2nd September 2010

New Instructional Book For Stock Photographers

iStockphotoStock photography is more popular with designers, businesses, web developers, publishers and artists than ever before, and the number of photographers who have found microstock to be a great source of part- or full-time income has increased steadily in the last few years. A new book, Taking Stock: Make Money in Microstock Creating Photos That Sell by veteran stock photographer Rob Sylvan, provides valuable insights into maximizing profit in this increasingly competitive industry.
Taking Stock
An iStockphoto inspector since 2002, Sylvan helps determine which photos qualify to be sold on the most selective microstock site in the business. He has also had tremendous commercial success selling his own stock images privately. Sylvan writes the Under the Loupe column for Photoshop User magazine, and blogs about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom® at Lightroomers.com. In Taking Stock, he shares his hard-earned insider knowledge on how to shoot, edit and keyword photos that sell in this growing high-volume, cost-conscious market.

“I’ve been helping new members get started selling stock for years, and this book contains everything they’d need to know to hit the ground running,” said Sylvan. “Beyond sharing the fundamental information needed for creating and selling stock imagery, I’ve included over 50 great examples of successful stock photos along with tips from many of their creators.”

Taking Stock helps readers look at their photos through the eyes of designers, photo editors, and other frequent buyers. It explains how to set up an effective digital workflow and, perhaps most importantly, how to focus on creating truly evocative imagery. It also covers:

* How to license photos as stock
* What type of images are in demand
* Effective use of titles, descriptions and keywords
* Tips on shooting food, people, places, nature, objects, and animals
* Editing techniques to maximize sales

Taking Stock retails for $35.99 (CAD) and is available at Chapters-Indigo, Amazon.ca, Black Bond Books and other retailers worldwide or directly via the publisher, Peachpit Press.

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12th July 2010

Know Your Stuff Because It Could Be Important

Make It RightYesterday while we were at the grocery store, I was killing time at the checkout by perusing the magazine stand, and noticed that Mike Holmes (Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection) has a magazine. Who knew? So, being a fan of his shows and because it had an article on smart homes, I bought the magazine. (I wonder if the sales guy we’ve been dealing with for our modular home design is tired of hearing “Mike Holmes said…or…I saw on Mike Holmes’ show…”) One of the magazine’s features is a “bookmark it” blurb, and this issue’s featured bookmark was the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s home (or office) inventory tool, Know Your Stuff™. This is a very handy – and free – tool that those of us with an abundance of high-tech and high-priced equipment should use – just in case. IBC

According to the IBC’s info page, “The Know Your Stuff™ tool will help you to build a room–by–room record of your belongings and calculate replacement costs. A home inventory will help you get the right insurance coverage and make it easier to file a claim, should you need to. And with IBC’s free, secure, online storage you will have access to your inventory anywhere, anytime.”

MaRSMaRS today launched a new commercialization program called TechStart! Consumer, following an open call for promising start-ups in the consumer digital media space. A total of 15 aspiring ventures have been chosen for the 16-week intensive boot camp program led by MaRS Advisors and subject matter experts from the industry.

The program was created in response to the growing demand of consumer-facing digital media companies seeking advisory services, mentorship and market connections from MaRS to help refine their business models and market penetration strategies. The TechStart! program combines advisory, peer-to-peer interactions and focused sector-specific education into one intensive, fast-paced program.

In the last year alone, MaRS’ client portfolio – the approximately 600 Ontario-based companies actively working with MaRS advisory services – has seen a 61 per cent increase in digital media ventures. Today, digital media companies represent 50 per cent of the broader information technologies practice area.

TechStart! Consumer is composed of 10 intensive advisory-driven sessions that cover a range of important business-building topics including: market assessment; user experience design; business modeling; consumer branding; and market launch.

“We hope that TechStart! Consumer will allow us to further our business model and refine our strategy,” says Kuhan Puvanesasingham, Co-founder of Price My Ride, one of the participating companies. “Not only will we be able to closely work with a broad group of seasoned MaRS advisors and experts, we’ll also be able to share our energy and enthusiasm amongst other participants.”

“The TechStart! Consumer program is the first of its kind in Ontario. Creating a meaningful experience for 15 companies is challenging, but the program has been designed to meet the considerable demand from entrepreneurs for this type of immersive learning experience, working closely with both advisors and other entrepreneurs,” says Krista Jones, the MaRS Practice Lead who is spearheading the program. “We have benchmarked a number of acceleration programs internationally in the design of TechStart!, and we believe that the program will help catalyze, scale-up and enrich our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

In addition to launching TechStart! Consumer, MaRS is also renaming its ICT practice to ICE – Information technology, Communications & Entertainment – to better reflect the growth of consumer facing start-ups working with MaRS.

