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by Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, HBO, PBS, and TLC; in opening titles for several movies including Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley; at trade shows and press events for corporate clients ranging from Apple to Xerox; and in special venues encompassing IMAX, CircleVision, the NBC AstroVision sign in Times Square, and the four-block-long Fremont...

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External Drive Cables

Shoot the messenger...with contact cleaning fluid.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 31, 2008

While on the subject of external disk drives (see the previous post on LaCie power supply issues), problems with data corruption are also often caused by drive cables. There's a few ways to cure them.The most obvious problem is a bad cable. The free cables that come bundled with drives are often chosen because they're the cheapest, not because they're the best. For mission-critical applications, we like cables from Granite Digital. They were pioneers of higher-quality cable in the SCSI days, and we feel comfortable continuing to use them with FireWire.Before you rush out and buy new cables though, there's a chance they're not bad - they just live in a bad neighborhood. Make sure you route all of your cables away from any power supplies. Those "wall warts" and "power lumps" create electromagnetic interference which can corrupt the data signal. Also make sure your cables are passing along all the signal they possibly can. Applying a common audiophile technique to computers, we always apply contact cleaner to the connectors on drives or computer cards when we install them. Something as simple as "TV Tuner cleaner" from your local Radio Shack may help. We personally prefer the CAIG DeoxIT products, available from places such as Amazon and Markertek. These cured many a drive problem for us back in the bad old days of SCSI drives.The content contained in our books, videos, blogs, and articles for other sites are all copyright Crish Design, except where otherwise attributed. Read More

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LaCie Power Supply Tips

Drooping voltages may cause drive failures.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 31, 2008

We own several of the LaCie Big Disk Extreme external hard drives (view on Amazon), which is part of their "d2" line. They provide RAID 0 speed in a very quiet enclosure, which is important to us. We use the FireWire 800 interface, which we find to be faster than internal SATA in many cases.However, others have reported problems with these drives failing. One problem is no doubt heat. These drives are tightly packed with a small fan, so they're going to need a little help to keep them cool. This means try to place them with good airflow all around, and not buried inside a hot enclosed space. We tend to place them on the back sides of our desk (again, to further buffer the noise, but also to get them away from the hot computer), and run their FireWire and power supply cables out under the desk to them.Another problem has been pinpointed by fellow user Danny Grizzle. He has found that LaCie's d2 and Big Disk drives can have an issue with their power supplies. They supply 12 volt and 5 volt lines to the drive. However, the 5 volt line may drop in voltage with age. If it drops too far, the drive will become increasingly unreliable until the drive eventually dies. Read More

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Free 7-day Passes for lynda.com

We've been dipping a toe in the online training world...

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 30, 2008

Sorry for the blatant plug, but there's a payoff: A free week of as much online video training as you can watch! We've been getting into creating online video training, focusing on specific topics and techniques rather than creating long-form courses (that's what our books are for). Our current titles are available either pay-as-you-go through Toolfarm or to subscribers of the lynda.com Online Training Library. If you're not currently a lynda.com subscriber, and are curious to check them out before signing up, you can try them out for free for seven days by clicking here. Feel free to pass this link around. In addition to After Effects, they offer training on a variety of 3D, DVD authoring, NLE, and business applications - even tutorials on operating systems. For those who are considering creating their own tutorials that they'd like to make money off of, we've been testing the waters for the past year trying out a couple pay-as-you-go services in addition to lynda.com's subscription model, and - with all due respect to the excellent folks at Toolfarm and other places - lynda.com has been the hands-down winner from the content creator side. We've found them to be a great company to work with, and we plan to be doing a lot more with them in the future. We'll keep you apprised as we release more titles, or if our opinion changes. Read More

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Motion 3 = 3D

This significant update to Apple Motion includes a slick 3D implementation.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | July 08, 2007

Motion 3 - part of Apple's Final Cut Studio 2 suite - has experienced a major update, including the addition of motion tracking and stabilization, optical flow (smooth slow motion) technology, a gorgeous particle-based paint system, enhancements to their Keyframe Editor, and interesting new Audio Parameter and Retiming behaviors. But the big headliner is the addition of 3D space - including 3D animation for 2D layers, 3D cameras and lights, and 3D enhancements for their particle and text animation systems. Read More

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The Shape of Things to Come: Shape Layers Introduction

An overview of Shape Layers in Adobe After Effects CS3 Professional.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | May 01, 2007

For motion graphics artists, one of the most significant new features introduced in After Effects CS3 was Shape Layers. This feature brings important components of Adobe Illustrator into After Effects, and allows them to be animated. Read More

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Brighter Whites; Richer Colors Part 2: sRGB

Brighter Whites; Richer Colors Part 2: sRGB

How to best incorporate digital photos into your After Effects projects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 02, 2006

The first image (a digital photo originally saved with an sRGB color profile) has not been corrected; the second image has. Although the difference is subtle, the uncorrected image looks a bit washed out compared to how it should really appear.

