time fiddling with driver settings. 083


tested: professional art & photo printers

Canon Pixma Pro9500

Canon Pixma Pro9000 The Pixma Pro9000 is similar to the Pro9500, with an eight dye-based ink system instead of the Pro9500’s ten pigment inks – and £125 off the price tag. The colour scheme is different and less professional looking, though the chassis are the same. As you’d expect from Canon, this printer is the fastest in our group test. It’s 30 per cent quicker than its nearest rival in our A3+ printing test, Epson’s R2400 – and over three-times faster than the Pro9500. High-speed is wasted if the quality isn’t up to scratch, and while the Pixma Pro9000’s output was impressive, it wasn’t in the same league as that of the Pro9500, or HP’s Photosmart Pro B9180. You also have a smaller choice of papers than HP offers for the B9180 – though you can get round this if you invest in a calibration system. The SCORE: CONTACT DETAILS Canon, www.canon.co.uk Canon, 08705 143 723

PRICE/INFO format: A3+ price: £425 plus VAT

Pro9000 was better overall than HP’s B8350, or either of Epson’s models – though they both use pigment inks, so their prints should last longer. The use of red and green inks – instead of the greys used by other eight-ink printers – means that vibrant portraits and landscapes look stunning. Conversely though, other printers, including Epson’s Stylus Photo R2400 can produce much more subtlety in B&W images. The Pro9000 is bundled with the EasyPrint Pro plug-in for Photoshop, which is less prone to mistakes than trying to print using the standard Mac or Windows driver. It’s also more flexible than HP’s PrintPro plug-in. The Pro9000 connects to Macs and PCs via USB 2.0. While only a few Mac users will miss it not having a FireWire port, we would have preferred an ethernet port for more flexibility. COLOUR GAMUT: PRO9000 Colours visible to human eye Colours output by screen

The newest of the printers we’ve looked at here – it began shipping this summer, though it was first announced in February 2006 – the Pixma Pro9500 is the first ‘pro photo’ printer to offer ten inks. This combines red and green inks to deliver vibrant images with the grey cartridges that HP offers to boost B&W photography and shadow reproduction. Thanks to the ten inks, the Pro9500 has the widest colour gamut of the printers we’ve looked at here – and output photos and artwork have both a high-level of detail and smooth gradation within shaded areas. To help ensure images come out exactly as you’d like them to, the Pro9500 ships with the EasyPrint Pro plug-in for Photoshop. This runs through the Automate menu and combines Photoshop’s Print dialog SCORE: CONTACT DETAILS Canon, www.canon.co.uk Canon, 08705 143 723

PRICE/INFO format: A3+ price: £550 plus VAT

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

pros: Fast output. Vibrant, high-quality images. Excellent Photoshop plug-in cons: Output bettered by Pro9500 and B9180. Black-&-white output weak.

pros: Highest quality output available. Excellent Photoshop plug-in. cons: Pricy. Slow. Lack’s B9180’s innovations.

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with the printer driver – so you have to set up output only once, and there’s no chance of a clash. If you have multiple images open in Photoshop you can send them all to print at once. Users of other applications will wish they had an EasyPrint Pro plug-in of their own, as the standard print driver is difficult to use, with core choices spread across multiple tables. Though the Pro9500 has the best output in our test, it lacks the innovation of the Photosmart Pro B9180. HP’s printer has a built-in spectrophotometer, so it can calibrate itself and profile non-HP papers, and an ethernet port so it doesn’t have to be tied to a single computer. Printing on specialized media is easier on the Pro9500 than the B9180, though, as it uses the standard paper path. Lack of extras aside, the Pro9500 is an excellent photo and artwork printer. COLOUR GAMUT: PRO9500 Colours visible to human eye Colours output by screen


Epson Stylus Photo R800 While the pro printer market moves slowly, it’s surprising that Epson’s Stylus Photo R800 is still with us, as it’s over three years old now – and its age is showing. The R800 is the only A4 model aimed at creative pros – both Canon and HP ditched high-end A4 models a few iterations ago. The reasoning behind this is that someone who requires this level of output quality is likely to want to create A3 prints at some point too – and will budget to pay extra for the privilege. This leaves the R800 as a niche product, of interest only to creative professionals tight on budget or desk space. The R800 uses Epson’s UltraChrome pigment inks – which the company claims combines the anti-fade properties of pigments with the wider individual gamuts of dye-based inks. The R800 uses an eight-cartridge SCORE: CONTACT DETAILS Epson, www.epson.co.uk Epson, 08702 416 900

PRICE/INFO format: A4 price: £340 plus VAT

Epson Stylus Photo R2400

system – though only seven inks. There’s two blacks (photo and matte); the standard cyan, magenta and yellow; and two additionals to boost the colour gamut, red and blue. The final cartridge contains a gloss optimizer, added to prevent bronzing problems on gloss prints. By switching between the two blacks and using the gloss optimizer, the R800 produces markedly different results on matte and gloss papers. The downside is that you’re essentially working with six colours, so the output of subtle gradations of colour is worse than its eight- or ten-colour rivals. Epson hasn’t create a Photoshop plug-in for the R800, so printing is slower from Photoshop – though the standard drivers aren’t any worse than the competition. The R800 was an excellent performer in its day, but it needs to be put out to pasture now. COLOUR GAMUT: R800 Colours visible to human eye Colours output by screen

Though not as ancient as the doddery Stylus Photo R800, at almost two years old the R2400 is displaying the printer equivalent of developing a taste in cardigans. It’s a generation behind the latest models from Canon and HP, and Epson needs to produce an heir if it wants to keep up with the competition. The R2400 is smaller, lighter and less expensive than either of its top-ofthe-line, pigment-based rivals: Canon’s Pixma Pro9500 and HP’s Photosmart B9180 – though it’s less than £20 cheaper than the B9180. When it was launched, the R2400 was feted for its wider colour gamut and the excellent depth of its B&W output. B&W photographs produced on the R2400 are still top notch due its three monochrome cartridges – and the ability to swap out gloss SCORE: CONTACT DETAILS Epson, www.epson.co.uk Epson, 08702 416 900

PRICE/INFO formt: A3+ price: £460 plus VAT

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

pros: Inexpensive. Small. Good results with matte papers. cons: Mediocre output. Few ink colours. A4 only. No Photoshop plug-in

pros: Excellent B&W output. cons: Colour prints outshone by rivals. No Photoshop plug-in.

