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By Michael Ninness | Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) ships; new features course in production

Apple shipped Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) yesterday—and for those of you wondering if lynda.com will be publishing training for FCPX, the answer is a resounding Yes. Our first course is in production and we are shooting to publish it by the end of July.

This isn’t simply a new updated version with new features—in many ways, Apple is positioning this as a brand new product. As such, existing workflows are likely to be dramatically impacted. We’ll cover all the new features and how existing users will be impacted in our upcoming Migrating from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X course. Watch for sneak peeks here on our blog as we finish edits. Get more info about FCPX on the Apple web site.

By Michael Ninness | Sunday, June 12, 2011

Author Chris Meyer talks about his new After Effects course

As you may have heard by now, Adobe recently released Creative Suite 5.5. Some programs in the suite, like Photoshop and Bridge, received minor upgrades, and are labeled as version CS5.1; others, such as Adobe After Effects, received more significant upgrades, and are known as version CS5.5. After Effects expert Chris Meyer recorded a training series, After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques—available on lynda.com the day Creative Suite 5.5 shipped—that demonstrates how he takes advantage of his favorite new and upgraded features. Now that he’s been using the release version for a while, we thought we’d catch up with him and see what continues to stand out for him in his motion graphics work.

Q: The most buzz surrounding After Effects CS5.5 was for its new Warp Stabilizer effect. Is it just a flashy technology demonstration, or is it actually proving useful in the real world?

A: I think it’s turning out to be the main reason many are upgrading to AE CS5.5. For those in a real-world production environment, its ease of use has been a huge time saver—just apply it to a clip, do other work while it processes in the background, and now the bumps in the camera movement have been smoothed out without any user intervention required. A single parameter allows you to adjust the amount of smoothness; a simple popup allows you to completely lock down the shot. It was the first thing I demonstrated at an advanced training session I recently led at a cable network. At the end of the first morning, they were ready to upgrade and start using it on jobs they already had in production. You no longer have to think, This is a visual effects shot; I have to stabilize it; this is going to be work. Now it’s just an effect you apply to any piece of footage with undesired camera movement in order to improve it.

Aside from the Warp Stabilizer’s automated capabilities, there is a lot of additional power under the hood that users are just starting to play with, such as the ability to synthesize new edges for stabilized frames based on frames that happened earlier or later in time. And, like any semi-automated tool, there are times when it’s going to guess wrong. That’s why I spent some time in New Creative Techniques showing you how to put it back on the right path in the event it starts stabilizing the wrong object in a video, or warps the background in unanticipated ways.

Q: Stereoscopic video is also a hot topic these days. I’ve heard that After Effects CS5.5 has some new tools to make that easier as well?

A: Yes, it does. There’s a new 3D Stereo Rig tool that creates a chain of compositions to create stereoscopic output from a 3D scene set up in After Effects, as well as an enhanced 3D Glasses effect to help resolve alignment and convergence issues in already-shot stereo footage.

I admit to originally being a stereo skeptic. And I think it’s still too early to know whether or not it’s really going to catch on this time. But it’s undeniable that more people are demanding stereo content, including for broadcast, not just major films. As a result, I’ve been putting more of a focus on how to create stereo imagery that produces less strain when viewed through 3D glasses, and that also is more watchable by those without glasses. The secret is a combination of managing the convergence parameters in AE CS5.5′s Stereo 3D Rig to lock onto the most important layer in your composition, plus adding depth-of-field blur to put objects in front of or behind the convergence point out of focus. By doing this, the ‘hero’ in your frame will be in the stereo sweet spot for those with glasses, and not have colorized halos for those without glasses. Plus, those halos will be blurred rather than sharp for those without glasses, making them far less distracting. This is also demonstrated in New Creative Techniques.

Q: Speaking of depth-of-field blur, that feature also received an update in After Effects CS5.5, correct?

A: Yes! The 3D camera in After Effects has long supported depth-of-field blur, but it was slow to render, and frankly didn’t look that great when it was done. As a result, few used it; many didn’t even realize it was in there because so few of their peers were using it. But in AE CS5.5, they’ve greatly improved the quality of blur. It’s a true camera simulation now, with control over iris settings and more. Plus, it renders a lot faster. As a result, I think the default will become to use it, rather than avoid it.

In addition to the improved depth-of-field blur for the 3D camera, 3D lights also received a much-requested upgrade in AE CS5.5: lighting falloff, where a light’s strength weakens over distance. In typical After Effects fashion, they’ve implemented this feature in two ways: one that is realistic, for visual effects artists; and one that has unrealistic controls, for motion graphics artists. In general, it’s nice how the After Effects team keeps their focus on easing real-world production tasks, rather than sticking to a theoretical or engineering-based ideal.

In addition to the topics discussed above, Chris also demonstrates numerous other new and improved features in his After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques course. This includes taking advantage of Adobe’s advanced audio program, Audition CS5.5, which has now been ported to the Mac and is available in both the Production Premium and Master Collection suites. Whether you’ve recently upgraded, or are still deciding whether or not to upgrade, take a look at Chris’ After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques to quickly get up to speed with After Effects CS5.5.