“Repositioning our practice name is the right response to a fast-changing marketplace,” says Jones. “It better reflects the types of clients we attract and work with today. ICE is just a more succinct, sharper and relevant way to describe our focus and expertise beyond traditional ICT to include consumer and entertainment-based ventures.”

Winnipeg’s Indigo Rose Software has released AutoPlay Media Studio 8 Personal Edition for use on Microsoft Windows 7, Vista and XP. This new version of the company’s popular visual software programming environment is being offered free for non-commercial users. The program is designed to help encourage the development of free software applications and utilities by students, hobbyists, open-source programmers and freeware developers. Read the rest of this entry »

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16th June 2010

The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design

Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design
Title: The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design
Authors: Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten
Publishers: Watson-Guptill Publications
Year: January 2008
Softcover: 260 pages

The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design is mistitled, but only slightly so. For any designer or writer with aspirations of success in the gaming industry, this book will aid them. However, the book should not be the last guide an amateur buys,i nor the first. The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design is not ultimate, simply thorough, with solid advice for both novice and veteran writers. The book’s great weakness is that its authors only seem able to address half of their audience at a time; this is no one’s ultimate guide.

Each half is well-written and concise, if festooned with typos. The first half provides a walkthrough of the process of developing a strong, marketable property, and the second half teaches its readers how to see that property through the corporate minefield. The first half errs on the side of simplicity; it’s difficult to conceive of a would-be game designer unaware of the basic history of video games, or who would need to be reminded of the difference between onscreen and offscreen dialogue. A newcomer will benefit from the learning exercises provided, if they’re the sort of writer who works well with templates, but writers who fancy themselves experienced creators may find Dille and Platten’s fill-in-the-blanks approach demeaning.

The second half of the book contains valuable advice for staying hired at a development agency, but their suggestions about how to ease into the industry are not only basic, but common. Even a reader completely unconnected to the industry will find their advice rather obvious; in 2010, it is unlikely that aspiring designers are not already aware of their need to network and check for jobs online. Fresh hires will find the chapter on the various uses of lawyers, managers, and agents useful, but only if they can afford them, and the glossary will be useful only so long as the references are relevant—and references to plot devices like the Giant Rat of Sumatra may not be relevant as long as the authors seem to think.

The guide may be penultimate, but it does have its strengths. Dille and Zuur Platten both are warm, considerate writers who want their readers to succeed in the field. But the odds of any novice being guided to chairmanship through this guide alone are slim to none. The readers and writers both would be better served through an expansion of this book into a two or three volume set to give the writers the breathing room to be more cohesive, and the vast scope of readers more distinct attention. Dille and Zuur Platten have the necessary skills and ambition to make an ultimate guide to videogame writing; this just isn’t it.

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15th May 2010

Grown Up Digital

Grown Up DigitalTitle: Grown Up Digital
Author: Don Tapscott
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Year: October 2008
Hardcover: 368 pgs.
Companion Website: Grown Up Digital

Don Tapscott has a deserved reputation as a prolific, adept, and enthusiastic futurist author. However, his personal realities make him an ill-serving advocate for the ‘Net Generation’.  The book’s opening salvo of corporate approval rightfully informs a young reader of the work’s intended audience. This work is about the Net Generation, not for it, and if the axiom of never trusting anyone over thirty is to be adhered to, the sixty-three year old Tapscott deserves a double-dose of scrutiny.

According to Grown Up Digital, the twenty year span of individuals aged between eleven and thirty-one at the time of the book’s publication has acquired a reputation for being selfish, narcissistic, violent, and, worst of all things, unemployable. Tapscott supplies strong evidence to the contrary from the research conducted by his thinktank nGenera; with approximately ten thousand interviewees of all ages, no one can fault the project’s scope . And he is right–this is a bright generation, with ingenuity and conviction. However, he is perhaps more selective with examples than he should be if he hopes to address the needs and wants of the Net Generation at large. Effie, the Princetonian Google employee mentioned in Chapter Six, exemplifies only the most privileged of current graduates; his chapter on education advocates the proper introduction of technology into the classroom without mentioning how failing school districts should acquire the money to do so. Chapter Six may advocate a utopian, Googlesque workplace, but the capital investment required for such a heaven is too considerable to ignore.