and matte black inks gives you more flexibility over your output than with the Pro9500 or the B9180. For colour prints though, the R2400 sits a definite third behind the Pro9500 and the B9180. The R2400 may claim to have the highest resolution – though this is ‘optimized’ – but we found the output from the Pro9500 and B9180 to be more detailed, helped no doubt by better rendering of subtle shades. Canon’s Pro9000 has the edge over the R2400 for output quality, though that does use dye-based inks. Epson’s standard printer driver includes helpful output tools for B&W images. Epson includes basic image editing and output tools, including for RAW images. If you produce more B&W prints than colour, then the R2400 is worth investigating. Most creatives, though, will want to look elsewhere. COLOUR GAMUT: R2400 Colours visible to human eye Colours output by screen

085


tested: professional art & photo printers

DigitalArts Best Buy

HP Photosmart Pro B9180

HP Photosmart Pro B8350 The Photosmart Pro B8350 epitomizes what manufacturers call a ‘professional-quality’ model, which is different from a ‘professional’ one. The former is good enough to impress a home user and make them think they’ve bought an equivalent product to what the pros use. ‘Professionalquality’ models lack the unflashy workflow tools that pros come to rely on to meet deadlines – and the B9350 is no exception to this rule. Creative pros put higher stock in the price of consumables than home users, as they generally use more of them – and their cost has to be factored in to profitability. Wasting ink is a good way to waste money, and unlike every other printer we’ve looked at here, the B8350 uses combined ink tanks. There a two slots for these, one for the standard cyan/magenta/yellow SCORE: CONTACT DETAILS HP, www.hp.com/uk HP, 0870 010 4320

PRICE/INFO format: A4 price: £255 plus VAT

cartridge and one where you have a choice of black/light cyan/light magenta (for photos), black/grey/light grey (for black-&-white photos) and black only (for office documents). Only the colour photo and black cartridges are included in the box. Not only is this wasteful – when one colour in a tank runs out you have to throw the whole tank away, but it’s fiddly to swap tanks around - and there’s always a chance a removed tank won’t work if you re-insert it. The B8350’s greatest failing – and the reason that it’s not a pro model despite what HP is calling it – is the quality of its output. Compared to all the other printers we’ve looked at here, the B8350’s prints are lacking in detail, colour accuracy and depth. The Photosmart ‘Pro’ B8350 may seem like a bargain, but creative pros will need more than it can offer. COLOUR GAMUT: B8350 Colours visible to human eye Colours output by screen

Until Canon released the Pixma Pro9500 a few months ago, the Photosmart Pro B9180 was the undisputed king of professional photographic printers. However, even though the Pro9500’s output surpasses that of the B9180, many users will still prefer HP’s less expensive model. Prints from the B9180 are full of fine detail, depth of colour and accurate shading. Its B&W output isn’t quite as finely gradated as that of Epson’s R2400 or Canon’s Pro9500, but such prints are still impressive. The B9180 has a built-in spectrophotometer that allows it to calibrate itself without the need to spend £500 or more on a printer profiling solution. The results should be better than with a third-party solution. If you need monitor calibration too, HP sells the B9180gp for £510 plus SCORE: CONTACT DETAILS HP, www.hp.com/uk HP, 0870 010 4320

PRICE/INFO format: A4 price: £479 plus VAT

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

pros: Low cost. Full choice of colours. cons: Combined cartridges. Poor output. No Photoshop plug-in.

pros: Excellent output. Built-in calibrator. Ethernet port. cons: Output not as good as Pro9500’s. Fiddly plug-in and speciality media tray.

086

VAT, which adds an HP-branded GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display colorimeter. The extra £31 on the list price for this is a bargain. An ethernet port features, though there’s no built-in print server, but most studios will have an old PC that can serve if necessary. HP’s PrintPro Photoshop plug-in is quicker to use than HP’s printer driver, and it’s not as convoluted as Canon’s. Conversely, Canon’s EasyPrint Pro plug-in is better than PrintPro, as it allows more than one image to be printed at once. Selecting page size in Print Pro is fiddly. Other problems include a lengthy, fiddly set-up. The B9180 has no input tray at the back, and using thicker art stocks requires using the speciality media tray, which can be awkward to use – though it does allow you to use thicker media stocks than any of the other printers. COLOUR GAMUT: B9180 Colours visible to human eye Colours output by screen


DigitalArts Best Buy

PRINTER ROUNDUP Model/Contact/Rating

Canon, Pixma Pro9000 www.canon.co.uk

Canon, Pixma Pro9500 www.canon.co.uk

Epson, Stylus Photo R800 www.epson.co.uk

Epson, Stylus Photo R2400 www.epson.co.uk

HP, Photosmart Pro B8350 www.hp.com/uk

HP, Photosmart Pro B9180 www.hp.com/uk

Price (excluding VAT)

£425

£550

£340

£460

£255

£479

Format

A3+

A3+

A4

A3+

A3+

A3+

Max paper size

360-x-430mm

360-x-430mm

89-x-241mm

329-x-483mm

330-x-482mm

330-x-482mm

Max resolution

4,800-x-2,400dpi

4,800-x-2,400dpi

5,760-x-1,440dpi

5,760-x-1,440dpi

4,800-x-1,200dpi

4,800-x-1,200dpi

Minimum droplet size

2pl

3pl

1.5pl

3pl

not stated

4pl/6pl

Number of inks

8

10

7

8+1

6

8

Number of cartridges

8

10

8

8+1

2

8

Ink colours

Photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red, green

Photo black, matte black, grey, cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta, red, green

Photo black, matte black, cyan, magenta, yellow, red, blue, gloss optimizer

Photo black/matte black, light black, light light black, cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta, yellow

Black, grey, light gray, cyan, magenta, yellow

Photo black, matte black, neutral grey, cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta, yellow

Ink type

Dye

Pigment

Pigment

Pigment

Dye

Pigment

Lightfastness (on premium-grade glossy media)

Up to 100 years

Up to 100 years

Up to 100 years

Up to 100 years

Up to 100 years

Up to 200 years

Borderless printing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Roll feeder

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

CD/DVD printing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Maximum media thickness

1.2mm

1.2mm

75gsm

1.3mm

136gsm

1.5mm

Interfaces

USB 2.0

USB 2.0

FireWire, USB 2.0

FireWire, USB 2.0

USB 2.0

Ethernet, USB 2.0

Size (while printing)

660-x-354-x-191mm

660-x-354-x-191mm

495-x-307-x-198mm

457-x-615-x-737mm

575-x-409-x-186mm

673-x-429-x-241mm

Weight

13.5kg

14kg

8kg

11.7kg

12kg

17.1kg

Software

Easy-PhotoPrint Pro Photoshop plug-in. Easy-WebPrint, EasyPhotoPrint, Easy-PrintToolBox, CD-LabelPrint

Easy-PhotoPrint Pro Photoshop plug-in. Easy-WebPrint, EasyPhotoPrint, Easy-PrintToolBox, CD-LabelPrint

