All posts by Jeremy Schultz

BOOK REVIEW: Joe McNally’s Sketching Light

Sketching Light cover

Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash is the third of photographer Joe McNally’s books that I’ve reviewed, and I never really grow tired of reading his stories. The quality of his storytelling and the depth of knowledge he has gained from years in the field is what makes his books so interesting, and Sketching Light is no different.

As you can gather from the title, Sketching Light focuses on using flash in photography and there are a variety of stories about the topic. Unlike The Art of Photographic Lighting, which I just reviewed, Joe’s chapters are full of text, intriguing and imaginative photography, and a lot of storytelling. All this is on top of technical details supported by first-hand field experience. The book really is an awesome read, and I’d recommend it to any professional photographer. (Amateurs and prosumers will enjoy it too, but Joe’s writing as a professional and some material just doesn’t apply to what they are shooting.)

I was also inspired by some of Sketching Light that did not really pertain to lighting. Joe works with a lot of models and subjects and he writes quite a bit about working with people. There’s also a section, “How Do You Get Fired from LIFE?”, that I was particularly interested in because I grew up reading LIFE magazine in the 1990s and surely saw Joe’s work without knowing it. He doesn’t even mention lighting in this section; instead, the section is about the actual value of accolades and how temporary the perfect gig can be.

There’s a couple criticisms I want to make about Sketching Light. Joe has published three highly-regarded books now, and I think the content is starting to sound the same. The previous book, The Hot Shoe Diaries, is also about lighting and I’m not sure another book about lighting was the best idea. The content is appealing but it also seems too similar to the other two books. I’ve also noticed that Joe’s writing style is very conversational, which I usually enjoy, but it makes for longer books. Sketching Light is over 400 pages long, and I think some editing could pare that down to 350 or even 325. Some of the verbiage in Sketching Light is not necessary. I criticized Eib Eibelhaeuser for an unusually dry writing style in The Art of Photographic Lighting, but I’d say Joe McNally’s writing style could be more streamlined and direct without losing its impact.

Despite this, Sketching Light is a wonderful book and any pro photographer would do well to have it on his or her shelf. I’m putting my copy next to Joe’s other two books, which I refer to regularly.

Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
Joe McNally
Published by New Riders
US $49.99
Rating: 9/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Photographic Lighting

Art of Photographic Lighting cover

Eib Eibelhaeuser’s The Art of Photographic Lighting is an interesting book and not the typical book that I see written for photographers. Many books about photo lighting focus on the fieldwork—lighting setups, equipment, handling natural light and other details. The Art of Photographic Lighting is part history book, part art theory book and part photo lighting book. I’m not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing.

Eib’s writing style is clean and clear, which I appreciate. There aren’t many anecdotes or stories from the field, so the writing is not very vivid or interesting like other photographers’ books. (Joe McNally’s books on lighting are practically the opposite.) I also was somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t more actual writing in the book: subjects are sometimes given just a few pages, and the pages often have plenty of white space and photography. The book design is nice and clean, but there is not as much content as I’m used to.

The content is solid. Eib is knowledgeable about many different aspects of photography lighting, including light bulb structure and history, flash configurations, color temperature, and quality of natural light at different times of day. I liked the chapters on natural light the best, and sections were well-defined (“Day,” “Night,” “Indoors” and more). As mentioned above, The Art of Photographic Lighting does not dive deep and these subjects aren’t always covered in detail.

Many pages in The Art of Photographic Lighting are devoted to photography, but quite a bit of it is bland and not very memorable. They do a good job of illustrating the lighting principles described in the text, and the images are technically good, but they are really just not too imaginative, exciting or artistic. I’m not sure how I feel about this because The Art of Photographic Lighting seems more of a textbook and the images do their job. Maybe Eib should strive to find or make images that do more than that.

Ultimately, like I mentioned above, The Art of Photographic Lighting is a good example of a textbook on photographic lighting. Its spare, clean style and comprehensive survey of lighting history and composition make it a very useful guide. However, I think the artfulness of lighting is lost and there’s very little text that sparks the imagination. That should be added to this book if it is ever given a second edition.

