Category Archives: Web links

Looking for voice over talent?

Over the past year I have produced a few videos that needed a voice over track. I tried a few local shops to do the work for me and everything turned out great, but it took a long time to book the talent, book the studio and wait for the track to be edited and sent to me.

It wasn’t until I found Voice123 that recording VO tracks became fun again. Voice123 is a free service for the buyer that connects you with great voice talent. It only takes a few minutes to post a project, set your budget and within 24 hours you should already have a few auditions to review. Make sure to try Voice123 for your next project.

Web link: Voice123

6 Must have After Effects Plug-ins

After Effects is a great program that packs a lot of punch right out of the box. However as an experienced motion graphic designer you need more than what AE offers off the shelf. When looking to create particle, lighting and film effects it is best to go with a 3rd party plug-in to get the job done quickly and easily. Here is my short list of six powerful plug-ins that any serious After Effects designer should add to their arsenal.

1. Trapcode Particular

Trapcode Particular is one of the most talked about After Effects plug-ins of all time for good reason. Its powerful and easy to use particle system makes it the ideal choice for creating an array of effects like smoke, dust, clouds, grass, bubbles, rain, snow, debris and anything else you can think to throw at it.

More info: Trapcode Particular

2. Video Copilot Optical Flares

In 2009 Video Copilot launched the incredible After Effects plug-in Optical Flares. This affordable add-on creates stunning real life and artistic lens flares. Its ability to track 3D lights make it a truly indispensable tool and “wow” maker.

More info: Video Copilot Optical Flares

3. Magic Bullet Looks

Red Giant Software continually produces innovative plug-ins for After Effects users. Magic Bullet Looks is a toolkit for designers to add film moods and effects to their compositions. With over 100 presents and the ability to tweak your own, Red Giant Looks will not disappoint you with its overwhelming number of features.

More info: Magic Bullet Looks

4. Trapcode Shine

Trapcode Shine is an oldie but a goody. This simple plug-in can breath life into a composition by adding majestic light rays and glorious shine.

More info: Trapcode Shine

5. Trapcode Starglow

Trapcode Starglow is another classic plug-in that everyone should own. Similar to Trapcode Shine, this plug-in can add shinning twinkle and glow to your composition.

More info: Trapcode Starglow

6. Lenscare by Frischulft

Although this plug-in is the most obscure one on the list, it does not make it any less important. Lenscare is a remarkable plug-in and is in a class of its own when it comes to blurring effects. With a few simple steps this plug-in creates realistic rack focus blurs. Go check out this plug-in for yourself and get ready to fall in love.

More info: Lenscare by Frischulft

Red Giant People

The great folks at Red Giant Software put together a useful resource for motion graphic designers called Red Giant People. Much like the now defunct Trapcode People website, Red Giant People is a place where anyone can submit their own After Effects presets. The library is already off to a good start and is a growing resource of free goodies.

Xbreaker for Cinema 4D

XBreaker is a fantastic plug-in for fracturing geometry by Nitroman. It works with primitives, nurbs objects, splines and polygons. Integrating seamlessly with mograph and modynamics, it takes just a few quick clicks to set up an entire scene. Integrating seamlessly with mograph and modynamics, it takes just a few quick clicks to set up an entire scene. (Requires Cinema4D 11.5 and Mograph)

[UPDATED June 2012]

Download: XBreaker ver. 1.71 (Put the file in maxon/library/scripts)
Nitroman’s official website: Cinema4D Plugins
Version history: XBreaker forum thread

Best Cinema 4D Grass Tutorials

Here is a list of tutorials that give good breakdowns on how to make grass in Cinema 4D.

Grass Tutorial Cinema 4D by 3D Tutorials
Very quick and simple way to make grass.

Hair-Force 1by Base 80
One of the best tutorials focusing on animating grass.

How to create 3D grass by Adam Woodhouse
A quick and simple way of using the Fur object to create realistic grass.

Hair engine. Grassy scene by Rob Redman
An insightful video tutorial on how to make a grassy scene.

Cinema 4D Tutorial: Grass by Tom Decker
Another simple step by step tutorial using the Fur object.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Modeling realistic grass in Cinema 4D by Matúš Laco
A complex approach to making realistic grass.

JMDesign Welcomes Get Reel Videos to the Family


We want to officially announce our new daughter site, Get Reel Videos, to the JMDesign family of services. Get Reel Videos sells ready to use HD motion loops for presentations, digital signage and video advertisements. These inexpensive digital assets will come in handy when spicing up your next visual project.

Click here to visit Get Reel Videos

How to be a Motion Designer and get paid

Nick Campbell from Greyscale Gorilla made a great presentation at MGFest titled “How to be a Motion Designer and get paid“. He covers such topics as:

  • What classes should I take?
  • How do I market myself?
  • I’m about to graduate. How do I get my first job?
  • Do I need school?
  • I’m the best at my job… Now what?
  • How do I learn the skills necessary to become an artist?

How to Be A Motion Designer and GET PAID from Nick Campbell on Vimeo.

Unplugged by Motionworks

John Dickinson has been producing a great online video series called Unplugged. His 30 minute webisodes are casual interviews with leading motion graphic designers in the industry such as Andrew Kramer from Video Copilot, Peder Norrby from Trapcode, Aharon Rabinowitz from All Bets Are Off and Nick Campbell from Greyscale Gorilla to name a few. John has produced 13 outstanding episodes so far and all his fans are looking forward to watching many more.