RAW Print, Easy Photo Print, File Manager, Darkroom Print, Web to Page

RAW Print, Easy Photo Print, File Manager, Darkroom Print, Web to Page

Photosmart Essential

PrintPro plug-in for Photoshop, Photosmart Premier

Bundled accessories

None

None

None

None

None

Optional Eye-one Display calibrator

TEST TEST

A3+ print speed

A4 print speed

Canon Pixma Pro9000

4mins 15s

2mins 41s

Canon Pixma Pro9500

14mins 57s

8mins 31s

Epson Stylus Photo R800

n/a

3mins 57s

Epson Stylus Photo R2400

6mins 7s29mins 39s

4mins 4s

HP Photosmart Pro B8350

11mins 34s

5mins 24s

HP Photosmart Pro B9180

11mins 34s

5mins 24s

Accesorize your printer One issue designer face is that the colour profiles provided with printers by manufacturers aren’t always as accurate for your own unit as you’d like – and only apply for a manufacturer’s own paper. If you want to use specialized papers from the likes of Ilford or just a better profile, you’ll need to invest in a printer calibration system – which will set you back at least £300, or £500 if you want to create more accurate profiles for your laser printer, too (which arguably are more in need of calibration). Most of these systems will also calibrate your monitor. Inkjet printers don’t include RIPs, so if you want to print artwork with vector elements – whether illustrations, designs or text – you’ll need to invest in a software RIP, such as EFI’s

Designer Edition or Onyx Graphics PosterShop. These turn the vector artwork into bitmap images at the correct resolution for your printers output, and can also work as a print server – allowing print jobs from around your studio to be queued ready for output. A software RIP is also essential for designers looking to use their inkjet printer as an inexpensive proofer.

087


competition ENTRY DETAILS AT WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK

! N I W

One of five Iomega REV drives

PACITY A C H HIG A B LE R E M O V FO R GE STORA TIVE CREA NALS SSIO PROFE

THE IOMEGA REV DRIVE’S HIGH CAPACITY, DURABLE 70GB & 35GB DISKS PROVIDE BOTH RELIABLE WORKSTATION STORAGE AND A SCRATCH DISK FOR EACH OF YOUR DESIGN AND GRAPHICS PROJECTS. THINK OF REV DRIVES AS A PLAYGROUND FOR YOUR CONCEPTS AND THE PROVIDER OF THE LONG-TERM PROTECTION THEY DESERVE. THE IOMEGA REV DRIVE IS THE NEXT GENERATION OF REMOVABLE STORAGE PRODUCTS THAT DESIGN AND GRAPHICS PROFESSIONAL TRUST TO PROTECT THEIR WORK AND BUSINESS.

HOW TO ENTER To enter to win one of five Iomega REV drives just answer the following question:

What capacity disks does the Iomega REV use? a) 35MB and 70MB b) 35GB and 70GB c) 3.5GB and 7GB Closing date for entries October 31, 2007

Stop wasting time transferring data to and from your graphics workstation. The Iomega REV drive offers blazingly fast transfer speeds and flexible data access giving you the ability to work directly with files in real-time so you spend more time working, and less time waiting.

■ Save time and meet deadlines with fast transfer rates of up to 30MB/s ■ Add unlimited storage for your creative ideas with removable media ■ Store, manage and retrieve your project files quickly and easily with random access

to enter go to www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/win THE SMALL PRINT

The competition is open to anyone over the age of 18. One entry per household only. No entries accepted from anyone connected with either company. Responsibility will not be accepted for any entries lost or delayed. No cash alternative. The winners will be the first correct entries selected after the closing date of October 31, 2007 and will be notified shortly afterwards. The winners’ name will be published in the following issue of Digital Arts. IDG cannot be held responsible in the event that a company that is providing a prize is unable to honour its obligation, for whatever reason.

088


buying advice Digital cameras EOS-1D Mark III

Canon

www.canon.co.uk

£2,553

Sep 07

This SLR offers superb image quality and low sensor noise but pro photographers will want a fix to the erractic focusing Pros: Excellent image quality and low sensor noise, fast 10fps continuous shooting and superb Live View and anti-dust features Cons: Some erratic AF inaccuracies and an unsharpened monitor image

Coolpix P5000

Nikon

www.nikon.co.uk

£280

VISIT WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK FOR ALL YOUR BUYING ADVICE

D&AD 07

Nikon’s flagship compact model, the P5000, sports a mag-alloy body and loads of manual features Pros: Great level of manual control for a compact, with a lens-based image stabilizer

DigitalArts Best Buy

Cons: Screen suffers from blooming, and colours could be a little stronger

Cyber-shot T100

Sony

www.sony.co.uk

buyers guide

£280

the la 6 monthst s of D

Jul 07

igitalA

reviewsrts !

Sony’s latest T-series slim digital camera packs a 8.1mp image sensor, 5x optical zoom and a big 3-inch display Pros: Great design. Clear, clean images. Great macro mode Cons: You can get digital cameras with more megapixels for less money

Cyber-shot DSC-W200

Sony

www.sony.co.uk

£246

Aug 07

This 12 mega-pixel point-&-shoot camera is pocket-friendly in size and offers sharp, clean images Pros: Sharp, clean images. Small size and low weight make it highly portable. Effective anti-shake and great AF and AE system Cons: Inappropriate and unituitive menu. No bundled HDTV component cable

Digital Ixus 900 Ti

Canon

www.canon.co.uk

£271

D&AD 07

A true compact camera, Canon’s latest Ixus model offers a good lens and excellent metering

DigitalArts Best Buy

Pros: Fantastic build quality, super-fast autofocus with an impressive face-detection system, and a massive screen Cons: Lacks an image-stabilization system, and offers little in the way of real manual controls

Digital Ixus 950 IS

Canon

www.canon.co.uk

£221

Jul 07

A stylish camera with some top features including 4x optical zoom, image stablization and Hi ISO Auto Pros: Fast operation, optical image stabilizer works well and the wider zoom range is handy. Great 2cm macro option Cons: No direct control over apertures and shutter speeds, noisy sensor, and no RAW file capture option

Finepix F40fd

Fujifilm

www.fujifilm.co.uk

£170

Aug 07

Useful 8.3 mega-pixel camera that offers good low-light performance, but is let down by lack of manual controls

Digital Arts Buyer's guide Digital Arts' mission is to review and rate professional creative tools. Each month, Digital Arts reviews more creative products than any other magazine in the UK, and Digital Arts reviews are the most respected in the industry.

Pros: Comfortable design. Excellent full auto mode with many functions for quick snapping, including face detection and Natural mode

The Digital Arts Buyer's Guide provides the most authoritative listing of reviewed products in the past six months, including ratings, contact details, and a product summary.

