Dreamweaver for Web Design

As I don’t seem to have given this a permanent home, here’s the training manual that I wrote/edited on web design:

Dreamweaver for Web Design

The CSS section is a little thinner than I’d like, but at the end of the book there are many links to useful sites to close that gap.

So you want to mock up an iPhone application design

This may be a cool set of Photoshop widgets, but if you’re considering using them, please consider using the Interface Builder app that comes with the iPhone SDK. All free, and it’s the actual tool that real iPhone developers use to build interfaces.

Extending an element is as easy as dragging it out; adding another icon to a toolbar automatically redistributes the others. Everything auto-snaps to build a GUI that follows Apple guidelines — it’s easier than Photoshop!

Just as designing a website in Photoshop gives you very little insight into how a website is actually built, designing an iPhone app in Photoshop is not going to help you understand how that’s going to work either. Interface Builder can be daunting, but for mockups it’s dead easy:

1. File > New… and make a new Cocoa Touch application.
2. Window > Library and drag objects into the window.
3. Double-click on buttons to change their text.
4. Window > Inspector and use the first section (Attributes) to change colours/styles if needed.
5. When you’re done, File > Simulate Interface and it’ll appear in the iPhone Simulator.
6. Command-shift-4, then press space. Click on the simulator to grab a pixel-accurate screenshot of your iPhone app, with shadow.

Photoshop Shortcuts

Photoshop Secret Shortcuts has done a decent job of listing many of the non-menu shortcuts in Photoshop. Here are a few more.

You probably know that command-[ and ] move a layer up and down in the stacking order — and it’s in the menus. However, option-[ and ], while you have a single layer selected, moves your selection (not the layer!) up and down. Handy in recorded actions when you don’t know the name of the layer you want to select.

Another: backslash makes the current layer mask visible as a rubylith, like a Quick Mask.

Two other techniques, not just shortcuts:

When you’re painting a mask, set the Dodge tool to work only on Highlights and the Burn tool to work only on Shadows. That way you can paint straight over edges to sharpen them up, without destroying them.

If you ever need to fill text with your own painting, don’t rasterize the text! Instead, create a new layer above the text and use Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Why Photoshop doesn’t do this for you (instead of admonishing you) I just don’t know.

Plug: I teach a Photoshop Masterclass at Next Byte Charlotte St in Brisbane. You’re welcome to come along. 🙂

Colour Gamut

One reason it’s a good idea to edit in a colour space with a larger gamut than your target space is that your colour adjustments will have greater fidelity. If you limit your working space early, your colour adjustments and retouching work will be artificially limited, and in some cases this can cause banding. For example, if you adjust contrast by stretching the colours in a small range out to a larger range (as in Levels) then using 16-bit with ProPhoto gives you more information to stretch out, and therefore better quality. Think of colour fidelity as similar to image resolution.

Working with a larger gamut up-front also gives you more options later. In ten years, when we have better quality monitors, all the sRGB images will look flat compared to ProPhoto RGB images. The same applies now if you print to a higher-quality printer. Many layout artists have historically worked directly in CMYK (even less gamut than sRGB) space, but again, this is a device space, not a working space. If you try to print a CMYK image on a 6-color printer or show it on screen, it looks flat. Stick with a higher gamut (like Adobe RGB or better) for as long as you can.

Also remember that dynamic range is one of the important things that you get when you buy professional equipment. You’re not going to get truly good results out of any kind of cameraphone, for example.

How big are your users’ screens?

Building a web site? One important question, if you’re developing (as most do) to a fixed pixel size, is how big your users’ screens are. Not just the average user, either; you should keep at least 95% of your potential audience happy. Even 1% of visitors annoyed is a risk: are they the ones deciding if they’re going to buy or recommend your product? If you exclude Mac users, for example, you’re missing out on a vocal population of important bloggers and pundits.

It’s happened to me. In the late 90s I designed a multimedia project called Xstream to use an 800×600 screen, using Director. Of course, the one guy with a 640×480 screen was the guy who had to approve the thing.

So, how big are their screens? Well, it’s not even that simple. On Windows, most users browse at full screen. On Mac, few do; the multi-window philosophy has been around too long. As screens get larger and full-screen browsing becomes less practical, browser sizes will become less predictable.

OK, enough waffle. Pretty, interactive distribution graphs for browser width and height from Foldspy. EDIT: Sadly, this site has expired.

The bottom line? If you want to please 95% of the global audience, your core content should fit within 787×423 pixels without scrolling. Not scary enough? Only about 50% of the audience can see more than 600 pixels vertically or around 1024 pixels horizontally at once.

Lastly, bear in mind the iPhone’s variable sizing and lack of Flash support. It’s going to be big and you don’t want to be left out.

Illustrator Kaleidoscope Tricks

Wow. Found here, a great trick, if a little uncontrollable. Start drawing a shape, say an arc or an ellipse. While the mouse button is down, keep dragging around and press ` (grave, under tilde, next to 1). Many shapes ensue.

If that’s a bit random for you, create a shape, then apply Effect > Distort and Transform > Transform, rotate by 12°, 14 copies. Click the New button in the Graphic Styles panel to save that as a graphic style. You’ll want a variation with 29 copies for asymmetrical objects or with 20 for something random in-between. Enjoy!

InDesign Tips and Tricks

Adobe InDesign is a deep, rich application with a great many hidden and not-so-obvious features. It can even do some things with vectors that Illustrator can’t. I’ve been teaching it (plus other Adobe and Apple apps) for a few years now, and I was asked to present at the recent meeting of the locaI InDesign User Group.

Here’s the PDF from my InDesign Tips and Tricks presentation, with many pages of tips from all over the web, from other trainers and ones I found myself. If something’s not clear from the pictures plus the notes, give it a Google or add a comment here.