The book does have its strengths; the writing itself is strong and concise, though Tapscott’s fondness for juvenile neologisms remains–Growing Up Digital introduced his readers to the word  ‘cyberbro’, this work gives us ‘N-Fluence’– and his tendencies towards self-aggrandization  are as strong as ever. He reminds us that he has eleven books to his name and a rip-snorting family band, but he can’t be bothered to include the name of the Ogilvy “young Australian” who developed the award-winning Dove ‘Evolution’ television spot (Tim Piper).

After eleven books, his ability to write a readable sociological text is not up for discussion, yet the book suffers from its clashing purposes. The first four chapters pay tribute to the strengths of the Net Generation; his only real concern is a generational ignorance of Facebook filters. This is not unwarranted, and the notion that a respected technological guru wants to shepherd the development of the Net Generation has its charms. But Tapscott is just as happy to tell marketers exactly how to get us to spend our money, and the final chapter, ‘In Defense of the Future’ is founded on concept that the future that young people strive for is one that Baby Boomers have good reason to fear.

Don Tapscott may be for the Net Gen, but I can’t say the same for Grown Up Digital. There’s no particularly strong reason for a twentysomething to read this book, but if you happen to be a middle-aged bureaucrat without a younger friend to connect with over a beer, this is the book for you.

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16th April 2010

Spies Freelancers Awards and Great Canadian Events

Do you want to learn more about Deep Packet Inspection in Canada and who is using it? Deep Packet Inspection Canada is a website which is meant to be the largest repository of publicly accessible information concerning the use of deep packet inspection in Canada, so that Canadians gain insight into how the technology is used by Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and why they are using the technology. I recommend this site if you want to learn more about service throttling and the hot issues being discussed around it.

Breaking Into Freelance IllustrationLate last year, I was a participant in a conversation with game design students regarding freelance work. I came across a book today in my morning email travels which, while I haven’t read it (but I probably will), was written by Canadian freelance illustrator and author Holly DeWolf. While many students are lucky and easily find work at established studios, it has been a topic of conversation about how schools don’t really prepare their graduates for the freelance world.

Holly agrees with this line of thought, stating that “many institutions are not preparing students for the realities of the work world. It’s important for freelance creative types to see themselves as a business in order to make it. There is a real need for recent graduates, freelance illustrators and designers plus self-taught artists to have the proper resources they need to make it as a self-employed creative”.

To that end, Holly filled that need in the artistic community with her 2009 book, Breaking Into Freelance Illustration: The Guide For Artists Designers and Illustrators. This book helps readers to develop skills in the business side of artistic practice, addressing many questions which Holly found being asked throughout her many years as a post-NSAD graduate and mentor. This book has received some very good reviews on Amazon.ca, so I can feel confident in recommending this title even though I haven’t yet personally read it. I have a huge stack of books already waiting for my perusal, and I feel that this one needs to shared with students and grads now, not when I have time to finally buy it and read it – especially as someone else just recommended another title I should read.

Don’t forget that the Early Bird discount period for the Banff World Television Festival ends on April 20th – the Banff World Television Festivalfestival is about far more than just television – check it out. Dentyne Gum has launched their new interactive site with a new AR contest – you could win $25 000.00 with the symbol on the pack of Dentyne gum you’ve purchased. Canada 3.0 Forum has just announced that David Usher (ex-Moist) has joined the great line-up of speakers for this year’s event which will be MC’d by Global TV news anchor Kevin Newman. Taking place in Stratford on May 10 & 11, Canada 3.0 offers a unique opportunity to engage in seminars and discussions about Canada’s future in the tech industry.

DejeroCongratulations are due to Waterloo tech company Dejero – creator of the new Dejero LIVE Platform, the company has been awarded a Broadcast Engineering Pick Hit award at the 2010 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) international tradeshow in Las Vegas. The Dejero LIVE Platform is a ground-breaking new way to broadcast live high-quality video without the high cost or complexity of satellite or microwave transmission. Dejero was selected from 1,500 companies that exhibited at NAB for their introduction of the Dejero LIVE Platform that is set to transform live television. Read the rest of this entry »

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9th April 2010

E is For Ethics

E Is For Ethics

E Is For Ethics
Author: Ian James Corlett
Illustrator: R. A. Holt
Published: December 2009
Hardcover 106 pages
Interactive Companion Website: E is For Ethics

I recently came into possession of this book, and if I had to choose just one word to describe it, I’m not sure that I could pick a word which would completely do it justice. E Is For Ethics is certainly inspiring and timeless. While my kids are both long past the age of being read to, they aren’t too old for productive and ethical discussion or debate – something which we still engage in, particularly during our weekly Sunday night family dinners.