Cons: Few manual controls. Face detection system is easily baffled by people wearing glasses

Camcorders AG-HVX200

Panasonic

www.panasonic.co.uk

£2,999

May 07

A groundbreaking camera using DVCPRO HD and the P2 storage system, capturing a 1080-line signal Pros: Huge range of recording options of interlaced and progressive, variable frame rate from 12fps to 50fps, 4:2:2 colour sampling Cons: Novelty is a drawback, as limit of 8GB on P2 storage option captures 16 minutes of HD. Meagre editing support and too expensive

GY-HD201E

JVC Professional www.jvcproeurope.com

£3,890

May 07

HD camera with three CCDs, each with a native 1,280-x-720 pixels and support for a vast array of lenses Pros: 1/3-inch bayonet mount for swapping lenses, good number of shooting modes from 24 to 60fps, great colour capture Cons: Not so good with poor illumination environments, the very expensive battery pack adds another £800 to the price

HDC-SD1

Panasonic

www.panasonic.co.uk

£850

The HDC-SD1 captures and stores great quality video onto an SD Card but lack of support from video editors lets it down Pros: Very small size. Relatively high-quality video considering storage method Cons: Few manual controls. No pro audio inputs. Limited editing support in major video applications

HV20

Canon

www.canon.co.uk

£850

Aug 07

DigitalArts

Pros: High capture quality for sub £1,000 camcorder. Wide range of accessories available

Best Buy

Cons: Few manual controls. No professional audio inputs

HVR-V1E

Sony

www.sonybiz.co.uk

£2,275

May 07

Professional HD camera using a trio of 1/4-inch CMOS sensors and captures full-resolution 25p mode, 50i and HDMI output Pros: Future-proof with HDMI support, Smooth Slow Record, and excellent fidelity in bright conditions

Canon

www.canon.co.uk

£2,275

Pros: Performs well under all conditions, and great under low light. Great value for feature set

www.canon.co.uk

£4,499

Fantastic package – almost perfect

DigitalArts Best Buy

Cons: Quite heavy at over 2kg, and the oddly placed LCD monitor is an ungenerous 2.8-inches

Canon

The best product in its class

May 07

Canon’s first general-purpose HD camera that uses HDV2 (1080i), using three 1.67-megapixel CCDs

XH H1

The Digital Arts Best Buy award is given only to products that are in the top-flight of their class. The product must offer professional creatives compelling design advantages, leading the way in its particular field. Digital Arts Best Buy products deliver innovative technology or are simply the best of their kind. Digital Arts ratings

Cons: Low-light conditions result in poor performance, image-quality is reduced for slow-motion filming

XH A1

DigitalArts Best Buy

Aug 07

The best HDV camcorder on the market for less than £1,000

Pricing is correct at the time of the review and prices listed do not include VAT. Please note that pricing does change – you should contact your distributor for pricing information before purchasing.

Highly recommended Above average with some flaws Average

May 07

Below par with serious limitations

HD successor to Canon’s XL2 uses the HDV2 (1080i) format, plus great additions of HD-SDI genlock and timecode connectivity

Fundamentally flawed

Pros: HD-SDI genlock, interchangable XL optics, faithful colour capture and solid low-light performance, best video performance to date

Lacks any redeeming features

Cons: Little uncomfortable to use, small 2.4-inch monitor, pricing could be a stumbling block for many

Avoid

089


buying advice Laptops

Workstations MacBook Pro

Imagine DQX

£1,531

Extremely powerful workstation delivering a great performance and offering lots of expansion possibilities

www.apple.com/uk

A wonder of engineering the MacBook Pro is powerful, DigitalArts Best Buy slim and lightweight Compaq 8710w

Mac Pro

www.apple.com/uk

£2,857

Jul 07

Pros: Features top-spec chip – Intel’s quad-core 3.0GHz Xeon processor. Great design with easy access to components

Sony, www.sony.co.uk

Cons: Single, dated workstation-class graphics card option

£1,105

Magnetar QX2

Armari

www.armari.co.uk

£3,195

Jul 07

Two fast processors, a whopping 8GB of RAM, and a powerful 3D graphics card make for excellent performance

Jun 07

Rock, www.rockdirect.com

Apple

£1,204 Jun 07

Xtreme CTX Pro

Jul 07

Well designed, powerful workstation that performed well in our 3D rendering tests

Jun 07

Rock, www.rockdirect.com

Vaio VGN-FE41Z

£3,250

Cons: Mediocre performance in After Effects. High price. No FireWire

£1,599

Pegasus 665

www.cad2.com

Pros: Best performer in most tests. Well-designed case. Excellent keyboard and mouse

Sep 07

HP, www.hp.com/uk

CAD2

DigitalArts Best buy

£1,962

Pros: Great all-round performance. Excellent nVidia Quadro FX 4600 graphics card. Double the RAM of its rivals Cons: Case door blocks on switch. Changing components requires a screwdriver. More expensive than rivals

Printers

Magnetar QS

Armari

www.armari.co.uk

£1,599

Pros: Extreme version of the Core 2 Quad with 8MB L2 cache, blistering speed, impressive Photoshop-editing speeds

Magicolor 7450

Cons: 3D performance was a little sluggish, needed some fiddling to access the full 4GB of RAM in Photoshop

£2,038

Precision 490

konicaminolta.co.uk

Aficio SP C411dn

Jul 07

Pros: Powerful graphics card for high-end work. Dinky case. ATI Fire GL V7350 graphics card

£1,845

X20i-64

May 07

HP, www.hp.com/uk

£3,280

Xerox, www.xerox.co.uk

www.xworksinteractive.com £2,999

Jul 07

Pros: Fast system drive. ATI Fire GL V7350 graphics card handles complex renders very well Cons: Slow processors. Lacklustre performance. Small main drive. Noisy

£4,969

xw6400

Feb 07 £995

Epson, www.epson.co.uk

Xworks

Noisy workstation with two 2.33GHz Xeon E5345 processors offering just mediocre performance

Feb 07

Stylus Pro 3800

£2,975

Best Buy

Cons: Features dual-core chips while rivals offer quad-core chips. Cramped chassis means components are squashed together

Ricoh, www.ricoh.co.uk

Phaser 7760

www.dell.co.uk

DigitalArts

With half the number of processor cores of its rivals, this diminutive workstation fails to impress

Feb 07

DesignJet Z3100

Dell

Best Buy

Dec 06

Graphics workstation with an Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX6700 processor, delivering a great performance

Considering the base price, this is an A3 colour laser that DigitalArts Best Buy offers everything

DigitalArts

HP

www.hp.com/uk

£2,041

Feb 07

HP’s first quad-core workstation is modestly specced. The price is more reasonable than other souped-up quad-cores, though Pros: Small profile and a quiet design. Good set of bundled entry-level accessories Cons: Processor was surprisingly sluggish, and hampered by a smaller number of drive bays

