Great Design Resource 4 Non Profits

I’ve been wearing my graphic designer hat this week. It got me thinking about how I design. You can read about my Graphic Design 101 Resources on an older post. So here it goes:

When it comes to design you have a couple of main ingredients:
Content: What is it you need to communicate? What is it you are wanting people to do after seeing your work?

Concept: How are you going to communicate it? What’s you’re theme/ idea?

Colors: What emotion/ feeling do the colors communicate? I’m partially color blind so I’ve found a couple of great resources for picking colors. There’s Adobe’s Kuler which is cool for browsing or creating color pallets. You can then download a swatch to your Adobe apps. While it’s free I find myself using Jim Krause’s
Color Index and Color Index 2 more often.

Images: You know the saying “An Image Is Worth a Thousand Words”. Well it’s true. Depending on the image is it saying the right words for your project? You can find my favorite stock photo places on the Resource tab at the top of the page. It’s a work in progress so it’s not complete.

Fonts: Choosing the right font is so important. Brad Zimmerman shared some great advice on his podcast: Every font has a voice. Read the font in it’s voice. Is it appropriate for your piece? I’ve got some of my favorite places to go for free fonts on my resources page.
But I just found out Adobe is offering Font Folio to Non-Profits now! List price is $2,599 for 2300 of their pro fonts. This means fonts that have a dozen or more weights (true bold, black, display etc…) Typography is a kick I get and enjoy. Now I can have the tools to craft my designs. I know $2,599 is a steep price that’s been well beyond my budget, but the non-profit price is $405. I placed my order yesterday through


June 30, 2008. Tags: , . Graphic Design. Leave a comment.

Review: HD Survival Handbook

I found a great resource for learning about the transition to HD production. It’s Philip Hodgetts The HD Survival Handbook.

Philip has a wealth of knowledge that he shares in this PDF book.

If you’re looking for a guide to sort through the differences of:

-Different resolutions: 720p vs. 1080i vs. 1080p. It does a good job cutting through the marketing buzz and get to real world/ practical reasons to use one or the other.
-Different formats: HDV vs XDcamEX vs DVCProHD
-Sensor size and pixel aspect
-Gives a great comparison of the sub $10k pro/prosumer cameras on the market now
-Workflow for different situations (native vs. uncompressed/ ProRes422)
-What’s up with different color spaces for different formats
-What equipment do you need/want for capture/ monitoring

It’s a great primer and resource to moving to HD. It’s nice to have all this information in 1 place to refer to.

If you’re looking for a new camera he has a great breakdown of the pros and cons of the “affordable” HD cameras under $10k.

His top picks go to the Sony PMX-EX-1 for a tapeless camera. It’s got 1/2″ sensors and a great lens. Full raster 1080 sensors. Just a a great camera.

If you don’t want to go tapeless or don’t like how the EX-1 handles, he recommends the JVC-HD200 series. Great ergonomics being a shoulder mounted camera and a good lens with it.

He does dog on the HVX200a that we just picked up. Because the HVX can carry a less compressed signal the sensors are undersampled and use pixel shifting and image processing to get the 720 or 1080 image. But I’m still very pleased with our purchase. My main reasons for the camera was:
-Tapeless workflow, I’d rather spend more time editing and creating than capturing. Didn’t want to have to buy a new deck as well.
-Flexible formats and frame rates
-Intra-frame codec, again I didn’t want to have to conform on output when I’m squezed on a deadline.
-Price. For us this was a huge step up from our previous cameras. While I would have liked the image the Sony gave us, I’d be working in 1080, which means I’d would have had to upgrade my monitoring so that would have added a couple more thousand to the project. Like I said before I got the HVX200a, tripod and bag for a couple hundred less than the EX-1.

June 27, 2008. Tags: , , . Books, Tech Stuff, Video. Leave a comment.

What I’m Listening To

I’ve picked up some new music over the last week or so and thought I’d share some of my thoughts about them. Now I have to admit I listen to music differently than most the people I know. Because of my live sound background I break apart the mix. I tend to focus so much about how it’s mixed and the emotions the music brings out that I don’t really listen to the words. I also tend to listen to music as background for when I’m working so I tune the lyrics out. Back when I was doing creative programing for the youth ministry I used to always listen to lyrics because I was looking for songs we could use and so I could know what the youth were listening to.

Coldplay’s Viva La Vida: A solid album. Stays true to the Coldplay style but a more guitar driven sound than their past albums. I’m betting this album is going to make for a great show on tour. Really successful bands like Coldplay always have a challenge to bring something new, but to stay true to their identity as a band and not alienate fans. It’s a delicate line to walk to bring something fresh yet not too different. Overall I like it but I don’t know how long it will stay in my mix. It might resurface down the road.

