Dreamweaver: Tips and Tricks!

Over the past couple of weeks, I have spent some time in Adobe’s Dreamweaver crafting my first websites.

It has certainly been a crazy learning experience!  This program can do so much and I am quite sure there is no way that any person could learn everything it can do in a classroom setting — I think it’s all about trial and error and working on your own to truly find out what this program can do.

I have put together a list of some (what I find to be) helpful tips and tricks that I have discovered: whether it be by accident, through my reading of design blogs online, as well as reading of my textbook.

 

  1. This one is simple: make sure that the “view” you are working with is “Live View”.  This window will split the Dreamweaver screen into two parts — one will be the window that you type the code into, and the other screen will show you what your website will look like!  Very cool feature and is a must-use.
  2. Live View’s best friend; Live Code.  This feature will update your code automatically as you click, drag & drop, and interact with the elements in the Live View window.  Love this one!
  3. Just another reason to just bite the bullet and pay the money for Creative Cloud:  all of the typefaces that we have access to with Dreamweaver!  The great thing about this is that there are so many options, and as a member of Creative Cloud, we can use the fonts and not worry about copyright infringement issues if we use those fonts.  (Of course, double check and make sure that there are no restrictions on the font in the way that we can use it, but the options are still pretty great with Creative Cloud).
  4. No matter how much we (as designers) will try to smartly name our files; sometimes it can get confusing when we are dealing with a lot of pictures.  Well, an awesome feature of Dreamweaver is that it will create a pop-up thumbnail for any <img src> attribute.  There is no question what picture you’re working with when you’re only looking at the code.
  5. Naturally, Dreamweaver works wonderfully well with Photoshop.  It is nice to display images on websites in different shapes than just the typical rectangle that we work with in Photoshop.  Instead of using a mask in Photoshop to change the shape of the image — we can do the same thing in Dreamweaver!  Under the insert panel, there is a component that allows us to insert a special class, like ing-circle to the <img> tag.  This is much easier than going back into Photoshop and adjusting the image.

These are just a few things that I have discovered that I like!  This list is (of course) changes each day as I learn more about Dreamweaver.  Good luck and happy designing!

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What IS Rendering?

If you have even just a little bit of experience with or knowledge of video or 3D/animation production, you are familiar with the process of rendering.

I have had some exposure of and experience with rendering recently, but the more I work with After Effects and render out footage the more I wanted to better understand what exactly  is happening when I wait for hours for the footage to fully render.  I did a little bit of research and I what I found certainly helped me to better understand this whole process.

The process of rendering is by far the most technically complex aspect of 3D production, but like many complicated processes, I find it easy to comprehend in the context of an analogy:  just like a [film] photographer must develop and print photos before they can be viewed, graphic designers that work in the 3D realm must also ‘develop’ their footage before it can be viewed.

When a designer works on a 3D scene, the model they are working on is actually a mathematical representation of points and surfaces.  The term rendering refers to the calculations that are performed by a 3D software package’s render engine to translate the scene from a mathematical configuration to a finalized 2D image.  During this entire process, the scene’s spatial, textural, and lighting information are combined to determine the color value of each pixel in the flattened image.

How the computer mathematically does all this work is truthfully beyond the power of my brain to comprehend, but without getting into extreme detail (as well as delving into things I don’t even understand), this is how rendering works!  I find it fascinating that our computers and the programs that we use every day are able to accomplish these complicated tasks.  I also love that I don’t have to fully comprehend everything that goes into making the rendering process work, but I am still able to use and benefit from it!

Animation Studios + 3D Printing

When I discovered 3D printing, my mind was pretty much blown (which I think it is safe to say is the reaction that most people have when they discover the magic behind 3D printing).

An industry that has benefited from the use of 3D printers is the movie industry.  I recently read an article that discussed the animation studio LAIKA that relies on using the software and 3D printing hardware to make its films.  With recent improvements on the technology that the [really good] 3D printers use, LAIKA has the ability to print thousands of precise colors and subtle gradients in plastic, which achieves color accuracy that has not been accomplished with 3D printing before now.

The way in which LAIKA most utilizes the 3D printer for their films is pretty simple in concept:  faces.  LAIKA’s designers produce the puppets’ (they produce stop-motion animated films) faces, and they the 3D printer is used to print literally tens of thousands of slightly different facial expressions for each character that is utilized during filming.

