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By Samara Iodice | Friday, January 14, 2011

Behind the scenes: Producing the Foundations of Photography series

Foundations of Photography: Exposurewith Ben Long was released on December 23, and was the newest launch in the lynda.com Online Training Library® for several days into the new year. The holiday season could have been a very hectic and distracting time for members to find this new series, and yet, they turned out in droves—sending in comment after positive comment in record numbers, both through the course feedback link on the course page, and here on the blog. The comments suggest many things, of which two are recurrent themes. One, that members are hungry for photography skills courses such as the Foundations of Photography series. And, two, that members thoroughly enjoy Ben Long’s training style, wit, enthusiasm, and comprehensive knowledge.

As lynda.com training producer for this course, it’s hard to maintain complete neutrality on the subject, but I’ll try to look at this from the point-of-view of a member. If I did not have experience working directly with Ben Long, and being very intimate with his scripts and outlines during the production of this course, what would my reaction be after watching this course for the first time, sight unseen? To be honest, I’d be completely blown away, and for the same reasons stated by members. Yet, even while I say this, I know something that keeps me from being completely impartial. It’s this small, largely unknown, factoid that makes me watch each and every frame of Foundations of Photography: Exposure with utter disbelief and an immense feeling of achievement for Ben Long and the production team at lynda.com—myself included.

So, what is this piece of insider information? Well, simply that, at the time of its publication, Foundations of Photography: Exposure contained more live action video footage than any other lynda.com training course ever to be published in the Online Training Library. Out of 64 total movies in the course, 61 of those are live action video, shot both in the studio and out on location. Could the live action component be another reason why this course has been so popular in its relatively short time in the library? Many viewer comments have espoused the virtues of the live action video in this course, and the production value has been highly praised, and is what users are coming to expect from online training, in general. So, there’s no doubt that this figures into the equation somewhere, but just how prominently, remains to be seen.

This does not mean that live action is superior to screen capture content. In the case of photography hard skills instruction, it is arguably a more effective approach to teaching this type of content, but for software training, screen capture is still the gold standard. What it does mean, however, is that the number of production hours and effort that went into making this training is five to eight times that of a standard screen capture course. And quite honestly, when I watch the videos, I find myself going over and over in my head the things we had to do to get things to look or work a certain way, and I’m constantly reminded of the incredible dedication of each and every member of the production team.  I also think of all the unique moments and funny occurrences that happened behind-the-scenes, and how so much of that never gets shared with our members.

With that in mind, I’ve included a video of my production photos to invite subscribers in for a closer look at lynda.com live action shooting. Please note that while you will meet many of the key production team members in this video, you will not be meeting the post-production staff responsible for creating the beautiful graphics and additional photographs, and artfully splicing all the hours of footage together into the many individual instructional videos that make up this course. Special thanks goes out to those individuals, including Andy Ta, Bryce Poole, Fatima Anes, Angelica Chong, Paul Roper, and Lucas Deming. And, thanks also to Jim Heid, for his uncanny ability to find incredible authors.

Take a look at the accompanying behind-the-scenes video, and if you’ve already watched Foundations of Photography: Exposure, or if you’re planning on watching it soon, you might just see it in a whole new light.

By Samara Iodice | Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A lynda.com training producer learns Joomla, and practices what we teach

Video shot by lynda.com’s Taymar Pixley and Lucas Deming, and edited by Chris Chan Lee. Starring author Jen Kramer and training producer Samara Iodice.

You may be surprised to discover that behind every lynda.com author is a training producer, like me, who oversees all aspects of course production—from content development, to script review, to graphics creation, to booth and/or live action recording, and eventually publishing in the Online Training Library®. You may be even more surprised to learn that lynda.com training producers are not usually experts in the software for the courses they produce. In fact, often the first experience I have with a certain piece of software is in reviewing the early draft of a course table of contents in preparation for beginning work with an author. That doesn’t mean training producers aren’t extremely knowledgeable about the course content, but where the author must know details of how every individual feature of the software functions, the training producer is looking at something completely different—the overall educational integrity of the course and associated exercise files.

Some training producers are experts in some software programs—it’s often how our career path brought us to where we are. Some of us are experts in certain products; all of us are skilled in many products, are very technologically savvy, and learn new software quite easily. Before becoming a training producer at lynda.com, my software expertise was in the computer-aided-drafting (CAD) area, having used AutoCAD extensively in my previous career as an engineer, and also in the web design area, using Dreamweaver for the last several versions.

One area of web design I had become increasingly interested in was the use of content management systems (CMS) such as Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla to create web sites that could be more easily maintained than the traditional static web site. So, when the opportunity arose to produce a Joomla title with the very enthusiastic author, Jen Kramer, I jumped right in. I was particularly excited to learn a CMS because I’d been doing volunteer media work for a youth-run nonprofit, Everybody Dance Now, and the teenage leaders desperately needed a new, modern web site they could learn to maintain themselves.

So, after a week of recording with Jen Kramer, I had my first real taste of Joomla, and that, in turn, stimulated my appetite to watch many of the other Joomla and CMS offerings in the lynda.com Online Training Library®. Before I knew it, I had designed a new Joomla-based national web site for the young ladies of Everybody Dance Now, and was being called upon to design other chapter web sites around the country for the same organization, in addition to providing training for those chapters to maintain their own sites. It’s been a whirlwind of volunteer activity that I wouldn’t have been able to participate in, had I not fully immersed myself in the lynda.com Online Training Library® to learn a new topic.

Joomla 1.6 Beta Preview Course Trailer

Click to watch the trailer for Jen's Joomla course.