Peripherals Monitors

NuLooq £79

www.logitech.co.uk

Unique input solution, it consists of a number of dials DigitalArts Best Buy that speed your work Velocity2

Apr 07 CMS Products, www.cmsproducts.com

dvd940i

£370

Feb 07

HP, www.hp.com/uk

£33

Colour Confidence

Jul 07 Colour Confidence, colourconfidence.com

Scanjet G4050

DigitalArts Best buy

£501.28

Arts Mar 07 Digital Best Buy

£169

HP, www.hp.com/uk

30-inch Cinema Display

www.apple.com/uk

£1,020

Aug 07

Pros: Better colour output than other 30-inch displays and Apple’s sleek design make this a good-looking monitor Cons: No Windows profiles, single input, expensive compared to some other 30-inch models

526 LCD Monitor

LaCie

www.lacie.co.uk

£1,420

Aug 07

A 26-inch, 16:10 aspect ratio LCD display with a sharp picture. After calibration, the output is exceptional Pros: Highest-grade output of any monitor, capable of 95 per cent of Adobe RGB gamut Cons: More expensive than competitors, tied to a single spectrophotometer

CE210W

Eizo

www.eizo.co.uk

£682

Apr 07

Flawless display offering best balance between performance and price of any 21-inch LCD that we’ve seen.

Storage

Pros: Great display before calibration, astonishing after calibration. Massive brightness rating suited to video work Cons: The only real disappointment is the lack of a hood

CE240W-DI

My Book Pro £89.85

www.wdmybook.com

This external hard drives offers a fantastic performance DigitalArts Best Buy at a great price 3ware Sidecar

Sep 07

AMCC, www.amcc.com

Brick Data Tank

£849 £101

Sep 07

Freecom, www.freecom.com

£255

DriveStation Quattro

Sep 07 Buffalo, www.buffalo-technology.com

£311

FreeAgent Pro

Sep 07 Seagate, www.seagatefreeagent.com

Fusion D500P

£151.18

Sep 07

Sonnet, www.sonnet-tech.com

£764

SilverSATA SR II

Sep 07 Wiebetech, www.wiebetech.com

Eizo

www.eizo.co.uk

£979

DigitalArts Best Buy

Aug 07

While small at 24-inch, this 16:10 aspect ratio LCD is a high-end option offering exceptional output Pros: Near perfect output after calibration, excellent bundled software Cons: Expensive, screen can only be tilted, video focus is a misnomer

LP3065

HP

www.hp.com/uk

£849

Aug 07

A excellent option for those on a budget, this 30-inch LCD offers a decent picture at a bargain price Pros: Cheap as chips price, respectable image quality after calibration, three DVI inputs

Sep 07

LaCie, www.lacie.com/uk

090

Apple

Best looking 30-inch LCD monitor available. Offers accurate colours but more expensive than competitors

£653

Cons: Ugly design, inaccurate image quality before calibration, not a match for other 30-inch LCDs available

MultiSync LCD2690WUXi

NEC

nec-display-systems.co.uk

£789

Aug 07

Similar in looks to the LaCie 526, NEC’s 26-inch LCD offers good output at a very reasonable price Pros: Relatively low cost, better output than 30-inch displays except for the LaCie 526 Cons: No calibration software included, not as good for high-end design as Eizo and LaCie

UltraSharpe 3007WFP-HC

Dell

www.dell.com/uk

£1,089

Aug 07

Jointly targeted at gamers and creatives, this LCD’s image quality is no better than average Pros: While average in looks, this screen is easy to position, with the base offering full range of motion. Features a built-in card reader Cons: Before calibration the picture is oversaturated, after calibration image quality is no better than less expensive models


Landscape software

3D and animation Maya 8.5

Autodesk

www.autodesk.co.uk

£1,449

Vue 6 Infinite

Apr 07

Adding support for Intel-based Macs, Maya 8.5 is as an excellent solution with new simulation tools Pros: Nucleus unified simulation framework and nCloth module. Python scripting. Extensive new Mental Ray shaders

DigitalArts

Google

sketchup.google.com

£315

Pros: Photo matching tools are great, and there are display styles with additional editing and mixing capabilities Cons: Care needed building models. Effective use of PhotoMatch is restricted to compatible digital images. No Vista support

Informatix

www.informatix.co.uk

£395

D&AD 07

Piranesi provides a quick way to paint on surfaces in 3D, while adhering to perspective

DigitalArts

Pros: Quick plane and material-based painting and texturing tools, with multiple fill and cut-out tools

Best Buy

Cons: Specialized application with a cluttered interface. Unusual tool conventions are hard to get used to

Poser 7

E frontier

www.e-frontier.com

£111

Best Buy

£406 Jul 07

Jun 07

Available in a free version, but most 3D artists will prefer the £315 Pro version as it improves export options

Piranesi 5

DigitalArts

Best Buy

Cons: Nucleus and nCloth only in the Unlimited version. Advanced simulations demand powerful workstations

SketchUp Pro 6

www.e-onsoftware.com

Version 6 is a great leap forward from previous versions, offering high-quality scene production and animation tools. Pros: EcoSystem Gen II technology for painting instances directly onto objects; Spectral Engine and Metaclouds; layered EcoSystems; Terrain Editor with Solid 3D. Cons: Expensive compared to closest competition; manual is fairly basic.

Apr 07

Bryce 6.1

Poser has come a long way in recent years, and version 7 now offers custom morph creation

daz3d.com

Pros: Custom morph target creation. New talk designer. Animation layers and universal poses. HDRI support for IBL

Affordable landscape generator with support for 16-bit heightmaps

Cons: Some doubts on reliability. Main competition is freeware. High-end Mac or Windows PC with OpenGL needed for best performance

Softimage|XSI 6

Softimage

www.softimage.com

£299

Mar 07

Jul 07

$109.95

MojoWorld Pro 3.11

Version 6 of this 3D suite offers new character-animation tools, a Material Manager, and new non-native file support

pandromeda.com

Pros: New tools including MOTOR motion-data importing and retargeting. Material Manager with Shaderball display Cons: Majority of new features aimed at studio pipelines. More expensive Essentials and Advanced versions have most new features

Powerful fractal-based planet generator with a refined and understated interface

Toon Boom Storyboard Pro Toon Boom

Terragen 2

www.toonboom.com

£479

D&AD 07

Jul 07

$479

A previz tool for film and video work, Toon Boom Storyboard Pro is expensive for a one-trick tool, but it does its job well

planetside.co.uk

Pros: Slick, layer-based animation. High-grade drawing tools, with a decent library of templates. Wide range of export options