Amos Lee Last Days At The Lodge: I like me some Amos Lee. I think this might be his best album. The last one Supply and Demand got a little too breezy for me. All the songs kinda flowed together too smooth. I still enjoyed it, but ended putting it into a mix instead of listening to the whole album at once. His new album has a grittier sound to it. Still the same bluesy, soulful sound but a little grittier.

Sigur Ros Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust To me Sigur Ros is one of the best creative music bands for me. And guess what it’s Icelandic so I have no idea what they are saying! So I don’t feel bad about not listening to the lyrics. So far I’m really enjoying this album, one of my favorites of there’s. I realized I was missing a few of their other albums so I picked up (untitled) and Hvarf – Heim

One last note. I’ve started buying more of my music from Amazon’s MP3 store. I get higher quality and no DRM like Apple’s iTunes store. I’ll check iTunes to see if they carry the album in the iTunes Plus format and if they have any good bonus tracks or videos. But usually Amazon is cheaper and higher quality.

June 26, 2008. Music, Random, Sound. 1 comment.

Church Def: For Real

The Stephen Ministry promo I wrote about earlier this week was not only my first High Def project but also my first Church Def project. Here’s where I wrote about my first thoughts on Church Def.

Basically our projectors will display at 1440×900 native. That’s way higher that SD resolution and a taller resolution than 720p. So why not create my videos at a unique resolution of 960×720 so I’m not stretching the video, but letting the hardware scaler do this? I can do this because our video playback is through ProPresenter which is QuickTime based.

Since I was mastering/ grading my footage in AE, I knew I wouldn’t be going back to FCP. My workflow in AE consisted of 3 comps: My edit comp where my grading was taking place, My HD render comp which was a 720p comp with square pixels and my CD Render comp which was 960×720 square pixels. I nested my edit comps into both render comps. And rendered both out.

I tested both videos with several settings in Compressor and then in ProPresenter and on our screens. I finally settled on a couple of settings that I like that are based on H.264. I’ve done some reading this week and learned a few more things about Compressor so I have a couple of other settings I’m going to try on the next project.

Overall response to the video was good. Most the comments were wondering what we did different because the video looked so sharp and crisp. I did my best to simply say thank you because when I say we shot it on HD their first response was but it’s not widescreen. Nope it’s Church Def.

June 25, 2008. Tech Stuff, Video. 1 comment.

Church Def In Action

The Stephen Ministry video I blogged about earlier this week we actually showed in “Church Def”. The project was shot, edited and graded in 720p/24. But as a final last step I created a render comp in After Effects at 960×720. I think that was the right size, I’m not at that computer right now, but whatever the dimensions would be for it fit a 4:3 comp that was 720 tall.

But it worked great and looked great. While I shot I used the 4:3 guides in the HVX to help my framing. Once rendered out of AE I used Compressor. After several tests I customized a preset based on Apple TV HD preset.

June 25, 2008. Tags: , , . Tech Stuff, Video. 3 comments.

Dallas After Effects Group

It’s that time again. The Dallas After Effects Group will be meeting again this Thursday PM. We meet at 7pm at BlueFish TV in Richardson.

There will be a demo and giveaway of some product(s) from Red Giant Software. What will it be? You’ll have to come on out to see.

If you’re planning to come leave me a comment so I’ll keep an eye out for ya!

June 24, 2008. Video. Leave a comment.

Compressor Droplets

I maybe late to the party on this but I just realized the power of compressor droplets. If you’re like me you find yourself encoding your videos to the same handful of formats all the time. Wouldn’t it be great to simplify this process? Well that’s what droplets are. Droplets are a mini-application based on a preset in compressor. The preset can be a default preset or a custom preset you create.

Here’s the quick overview of how to create a droplet:
1) In Compressor select the preset you want to create a droplet for. If it’s 2 presets like DVD video and audio encode, those presets need to be in a folder. You would then select the folder.
2) In the settings tab, at least in Compressor 3, click on the “Save Selection as a Droplet” button. It’s the middle button in the selection panel.

Now when you have a video you need to encode you simply drag it onto the droplet icon.

The droplets I have right now are for the most common formats I encode to:
-ProPresenter SD
-ProPresenter HD
-ProPresenter CD (Church Def)
-EasyWorship AVI
-Digital Signage

Like I said I maybe late to the party but I thought I’d share this tip.

June 24, 2008. Tags: , , . Tech Stuff, Video. 1 comment.

Video: Stephen Ministries Promo

My First HD Workflow

This was my first shoot a few weeks ago with the HVX200a. I just got around to editing it this week.