The Art of Photographic Lighting
Eib Eibelhaeuser
Published by Rocky Nook
US $44.95
Rating: 6/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Photographically Speaking by David duChemin

I enjoy David duChemin’s books because he speaks about artistry and philosophy, and not just about the technical details in his photography. Many photographers do the same thing and talk about composition, light and other aspects of photography beyond the camera, but David really brings his thoughtfulness into his writing.

duChemin book cover

Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images is David’s latest book and one more example of his inward-looking style. The book considers what makes a photograph successful and how to apply these qualities of visual storytelling to future images. There are many techniques illustrated here that you can get in many other books—the rule of thirds and the golden spiral come to mind—but the real takeaway is how David explains these concepts and examines them at their most philosophical level.

For example, there’s a small sidebar on “reading” versus “viewing” photographs where David describes the difference between passive viewers and active “readers” of images. I learned a similar concept when I was studying music history: to really understand a work of art, you have to go beyond your superficial reaction to it. In today’s saturated world of images, it’s easy to jump at first impressions when viewing photography, but David is wise enough to avoid that and frame the discussion with that single word.

The last section of the book—almost 100 pages—is devoted to 20 of David’s photographs. Those are a lot of pages to devote to just 20 images, but I appreciate the focus. In this section, Photographically Speaking applies the concepts of visual language that were developed in the previous section, such as orientation and the rule of thirds. I enjoy the philosophical aspects of the first section more than the technical focus in the second, but it does help make the book well-rounded.

Photographically Speaking is a very enjoyable book with beautiful images and very thoughtful writing from David. Photographers who have a firm grasp of their craft and want to really think through the images they produce can’t go wrong with this book.

Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images
David duChemin
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy from Amazon.com

Susan Weinschenk’s 100 Things You Need to Know About People Books

Designer book cover

Three years ago, I highly rated Susan Weinschenk‘s book Neuro Web Design, which explained how to apply psychology principles to web design and build websites that are more appealing, easier to use and more memorable. Susan has written two more books that continue to apply psychology to technology and appeal to designers and presenters. Both follow a similar format: 100 Things Every ____ Needs to Know About People, with 100 ideas grounded in psychology and applicable to designers’ and presenters’ projects.

As with Neuro Web Design, both 100 Things books are well-researched. Susan has a deep knowledge of various studies and psychological findings and explains them without being too technical. The studies are also quite interesting and revealing in themselves, and I liked reading those before anything else. The book designer also did a good job building charts when needed to illustrate psychological concepts. The rest of the books’ design is colorful, incorporates useful sidebars, and provides a “takeaways” callout at the end of each section to communicate the most essential points.

Presenter book cover

Susan also does a good job connecting psychological truisms with scenarios in the design and presentation worlds. The “completeness” ratings you see on online profiles—such as a LinkedIn or Dropbox account—plays into the fact that “people are more motivated as they get closer to a goal.” “People read in a certain direction,” so be sure to stand beside your presentation so you can be the point of entry in how attendees “read” the stage. Rule 18 in the designer’s book—”People read faster with a longer line length, but prefer a shorter line length”—even explains the differences between text on a webpage and text in print, and it’s all based on recent research. These books are based on evidence and tied directly to our industries.

However, Susan doesn’t always do a good job connecting the rules specifically to the designer’s or presenter’s world and some don’t apply to our work as well as others. “People can be in a flow state” and work with focused attention, but this applies to any work—not just designers’ work. Same thing with “people can’t multitask.” I think the book for presenters is more focused on aspects of presentation than the designers’ book is focused on design. Ultimately, I think every point Susan makes is useful but some are more useful than others.

Still, both books are great material and a good value. Designers and presenters sometimes build their products by the book and don’t always think about why some approaches might work better than others. Susan’s books help you understand the “why.”

