Eyeo Festival 2014, A Designer’s Recap

 

 

 

In this ever-changing industry, artists and designers instinctively grow and change with the technology of the era. This past week, I attended the Eyeo Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The festival assembled an incredible set of creative coders, data designers and artists. They conducted fascinating presentations, unique workshops and interactions.

There were a few of the presentations that resonated with me and were very inspirational.

I have been focusing on mobile design, and was inspired by an interactive architecture project built by Janet Echelman and Aaron Koblin during a TED Conference in Vancouver.

View The Making of Unnumbered Sparks Video

Janet Echelman is a sculptor who creates textiles made of braided fiber, and Aaron Koblin is a digital artist who works at Google. Their combined skills allowed for a project in which people used their mobile phones to cast kinetic projections on a building-sized net. Their gestures of tracing brightly-colored paths across their device was projected as splashes of color on the large texture canvas.

My long adoration of typography initiated my admiration and interest in the work of Luke DuBois. His work of Hindsight is Always 20/20 is an interesting tie between typography and portraiture. Luke took the State of the Union addresses from each president and sorted them according to words used most frequently. He then generated eye charts for each president, with the more frequent words larger at the top of the chart and the less frequent words smaller at the bottom. Additionally, eye chart information appears in the margins concerning the use of the chart as a testing device. Luke says in his essay that, “The aim of the piece is to make a statement about the perennial political metaphor of vision, without which much of the rhetoric of presidential politics quickly deflates. The choice of words employed by a given presidential administration to articulate its message is in many ways its signature. Looking back, we can use this vocabulary to test the metaphorical eyesight of the nation throughout its history.” Luke displays the work so that they actually worked as 20/20 charts to the view.

I found the work by Tahir Hemphill very innovative and unique. He created a semantic and sentiment of lyrics from American hip-hop artists. He focused on whether artists such as Drake and Tupac had more positive or negative words in their lyrics. He was inspired by Picasso’s light paintings, which give something that is temporal and doesn’t exist in a visual format. He then utilized a robot arm to create the light paintings of the data, and then he took photographs of each artist’s result. You can see the results here.

Lastly, I connected with Stefanie Posavec because she is a designer who was inspired by data and used it as her medium. She did an artist residency at Facebook in the Analog Research Lab and created interactive pieces on the floor that converted a month of a couple’s Facebook interaction data into dance steps. This portrayed how couples publicly show their relationships on social media. The dance steps were timed to an 8-step count and were an accurate representation of a couple’s digital movements and interactions in the real world. You can view examples of the work here.

The festival allowed me to reflect on myself as a designer, encouraged me to think about projects from a conceptual standpoint, and inspired me to look forward to my future growth as a designer. This festival taught me where the future of artistry is going and what large possibilities exist for future endeavors for the company and myself.

 

CINEMA 4D Integration with After Effects CC Animation

 

 

 

 

Designers have always wanted to have better built-in 3D tools within After Effects. Now we have that ability. This year, Adobe and MAXON released the ability to collaborate a pipeline between Adobe After Effects software and MAXON’s CINEMA 4D. This has allowed artists a way to have seamless 2D/3D integration between the two softwares. Adobe After Effects CC now comes with CINEWARE. CINEMA 4D Lite (or CINEWARE) is a feature-limited version of CINEMA 4D that is included for free with the new Adobe After Effects CC. Now we can create, import, texture and animate 3D content that is rendered within After Effects along with many other features.

(Below is a screenshot of CINEWARE being used in After Effects)


 

There are a few setbacks to these new elements, but nothing daunting. Since CINEWARE is part of the new After Effects CC, you have to upgrade your license to After Effects CC. CINEWARE can’t be used with older versions of After Effects. MAXON explains that rendering directly inside CINEWARE is limited to a resolution of 800×600 pixels and renders cannot be saved. Rendering in After Effects CC is, of course, not restricted to any defined resolution, and will be rendered at the given project resolution automatically.

A benefit of CINEWARE is that it is within the After Effects CC installer, which avoids confusion during the installation process. Some of the new features are really exciting. Animator Nick Campbell explains that you can use multiple CINEMA 4D files within one After Effects file. One way is to select the .c4d scene layer in After Effects in order to open and edit the file in CINEMA 4D. You can also import a .c4d project file directly into After Effects as a footage item or insert an After Effects camera back into a .c4d project. Cameras, nulls and lights can be extracted from .c4d files, which allow you to use your .c4d cameras and lights directly within After Effects. The Adobe blog explains that you can tell CINEWARE to render the .c4d scene using either a selected camera from the C4D project, or an After Effects’ camera. You can separate your imported .c4d project file into a “multipass render” directly within After Effects. This creates a separate layer inside your After Effects timeline of either a preset selection of properties or ones you’ve previously set up inside the C4D project.