With the release of Jen Kramer’s Joomla! 1.6 Beta Preview title last week, many people are wondering what Joomla and other content management systems are all about, and how they can apply this technology in their own lives. I’m hoping that sharing my experience as a training producer practicing what we, at lynda.com, teach will help inspire lynda.com members to investigate Joomla and all the various content management systems in the library, and discover these practical and highly-effective solutions for creating and maintaining a powerful web presence.

Watch Jen’s course, Joomla! 1.6 Beta Preview, and learn more about Joomla at the Joomla web site.

By Megan O. Read | Monday, December 21, 2009

Content inspiration and think-tank week at lynda.com

Last week at lynda.com, all of our off-site staff authors, acquisitions managers, content managers, and the like were in town for the company holiday party and to take part in week-long think-tank meetings to plan the content for the lynda.com Online Training Library® in the coming months. It’s always inspiring to get everyone together, and admittedly, a bit exhausting to generate so many great ideas!

Counter clockwise from lower left: Laurie Burruss, George Maestri, Jan Kabili, Samara Iodice, Auriga Martin, Jim Heid, Toby Malina, Max Smith, Cynthia Scott, Joel Fugazzotto, Bonnie Bills, Kirk Werner, Garrick Chow, Joe Randeen, Tanya Staples, Megan O. Read.

Clockwise from lower left: Laurie Burruss (in checked shirt), George Maestri, Jan Kabili, Samara Iodice, Auriga Martin, Jim Heid, Toby Malina, Max Smith, Cynthia Scott, Joel Fugazzotto, Bonnie Bills, Kirk Werner, Garrick Chow, Joe Randeen, Tanya Staples, Megan O. Read.

To let off a little steam and relax, the entire content development team went to dinner and a movie. Not just any movie, though! One of our very own cinematographer/directors here at lynda.com, Jacob K. Cunningham, screened his first film Thy Will Be Done in downtown Ventura. It was great to see so many people at the screening, and to support one of our own talented people in their creative endeavors.

Jacob K. Cunningham at his film screening.

Jacob K. Cunningham at his film screening.

By Megan O. Read | Monday, November 09, 2009

Jen Kramer, CMS content, and fake hamburgers

Jen Kramer is awesome. She is the queen of Joomla!, her first book is rapidly approaching completion, she plays a mean flute, and she’s in town recording a couple of really cool CMS courses for lynda.com (CMS Website Strategy and Planning, and Preparing CMS Web Graphics and Layouts Using Open Source). Hooray for more Jen Kramer content! We took her to lunch at a local vegan/raw restaurant on Friday, because we wanted to give her the “Southern California Experience”—and because we think it’s yummy. Looking forward to your next visit out here, Jen!

Jen

Jen and her organic and vegan "hamburger," lynda.com Producer Samara Iodice, Author Relations Manager Megan, and the fantastic Jen Kramer at a Mary's Secret Garden in Ventura, CA.

By Megan O. Read | Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New Photo Assignment series teaches technique and urges collaboration

lynda.com producer Samara Iodice with instructor/photographer Derrick Story.

lynda.com producer Samara Iodice with instructor/photographer Derrick Story.

As Jim wrote yesterday, lynda.com has plans for a number of new photography related courses — and just by chance, we’ve just released the first course in a new series for aspiring photographers this week. Photo Assignment: Natural Light Portraits with author and photographer Derrick Story is a really cool new lynda.com course that shows us valuable techniques for shooting portraits in natural (i.e. unpredictable and sometimes unflattering) lighting. These tips are sure to bring your outdoor portrait photography to the next level.

But wait, there’s more…

Derrick has created a Flickr group dedicated to showcasing lynda.com members’ natural light portraits, too. So after you watch the course and pick up some new tips, grab your kid sister, neighbor, or better half, and start snapping shots. Then upload your pix to the public Natural Light Portrait Photo Assignment Flickr group for feedback and to see the photos other members have shot and uploaded.

Derrick shows you how to join the Flickr group within this course, but if you would like more training on Flickr, check out Derrick’s other lynda.com course entirely devoted to the photo-sharing website, Flickr Essential Training.

I’ll be uploading my own photos to Derrick’s Flickr group soon and hope you will join me.

By Megan O. Read | Thursday, August 13, 2009

lynda.com author news: dinners, unicycles, Photoshop, InDesign, Twitter, Facebook, and more

dinnershots

Top group dinner shot, left to right: Some of the lynda.com production team, Andy Ta, Roon Tamuli, Nick Brazzi, Samara Iodice, Max Smith, and Andrew Geibel. Then it's Ian Robinson (author), Megan Read (me), Nigel French (author), and Nigel's friend. Center unicycle shots: the first and second photos are the multitalented author Ian Robinson, third photo is our own Nick Brazzi. Bottom group shot, left to right: Max, Nick, Deke McClelland (author), me, Robbie Carman (author).

Over the last two weeks, we’ve had authors from all over the place in our recording booths. Ian Robinson from Virginia was in-house recording some eye-catching new Motion 4 training, Nigel French was here all the way from the UK recording an interesting new InDesign typography course, and Michael Ninness was here from Seattle recording the must-see InDesign Power Shortcuts.

This week is another busy one at lynda.com! We’ve got Robbie Carman also from Virginia recording some brand spankin’ new Color 1.5 training, Anne-Marie Concepción in from Illinois recording a cool new course about marketing your business with Twitter and Facebook, and of course, Deke McClelland from Colorado recording handfuls of must-see Photoshop training.

Our authors are all hard-working professionals, but occasionally, they get to let their hair down at a nice dinner with their lynda-peeps, or let off some steam with a fun Friday lunch playing on unicycles in the parking lot. Yes, there are actually quite a few unicyclers here at lynda.com!

Enjoy the pix, and as always, the training!

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