My workflow was ingest into FCP6 with log and transfer. I renamed and trimmed my clips at this point. The edit was done in FCP. Sometimes when I edit I feel like I’m cooking. I piece of this here, a shot of this there. This edit felt more like chiseling a sculpture our of stone. I started out with 30 minutes of usable footage that I chiseled away to 2 minutes. Remove this here, remove some more here. And then lets find a story to be told. Guess that’s what documentary film making is all about.

Once I had a locked down edit in FCP I sweetened the audio in ProTools. I also did the voice over there with a Shure SM7B. In case you’re wondering some of my favorite ProTools Plug-Ins are Smack as my compressor (gives me a nice full sound with little artifacts) and Pultic 1A EQ (It’s almost magical in the way that you can boost and cut the same frequency, example: cut the boomy sound but still have a full sound) . Sometimes I’ll add Maxim on my main bus but I didn’t on this.

From there I did basic color correction in FCP using Colorista. I just picked up this plug-in and have to say I really like it! The workflow and results just puts FCP 3-Way Color Corrector to shame. In the past I’ve been using Color Finesse in AE. Truth be told I’m on a color grading kick, I’m looking to learn as much as I can so I’m going through some videos and books. I’m going to check out Color. But I did the basic color correction to maximize the shot in FCP because I like to see scopes. FCP has scopes, AE doesn’t.

Next I used Automatic Duck to get the project into After Effects. Can I just say Automatic Duck is the bomb! It’s almost magic in it’s simplicity and power. The Magic Bullet effects (Looks and Colorista) are translated by Automatic Duck from FCP to AE. I like working in AE b/c I find the tools easier to use and more powerful than in FCP. Even the same plugin like Colorista, just works better in AE. But AE doesn’t have scopes I’ve only found a histogram in the levels effect.

Once in AE I applied Magic Bullet looks to an adjustment layer to cover then entire footage. This gave my footage a look or style for the project. I tweaked the 3.5 Black Diffuse look. It then made my grade a tad dark. So I applied another instance of Colorista on each clip, used the spotlight preset which gave me a feathered mask I could move to the area I wanted highlighted. I chose the face of each person.

A workflow tip I learned. AE is going to try to create a composition with the anamorphic pixel aspect ration, as this is what DVCProHD from the HVX200 has, but when you export QuickTime was not correctly displaying the footage. Since QuickTime wasn’t displaying the footage correctly I didn’t know how ProPresenter would show it. So I made a render comp in AE that was proper 720p/24.

Here’s the video. I’m not thrilled about the concept or the edits.

June 23, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , . Tech Stuff, Video. 2 comments.

HVX200a Green Screen Test

Had an opportunity to shoot some green screen this week. The Children’s Ministry was putting together a video and wanted a shot of Jesus giving communion. So I suggested shooting it on green screen. I’ve never been too pleased with my green screen shots that I’ve done on DV so I thought it would be a great test for the HVX200a.

We setup in our gym. It’s a big open space with no windows. Only down side is audio can come across boomy. The screen was about 15 feet from the talent, lit from the floor with a work light. Our green screen is an old fabric material. I didn’t buy it and I don’t like it. It needs a frame to be stretched out on to get rid of all the wrinkles. Talent was lit with 3 lights (key, fill and kicker). The hair light or background light really needed to be straight above him. I need to expand my light kit do some of this properly b/c you can see some spill on the right side of his face. Guess which side the kicker was on?

I brought the footage into After Effects. And in 5 minutes I pulled the key with AE and color matched the foreground to the plate with levels. Here’s the result:

This shot is 720p compressed to H.264. You can see some jagged edges on the left side of his face. I don’t know if this was me not setting the camera right or I just needed to finesse the key more in AE. Scaled down to DV, which this footage will be, it looks great. In face you can only really see what I’m talking about if you watch the clip in full screen mode.

My first impressions were that the key was very easy to pull. The quality seems great. This blows any green screen work I’ve tried in DV away. I’m not 100% with the jagged edge. I thought it would be smoother. I don’t know if that’s a camera setting or if I just need to tweak the key or do and inside/ outside key to get the smooth edge.

And Jesus seems like a giant because of how small the cup is.

June 20, 2008. Tech Stuff, Video. 7 comments.

Thinking About Vacation…

We’re taking a family vacation to California for almost 2 weeks in July. I’m looking forward to unplugging (no design or video work, just photography) and spending a lot of time with the family.

I’m from the Bay Area (San Jose) so we’ll be seeing a lot of my family. But we’re planning some camping trips while we are there. One is going to be to Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe. The other looks like we’ll be going to Big Basin State Park to see the Redwoods. Or maybe some beach camping.

Of course we’ll be taking some trips to the beach in Santa Cruz (let the kids ride the Merry Go Round at the Boardwalk and get Marianne’s Ice Cream) and Monterey (one of the coolest aquariums in the world and lunch at Phil’s fish market.

June 19, 2008. Random. 1 comment.

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