Pencil Drawing Digital Workflow

Sketch-Book-at-Jupiter-2

My Papermate Sharpwriter and Moleskine Notebook are irreplaceable, go-to tools. I’ve tried alternatives in tablets, apps, and various Wacom products many times, but I keep coming back to this graphite-on-paper solution. Here is my typical sketching workflow. It uses a couple of quick PhotoShop tricks that make simple sketches look like they require actual skill to create.

Sketch-Book-at-Jupiter-big1. Draw something.
A line sketch with no shading works well with this technique. I like to keep this kind of explanatory drawing simple and quick. I usually do a rough line sketch, erase most of it, then use what’s left to trace over the final darker lines. We will create the cool shading in step 6, but feel free to experiment with your own levels of detail and amount of shading.

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Learn 3D in One (Intense) Weekend

Intro-to-Cinema-4D

Got 20 hours? That’s all it takes to start adding 3D graphics and animation to your skill set. Even if you’ve never ventured into the third dimension of graphic design, you can dive in and start creating impressive imagery right away with this very friendly course from the generous pseudo-simians at Grey Scale Gorilla … for free.

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 1.18.51 AMIntroduction to Cinema 4D is a comprehensive learn-by-doing video tutorial series that walks you through the basics of working in 3D and the most important functions of Cinema 4D. The Gorilla guys keep the course interesting and moving by presenting usable, practical examples that relate to graphic production.

This is not some long-winded tour of every program button, trudging through software menus section by section. The pace is brisk and the enthusiasm of the instructors (Chris Schmidt and Nick Campbell) contagious.

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The iPad-charging Powered USB Hub Alesis IO Hack

untergeek

After reviewing dozens of available USB devices, guitar inputs, and obscure gadgets, I have given up the quest for a ready-made device that will satisfy my desire for a USB hub that charges the iPad, from batteries, while it hosts other USB devices. Currently, there is no such product. But one crafty, Dremmel-wielding hacker has created that very thing.

Untergeek tore apart an Alesis IO Dock and inserted a USB hub internally between the iPad and the IO Dock. It is almost as simple as it sounds if you know your way around soldering, hot glueing and warranty voiding. Here is a video on how to DIY it.

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The Hubbub Guitar System – Part 1 – The Plan

Hubub-Feature

hubbub – noun – A loud confused noise from many sources.

The Hubub is a fitting moniker for our current iPad-based guitar system project; a melange of synth sounds, MIDI signals, analogue guitar, and the digital mayhem that ensues.

It’s doubly appropriate since a customized USB hub will be required to make it all possible, or at least practical. A primary goals of this setup is that it should run entirely from rechargeable batteries, sans power leads. It’s a lofty, but worthwhile goal. Over the next few weeks we shall see if that goal is achievable in a cost-effective way.

hubub-diagramTo the right is a diagram of the planned system. The main challenge of this computer-less approach is maintaining power for the iPad. Powering the USB hub, and the devices attached to it, from a battery is easy enough. But music software tends to drain an iPad battery quickly, so we want to be able to charge the iPad while in use. There doesn’t appear to be a product available that accomplishes this goal without a computer somewhere in the mix.

But we are working towards a solution. Soon many, if not all, of the devices below will be happily hooked up to an iPad air, buzzing along from rechargeable batteries.

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The BE Guitar – Clearly Different

BE-Guitar

It’s hard to argue with Rob O’Rilley when he says that the visual design of guitars has been stagnant for 50 years; “Everyone is playing the same model. The visuality of it is a huge part, but also the functionality is a huge part.” Being a fashion-conscious musician, he decided to take on both of these challenges himself. He also chose to take on investors to help him push his dream axe forward.

Dragon’s Den is a reality television show where budding entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. Rob successfully secured angel funding for the business there, and followed it up with a successful Kickstarter campaign.

image-beguitar-fullToday his Killarney, Ireland shop is in full production, and his BE Guitar is garnering good press. Rob’s business goal is as clear as his guitar; to sell 2000 instruments in the first year. Sure it looks cool, has innovative functionality, and is reasonably priced for a hand crafted instrument, but how does it play? I should know in a week or so when mine arrives.

From the BE Guitar Website:

Features such as Personalisation, its genius balance bar and optional iphone interface brings guitar design to a new level. Matt black charcoal finish, gloss white fretboard and transparent acrylic centre gives BE-Guitar its stunning look.

This plexiglass picker will become the centerpiece of an entirely new iPad-based guitar rig I am designing. Inspired by JamUp, the best guitar multi-effects software on the planet according to none-too-modest developer Positive Grid, I have decided to shelve the THR Rig, my first laptop-based digital system, and go all out i.

The Cognitive Need for OSX Finder Labels.