Produces stunning photorealistic renders of generated terrains and atmospheres

Cons: Expensive compared to some dedicated 3D previz tools. Repositioning of scene elements is a rather clunky process

trueSpace 7.5

Caligari

www.caligari.com

$595

Jul 07

DigitalArts Best Buy

Complex but innovative and highly scalable 3D application with strong new animation features Cons: Confusing workflow and steep learning curve; no Mac support; optional V-Ray renderer costs half the price of full package

www.dvgarage.com

$149

Feb 07

DigitalArts

Aimed between Motion and Shake, Conduit offers a collection of keying and complex colour tools for Final Cut Pro

Best Buy

Cons: Slightly limited number of media inputs. Complex effects can slow down the package, and it can be complex to use

Boris FX

www.borisfx.com

£445

Feb 07

Offers 140 transitions and filters for Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, Xpress Pro and Avid systems Pros: Quality effects. Easy to learn. Massive array of controls for each effect. Motion tracker

Noise Industries www.noiseindustries.com

$199

Best Buy

Feb 07

DigitalArts Best Buy

£499

www.redgiantsoftware.com

$199

Feb 07

Pros: Knoll Light Factory is the best solution for lens flare effects. Taps the power of your graphics card to produce excellent results Cons: Interface feels dated and jars when used with Final Cut Pro. Can be difficult to use, and too easy to create over-used cheesy effects

Magic Bullet Colorista

Red Giant

www.redgiantsoftware.com

$199

Apr 07

Colour-correction and colour-matching plug-in for Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Avid systems Pros: Fast and high-grade colour tools. Swift masking controls. High-quality output Cons: Final Cut Pro’s colour-correction tools are already pretty good, so might have limited use on that system

PlasmaFX

Digital Anarchy www.digitalanarchy.com

$129

Apr 07

Inexpensive video-effects plug-in that runs in near real-time, works only in Final Cut Pro and Motion, and sports 26 effects Pros: Runs very quickly with SD footage, and taps into the Mac OS X Core Image feature. Output is acceptable Cons: Mac-only solution. Unoriginal choice of filters mean you’ve seen – and used them – via other packages

apple.com/uk

Jul 07

£595

Aug 07

£599

New features make this video-editor a good choice for small production teams

Cons: No support for editing software or Mac OS X. No grain tools, and the interface can cramp After Effects’ layout

Red Giant

£850

Final Cut Pro 5

adobe.co.uk

Pros: Offers fast operation and flexible adjustment tools. Presets are well arranged and effective

A lens-flare plug-in for Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, and Xpress Pro. A comprehensive set of controls for lens flare effects

Oct 06

Premiere Pro CS3

Jun 07

The first release from plug-in newcomer Amber Visual, Halide is a film-look tool for After Effects that’s worth a look

Knoll Light Factory 2.5

£915

The top video-editing tool for the desktop, and just keeps getting better

Cons: Lacks a level of control found in more mature collections, but that is to be expected. Online store has few extra plug-ins to date

www.ambervisual.com

Aug 07

Great visual-effects package for under a grand – but few new additions to v4

Pros: Decent array of plug-ins. Can be used across Motion and Final Cut, and works with your graphics card. Output quality is high

Amber Visual

adobe.co.uk

autodesk.co.uk

DigitalArts

A new set of filter effects for Final Cut Pro that delivers 46 effects ranging from blurs and distortions to cartoon effects

Halide

After Effects CS3

Combustion 4

Cons: Level of effects isn’t quite as high as GenArts Sapphire. Colour correction tools slightly redundant

FxFactory Pro

$699

With its huge arsenal of tools, AE is still the best overall motion-graphics and visual-effects suite for your money

Pros: Good fit with the Final Cut Pro. Nodal compositing. Ideal for greenscreen work. Pulls difficult keys with ease and gives clean results

Continuum Complete 4

Jul 07

Video software

Video effects plug-ins dvGarage

Worldbuilder Pro digi-element.com

An innovative and powerful landscape generator with an interesting interface

Pros: Efficient tools for rapid editing and object creation; hair/fur and geometry deforming tools, sophisticated character animation

Conduit 1.5

Jul 07 from $199

DigitalArts Best Buy

RT.X2 matrox.com

Jul 06

£1,174

HDV capture and acceleration card that boosts HDV-editing performance SpeedEdit 1.2 newtek-europe.com Aug 07

$495

Versatile video editor that lets you import and work with multiple formats Vision 1.0 eyeonline.com

Sep 07 $1,495

Excellent motion-graphic tool for a niche audience but not an full alternative to AE

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buying advice Web

Interactive Fireworks CS3

ImageAssembler Pro

£255

This low-cost stitching panorama application doesn’t include virtual-tour tools, but it does offer an array of stitching tools

Adobe www.adobe.co.uk

New workflow features make this a near-essential purchase DigitalArts Best Buy for Web designers Expression Web Microsoft, www.microsoft.co.uk

£221 $99

Panic, www.panic.com Jul 07

Adobe, www.adobe.co.uk

£335

GoLive 9

£335

Pros: Good application for newcomers to panoramic stitching. Supports multi-layer PSD output and 16-bit colour with with ICC profiles Cons: Doesn’t work with fisheye lenses. Lacks advanced correction tools, and there is no tour facility. A bit low-end for serious users

EasyPano Studio 2005

Dec 06

DigitalArts Best Buy

Flash CS3 Professional

Adobe

www.adobe.co.uk

£489

D&AD 07

The first release of Flash since Adobe acquired it along with Macromedia. ActionScript 3 capability is a genuine leap forward Cons: Quite pricey for what otherwise feels like a 0.5 release

Adobe

www.adobe.co.uk

£139

Sep 07

Cons: With no specialist audio tools, Soundbooth’s use is limited to video and multimedia; support Intel Macs and Windows only

Virtual Tour Business Kit

Astute Graphics www.phantasmcs.com

Cheap plug-in offering a wide range of useful add-ons for DigitalArts colour correction Best Buy

360 DOF

www.360dof.com

$695

Dec 06

A versatile, affordable suite covering each stage of the virtual tour authoring process. Outputs to Java and QT movie formats Pros: Very flexible and comprehensive set of controls. High quality output. Interface appealed, and included plenty of special effects Cons: Similar features to some other, less expensive solutions prevented it from getting a top score

Virtual Tour Studio

RealViz

www.realviz.com

€790

Dec 06

Bundles RealViz’s Stitcher 5.5 Unlimited and VTour for a complete panorama and virtual-tour creation workflow

Aug 07

Hot Door, www.xchangeuk.com

£159

Pros: Excellent value for money with a comprehensive toolset and great output. Correction tools are of particular note Cons: Fisheye stitching can be temperamental, while VTour is fiddly to use in some areas. Workflow is unusual