Also here: the Table Transposition script referenced in the PDF and on the night. It exchanges rows and columns in the first table in a selected text box. To install, expand into the “Scripts Panel” folder in the “Scripts” folder next to the InDesign application, then find it in Window > Automation > Scripts. Works with CS2 and CS3 on Mac and PC.

External Hard Drive Data Rates

Just a quick post on comparative speeds of various ports. The received (incorrect) wisdom in much of the PC world is that USB2 is faster than FireWire, because 480 Mbps is faster than 400 Mbps. However, potential maximum speed isn’t the whole story. Because USB is a host-controlled bus, the CPU has to manage the data transfer while FireWire manages itself. Some good transfer rate/CPU requirements are found on this page.

Data for a Western Digital My Book Studio 500GB external drive with FW800, eSATA and USB connections; FW400 speeds are taken using a 9-pin (FW800) to 6-pin (FW400) cable:

USB2 averaged 29.0 MB/sec (15.0% CPU)
FW400 averaged 37.9 MB/sec (2.1% CPU)
FW800 averaged 61.5 MB/sec (3.7% CPU)

These numbers were (apparently) taken on a PC and historically USB2 has not been great on the Mac. Not sure if it has improved recently, but USB is always the poorest performer on a Mac. Probably more important is that you can daisy-chain one FireWire drive from another, so a single FireWire port can take as many drives as you care to throw at it. USB drives can’t do this, so you’ll need some powered hubs to connect many drives.

DV/HDV has lower data rate requirements than any of these ports should provide (~4MB/sec), but your minimum speed can never drop below the rate the video is arriving or you’ll get dropped frames and likely an aborted capture. On the flipside is that some people report dropped frame problems with some Canon cameras and FW800 drives. I’ve had no issues capturing from my HV20 to my My Book Studio 1GB through FW800, but your mileage could vary.

HV20 (PAL) 1080p25 workflow solution

Short version:

To use the HV20 in progressive mode, use the HDV1080p25 Easy Setup, but before you edit, change field dominance of all captured clips to “None”.

Loooong version:

I have a Canon HV20 (PAL version). It can shoot progressive scan footage (1080p25) but it stores it in an interlaced video stream (1080i50). Note that there’s no pulldown involved, and that the footage looks great without any processing.

There are several different flavours of progressive footage out there; Canon calls this one 25PF as opposed to 25F on some of their other cameras. The process is very different for NTSC frame rates going to 1080p24, which involves external programs and additional processing stages. PAL’s 25p workflow is easy by comparison but issues remain in Final Cut Pro.

The issues stem from the fact that Final Cut Pro doesn’t treat this footage as progressive material. Progressive-as-interlaced footage is OK for broadcast and delivery, but during post production, ugly interlacing artifacts can be introduced, for transitions and speed changes in particular. A horizontal push slide transition is probably the quickest way to see interlacing artifacts.

So, how can we treat this footage as true progressive material? Natively, it’s only possible to capture this footage as 1080i50. Changing the Easy Setup to 1080p25 doesn’t change the capture preset, only the device control preset and the Edit to tape/PTV output video settings. Footage is captured in 1080i50 with Upper field dominance.

It’s tempting to simply create a progressive (field dominance: none) sequence and add the footage. However, Final Cut simply field-doubles the existing “progressive-as-interlaced” footage. FCP thinks the original footage is interlaced, and as the manual says: “Interlaced clips added to a progressive sequence are deinterlaced during playback.” (III-688).

Here are some screenshots showing the field doubling:

field-doubled screenshot

true progressive screenshot

Note that it doesn’t matter what codec the sequence uses — HDV 1080i50, HDV 1080p25 or ProRes 422 1440x1080p — field doubling will occur and can be easily seen at 100% in the Canvas. This occurs with luminance and is not an artifact of the low chroma resolution inherent to HDV and DV footage, nor of RT Extreme.

Finally, a solution:

1. Select your HDV clip(s) in the browser.

2. Scroll along to the field dominance column.

3. Control-click in one of the selected items where it says “Upper” and choose “None” from the popup.

If you now put one of these clips into a new ProRes 422 1440×1080 25p sequence, all will be well. No field doubling and the resulting movie can be exported directly to an HDV 1080i50 sequence if required.


1. This doesn’t work when “field dominance: none” clips are inserted directly into an HDV 1080p25 progressive sequence — field doubling still occurs. [EDIT: Nope, HDV 1080p25 works fine as a codec. My fault. Scratch this.]

2. If you nest the ProRes progressive sequence directly into an HDV 1080i50 sequence, the interlacing lines will return.

3. Affiliate clips already in sequences are not affected by the field order change on the master clip, so every clip already in a sequence needs to be adjusted. You need to play the movie, not just move to a different frame, to update the image. This can be a tedious process via Item Properties.

There seems to be another field doubling issue when resizing HDV footage to SD DV. This is (likely) due to field order problems. Solution: if you export the ProRes sequence, you can import the resulting QuickTime movie into a DV sequence with no field doubling issues. Inserting the intermediate ProRes progressive sequence directly into a DV sequence will produce field doubling unless the DV sequence is also set to progressive.

So, it’s possible to find a good workflow, but not as easy as it should be. Ideally, it would be possible to remove the field doubling de-interlacing effect in the same way that you can remove the field order filter. A capture preset that automatically sets field dominance would be valuable too.

Any feedback welcome — and please tell me if I’ve missed something, basic or otherwise. Note, if you’re in the US with an NTSC HV20, you can shoot 24p in a 30i stream, but the process is quite different. Look at 1080p24 from HV20 (NTSC) workflow for starters.