Also, be sure to check out Chris and Trish Meyer’s After Effects Apprentice series, an indepth project-based series of courses designed to help you get the most out of this powerful motion graphics software. Seven of the nineteen total installments are available now in the Online Training Library®. The series is appropriate for the CS4, CS5, and CS5.5 versions of After Effects.

By Michael Ninness | Monday, April 18, 2011

Chris Coyier helps a print designer learn WordPress

We recently received the following via our site feedback form (available at the bottom of every page):

From:  Nancy White, April 7, 2011

Hi. Where can I leave feedback about a particular course? I’ve been taking the best course EVER!

I responded and let her know she could simply use the same form again, click the course feedback button at the bottom of every course page, or simply reply to my email. Here is her more detailed response, which she graciously agreed to let me share here as a blog post:

I have been singing the praises of lynda.com for many years. It’s hands-down the best learning place online.

I’ve worked in print and online publications for many years. I’ve enjoyed most of the courses I’ve taken at lynda.com, but often it’s on subjects that I am already quite familiar with, so I’ve picked up some great tips and tricks.

But I’ve known next-to-nothing about WordPress. I’ve always considered it a platform for a personal, mom-and-pop-type blog, something I had no need for. But as you know, WordPress has come a long way! As my clients are getting smarter and more tech savvy, they are demanding web sites that they can easily update themselves. So, I’ve learned the fundaments of Joomla! and WordPress, but was very limited when it came to customization.

Enter Chris Coyier’s course WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes! Something I knew nothing about, but definitely wanted to learn.

I gained an incredible amount of knowledge from this course. I’ve been able to convert a rather complicated HTML site into a custom WordPress theme! I am ecstatic!  It did not happen overnight, but it happened. I am happy, and the client is happy!

The lessons in this course are a great reference I keep coming back to. I would be happy to see more from Chris Coyier. He’s very practical and easy to follow.

Thank you again for this and all the other great content from lynda.com.

Loving it!

Nancy White

Thank you for sharing your success story with us, Nancy. It always excites us to hear how our members are applying what they learn from the Online Training Library®. In this day and age, it is so important for designers to start getting comfortable and savvy with designing for multiple mediums. Feel free to share your own stories with us via the site feedback or course feedback buttons, or add a comment below. Yes, we really do read every single one.

Happy learning,

Michael Ninness VP of Content, lynda.com

By Michael Ninness | Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bert Monroy reveals his latest digital masterpiece, Times Square

lynda.com author and digital painter Bert Monroy with his latest work.

Today, lynda.com author and digital painter Bert Monroy publicly revealed his latest (and massive!) digital painting entitled Times Square at the PhotoPlus Expo conference in New York.

Bert Monroy's Time Square

Bert Monroy's Time Square.

Bert has been working on this hyper-realistic illustration for four years, and says he’s not quite done with it yet. It is the largest image he’s ever created, and it definitely pushed the boundaries of the software and hardware he had available to use. Every element has been meticulously created from scratch using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The 5 foot by 25 foot image is filled with the likenesses of Bert’s family, friends and scores of luminaries from the imaging and creative industry—including our very own Lynda Weinman, Bruce Heavin, Deke McClelland, David Blatner, Chris Murphy, and Colleen Wheeler.

Standing next to John Loiacono of Adobe are our own Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman.

A 25-foot light box was constructed to display the piece that has been printed on a new material being introduced by Epson called DisplayTrans Backlight Media that Bert helped develop. If you are in New York, you can get up close and the incredible detail for yourself by visiting the Epson booth at PhotoPlus Expo being held at the Javits Convention Center through Saturday, October 30, 2010. Alternatively, you can pan and zoom in on an online version of the piece.

Some interesting facts:

• The image size is 60 inches by 300 inches. • The flattened file weighs in at 6.52 gigabytes. • The painting is composed of almost 3,000 individual Photoshop and Illustrator files. • Taking a cumulative total of all the files, the overall image contains over 500,000 layers.

We are thrilled to also let you know that Bert will begin production on a Making of Time Square video course later this month, which is likely to be published early next year. Until then, you can find out more about the incredibly talented Bert by watching the Creative Inspirations documentary we published on him earlier this year.

By Michael Ninness | Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Avid dot-release for Media Composer 5 now available

Avid recently released an update to its popular Media Composer 5 video editing software that fixes several bugs, including:

1) Default Segment Mode setting The MC default for the timeline setting “Default Segment Tool” has been changed from overwrite to insert.

2) Copy/Paste Segment Mode fix When copy/pasting mark in/out with no segment tool active, the paste mode will no longer be the last used segment mode but the default segment mode. Most editors want to paste in insert mode so unless an editor changes the default (insert), MC will paste in insert mode. The only time MC will paste in overwrite is if the user has only the segment overwrite tool active when paste is executed, as in versions prior to 5.

3) Smart Tools auto selection bug A bug has been fixed that auto selected the default segment tool when an editor cut a marked in/out selection (Ctrl+X) with no segment tools active.

For information on how to obtain the patch, go to Avid’s support area on its site: http://www.avid.com/US/support/downloads/

If you are a brand new user of Avid Media Composer 5, be sure to check out our crash courseAvid Media Composer 5 Getting Started with Steve Holyhead. For a deeper dive, Avid Media Composer 5 Essential Training with Ashley Kennedy is also available.

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