Aug 07 £99

CValley, www.xchangeuk.com Aug 07

£59

Shinycore, www.shinycore.com

SymmetryWorks 4.1.3

£735

Pros: AutoComposer feature lets you assign and customize scores to suit length and mood of video sequence, good task-based workflow

Phantasm CS 2

Path Styler Pro 1.1.1

www.easypano.com

Good value audio-editing tool for those working in prosumer video and integrates well with other Adobe CS3 products

Illustrator plug-ins

FilterIt 4.1

EasyPano

Pros: Fisheye-stitching offers great functionality. Decent price for output. Handles two- to six-shot originals

Soundbooth CS3

CADtools 5

Dec 06

Pros: New productivity features and the promise of vastly improved performance for high-end developers

Sep 07

Adobe, www.adobe.co.uk

£19

$129

Cons: Expensive considering it can’t stitch conventional lenses, only fisheye ones

D&AD 07

Dreamweaver CS3

www.panvue.com

A comprehensive tool incorporating PanoWeaver 4 and TourWeaver

Mar 07

Coda

PanVue

Quark Interactive Designer

Quark

www.euro.quark.com

£69

DigitalArts Best Buy

Jan 07

QuarkXPress plug-in that offers easy-to-use Flash authoring integrated in the DTP workflow, and aimed at graphic designers Pros: Easy-to-use environment. Create cross-media print, Web and Flash projects with shared resources

Aug 07

Artlandia, www.artlandia.com

$255

Cons: Cannot import or modify existing projects or SWF files from other applications. URL linking proved tempermental

Design and imaging

DTP InDesign CS3 £609

New workflow tools impress in the CS3 Suite Acrobat 8 Professional

Aperture 1.5 Adobe www.adobe.com

DigitalArts Best Buy

£395 £195

StoneCube, stonecube.co.uk Jul 06

Quark, www.quark.co.uk

£749

QX-Tools Pro 7 Mar 07 OnOne Software, www.ononesoftware.com Quark Print Collection

£185

Apr 07

Pros: Excellent Light Table mode and loupe tool. Stack feature for quick and easy image sorting Cons: List of camera support isn’t as extensive as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Needs masses of RAM and processor speed

Bibble 4.9 Pro

Bibble Labs

www.bibblelabs.com

$130

Apr 07

Pros: Bargain price belies an incredible array of features. Regular updates for new cameras

Adobe

www.adobe.co.uk

£485

D&AD 07

Illustrator gets a good makeover thanks to the new CS3 interface and a slew of fantastic new creative tools

DigitalArts

Pros: Live Colour’s one-click colour correction is great. Improved interface and good integration with Flash $99.95

Feb 07

Quark, www.quark.co.uk

Illustrator CS3

£199

DigitalArts Best Buy

Cons: Tabbed interface a little dull – but that is being extremely picky. Hard to fault

Jul 06

QuarkXPress 7

www.apple.com/uk

Digital RAW handler and converter with many of features usually found on more expensive solutions

Jan 07

Adobe, www.adobe.co.uk

PrintDevizor 2

Apple

Revamped version of the Mac OS X software for handling digital RAW files. Sports a great interface

Best Buy

Cons: Has a fairly steep learning curve, and is relatively expensive as a standalone application

Painter X

Corel

www.corel.co.uk

£205

Apr 07

A solid upgrade. RealBristle functionality offers a new level of realism, and composition aids shine Pros: RealBristle functionality adds a new level of control. Handy new composition tools Cons: Autopainting tools promise more than they deliver. Interface might prove complex for newcomers

Utilities

Photoshop CS3

Adobe

www.adobe.co.uk

£485

D&AD 07

Photoshop finally gets an upgrade. Now native for Intel Macs, with a stash of new features

parallels.com

Sep 07

£42.54

Youmehub Sep 07

£55

Studio management tool that provides an all-in-one solution to solving business chaos

092

Best Buy

Cons: New interface can be a bit fiddly. The extended version is expensive for the few extra tools you get

Worthwhile virtualization software for creative professionals – better than Apple’s Boot Camp youmehub.com

DigitalArts

Pros: New Smart Filters make effects adjustments easier. Great selection of creative and timesaving tools

Parallels Desktop for Mac 3.0

Photoshop Lightroom 1.0

Adobe

www.adobe.co.uk

£125

Apr 07

A brilliant photography-workflow tool, offering an attractive interface, with a wide-range of camera import profiles Pros: Multi-stage workflow works well. Key metadata browser. Wide range of camera profiles

DigitalArts Best Buy

Cons: Not quite as innovative as Aperture, but doesn’t suffer for it

Primatte Chromakey

Digital Anarchy www.digitalanarchy.com

$269

Sep 07

Photoshop masking plug-in that uses colour rather than paths to extract people and objects Pros: Fast and efficient workflow. Works as a Smart Filter and its Light Wrap function creates realistic comps Cons: Other tools better for tricky cutouts. Requires green/bluescreen shots

DigitalArts Best Buy


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this month’s cd JOIN THE DIGITAL ARTS CREATIVE COMMUNITY AT WWW.DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK

LEARN HOW TO GET THE BEST FROM FINAL CUT PRO 6 AND COLOR

Final Cut Studio videos THE LATEST CREATIVE RESOURCES, TRAINING AND SOFTWARE WORK ALONG WITH THE EXPERTS

Sample files for tutorials Follow along with our Masterclasses using the files found on this month’s disc. Kicking off on page 52, acclaimed illustrator Joshua Smith – aka Hydro74 – shows you how to create a stunning skull image for a T-shirt. On our CD is a collection of vector elements you’ll need to follow along with this tutorial. On page 58, Tommy Maloney details how to create Web 2.0-style graphics from scratch. Layered versions of each of the elements that you’ll build in this Masterclass can be found on the disc. After Effects maestro Harry J Frank takes you through AE’s type animation tools on page 62. The project file, plus FFX variations, is on the CD, and you can download the typeface used for free from www.dafont.com/alba.font

The latest additions to the Digital Media Training Series takes you through the new features in Apple’s suite of pro video applications, Final Cut Studio. This DMTS Jumpstart series includes four modules for Final Cut Pro 6 (above left), Motion 3,

Each set includes at least 1.5 hours of training and normally costs $59. However, Digital Arts readers can receive a ten per cent discount on any of the DMTS sets by using the promotional code DIGART-10 when ordering from the online store. www.digitalmediatraining.com

BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO TRY THIS NEW CREATIVE TOOL

Synfig 2D animation suite

Synfig is a powerful, industrial-strength vector-based 2D animation software package, designed from the ground-up for producing feature-film quality animation with fewer people and resources. The team behind the

096

Soundtrack Pro 2 and the new Color (above right). We’ve included two videos for Final Cut Pro and Color. The Final Cut Pro tutorial will teach you how to use the brand new Smoothcam function. The Color tutorial introduces scene-to-scene colour correction using the software.

software say that they are currently unaware of any other software that can do what Synfig can. This full working beta application is open source, available under the GPL licence. The source code is included on this month’s CD, with

a tutorial to help you get started. The team behind Synfig is very interested in hearing from Digital Arts readers who would like to assist in the development and testing of the cartooning application. www.synfig.org


plus! Five free vector artworks Anita Patteson Peppers has kindly provided five illustrations that you can use within your own work. Peppers is a designer and photographer at Clearspark Design in Atlanta, Georgia, and has been a contributor to top stock media sites for several years.