In the last column, we discussed the time-honored headache of managing different video luminance ranges, and how After Effects 7 has made this a little easier to deal with. In this column, we cover an even more common problem with color space issues: working with digital photos or scans that have been saved in the sRGB color space. Read More

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Brighter Whites; Richer Colors, Part 1: 16-235

Two new features in After Effects 7 ease color-critical format conversion.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | September 01, 2006

Footage that imports into After Effects with its internal "601" luminance levels intact (left) looks washed out compared to how it really should look (right). Footage courtesy Isuzu and Perception Communications.

Have you ever received washed-out images from a client - or even yourself? Did you just let it slide ("well, that's the way they shot it"), or cursed them for making you lose more sleep as you tried to make it look better? Well, we have two bits of news for you. One, the fault may not be in the footage, but in the way you've been handling it. Two, in Adobe After Effects 7, it's now easier to handle it the right way. In this column, we'll talk about video and the infamous luminance range issue; in the next column, we'll turn our attention to still images and sRGB color space. Read More

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Effective Sound Effects

Using sound effects libraries to add spice to your music - as well as cover up problems.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | August 19, 2006

 

When start composing a song, I'm not interested in only the notes and beats; I'm even more interested in the mood I'll be creating. And as a person who relies heavily on loops to compose my music, I'm also interested in how I will set this piece apart from those others might create with the same core loops. To help set a mood while adding an original flare, I regularly rely on a large sound effects (SFX) collection in addition to my normal sample CDs. I use these both as features of the final piece, and as band aids to cover up the bits I don't want a listener to hear. When presented with the hundreds or thousands of sounds in a typical SFX library, it's easy to become overwhelmed. To make it easier to parse the sounds as well as what I might use them for, I typically group them into roughly four categories - hits, events, ambiences, and rhythmic sounds. Here are some ideas on how to use these various types of sounds in a composition. Read More

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Camera Control, Part 2: Graph Editor & Dolly Rigs

Using parenting, expressions, and the new After Effects 7.0 Graph Editor to better control a 3D camera.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 28, 2006

In the previous column, we discussed a handful of tricks and techniques which can be used in different situations to make it easier to animate the 3D camera in After Effects, including one node cameras, two node cameras, auto-orientation, and building a special orbiting camera rig using parenting and null objects. In this column we'll show how to build a "dolly" rig for the camera in older versions of After Effects as well as the new version 7.0, plus give a quick introduction to the new Graph Editor also introduced in After Effects 7.0. Read More

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Camera Control, Part 1: Auto-Orient & Orbit

Some basic 3D camera control tricks in Adobe After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 09, 2006

One of the most daunting obstacles for motion graphics artists making the transition from 2D to 3D is animating the camera. In this month's column, we'll give a quick review of the two basic camera types you can animate in After Effects, plus reveal the easy-to-miss Auto-Orient Along Path option. Then we'll show you how to build a simple "camera rig" for performing perfect camera orbit and spiral moves. In the next column, we will discuss approaches to building a more complex rig that allows the user to animate each axis independently, and show how this has been made much easier in After Effects 7.0 with a special Animation Preset plus the introduction of a new Graph Editor. Read More

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Map Exploration

Exploring ways to direct a viewer around a map using effects, text animators, and other tricks using Adobe After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 08, 2005

A common task is navigating around a map-like image. In this column, we'll discuss three different approaches to this challenge: stroking a line, animating text elements along a path, and auto-orienting an object of your choosing along a path. These techniques use features that are spread around Adobe After Effects. Our goal is to pull them together for you, and show the different approaches and options. We'll be assuming a basic working knowledge of the program; you can also download and explore our final After Effects project (created for AE 6.5 and later) by clicking here (12.5 MB .zip file). Movies of the three techniques are included with the download. Read More

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The Hi-Def Checklist

Questions to ask and issues to consider when you tackle a high-definition graphics job.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | September 16, 2005

The darker areas to the left and right of these images show what happens when a 16:9 image is "center cut" to create a 4:3 version. Make sure information such as lower thirds survive this cut. Image courtesy Belief and HGTV.