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People
100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know about People

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
Published by New Riders
US $34.99 for Presenters, US $29.99 for Designers
Rating: 9/10
Buy Designer and Presenter from Amazon.com

Adobe Launches eLearning Suite 6, Presenter 8

Adobe has released the newest version of the eLearning Suite of products. eLearning Suite 6 includes Adobe Captivate 6, Adobe Presenter 8 and the CS6 versions of Flash Professional, Dreamweaver, Photoshop Extended and Acrobat X Pro. More details can be found in the press release below.


Adobe Launches eLearning Suite 6, Presenter 8
Industry-Leading Authoring Suite Introduces HTML5-Based mLearning Support, Presenter Compatible with Microsoft® PowerPoint

SAN JOSE, Calif. –July 18, 2012 – Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced the immediate availability of Adobe eLearning Suite 6, the company’s tightly integrated toolbox for rapidly creating professional-grade eLearning and HTML5-based mLearning content. The suite enables eLearning professionals, educators and trainers to create immersive, interactive eLearning courses complete with simulations, product demos, digital imaging, rich animations and audio production. Anchored by Adobe® Captivate 6 and the new Adobe Presenter 8, Adobe eLearning Suite 6 includes several industry-leading titles including Adobe Flash® Professional CS6, Adobe Dreamweaver® CS6, Adobe Photoshop® CS6 Extended, and Adobe Acrobat® X Pro.

“Today’s eLearning professionals, educators and trainers are dealing with a growing mobile population, platform fragmentation and the need to communicate through video.” said Naresh Gupta, senior vice president, Print and Publishing at Adobe. “As a result, efficiency in mobile authoring and delivery, and ease in video creation are among the top considerations when they select an authoring solution. Adobe eLearning Suite 6 delivers on both.”

Adobe eLearning Suite 6 enhances productivity with robust roundtripping workflows between Adobe Captivate and Adobe Audition® CS6, Adobe Flash Professional CS6, Adobe Photoshop Extended CS6 and Acrobat X Pro. For example, users can open Adobe Captivate files in Adobe Audition CS6 to quickly adjust speech pitch and alignment or Adobe Photoshop Extended CS6 to retouch images and create 3D graphics. Prebuilt native extensions with Adobe Flash Professional CS6 enable users to generate sprite sheets and more. With Acrobat X Pro users can embed Adobe Captivate movies into PDF documents and PDF portfolios, bringing text-based learning materials to life, and make the finished project accessible via Adobe Reader®.

Adobe Presenter 8

The new Adobe Presenter 8 empowers business professionals, trainers and educators to create video presentations right from the desktop, without the need for specialized equipment or training. With Adobe Presenter 8, users can streamline projects and lower costs of producing and editing videos with a single desktop solution. In addition, they are able to simultaneously capture slide presentations, webcam video and audio and dynamically mix components without a separate video editor. The intuitive interface makes it easy to edit and trim video, pan and zoom, adjust brightness and sharpness levels and enhance audio quality by reducing background noise. A host of video add-ons, including the ability to highlight select portions of a screen, insert annotations and apply text overlays, makes it easy to polish a presentation while the “Adobe Presenter to YouTube” feature allows users to publish a completed project with one click.

Adobe Captivate 6

Adobe Captivate 6 enhancements improve mobile access and boost learner engagement while ensuring effortless publishing to leading SCORM- and AICC-compliant Learning Management Systems (LMSs) such as Moodle, Blackboard, Plateau, Saba and SumTotal. It introduces the ability to publish content as both SWF and HTML5, enabling learners to begin a course on their desktop, pause and later resume on a mobile device, including iOS and Android™ based tablets and smartphones. Users can also quickly create and edit HD-quality demos within the new “capture-as-a-video” workflow, insert videos in a picture-in-picture format and publish projects to YouTube – all within the same UI. A full library of out-of-the-box assets, improved Microsoft PowerPoint integration and enhanced quizzing capabilities complete the top new features in Adobe Captivate 6. For more information, refer to the Adobe Captivate 6 announcement and product page.

Pricing and Availability

Adobe eLearning Suite 6 is immediately available through Adobe authorized resellers and the Adobe Store for an estimated street price of US$1,799. Users of eLearning Suite 2 and 2.5 can upgrade at a discounted price of US$599. Upgrade pricing from Adobe Captivate 5.5, 5 or 4 to Adobe eLearning Suite 6 is US$1,199. Qualified education users can purchase eLearning Suite 6 for US$599. For a complimentary trial, visit www.adobe.com/go/try.

