Tag Archives: visual

BOOK REVIEW: Two iOS App Books

This review covers two books on iPhone and iOS development: Visual Quickstart Guide: Objective-C by Steven Holzner and iPhone App Development: The Missing Manual by Craig Hockenberry. Ironically, the iPhone App Development book was published just after the release of the iPad and nowadays we call this iOS development after the operating system these devices use. This also includes the iPod Touch.

Visual Quickstart Guide: Objective-C, like most Visual Quickstart books, offers a solid introduction to the topic and many exercises to get readers familiar with the programming language. Objective-C is the native language for writing iOS applications and for awhile Apple would not accept apps written with other languages and cross-compiled to Objective-C. This has since changed but many developers believe coding with the native language makes for a better application.

The Visual Quickstart Guide teaches the basic elements of Objective-C but it doesn’t address every aspect of the language. Readers who are new to object-oriented programming will benefit more from this book, which teaches the concept and its implications in iOS development. Experienced developers who know OOP or similar languages like ActionScript 3 can learn a few things from the book but I think there are better resources out there.

The Missing Manual sets itself apart by offering beginning-to-end training for iOS development—everything from installing Xcode to selling apps from the Apple App Store. I really like this aspect of the book, and developers who want to make money with their products will find this very useful. I think there’s less emphasis on Objective-C but part of that is because Craig uses Apple’s developer tools like the Interface Builder to create the applications demonstrated in the book. The obvious downside to this is the fact that Apple’s developer tools are available only on Mac OS X computers—Windows users are out of luck, even though iOS devices are marketed to them too.

Both books are good buys, and as with most things each one offers something a little different. Objective-C is a solid introduction to the language and green developer would find it very useful. The Missing Manual is a more complete resource for iOS development and is written for the entrepreneurial developer who wants to sell apps as much as develop them.

Visual Quickstart Guide: Objective-C
Steven Holzner
Published by Peachpit Press
US $29.99
Rating: 8/10

iPhone App Development: The Missing Manual
Craig Hockenberry
Published by O’Reilly
US $39.99
Rating: 9/10

BOOK REVIEW: Three Books On After Effects CS4

I usually review books separately, but today I’m reviewing three books that cover Adobe After Effects, the video compositing software that’s popular for both special effects and web animations. It’s very rare to find a book that’s suitable for novices and experts alike, and for a complicated application like After Effects it’s best to learn with a variety of training sources. Here we look at three, all from Adobe Press:

Classroom in a Book

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The “Classroom in a Book” series is project-oriented and suitable for novices and intermediate users. I found this to be true in ActionScript 3.0 for Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book and it also applies to Adobe After Effects CS4 Classroom in a Book. Knowing the fundamentals of working in After Effects CS4 is helpful, though the book covers some of the basics in its first pages.

I was surprised to see some advanced topics covered in Classroom in a Book, such as 3D, motion stabilization, Mocha, particle systems and Timewarp. This is only a sample of advanced After Effects topics, but that is enough to challenge some readers and entice them to some more advanced books. One of the strengths of Classroom in a Book is its broad appeal to readers with a variety of skill levels.

Classroom in a Book is well-designed and the projects are interesting: a couple use illustrations from professional illustrator Gordon Studer, giving the projects a professional feel not always offered in training projects. If you are just getting into After Effects, or have been using it for awhile and want to fill in the gaps in your training, Classroom in a Book is a good selection.

Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques

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This book has been around for years and is updated whenever a new version of After Effects is released—the current author, Mark Christiansen, has written the last four editions. Studio Techniques is a more advanced book that focuses on visual effects and compositing techniques, so it is more specialized than Classroom in a Book and applicable for some industries (video, TV, special effects) than others (web design, multimedia). You could go through your entire After Effects career and never need to know color keying or morphing, though these techniques certainly make for more interesting results and for some industries they are essential.

Just like Classroom in a Book, Studio Techniques is well-designed. The included CD-ROM has two extra chapters on scripting and JavaScript, both of which are valuable for advanced users. There are some example projects on the CD, which are walked through in the book, but it’s important to know that this book is not really project-based like Classroom in a Book. The projects are there for illustration but a lot of the knowledge is to be gained simply by reading. Some scripts and trial software complete the CD, but there’s no index for the scripts so you have to read the book to know what they do.

Despite some of these little quibbles, Studio Techniques is a great book that has filled an important niche for years. Mark’s writing style is very good and the content is excellent. Pick it up if you want to get into visual effects with After Effects or expand your general After Effects skills.

After Effects for Flash

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Studio Techniques serves a niche, and a large niche at that. After Effects for Flash/Flash for After Effects serves a smaller niche, the intersection of After Effects video with Flash animation and ActionScript. But it’s an important niche, and even more important now that Adobe sells both products and has made integration a key factor of CS4. I’m very excited to see this book in the marketplace, and it’s written by Richard Harrington and Marcus Geduld who are both familiar to readers of Layers Magazine.

After Effects for Flash was written for both After Effects and Flash users, and the authors naturally could not guess what skill levels their readers would have with both applications, so the first 90 pages comprise a general introduction to both applications. This is fine but it also means a quarter of the book is beginner’s material. However, the rest of the book makes up for it with some very nice projects for intermediate and advanced users. After Effects for Flash focuses more on projects than Studio Techniques does. The projects provide a mix of Flash and After Effects projects, but overall they seem to skew more toward After Effects projects that produce content or improve upon SWF or FLV output. This makes the book ideal for multimedia artists and web designers.

Conclusion

All three books are well done and have a place in the After Effects user’s bookshelf. Each one serves a specific audience and covers aspects of After Effects and Flash, so I leave it up to the reader to decide what books he/she needs. After Effects for Flash is a special case because it has such a specialized focus that it seems to be applicable to all skill levels but only to those working with an integrated After Effects/Flash workflow.

Adobe After Effects CS4 Classroom in a Book
Adobe Press
US$54.99
Rating: 9/10

Adobe After Effects CS4 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques
Adobe Press
US$59.99
Rating: 9/10

After Effects for Flash/Flash for After Effects
Adobe Press
US$54.99
Rating: 9/10