Tetris for InDesign This full plug-in creates a new panel in your InDesign workspace containing the popular game. Take a break during a long day, or just shorten the endless waiting for stories or art. One note for designers who are not self-employed: the Enter key now hides the game.

showcase A WEALTH OF PHOTOS THAT YOU CAN USE IN YOUR COMMERCIAL WORK

50 royalty-free images

HEAVENLY SWORD

These five episodes were created as part of the online promotional campaign for the PlayStation 3 game, Heavenly Sword. Each episode is two-minutes long. They were directed by Ben Hibon, who previously directed the Codehunters short film for MTV. The episodes were produced by Blink Ink, with the animation created by Chase Animation Studios.

1

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BioShock is the PC and Xbox 360 game of the moment. EyeballNYC was given the task of crafting a full-CG pre-launch commercial by RDA International, which matches the creepy Art Deco style of the game.

Cadmium, the UK’s largest provider of royalty-free stock photography and illustration, has teamed up with PantherMedia to launch a microstock site called the Cadmium 120K+ collection. Created in response to customer demand for lower priced, royalty-free stock photos, the 120K+ collection offers over 120,000 images for users working to a tight brief and budget. All images are fully model and property released, and available as high-resolution files. This month’s CD contains 50 high-resolution photographs from the collection. www.cadmiummicrostock.co.uk

Trial software This month’s disc includes a selection of the best new plug-ins around for Photoshop and After Effects. Dfine 2.0 (right) is a Photoshop plug-in that reduces noise in images. It features a new set of fine-tuning and brush-based manual controls. It also boasts improved performance. It’s reviewed on page 79. Fluid Mask 3 is a cut-out plug-in for Photoshop that provides rapid, powerful and intuitive masking and high-quality image blending. It’s reviewed on page 78. Nucleo Pro 2 adds enhancements like Spec Preview, Spec Render, and Background Render to After Effects.

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letters

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GET ISSUES OFF YOUR CHEST. SEND LETTERS TO DIALOGBOX@DIGITALARTSONLINE.CO.UK Please note that personal correspondence cannot be entered into.

It’s not winning that’s important Thanks for your feature on how to win awards (Digital Arts September). There were some great tips to help us pick up our next piece of glassware. But I think more can be said about why you want to win awards. Winning awards isn’t just about the extra business that they may or may not bring it – we’ve never noticed a direct correlation, though they may indirectly help your reputation. It’s not even for the flattery of your ego. It’s about feeling appreciated for the hours of work you put into a project, the passion and efforts of everyone on the team. Winning isn’t even that important – though it is nice. It’s that you and your team feel that you’ve created something worthy of note – and that’s something special. Joanne Thomas

Products designed for designers Looking at the range of USB sticks and portable hard drives in your feature (Group Test, Digital Arts September) that feature product designs tailored for a creative audience, it makes me wish that all hardware manufacturers would follow suit – especially riffing on vinyl toys like those Mimobots (below). Most pieces of hardware look sober, serious and downright dull. It’s like companies are afraid to take chances with the look of their products unless it freaks out accounts. A well-designed and, dare I say it, fun object adds to the aesthetic environment you work in, suggesting ideas and making you more creative. Andrew Chandler You could always utilize your creative talents and customize those “downright dull” objects yourself.

BLOG

DigitalArts Star letter

Web 2.0 logotypes: child’s play? Firedog has recently been commissioned by a Web 2.0 outfit. A large deal of the initial work involved research of the Web 2.0 landscape and branding online – and we came to a shocking realization. The vast majority of Web 2.0 logotypes feel like the kids product logos we all grew up with. Now, a great deal of brand strategy is geared towards user behaviour, trends and ultimately human psychology. This left me thinking; what exactly informs companies to render their brands according to this aesthetic? As sure as dark blue is the chromatic mistress to financial services branding, the online space follows some very interesting set rules which happen to funnily enough overlap with kids product branding: Type must be rounded, the colours have to be retina-piercingly bright, and there needs to be at least two outline casings around the typography. What really fascinates me is the shrink’s interpretation: why do Web 2.0 brands look like kids brands? Could it be that they know their companies are non-risk orientated? Or is it because most Web 2.0 brands are run by young, fun individuals. Or is it because actually the Web is really, to those of us that truly never grew up, just our 21st Century plaything – our virtual Play-Doh? Clifford Boobyer, Firedog Design WRITE IN AND WIN! This month, the star letter wins a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Photographers by acclaimed photo guru Martin Evening. Covering practical techniques and real-life assignments, the includes tutorials and before&-after Illustrations to teach you the new tools. Readers can purchase this 682-page book from Focal Press at focalpress.com for £29.99.

THIS .... IS ... FACEBOOK I am celebrating. I’ve hit 300 friends on Facebook! Almost caught up with LinkedIn (340). Now there is obviously this massive debate over various aspects of Facebook from its execution to the very nature of ‘friends’. When I mentioned to a mate the other day that I’d hit 300 his comment was ‘that’s just 300 folk you met down the pub!’ and there is some truth is that. I’ve been using LinkedIn for years as my office site professional contact book and will no doubt continue to do so – the major difference between the two is the ease with which you can ‘become friends’ with other folk on Facebook. With LinkedIn you need to have the friend’s email address (or pay a large monthly tax) I do believe that this lends itself towards a much more qualified list. There are also a hell-ofa-lot of people out there who don’t appreciate the openness of Facebook and will only use professional networking tools, so you’ve got to keep your options open. Jon Bains, Lateral Respond and read more at the Digital Arts Web site.

No Red Thread Huey Nhan’s column about the Red Thread on your letters page (Blog, Digital Arts September) got me thinking about how my current job designing corporate brochures is going to lead me onto my dream job. However, considering that my list of dream jobs includes designing album covers for 4AD, mapping out the path ahead isn’t very easy. Dream jobs are like what you wanted to be ‘when you grow up’ as a kid – just dreams. Taking each step along the way carefully is much more important. Claire Webber

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