OSX-Finder-Labels

October 2013 brought sweeping changes to the features and financial models of many Apple software products. As Mavericks, the latest version of the Mac OS, moves the technology forward it presents many baffling changes that evoke like the proverbial “two steps backwards” phrase. For my day-to-day workflow the most disruptive change is the elimination of File Labels.

The new Finder Tags are great, but they are no substitute for the ability to quickly label a file name with a color. Having now lost the  ability to quickly “swipe a virtual highlighting pen across the name of the file,” I find it has much more of an impact on my daily computer use than I would have ever guessed it might.

Tags are great for sorting, searching and long-term organization, but Labels are a much better method for quick and sure visual identification, visual organization, and short-term flagging of files in lists.

But what about that tiny colored dot by the file names? Doesn’t that serve the same purpose? It does not. Here the cognitive problem the dots create:

labelsWith labels, one could quickly skim a list of file names and simultaneously see the color associated with each. One action, one thought.

With Tags, these two pieces of information are no longer in the same place, or within the same glance. With eyes focused on one, the other is in peripheral vision. As mentioned before, the dots are very small, and the distance between the name and the color dot varies depending on the width of the Finder column. This causes ones eyes to shift back and forth trying to connect these two bits of information. Trying to use Tags in the same way as Labels, one end up reading file names multiple times just to verify. I find that I no longer grab files with confidence that they are the one I marked earlier without several eye-shifting checks.

Labels eliminate reading, and often even thinking about, file management allowing one to better concentrate on the work they are doing in the first place.

Sure this all happens in milliseconds, but the latter takes longer, and it creates stress and doubt. Consider that one might perform this action thousands of times per day, what was once rather effortless becomes burdensome.

I’m not suggesting that Apple change or eliminate tags. I am just asking for Labels to come back, or for some other way to quickly highlight files. If you feel the same way, let Apple know on their OSX Feedback Page.

UPDATE: March 26, 2014

Problem solved for now. Tran Ky Nam Software’s utility XtraFinder adds several cool features to the OSX Finder. The free app was updated today with the option to show Finder Labels!

Vidpro Video Stabilizer Giveaway

Win

Last month I mentioned my buddy Jesse over at Jesse’s Gear posted this video demo of the cool VidPro SB-10 Camera Stabilizer for iPhone, Android and Digital Cameras. This week, he is giving one away to a lucky follower. The drawing is this Friday (Sept 30, 2013) so you have just enough time to hit up his site and check out the entry instructions, summarized below:

Step 1. Follow @jessepepin
Step 2. Tweet his review post
Step 3. Click REFRESH on your email client all day on Friday, just like the last scene of The Social Network, to see if you win.

George Duke at NAMM 2008

Today we say farewell to George Duke, keyboard legend. He brought his amazing jazz fusion style to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention for over 25 years. He other cool collaborators over the years included Jean-Luc Ponty, Miles Davis, and Micheal Jackson (Off the Wall, 1979.) I hope you enjoy this clip of Dukey on Fender Rhodes piano as much as he enjoyed playing it.

VidPro’s $50 Steady Cam

Jesse’s Gear posted this video demo of the VidPro SB-10 Camera Stabilizer for iPhone, Android and Digital Cameras. The product name is heavier than the camera your likely to put on it. The aluminum alloy and steel construction look solid, and the price seems reasonable for all its bubble-leveled gimbal goodness.

The cost for this Merlin-esque apparatus is about the lowest I’ve seen for a stabilizer. I may have to grab one just to keep in my car for those unplanned shoots when a shakily-held iPhone is my only available ax.

Be sure to check out the rest of Jesse’s blog and you’ll wish that you had Jesse’s Gear.

Google’s $35 Chromecast makes Apple TV an expensive “hobby”

chromecast_deviceChromecast will certainly be compared to Apple TV, and many pundits will jump to the old standby “insert-product-name-here killer” but isn’t the first product on Cc’s kill list Google TV? Not according to this diplomatically correct Google statement, “Chromecast offers an alternative solution to existing non-connected HDTVs with a simple and affordable device. We believe there is ample room for both products to exist and succeed.”

Janko Roettgers at GigaOm offers a thoughtful analysis of the new product and where it may sit in the coming online media ecosphere.

The real issue however isn’t how the Chromecast product introduced this week stacks up against Apple’s current-generation Apple TV. These products are just the first step towards a future in which both companies could be offering their own pay TV services over the internet to compete with traditional cable and satellite TV offerings.

Sony-Voice-Control-RemoteSkepticism about the future of Google TV is not unique. I own two of the much maligned products; a Logitech Revue, and the less elegantly named Sony NSZ-GS8. I really enjoy using them, and they work quite well as a front end to my satellite service.