Adobe Presenter 8 is also immediately available as a standalone product for an estimated street price of US$499, with US$299 US$199 education and upgrade pricing from Adobe Presenter 7. For a free trial, visit www.adobe.com/go/try.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

MotionArtist Announced, Beta Release for Producing Interactive Graphic Novels

Last week, Smith Micro announced the release of MotionArtist, an application designed for creating interative graphic novels and comic books for online, mobile and tablet readers. MotionArtist is available now as a beta release, and in about a year it will retail for approximately $50. The press release is below.


PRESS RELEASE

Introducing the Easiest Way to Create Digital Comics and Interactive Graphic Novels – MotionArtist by Smith Micro

  • For graphic novelists, comic creators, or anyone wishing to create animated presentations and photo shows
  • Offers truly simple animation, panel creation tools and HTML5 export
  • Download free Beta version at motionartist.smithmicro.com

SAN DIEGO, CA – July 11, 2012 – Smith Micro Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: SMSI) Productivity and Graphics Group today announced the beta release of MotionArtist®, a new version that bridges the gap between comic creators and their readers. With the MotionArtist version users can add motion to their comics, create interactive HTML5 presentations as well as uniquely styled photo-shows. International Comic-Con 2012 attendees will be the first to see MotionArtist’s new approach to layout, animation and adding interactivity at Smith Micro’s booth #5353.

MotionArtist is a composition and presentation application unlike anything that exists in the world of digital comic creation,” said Steve Yatson, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Smith Micro Software, Inc. “It’s a simple solution to a very complicated set of problems that introduces a new approach to animation. We provide the platform – from there, professional artists or everyday users can really let their creativity run wild.”

The MotionArtist version combines cutting-edge tools with a truly simple user experience, creating a highly versatile solution that appeals to a wide range of users, from hardcore comic creators to anyone who loves to share their favorite photos, including:

  • Graphic novelists – Create amazing interactive animated comics and presentations with state-of-the-art technology, such as GPU acceleration for a lightning fast work environment and 3D layering for that cool parallax effect
  • Traditional comic creators – Artists of any skill-level can quickly convert their work into digital comics with panel creation, layout tools and the ability to add motion
  • Web developers – Export projects to HTML5 and deploy on your favorite website or save as standard movie formats and share your comics and presentations directly to Facebook or YouTube
  • Photographers – Create fun, animated “photo shows” by dropping in a folder of images; MotionArtist will automatically place the images on the stage and animate the camera

Poser capture in MotionArtist

MotionArtist is an awesome animation and interactivity product that was clearly conceived with comic creators in mind,” said Brian Haberlin, co-artist and co-writer of the multi-media sci-fi adventure saga Anomaly. “With MotionArtist you can create panel-based comics, add animation and export in common file formats without being locked into a specific format or being required to use a particular service. You can even export as a common video format or, more importantly, HTML5.”

Key MotionArtist version Features:

  • HTML5 export – Save out as HTML5 with interactive navigation or export as standard video files and share on YouTube and Facebook.
  • Comic style panel creation – Create panels of just about any shape. Go back and resize, duplicate, rotate, align and cut at any time.
  • Word balloons & dynamic text – Vector based balloons, thought bubbles, dialogue boxes and text can easily be added and edited at any time
  • Arrange in 3D – add layered 3D depth to your panels and presentations for that cool parallax effect
  • Motion – A new approach to animation for non-animators. We’ve hidden the technical stuff and brought the animation process forward in an intuitive visual manner
  • Photo shows – Simple creation of photo presentations through automated object placement and camera movement
  • Working modes and views – Creation and animation workflow is laid out with comic creators in mind

Pricing and Availability:

Download MotionArtist for free during its beta availability direct from the Smith Micro online store at: motionartist.smithmicro.com.