Elliott and Lucy

Elliott & Lucy

While there are many “self help” books about parenting on the market, I feel that Ian’s book is different because as he says in his introduction, his only qualification in writing this book is the fact that he is a parent. To me this speaks volumes, because it really doesn’t matter how many doctorates or letters you have after your name – nothing can prepare you for being a parent other than the moment you become one. Ian has created real situations involving his two lead characters, Lucy and Elliott, along with supporting family and general public characters put in real life situations to which children can easily relate.

Each of the 26 stories told in E is For Ethics leaves its ending unresolved, leading to multiple results and opening up the chance for discussion on how the story could go. Each chapter, from honesty to respect, offers discussion ideas and quotes from both the famous and the infamous. Ian has artfully found a way through his very short scenarios for parents to gauge how their children perceive the world in general and how these little people think about what is right and what is wrong.

The Old Code

When my kids were young, one of their favourite movies was DragonHeart. As they watched it obsessively, I took the opportunity to discuss The Old Code which Bowen tries to follow. They both knew it by heart, and I believe that they both still try to incorporate those words into their daily lives – although sometimes I do have to wonder at some of the things they say or do. The important thing is that they are free-thinkers, they definitely don’t follow the crowd, and they both have a social conciousness about them. While I certainly won’t take 100% of the credit for that, I know that I gave them a good foundation, and this is precisely the ongoing value of E is For Ethics.

Ethics are timeless, and should you find yourself faced with difficulties in teaching moral lessons to your children, E is For Ethics offers some great starting points, minus all of the psych-speak. Simplicity is often best – because complicated is, well, complicated and unclear. As Ian writes in his book’s conclusion, “…even if you think you know about something or how to do something, there is always a new twist or a new way to try it. And it’s the same way we learn about ethics. Every situation is different and so is how a family deals with it.” One point which I truly admire Ian for is the fact that he is not really telling you what to teach your children, he is simply giving you, as parents, a starting point and then leaves the rest up to you.

Much like The Old Code, E is For Ethics covers those areas which are important characteristics for an honourable, compassionate and productive member of society – many of which seem to have taken a back seat in terms of importance for many people today. For example, last week I was talking with a guy who grew up in the same neighbourhood I did, which was a tight-knit, mainly agricultural community. Our discussion revolved around how much our little town has changed, and how people in general don’t seem to be as honourable as they used to be. We are the current generation running long-time family businesses, and we would like to know what happened to the time when a handshake and your word was enough to honourably seal a deal. Your conduct in business was your reputation, and growing up in a small town meant that everyone knew whether or not you truly were as good as your word.

I feel that in many ways society has forgotten about many of those values, and Ian’s book is a great way to perhaps rediscover those values for ourselves as we discuss the scenarios with our children. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children as they grow up is time, and to borrow A & E TV’s slogan, reading and discussing E is For Ethics with our children is time well spent. I would be completely remiss in not giving this little book a huge recommendation to parents and grandparents everywhere. Even if you aren’t a parent yet, chances are you might become one – pick up E is For Ethics and keep it for the future. You’ll be glad you did. Ian definitely gets five stars from me for E is For Ethics.

* The Old Code from DragonHeart

A knight is sworn to valor, his heart knows only virtue, his blade defends the helpless, his might upholds the weak, his word speaks only truth, his wrath undoes the wicked.

The right can never die, if a man still remembers him. Words are not forgotten, if a voice pronounce them clearly, The Code always shines, if a heart preserves it brightly…

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23rd November 2009

Canadian IP Law For Dummies A Must Read

Canadian Intellectual Property LawA few weeks ago I told you all about a special edition book titled Canadian Intellectual Law For Dummies. Written by Henri Charmasson, John Buchaca, Neil Milton and Diana Bryon and published by John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd. with support from Export Development Canada, the book is currently available free of charge through an online request at Milton’s IP. After reading this book, anyone involved in creative properties would be remiss in not taking advantage of the information given by the authors.

Many books about law are often dry, tortured reading. Not so with Canadian Intellectual Property Law. The authors have conveyed a massive amount of information in an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand method, interspersed with a sprinkling of humour.

