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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A rant about a new breed of graphic designers

Vector images are defined mathematically
Time for a ranty blog...

There seems to be an increasing trend for Graphic Designers to design logos in Photoshop...

Experienced designers know that a logo should be designed in a vector-based drawing package such as Adobe Illustrator - that way, the logo shape is defined as a series of mathematical shapes, and so can be scaled up to any size without loss of quality. The file size remains very small compared to a bitmap image.  A vector file can also be used with computer-controlled machines such as vinyl cutters for creating things like signage and branded clothing, or by motion graphics designers like me to extrude into 3D shapes.

A bitmap image becomes pixellated as you scale it up
It amazes me that some 'professional' graphic designers simply don't know the difference between vector and bitmap (or raster) graphics... If this is you, check out this good explanation on the BBC Bitesize GCSE revision website:

I'm guessing this new breed of designer is using Photoshop because it's easy to create something that looks 'glossy' by applying a few layer styles to add gradients, bevels and shadows.

Vectors can be used in 3D software
Many of these Photoshop designers seem to have forgotten (or never learned) one of the fundamental principles of logo design which is that the logo should work in monochrome (ie a single colour).

Don't get me wrong - Photoshop is great - there's nothing wrong with using Photoshop for the graphic design of posters etc when you want to add effects and blend layers together, but it's just not the right tool for creating the master design for a logo.

So please, if you're a graphic designer who automatically reaches for Photoshop when you need to design a logo, switch to Illustrator and create your master logo shape in there - it will serve you well!

Rant over :-)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Love U More

Well this is my first blog post since the beginning of July when I moved into my new office.

Since then I have been completely snowed under with work - I've created over 100 different logo animations in those three months along with loads of other bits and pieces!

Here's my most recent piece of work, a promotional video for Fierce Angel Records' latest release, "Love U More" by Oxford Hustlers and Katherine Ellis.

It was based on original artwork by Jason Cook.  Artwork like this is an absolute dream to animate and, being a fan of disco house music, it was a pleasure to work on!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Big Move

Three years ago I moved to Manchester from Somerset where I had spent most of my life.  I had a separate home and office, 11 miles apart, so my work and home life were kept separate.

When I moved to Manchester, I decided to intially work from home until I got to know the city and could choose a suitable office.  Then the recession came along!  So I did the sensible thing and continued working from home in case business took a dive.

The trouble with this is that I lost the division between my work and home life which slowly but surely takes its toll.  I definitely work more efficiently doing a strict 9 til 5 rather than letting work drift into the evening. 

Last week I finally made the move into a new office so I now have a separate work and home life again.  I can't tell you how good it feels to have that seperation back again!

The move went very smoothly - I hired a van (from Salford Van Hire - very good value no-nonsense service), and with the help of a friend and the very helpful caretaker at the office block we moved me in within a few hours.

My new home is Ducie House, close to Piccadilly Station in the north of the city, the complete opposite side to my home.  Ducie House is an old converted factory, and has been modernised with lots of frosted glass to give the 'old meets new' effect common in so many of Manchester's buildings.

It is home to a number of businesses, mainly in the creative sector which will hopefully provide some networking opportunities once I've got to know my fellow tennants!

Ducie House is unique in Manchester, in that it offers proper self-contained individual offices (not just divided off sections of a big room) which are semi-serviced, in that your electricity and heating are provided and you have shared kitchen facilities, but you are left to sort out your own phone line which means no need to join a slow shared broadband connection or have all your calls go through a central switchboard, which is common in serviced offices.

My first week was slightly marred by BT taking a week longer than expected to provide broadband (you don't realise just how much you rely on an internet connection until you lose it!), but other than that I'm very happy in my new home.

All that remains now is to decorate the office to make it feel a bit more homely.

I'll post some pictures once that's done!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Club Candy TV Review in Pro Mobile Magazine

This was a review of Club Candy TV written by Pro Mobile magazine.

Pro Mobile Magazine - Issue 40, Page 69.
Club Candy TV is produced by Phil Bearman; you may remember his name as some of his previous visuals
were reviewed back in issue 20 of Pro Mobile. The DVD features six professional dancers in six different scenes: Boogie Nights, Electro Grunge, Glam, Neon Nights, Superclub and Vectro Electro, each designed to complement a different musical genre. There is an extensive mix of backgrounds in each of the six scenes, including a wide range of disco light type effects, a city background, a nightclub, various cocktail glasses, and some giant shoes!

Each scene features four minutes of footage making the DVD 24 minutes long in total. The DVD was designed to be used by VJs to provide visuals for tunes for which they don'thave an accompanying music video. All the visuals are choreographed to a constant tempo of 125 BPM with a click-track allowing the visuals to be synchronised with music using a DVD player with speed control. The DVD also features MPEG2 and MPEG4 H.264 files on the same disc for those using VJ software. This DVD is definitely intended to be used in segments - although it will play all the way through, it is best suited for use in the place of a music video, rather than as continuous background visuals.