Comic composition in MotionArtist

About Smith Micro Software, Inc. – Productivity and Graphics Group:

Based in Santa Cruz, Calif., the Smith Micro Software Productivity and Graphics Group produces award-winning software that inspires consumer creativity and enables efficiency. The group’s creative suite of programs provides artists of all skill levels – from novice to professional – with the tools to illustrate, animate and create 2D and 3D art. Some of the Productivity and Graphics Group’s award-winning creative and utilities products include Poser, Anime Studio, Manga Studio and StuffIt. For more information, please visit: www.smithmicro.com.

Safe Harbor Statement:

This release contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, forward-looking statements relating to the company’s financial prospects and other projections of its performance, the existence of new market opportunities and interest in the company’s products and solutions, and the company’s ability to increase its revenue and regain profitability by capitalizing on these new market opportunities and interest and introducing new products and solutions. Among the important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements are changes in demand for the company’s products from its customers and their end-users, new and changing technologies, customer acceptance and timing of deployment of those technologies, new and continuing adverse economic conditions, and the company’s ability to compete effectively with other software companies. These and other factors discussed in the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its filings on Forms 10-K and 10-Q, could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained in this release are made on the basis of the views and assumptions of management regarding future events and business performance as of the date of this release, and the company does not undertake any obligation to update these statements to reflect events or circumstances occurring after the date of this release.

Smith Micro, the Smith Micro logo and MotionArtist are trademarks or registered trademarks of Smith Micro Software, Inc. All other trademarks and product names are the property of their respective companies.

REVIEW: Lightroom 4 Prepares For The Future

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 has been available a few months but only in the last week Adobe has included Lightroom in Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions, which is potentially even bigger news than the new version 4. Photographers who have purchased Creative Cloud subscriptions now get Lightroom whenever and wherever they want it, and that makes Lightroom even more relevant than before. I’ve been working with Lightroom 4 since it was released and Adobe has made some smart improvements to the application that embrace new digital technology.

I believe the most vital improvements in Lightroom 4 happen in the new adjustment brush features. Lightroom became much more useful when the adjustment brush was added a couple years ago, but Lightroom 4 lets photographers make spot adjustments to counter moiré, reduce noise or adjust white balance. The white balance adjustment is very useful and I was surprised no one thought to spot-adjust white balance before. I was so surprised I actually launched Lightroom 3 to confirm it!

Lightroom 4 white balance adjustments

Basically, the Temp and Tint sliders in the Develop module can now be adjusted within a single adjustment brush point on the photo or as a general adjustment across the photo. My color correction techniques have always emphasized correction across entire images—color casts and white balance mistakes will almost always affect everything the camera sees. However, there are a few times when multiple light sources can skew results in a part of an image. There are also many photographers today who want to be more creative with their images than just getting the color correct. These photographers will really enjoy the new controls available in Lightroom 4.

I am also really excited that Lightroom 4 now supports video formats. Prosumer cameras have been shooting video for a few years now and it’s becoming mainstream—some photographers like Vincent Laforet are experimenting with the art form while wedding and event photographers are supplementing their income shooting video as well as their usual photos. Adobe worked to make Lightroom 4 provide a complete video workflow. I don’t think Lightroom 4 provides a complete workflow—it’s missing basic features like sound editing, though Creative Cloud users will have all the software they need for video editing. But Lightroom 4 does provide easy importing and exporting to Facebook and Flickr as well as to your hard drive. I think exporting to YouTube is essential though.

Lightroom 4 does provide Quick Develop module tools for video editing, which is where workflow comes in. Photographers can change exposure, white balance and all the tone controls used for images. You can also trim clips and capture a poster frame for presenting the video. This is the extent of video editing in Lightroom 4, and I think it’s a decent enough editing suite for photographers in the field but a photographer who wants to sell his video footage should invest in Creative Cloud, CS6 Production Premium or Adobe Premiere Elements. Amateur videographers should really consider Premiere Elements, though serious photographers might want to invest in CS6 Production Premium (or, better yet, hire someone who already has mastered Adobe’s video applications.)