The company who created CINEMA 4D, MAXON, explains that in CINEWARE you can choose which layer or passes you want to use for compositing in After Effects CC. You can use 3D content multiple times in a composition and use layers to create various setups. Along with the use of the CINEMA 4D camera parameters, you can adapt them to the After Effects CC coordinate system and use them as if they had been originally created in After Effects. Lights imported with your CINEMA 4D scene can also be converted to native After Effects CC light sources and edited. Almost all of the features in CINEMA 4D are included in CINEWARE. For greater specific details you can view MAXON’s Product Comparison Chart.

I believe that artists have waited a long time for something as smooth as this process. As with anything newer on the market, since it is the first time for this integration, there are a few bumps in the road. However, with time they will improve. I, for one, am looking forward to a greater ease of creating animations and tools that allow for significant creative endeavors.

Drupal 8: A Brief Primer

drupal8

In the life of a Drupal developer, one of the things that brings both excitement and trepidation is the release of the next major version. The release brings both the promise of performance improvements, as well as the prospect of significant effort to bring an existing Drupal install up to speed. That time is rapidly approaching again, as Drupal 8 prepares to go from Application Programming Interface (API) freeze to first release candidate (at this time, still TBD, though tentatively planned to be around New Year’s).

Being that the API freeze has come and gone, I feel the code base was at a stable enough point to download, bring up an install and take this latest and greatest for a spin. Since it has been in development for over 2 years now, it promises to be outstanding. As has become the norm, installation is quick and painless once you have cloned the code base from the main git repository, and you can have a base install up and running in mere minutes.

At first glance, there are several noticeable changes present in Drupal 8 from just looking at the front end. Bartik is now the default theme, replacing Garland. Bartik is a much more configurable and flexible theme, for instance, offering more regions out of the box than Garland, and is also fully responsive, an indication of Drupal 8’s commitment to being as mobile-friendly as possible. On the module front, a most welcome development is the addition of “Views,” one of the most essential site building tools, to core. In addition, there is the inclusion of CKEditor (providing WYSIWYG content editing functionality) as a core module. This will be seen as a welcome addition for content editors looking for an easier and faster way of maintaining a Drupal sites content.

However, taking a deeper dive is where we see the major changes that are taking place as the result of a move to Drupal 8. Probably the most significant underlying framework change is the decision to refactor a large portion of the core code base to utilize Symfony components. Symfony is a robust and stable PHP framework that offers a lot of built in functionality out of the box. It has a large and diverse set of components that will be able to be utilized by developers who are looking to add custom functionality via contrib or custom modules. In addition, teams who are adding to core Drupal for version 9 and beyond can use these components. While I believe this move to Symfony is a great one from a technical perspective, it does present some challenges to the developer community in regards to how modules, and extension of core Drupal functionality in general, are coded.

One of the most immediately identifiable changes in the way that module development will change is the adoption of YAML (YAML Ain’t Markup Language) as the means of specifying custom additions to Drupal. Some of these changes might be menu routes, system configuration settings, or general information about a custom module itself. This adoption of YAML is an integral part of the Configuration Management Initiative that looks to move away from the concept of storing configuration in a combination of code and database records, such as using features, to a purely code based approach. For instance, gone are the days of adding menu paths via implementing “hook_menu” in your module, which are then created as records in the “menu_router” table. In Drupal 8, you will specify custom menu paths in a “module_name.routing.yml” file. Also, gone is the “module_name.info file,” replaced by the “module_name.info.yml.” Bear in mind, though, the key information contained within this YAML file hasn’t changed, it’s just a different, more robust way of specifying this information.

Another Symfony related change that will become quickly apparent to theme developers is the abandoning of the PHPTemplate engine, in favor of the newer, and more flexible, Twig template engine. Anthony Ringoet gives a good overview on the changes, from a Drupal perspective, between PHPTemplate and Twig, and how to go about converting “tpl.php” files in an existing theme to the new “html.twig” format. At its most basic level, this involves a change in delimiters between the two formats, but a more significant change is that Twig doesn’t allow a themer to put custom PHP code directly in a template file. Rather, a developer/themer will need to put any “heavy lifting” PHP in the theme using the more conventional “theme_preprocess” hook. This is a good thing, as it more rigorously enforces the separation of functionality and presentation.

In summary, Drupal 8 looks to offer many exciting new opportunities for developers, as well as a more robust and performance base architecture (via the adoption of Symfony) that will only allow Drupal to grow and improve going forward. While these underlying changes do require some substantial changes as to how modules are structured and developed, the associated improvements are far and away worth this effort.

 

A New Kind of Demo Reel

Developing a good presentation can be challenging. We thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could combine both the informative power of video as well as the engaging power of a live presentation?” Well, we did it using three Apple iPads and their bluetooth capabilities. The iPad provides a uniquely personal (and somewhat sexy) presentation platform using Bluetooth to synchronize the three devices and broadcast the sound to an external speaker. Each device has a video which makes up a third of an originally very large After Effects composition. Add a little choreography and voilà: a new kind of “demo reel.” Check it out:

See what others are saying about our iPad demo: