IMPORTANT: This site has moved.

The Rules has now been folded into Iain's main blog. All this content and anything new from now on can be found in the tips category on the main site.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Batch Export from InDesign (to PDF/InDesign/EPS/etc.) 

If you've ever had a large number of documents to export from InDesign, you'll appreciate this script:

Batch Export from InDesign.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Issues with Final Cut Pro 7's Share feature 

The best way to work with Compressor is to create a QuickCluster with the Qmaster System Preferences pane. If you tick "Share" next to "Compressor" and assign one instance per core, then "Start Sharing", you should be set. Note that you may be able to start more instances than that, but be wary. My 4-core machine has 8 virtual threads, yet I can max the machine out with 4 instances.

So, all is well, right? Well, the new Final Cut Pro 7 has a "Share" feature which lets you keep working while Compressor does its thing in the background. (In FCP 6, if you sent directly to Compressor you had to wait for it to finish before you could continue work.) The problem is that FCP 7 doesn't let you send to a QuickCluster. (It tries, but fails. For me, and documented here too.) If you can't send to a QuickCluster, most of a Mac Pro's CPU power is sitting there unused: maybe 300% of the 800% (100% being one thread) is used. More CPU power (600%+) is used by QuickTime Player, for goodness' sake.

The solution, then, is to do exactly what you'd do under FCP 6. Ignore "Share". Don't "Send to Compressor". Just export a full resolution QuickTime movie and give that to Compressor yourself. You can continue working in FCP (just as you could in v6) and Compressor will use as much horsepower as you've got.

I'm a little mystified as to why Apple would cripple such an easy-to-use, obviously useful feature. Maybe the performance hit doesn't hurt so much on an iMac or MBP, but waiting while a Mac Pro sits even partly idle is just painful. Let's hope they add just a little sprinkling of Grand Central Dispatch multicore-goodness across the whole studio and make this all go away.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Green Screen Tests 

Hollywood Camera Work have kindly provided a series of free HD green screen plates, ideal to see if you really want to chase that future in compositing, to see how good you really are at keying, or to compare Final Cut's keyer to Motion's keyer, to AE's keyer, etc. Nice stuff.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Motion or After Effects? 

Short answer: Motion!

Sometimes I get a question about what Motion is like, from a user of After Effects. If that's you, I refer you to this, which is not quite an After Effects vs Motion article.

A few of the listed negatives of Motion (linked parameters, depth of field, shadows, reflections) have just been rectified in the latest update (Motion 4, in Final Cut Studio 3) so there's no excuse for not checking it out. Yes, After Effects has the users and the plug-in support, but if you use FCP, you've already got Motion. This is a little like the situation when InDesign started to come with Photoshop and Illustrator — it's free, it's at least as good as Quark, so why spend another $1000?

Motion integrates so well with Final Cut Pro I can't recommend building, for example, lower thirds with After Effects. Save anything from Motion as a template and you can access it from Generators within FCP, change the text in FCP, play back in realtime and render on final export. No need to manage separate render files and there's just a single file to change if the title template needs an update. Awesome.

While I freely admit I haven't done anything serious with After Effects in years now, I can do in Motion everything I used to do in AE and a whole lot more (text effects, FCP integration, particles, replicator) besides. There are a few things I'd like in the latest AE (3D models, Flash vector output) but they aren't essential to my workflow.

PLUG: Of course, if you're an FCP editor who doesn't have time to figure out how to use either program, just buy one of my templates from :)

Friday, 3 July 2009

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.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

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.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

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. :)

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