Lightroom 4 map module

One of the most visually spectacular new features in Lightroom 4 is the Map module, powered by Google Maps, that lets photographers place their photos in specific locations. It’s a thrill to navigate the world in Lightroom 4 and see exactly where your photographic journeys have taken you, but I have a feeling Adobe will have to constantly play catch-up with advances in GPS and mapping technology. 3D mapping is starting to emerge and I think tagging photos by building floor as well as GPS location would be useful. I also thought the process of matching photos up with their locations was tedious (except when the photo already had location metadata). If there’s no location data, you can drag-and-drop photos onto the map to set their location. This is probably as good of a manual system as you can get, but it’s still a slog.

Lightroom 4 boasts improved shadow and highlight recovery, and you’ll have to learn some new sliders in the Develop module to master this. In Lightroom 3, the Basic sliders in the Develop module included exposure, recovery, fill light and blacks along with brightness and contrast. (Brightness and contrast have been together in Adobe’s settings lineup since the early days of Photoshop.) In Lightroom 4, exposure and contrast are together and the other four sliders are highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. It’s confusing to consider whites and highlights two separate things (same with shadows and blacks) and there aren’t many differences between the two that I can see. Generally, the Highlights and Shadows sliders will affect darks or lights without ruining the other and will avoid excessive contrast. I still prefer working with the Tone Curve settings to pinpoint the tone regions I want to work on, though I like how fast and easy I can produce results with the Highlights and Shadows sliders. If you don’t have time to work with the curves, try the new sliders.

Lightroom 4 soft proofing

For photographers who make prints of their work, the new soft proofing in Lightroom 4 might be useful. A “soft proof” is an on-screen representation of the final printed product, and it’s often hard to get a precise soft proof since a screen and a sheet of paper are two totally different substrates. I’ve relied on hard proofs on paper since the beginning of my career. Lightroom 4’s soft proofs look like they might be helpful but I still don’t trust them completely—there are too many factors in printing that can skew the results. But what I do find really useful in Lightroom 4 are the new gamut warnings which will show regions that are too bright or too dark to display any detail. Lightroom 4 will provide not only printer gamut warnings but monitor gamut warnings too, which I’ve not seen before.

Lightroom 4 book module

Lightroom has always had a fairly robust set of output modules (Slideshow, Print and Web) but in version 4 there is a new Book module for creating photo books. I have seen photo books offered by several photo production websites but I usually like to design my own in InDesign. I wondered if Lightroom’s Book module would be easy to use as well as robust, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn there’s a balance between software-generated layouts (see the Auto Layout panel in the sidebar) and fine controls. The Cell panel lets you put white space around images on all sides or each side separately. I found the caption and type tools very intuitive—text was overlaid on images right where I wanted them to be and I didn’t need to handle text frame corners. Everything is done inside the Book module sidebar. I found one user interface element to be particularly annoying: the inability to add photo cells on my own. The pages’ photo layouts are determined by the Auto Layout presets; you can make your own presets but they still adhere to predetermined layouts. You cannot simply drag and drop new images onto the page either, unless a photo cell already exists. The only real way to tweak photo placement is to add padding to photo cells, but this isn’t a great way to do it.

Lightroom has had integrated social sharing for awhile now, but it’s been improved in Lightroom 4 in a way I didn’t really expect. If you share to comment-capable albums (a Facebook album, for example), photos’ comments will be shown in Lightroom 4’s sidebar and you can write your own there as well. Your comments will then appear on the Facebook album entry. I thought this was a really neat way to leverage Facebook’s API and integrate social comments directly into Lightroom. I also love how you can include your Facebook albums in the Publish Services panel and push photos up to it just by dragging them onto the album name.