The 119 pages of Canadian Intellectual Property Law covers everything from concept to protection, how to find the right IP legal professional, and addresses the many misconceptions about patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs, trade secrets and contractual rights. Knowing the correct protections to obtain and how to leverage your protection to increase income are also important components in this book. While the authors target Canadian-based properties as their primary subject, they do discuss international treaties and how to obtain IP protections in foreign countries. There are also references for getting more information from government agencies about Intellectual Property, and in For Dummies tradition, there are plenty of clearly marked tips, warnings and reminders. The only addition I would have liked in this book is a quick-reference section listing online resources which are available to the general public.

As with all complex legal issues, it is always best to consult with the professionals in regards to IP protection, this book will give creative companies and individuals a head-start in understanding how to protect themselves, and how to find the best IP professional for the tasks at hand. When all is said and done, not taking advantage of Canadian IP Law for Dummies may cost you and your company money it could have earned – if only you’d been aware.

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6th September 2009

Learning Autodesk Maya 2009: The Modeling & Animation Handbook

Book Cover

Learning Autodesk Maya 2009: The Modeling & Animation Handbook (Buy Book)

By Autodesk Maya Press

ISBN-10: 1897177526

ISBN-13: 978-1897177525

Review by: Josh Martin

I was lucky enough for Autodesk to allow me to review this book.  As an animation student myself, I wanted to continue learning through the summer while school wasn’t in session.  I’ve read many negative and positive reviews on this book and I wanted to get to the bottom of this book and of course, to further my knowledge of modeling and animation in Maya.

The first thing I noticed when I received this book was the great illustrations throughout it. With the illustrations being in full color, it is easy to follow along and find the subjects the book talks about. I was hoping there would be a DVD that came with the book. My hopes were correct! The book comes with a DVD which includes project files, textures, and even a quick video walk-through on different sections of the book. Of course, the book also has the “all important” index which lists every general term a modeler, texture artist, rigger, or animator would use so you can easily look up different techniques and terms.

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21st July 2009

Weirdos In The Workplace The New Normal

Weirdos In The Workplace: The New Normal – Thriving in the Age of the Individual
Author: John Putzier
FT Press August 2004
Paperback: 224 pages

Finally a book for the weirdos out there who find it hard to fit into a regular working environment and for those of you who work with us. I definitely fall into the “doesn’t do well in a set environment” category, so there is a lot of material in this book I could relate to. The content in this book is also directly related to the next book review I will be sharing with you later this week. Personally I think that if a company doesn’t have at least one or two weirdos in the mix, they aren’t doing things right. Creativity and individuality is what it takes to make the innovation wheel go around, something which many corporations are learning the hard way. Who would’ve thought that weird would be cool in the 21st century.

Throughout this well-researched work, Mr. Putzier lets us know that it’s okay to be an individual in the 21st century. He successfully identifies many personality types and gives tips on how to work with those personalities, thereby helping them to achieve career satisfaction. While I was reading the book, it was very easy to identify myself – and many industry friends – with each turning page.

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17th July 2009

The Power of Impossible Thinking

The Power of Impossible Thinking
Authors: Jerry Wind, Colin Crook and Robert Gunther
Hardcover: 336 pages
Wharton School Publishing July 2004
Paperback: 352 pages
Wharton School Publishing February 2006

If ever there was a knockout book about changing your life in a positive, measurable way, The Power of Impossible Thinking is it – or at least at the top of the heap of self-help tomes. This book is filled with examples of society’s collective thought patterns and expectations, and ways to change them in your own life. If you are a businessperson trying to find original ways to grow your business, you’ll know that almost everything’s already been tried at least once. If you want to circle around the herd and forge your own path, read this book. Don’t just look at all the angles, look for the angles that don’t show. If you want to change the way your life is going, this book is for you-because it’s all in the way you think; afterall, the way you think about your reality is your reality, and only you can change it-with a little help from Mr. Wind and Mr. Crook.

The first page of this book lists a few simple questions followed by a simple statement that maybe changing the way you think will give you the answers to the preceding questions. This is followed by a promise from the authors that this book will show you how, and true to their word-they do. The authors delve into the world of neuroscience in a detailed manner, but they do it without causing you to reach for the nearest dictionary or making you fall asleep. Their approach is quite the contrary-they make you want to keep reading; simply because what they are saying makes so much sense. Read the rest of this entry »

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