LAIKA actually pioneered this specific technique on their first film Coraline and they have continued to continually change things up with each film that they have produced.

3D technology is amazing and is constantly changing, and it has produced incredible applications to so many industries including film.  I cannot wait to see where this technology goes in just the next few years!

Animation in Disney’s Moana

While I have always been a pretty big fan of animated movies, I am pretty new to to the animation “scene” as far as beginning to understand what actually goes into making one of these masterpieces.

I have been reading a fair amount of articles that discuss Disney’s newest adventure in animation.  Every single review that I have read about the movie says that Moana is not only visually breathtaking; it is one of the best animated films they have ever seen.

From what I have read, the amazement that comes from watching this film comes from a few factors.  I have read that nearly every frame of each scene in the movie was beautifully animated and rendered so well that the textures, hair, fabric, water and lighting make each scene seem all too realistic. Even from the short “bursts” of scenes that I have scene in previews, I can say that this observation is certainly true.

I think that with the deep history that Disney has cultivated with animated films, this is definitely saying something.  Disney has literally defined for generations what an animated film experience should look like.  Because each film that Disney has cranked out has consistently been better than the previous ones, they have set an almost ridiculous bar height for them to soar over.  Audiences go into these animated films just expecting to be blown away, and I have to say that I am in this crowd as well.  I am always blown away by not only the great experiences I have when watching one of Disney’s animated films, but also by how far technology has come even in just the past few years.  Animators have to stay on top of the ever-so-quickly changing technology, and now having nearly completed an introductory class to animation, I can begin to understand what a feat it is for an animated film to be made; especially for it to be a good one!

I can almost not wait to get to the theater and see Disney’s newest gem, Moana.

Technology Review: Amazon’s Echo

Well, it’s finally happened.  Amazon’s star, the Echo has gotten even smarter.

Even though Amazon released Echo; the hands-free personal assistant disguised as a speaker a couple of years ago, it still remains incredibly popular and a very cool piece of technology.

To put it simply, Echo is a hands free speaker that is entirely controlled by the user’s voice.  Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service (users may refer to their own echo simply as “Alexa”) to access any information the user could possibly want to know.

Here are some of my favorite things that Alexa can do:

  • Stream music:  Alexa can play a song, artist, album, playlist or genre from the Amazon Prime Music Library.  She is also able to access services such as Pandora and Spotify, as well as Internet radio sites such as iHeartRadio.
  • Read the headlines:  Alexa can not only stream your local news from over the Internet; she can compile a “news brief” of headlines and audio clips of news outlets of your choice.  Just ask Alexa and she’ll do it.
  • Set timers and alarms: setting a wake-up alarm for each morning or a timer for the banana bread that’s in the oven is not a problem for Alexa.
  • Answer general questions: Alexa is able to look up basic facts, solve math problems, converse with you, and she is even quite skilled at telling jokes.  The more you talk to Alexa, the more she will learn about you and adapt to your speech patterns.
  • Control your smart home: Alexa has the capability to control light bulbs, switches, thermostats — pretty much everything.  As long as the smart home technology is paired up with the user’s mobile devices, she’ll be able to control it at their command.

Now for the updates.  Since the Echo was released a couple of years ago, the artificial intelligence has only continued to develop and mature.  Developers have created add-ons for Alexa, which are referred to as “skills” (pretty much apps that can be downloaded to Alexa to teach her even more new tricks).  Alexa is now able to call the user an Uber, order a pizza, and make Capital One credit card payments.  Over the weekend, Amazon announced that Alexa’s new downloadable skills have reached over 1,000!  This past January, Alexa’s skills section had just over 130 apps.  That’s pretty incredible growth.

I will say that I am incredibly impressed with Alexa and all that she can do, and I just might buy one if I weren’t (a little more than) slightly scared by all the technology and access to information she possesses!  Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that we live in a time where we can talk to a smart speaker in our home and it can give us essentially any bit of information that we could want to know.  We are literally living in a Science Fiction movie.

Regardless of how scary I might find this technology, this is the world we live in and I am excited to see how Alexa’s technology develops and what Amazon comes up with next.