Used in the right context, both DVDs would be an asset to a mobile DJ's show. All the dancing and graphics they feature are very good and professionally produced. Although some people feel that visuals of this kind can detract from the music, I personally feel that if left looping all night they have the same kind of effect as 'Go-Go Dancers' had in yesteryear.

As mentioned before, to be able to synchronize the timing of the DVDs with the BPM of the music track you have playing you will either need a DVD player with pitch control, or VJ software that will enable manipulation of the video. Of course if you're a budding VJ, if you don't have one or the other of these already, they'll probably be high up on your gear shopping list. All in all these DVDs are a worthwhile investment, and although they are similar on the surface, subtle differences enable them to serve different
purposes within a mobile DJ's show.

* * * * 

You can view samples and buy Club Candy TV at

"The music goes really well"

I've lost count of the number of times that clients say to me "The music goes really well!" when I present them with an animation which has been choreographed to music.

What they perhaps don't realise is that actually it's the graphics that are going well with the music (not the other way around), and that is because I've painstakingly spotted all the 'cues' within the music (beats, bars and musical nuances) and made sure the motion coincides with those musical events. Not quite the happy coincidence it's often perceived to be!

This is why it's key to choose (and settle on) a piece of music before starting work on a project - it really does influence everything else in the process, and changing it further down the line will add a lot of time and therefore cost to the project.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Qualities of a Motion Graphics Designer

I recently did a Q & A with some college students to help with a project they were working on, and one of the questions was about what skills/qualities are required to do my job.

I thought my answers might be of interest to anyone looking to get in to Motion Graphics, so decided to post them here (these are in no particular order, and are by no means an exhaustive list)...

(NOTE: These aren't all essential skills for somebody starting in motion graphics design, just things which have been useful to me over the years, whether they were existing skills or things that I picked up along the way. )

  • Graphic Design Skills - I often decribe my job as being a 'graphic designer who makes things move'! It is essential to understand things like the difference between vector and bitmap (or raster) graphics, and the difference between CMYK and RGB. A basic knowledge of software such as Illustrator and Photoshop goes a long way. Understanding the basics of typography, colour and layout are also very important.

  • Understanding of how television/video works - it's very useful to understand things like frame rate, the differences between formats such as PAL and NTSC (and now HD formats), TV-safe margins, Broadcast colours etc - if you don't have this knowledge before you start, it should be one of the first things that you learn.

  • Observation of the world around you - particularly the way things move in the real world. Also, the 'imperfections' of the world, for example dirt and grime on objects, and the variation in nature.

  • Understanding of how light works - how white light is made up from Red, Green and Blue components, the way those colours mix and how light interacts with different surfaces.

  • Attention to detail - this is a key difference between an OK designer and a great designer! Humans are subconsciously very sensitive to how things appear - when you're trying to simulate reality it's the small details that will really make it convincing.

  • Understanding of 3D - knowing how X, Y and Z positioning and rotation work

  • Musical Knowledge -synchronising motion and events to music is an essential part of being a motion graphics designer. It's really helpful to have an understanding of how music is structured and an ear for the subtle nuances in music which can act as cues for motion. If you're a freelancer or work for a small company you can often find yourself needing to edit pieces of music to fit a particular purpose - understanding how beats and bars work is essential in this situation.

  • Mathematics / Computer Programming - Motion Graphics software such as After Effects allows you to control parameters mathematically using 'expressions' which can be a huge timesaver if you know how to use it. As a simple example, you could create a wave motion by using a Sine curve to control position, rather than having to create dozens of keyframes.

  • Thirst for knowledge / research skills - Often it is necessary to research a subject yourself, and it's important that you can research efficiently and accurately.

  • Workaholic attitude - Near-impossible deadlines go hand-in-hand with this profession, no matter which sector you work in, and working long days is a regular occurance!

  • Understanding the fundamentals of computers and files - professional motion graphics software is not designed in the same way as office software like Microsoft Word where there are Wizards and Assistants popping up all over the place to help you along your way! You particularly need to understand things like file types & extensions and file sizes.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Geek update

I've just splashed out on a new workstation, as my 'youngest' was a three year old Athlon dual core machine that was struggling a bit with CS4 and the increasing complexity of projects that I'm working on.

I spent all of last weekend carrying out a major operation to get the new computer installed, and shuffle everything around in order to retire my oldest 'admin' PC which is 5 years old.

For anyone who's interested, the spec of the new machine is as follows:

Processor: Intel Core i7 Processor i7-930 (2.80GHz)
Memory: 12GB CORSAIR XMS3 TRI-DDR3 1333MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P6T WS Professional
OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
Storage: 1 x 250Gb for OS etc, 4 x 1TB configured as 2 x 2TB RAID-0 drives for video storage
Graphics Card: PNY Quadro FX580 512MB GDDR3

It's running like a dream! Rendering is at least 4 times faster than my other workstation.

This is also the first time I've used Windows 7 and I really like it. (Thankfully I missed out Vista altogether!).