Many motion graphics artists are tackling their first high-definition jobs. In some respects, hi-def is just like normal video; only larger. However, hi-def also comes with a number of issues which can throw some major curves at you. As with all problems in waiting, it's best to solve them before you start, rather than when you think you're almost finished. Here are a series of questions you need to ask, and what the implications are - both technical and artistic - of the answers you may get. Read More

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Visual Rhythm, Part 2: Motion & Cinema Tricks

Tricks in Motion and Cinema 4D for coordinating multiple, duplicate objects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | August 01, 2005

In the previous column, we detailed a number of techniques for animating multiple layers in Adobe After Effects. In this column, we turn our attention to Apple's Motion and Maxon's Cinema 4D. Read More

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Visual Rhythm, Part 1: After Effects Tricks

Techniques for easily creating and coordinating multiple objects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | July 05, 2005

Rhythm - repetition, with variation - is the backbone of many pieces of fine art, as well as motion graphic designs. However, it can be tedious to create and animate hordes of layers - and tedium is not a ticket to inspiration. In the next two columns, we'll discuss approaches to more easily creating visual rhythm. In this column we'll start with techniques that can be executed inside Adobe After Effects; in the next column we'll discuss alternate tools such as Apple Motion and Maxon Cinema 4D. Read More

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Motion + MIDI

Adding a new level of control to crafting motion graphics.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | July 01, 2005

An intriguing feature introduced in version 2 of Apple's Motion Apple's Motion is the ability to control it via MIDI: the Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This allows users to choose among a wide variety of third-party input devices to edit parameters in Motion - such as scale, opacity, rotation, or most effect parameters - either while parked on a still frame, or while previewing in real time. The user's gestures can also be recorded in real time, allowing you to "perform" parameter edits, reacting to the video or soundtrack. This capability has also caught the attention of the VJ (video jockey) market, giving them another tool to perform video transformations in real time. Read More

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The Almost Perfect Font

The Almost Perfect Font

What to do when the client loves your font choice, but asks could you just change one character?

By Chris and Trish Meyer | April 06, 2005

The LoveLetter Typewriter font had a few characters that were difficult to read (top line) until they were modified (lower line).

When planning a new project, the font you choose can lift a design to a new level, or add an all-important attitude. So when you've spent hours picking a font that the client agrees is "just perfect," panic can set in when they object to a couple of characters as being too weird or difficult to read. The more high profile the job, the fussier the client will be; after all, if they've paid millions to open their movie with the name "Zellweger," the Z better look good! Rather than picking a different font and possibly disrupting the schedule, an hour spent editing the troublesome characters can save the day. Read More

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Straight Advice on Loop-Based Music

Tips on creating better scores with loop-based composition software.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | December 20, 2004

For many years now, artists have been creating music using loops - musical phrases that can be repeated or strung together as building blocks of a song. This technique opened music creation to a large number of artists who may not be musicians themselves, but who had strong musical ideas: they could arrange these blocks into new compositions of their own without having to play all the instruments. We're not talking just hip-hop or dance music, or phrases "sampled" from other songs; this movement is supported by literally hundreds of fully-legal copyright-clean dedicated loop libraries available from musicians and producers in every genre you can imagine. Read More

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A Different Light: Gamma-Corrected Compositing

A simple introduction to gamma-corrected compositing.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 30, 2004

The image on the left is a normal computer crossfade; the image on the right uses linear blending - note how the bright areas are emphasized. Footage courtesy Artbeats.

Most of us have been navigating the waters of computer graphics with the assumption that the world is flat. And it's remarkable how well we've done with this fundamentally flawed assumption. However, some of you may have heard whisperings that the world is actually round - often couched in terms of how important it is to understand the subject of gamma, and to composite within a "linear light" model. Read More

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An Old Friend Returns: CC Effects

The Cycore CC effects that come bundled free with After Effects are an evolution of one of the original plug-in sets for AE.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | September 03, 2004

One of the stars of the Cycore FX set is CC Particle World, a 3D particle system that includes features such as bouncing off an imaginary floor.

When you install Adobe After Effects 6.5 or later, it's easy to miss all the goodies it comes bundled with, such as Color Finesse from Synthetic Aperture and the world-class keyer Keylight from The Foundry. But the inner child in many of us is perhaps most excited by the inclusion of Cycore FX. Read More

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Managing Moving Masks

Bringing some predictability and control to animating Mask Shapes in After Effects.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | November 05, 2003

In After Effects, each mask vertex (the yellow squares) interpolates in a straight line from old to new positions. The red lines illustrate some of these paths. The First Vertex is the largest box - in this case, the one in the upper left corner of the M and I.

Masking is one of the core features of After Effects. Most know how to create and edit Mask Shapes; fewer how to control the way these shapes animate - which is important, especially with the popularity of creating cel or Flash type animations these days.After Effects can seem to have a twisted mind of its own when interpolating between two different Mask Shapes. In reality, it has a very narrow, simple mind. However, there are some tricks you can employ to coax it down a path closer to the one you want. When you need even more precise control, you can employ the Smart Mask Interpolation keyframe assistant, included in the Professional edition of After Effects (including CS3 Professional). Read More

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