Lightroom 4 is another quality upgrade for a quality product, and its inclusion into Adobe Creative Cloud makes it available to even more people. On the other hand, I feel Lightroom is a mature application now and some of the features are not so exciting or unique. Other mature applications, including Photoshop and Illustrator, deal with the same problem sometimes. But the improvements in spot adjustments, shadows and highlights, and photo book layout in particular make me say Lightroom 4 is an upgrade worth buying.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Adobe Systems
US $149 full/$79 upgrade
Included with Adobe Creative Cloud
Rating: 8/10
Buy at Amazon.com

Adobe Unveils Captivate 6 with HTML5 Support

Last week, Adobe announced the release of Adobe Captivate 6, which is their application for building electronic learning projects like quizzes, tests and teaching tools. HTML5 programming, HD video capture and some PowerPoint and quiz enhancements are added in the new version.


Captivate 6 box

PRESS RELEASE

SAN JOSE, Calif. — June, 15 2012 — Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced the immediate availability of Adobe® Captivate® 6, a significant upgrade to its industry-leading eLearning authoring software for rapidly creating a wide range of interactive eLearning and HTML5-based mobile Learning content. Designed with today’s mobile learners in mind, Captivate 6 enables eLearning developers, corporate trainers, educators and other business users to help deliver dynamic, SCORM- and AICC-compliant course content that is accessible anytime, anywhere.

“Today, learners expect engaging eLearning options on their iOS and Android devices – static presentations shrunk to fit mobile screens aren’t enough,” said Naresh Gupta, senior vice president, Print and Publishing, Adobe. “Captivate 6 gives subject matter experts and content creators the ability to deliver eLearning content to mobile devices that is as robust and interactive as the content delivered to desktops.”

Captivate 6 enhancements improve mobile access and boost learner’s engagement – top features include:

  • HTML5 Publishing with Pause and Resume Capabilities: Publish interactive HTML5 eLearning content that is accessible from both iOS and Android devices and leverage mobile presets to help ensure seamless mobile distribution. By publishing eLearning content as both SWF and HTML5, learners can begin a course on their desktop, pause and later resume on a different device.
  • HD Screencast: Quickly create HD-quality demos within the new “capture-as-a-video” workflow. Edit video and add transitions, smart shapes, audio and captions. Insert another video in a picture-in-picture format and publish it to YouTube – all within the same UI.
  • Attractive Out-of-the-Box Assets: Select from a wide range of preloaded actors and set them against customizable backdrops to give content a more personal touch. Include additional interactivity by inserting smart learning interactions, such as widgets, animated rollovers and more, with just a few clicks.
  • Enhanced PowerPoint Roundtripping: Import PowerPoint 2010 slides along with objects, animations and multimedia into eLearning projects with better fidelity conversation workflow. Easily update pre-existing PowerPoint content, which will be automatically synced via the dynamically linked import feature.
  • Enhanced Quizzing: Utilize pre-tests to assess the knowledge, skill level or training needs of individual learners. Based on results, direct learners to the appropriate section and use post-tests to gauge what resonates. Allow learners to revisit a relevant section after answering a quiz question incorrectly and, if necessary, discourage guesswork by penalizing for wrong answers.

With Captivate 6, trainers and educators can individualize eLearning modules by recording voiceovers and other sounds that automatically play back when a learner clicks on a specified object. Course designers can also ensure that eLearning content maintains a consistent look and feel using customizable, professionally designed themes. Improved LMS integration helps eLearning developers effortlessly publish content to leading learning management systems, including Moodle, Blackboard, Plateau, Saba and SumTotal.

Quotes

Dustin Tauer, vice president, Training and Development, Easel Solutions

“Many of our customers want to access eLearning content on mobile devices but getting content there has been a challenge. Now, HTML5 publishing with Captivate 6 makes it easy to extend eLearning to mobile devices without forcing the author to learn new programming code.”

Eric Fields, senior eLearning consultant, Learning and Development, Coventry Health Care Workers’ Comp Services

“Adobe Captivate 6 HD screencasting provides a seamless workflow for all my video capture and editing needs. I no longer need additional software, which means no more incompatibility breakdowns and procurement delays working with multiple software packages.”

Damien Bruyndonckx, multimedia assistant, IHECS, Haute Ecole Gallilee

“Advanced interactions and the new collection of characters in Adobe Captivate 6 streamline how I develop interactive, fun, and engaging content that humanizes eLearning, and energizes learners to improve their scores.”