The Sony voice-control remote (right) is one of the best control devices I’ve ever used. But all Google TV’s are rough around the edges. They are difficult to setup if anything goes awry and this makes them far from ready for non-geeky users. If Chromecast is super-easy to install and use; and brings over just a few choice features from Google TV, then GTV becomes redundant.

Apple TV is a huge hit despite it’s hobby status, but Apple claims the success is not from Over The Top content.

395773441912Apple accounts for the majority of sales by far, despite offering relatively narrow content access – this is not (yet) a market being driven by the value proposition of a streaming TV experience. AppleTV’s AirPlay feature was strategically crafted to simplify the process of transferring laptop and tablet displays to a TV screen, and it is AirPlaying – not OTT streaming – that is the primary reason for purchase of AppleTV devices.

That quote is from last week’s Apple earnings call, where they also mentioned that Google was ” conspicuous by its absence in this segment.” What a difference a week makes.

Working with Final Cut Pro X Audio in Logic Pro X

Final-Cut-Pro-X-and-Logic-Pro-X

The release of Final Cut Pro X was the most turbulent product launch of recent memory. The controversy rhetoric has thankfully died down since, and the product continues to improve every few months thanks to  ongoing efforts from Apple as well as third-party vendors. Looking past the more argumentative points of workflow changes and vanishing features (don’t get me started on the lack of Motion round-tripping) few would argue with the statement that FCP audio tools have always been anemic.

For months, many FCP editors have hoped that a new version of Logic might appear like a knight in shining armor galloping to our auditory rescue. Alas, has not quite worked out that way … yet. There is some semi-cumbersome interoperability between the recently released Logic Pro X and FCPX, but the export/import/export dance is far from the fleet-footed round-tripping we were hoping for.

None the less, here’s a collection of workflows and tutorials from around the internet that lead to FCPX/LPX harmony.

Logic Pro X And Final Cut Pro X Working Together: FCPXML

Ben Balser from MacProVideo explains Roles, audio formats, and working with FCPXML files in this well illustrated walk through.

FCPX & Logic Pro X Integration | Tutorial

Dan Alen offers a screencast tour through the steps involved along with some handy tips on what not to do.

Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X: How they work together

Alex Gollner, better known as Alex4D serves up his explanation of the step-by-step process on his popular website. Be sure to also check out his article prognosticating What Logic Pro X tells us about the future of Final Cut Pro X.

Logic Pro X and the Death of Software Upgrade Pricing

It only took a few hours after Logic Pro X’s release for several hastily prepared first impression videos to start appearing, as well as two professionally produced courses from training companies fortunate to have pre-release product access. Early adopters hungry for insight, instruction, or just a good software geek binge love a thoughtful tutorial or walk-through. It’s information at the speed of screen capture.

Now a few days later, the punditry starts to pour in. This is to be expected with a tent pole software release from Apple. Nothing stirs the opinion pot like a seemingly precedent-setting move from Cupertino. The theme of this weeks news cycle is the confirmed death by execution of software upgrade pricing.

To set the stage, the Apple App Store has yet to make available a system for discount purchasing of software upgrade. And after five years, it seems that they have no interest in doing so, much to the chagrin of many software consumers. Some vendors toy with workarounds, such as first week discounts on new releases. The theory is that it is a discount to customers astute enough to be tracking upgrade cycle of their favorite app. The technique is a nice kluge that does double duty as an awareness promotion for new patronage. But it’s a double-edged sword that cuts loyal customer that don’t happen to be poring over software release cycles with the diligence usually reserved for stock portfolios and Breaking Bad season premiers.

Leo Laporte laments the lack of upgrade pricing, “Why is that impossible in the App Store? We have computers now. Surely they can figure this out.” Take his semi-rhetorical question in the satirical manner it is presented and not as technological naïvety. Yes, they’ve done this before, and sure it may be another Apple industry-decreed vision of the future. But I think it is likely a subtler move; a pricing test balloon to judge public reaction from a niche market, rather than a hard hardware statement reminiscent of the overnight obsolescing of floppy discs or the FireWire force feeding of the past.

Not that those tough love tactics weren’t good for the industry, and the human race in general. But they did demonstrate a boldness that Apple has not shown since Steve’s passing. Perhaps the release of the new Mac Pro will “demonstrate the full power of this station” once again with a bold, definitive move. We will have to wait for the price reveal to fully know.

Apple-Check2

Until then, it is safer for the more timid (like a fox) Tim to flex experimental muscles with the mushiness of product pricing. That’s easier to backtrack on (I’m looking at you iPad 2 $100 refund check) than are decisions set in the stone that is silicone, plastic, and aluminum.

 
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