Helpful Links

Pricing and Availability

Adobe Captivate 6 is immediately available through Adobe authorized resellers and the Adobe Store for an estimated street price of US$899. Captivate 5.5 and Captivate 4 users can upgrade at a discounted price of US$359 and US$539, respectively. Qualified education users can purchase Captivate 6 for US$299. For a free trial, visit www.adobe.com/go/trycaptivate.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

BOOK REVIEW: Visual Stories by Vincent Laforet

Visual Stories cover

I wrote in my recent review of Jerod Foster’s Storytellers that the best storytelling techniques seem to span across art forms and can be applied to writing, composing and design as well as photography. I think that is one reason I really love Visual Stories: Behind The Lens With Vincent Laforet—the storytelling comes through not just in the pictures but in the words and the storytelling in the book itself. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Vincent is a top-notch photographer with a diverse portfolio—he shoots landscapes, people and nature equally well (though I think his people shots are the best). He’s also shot for a variety of publications and has lived and worked in many different locales around the world, so his subject matter and light are always changing and providing opportunities. The breadth of material makes Visual Stories a great resource for photographic storytellers.

The real gems of storytelling in Visual Stories come through in the writing. I’m not sure what makes Vincent’s stories compelling, but I think it’s through experience. Vincent writes about shooting in a Pakistan refugee camp; catching match point in an Olympic fencing match; making only two decent shots at a Super Bowl; and many more exotic situations. Vincent is lucky—not many photographers get such juicy assignments. His lucky break with the fencing match, described on page 91, just might make you sick with envy. (Don’t worry, I’m sure there are five failures for every success in Vincent’s career.)

Fortunately, Vincent’s luck and his ability to write stories have given Visual Stories beautiful writing to go with the photography. His stories are vivid and sometimes fairly personal, which I also like—this is a book about a photographer as much as it is a book about photographs. Visual Stories does provide some good details on lenses and camera settings, but they are not emphasized often.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about Visual Stories. I enjoyed reading it and photographers of all kinds will find it fascinating. All photographers have some stories to share, but Vincent seems to have more than most and they paint a vivid picture. The book’s price is a little high but it’s worth purchasing.

Visual Stories; Behind The Lens With Vincent Laforet
Vincent Laforet
Published by New Riders
US $54.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy at Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Jerod Foster’s Storytellers

Storytellers cover

There are two types of photography books: the nuts-and-bolts variety with detail on apertures, lenses and lighting setups, and the artistic variety that attempts to explain the ephemeral aspects of photography like creativity, inspiration and storytelling. Storytellers by Jerod Foster is in the second category and the book contains almost 300 pages devoted to the art of photographic storytelling.

There’s lots of beautiful photography in Storytellers and I found myself enjoying the pictures as well as the writing. The photographs are not just Jerod’s either but other photographers who are profiled and interviewed in the book. Note that Jerod and several other photographers in the book are based in Texas, so there is a noticeable emphasis on Texas photography in Storytellers.

The test with any artistic photography book is to transcend the mundane aspects of photography and describe the creative photographic process in a way that rings true. Storytellers doesn’t always pass the test—it’s a fun read and I learned some things, but some of the processes Jerod describes in the book are typical things like shot selection, composition and the use of light. These are all important topics and certainly related to storytelling, but I felt that it danced around the heart of the art of storytelling.

I studied and wrote on creativity back in my college days and I’m convinced the most illuminating writing on creativity can be applied to all creative art forms and be made to “fit” with minimal changes. Storytelling techniques apply to writing and music as well as photography. While reading Storytellers, I had a hard time applying some of its lessons to those other art forms and so the lessons appealed to photographers and not always to storytellers.

Storytellers is still a very fine book and fine art photographers will certainly enjoy it. It’s well-written and contains some very nice shots. I think the book will also help photographers understand how their craft builds stories and how to hone their storytelling craft. My main complaint is the lack of focus on storytelling and overemphasis on nuts-and-bolts photography topics that are probably covered in more detail in other books.

Storytellers
Jerod Foster
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 8/10
Buy on Amazon.com