AV3 Software Affiliation

I am pleased to announce that I am now an official AV3 Software affiliate. They are an online motion graphics and VFX plug-in retailer who sells all my favorite third party After Effects plug-ins such as Red Giants Trapcode Suite, Zaxwerks, and DigiEffects to name a few.

I will be producing short sample video clips showcasing the creative power of all their After Effects plug-ins. Stay tuned for more great discussion on AV3 Software.

Chris Zwar on planning and creating a complex 3D project

Chris Zwar recently published a three-part series on the ProVideo Coalition website that is billed as a “3-part video tutorial looking at advanced 3D animation in After Effects “.

Yeah, it is that. But it’s so much more.

In part 1, Chris gives a lot of real-world insight into planning a project, including all of the things that you must do outside of After Effects if you want to be successful and have happy clients. He talks about researching the audience, the viewing environment, and the client. He talks about getting reference photographs. This is the kind of up-front work that can make or break a project. I’m adding a link to this part of the series from the “Planning your work” section of After Effects Help (which also, by the way, contains a link to one of my favorite articles by Aharon Rabinowitz).

In part 2, Chris goes into deep detail about building 3D scenes and objects in After Effects. He has some good explanations and tips about collapsing transformations, precomposing, and parenting.

In part 3, he goes into more detail about the importance of textures, lights, and shadows in making a synthetic 3D scene look more realistic.

As Chris himself points out, this isn’t a tutorial series in the sense in which the word ‘tutorial’ has been used too much lately. He doesn’t show the click-by-click steps that the viewer can follow without actually building any understanding. Rather, this is a series that aims to demonstrate and explore some important concepts in the context of a real-world project. I think that this gets back to the root of the word ‘tutorial’: it teaches.

Great work, Chris!

Source: After Effects Region of Interest Blog

Washed Out H.264 Encoding Video Fix

Have you ever rendered an MP4 on your Mac using the H.264 codec to find that your newly encoded video was washed out? I have been stung by this phenomenon for far too long so I did some research to find the cure to this awful disease.

From my understanding the root of the problem involves an issue between QuickTime and Core Video. Since 2005, the release of QuickTime 7, this problem has resulted in a gamma shift that lightens the video on playback making it look washed out. source

The best solution I found was to render the video using the free x264 VideoLAN encoder. QuickTime can render this out as a .MOV file and ffmpegX can render it out as a .MP4.

Other solutions include changing your color profile settings on your OS, using a different video player that doesn’t utilize Apple’s Core Video such as Nice Player, or there are settings within Quicktime player to correct it:
“Select ‘Show Movie Properties.’ Highlight the video track then click on the ‘Visual Settings’ tab. Towards the bottom left you should see ‘Transparency’ with a drop-down box next to it. Select ‘Blend’ from the menu then move the ‘Transparency Level’ slider to 100%. Right after that, choose ‘Straight Alpha’ from the same drop-down and close the properties window. and finally, ‘Save.’ source

Written by Jeff McIntosh

MPEG Streamclip

I just started using a freeware program from Squared 5 called MPEG Streamclip. It is a great program that runs on Mac or Windows for encoding video into a variety of different programs. I have been using QuickTime Pro for many years to encode video and I am tired of the errors I run into when encoding long and high bit-rate video clips. For the past week MPEG Streamclip has been keeping up with my busy work flow by encoding videos quickly, being error free and providing an encoding preview window for piece of mind.

You can use MPEG Streamclip to: open most movie formats including MPEG files or transport streams; play them at full screen; edit them with Cut, Copy, Paste, and Trim; set In/Out points and convert them into muxed or demuxed files, or export them to QuickTime, AVI, WMV, DV and MPEG-4 files with more than professional quality, so you can easily import them in Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Toast 6, 7, 8, and use them with many other applications or devices.
Supported input formats: MPEG, VOB, PS, M2P, MOD, VRO, DAT, MOV, DV, AVI, MP4, TS, M2T, MMV, REC, VID, AUD, AVR, VDR, PVR, TP0, TOD, M2V, M1V, MPV, AIFF, M1A, MP2, MPA, AC3, …

JMDesign Website Technologies

In the spring of 2009 I created a new website for JMDesign and every time I make a new site I am always learning something new by adding a new technology or adapting an old one. Here is a rundown of the technologies I used to create JMDesign.

  1. WordPress – I used these open source platform to create my Pro Blog. WordPress is the leader in blog development and holds a lot of amazing features.
  2. Whiteboard WordPress Theme – I used WordPress for my last blog, but one thing that irked me is that it did not match the design of the rest of my site. Whiteboard is a squeaky clean for WordPress that became the foundation of my own JMDesign WordPress theme. I was able to sync in my own style sheets and code.
  3. Shadowbox.js Media Viewer – The most important part of my website are the videos. They need to play and they need to look great. Shadowbox.js is a stylish AJAX driven media player that floats over your website whenever a video is played.
  4. JW FLV Media Player – The JW FLV player is one of the best and well supported media players on the web. This player runs in the Shadowbox.js platform and plays my MP4 H.264 video files with ease.
  5. MySql – With a combined inventory of two hundred clients and projects it only makes sense to keep everything organized in a database. MySql has been my lifesaver and with the help of PHP it is easy to pipe my data into the site.
  6. PHP – I have been using PHP for years and it does everything I ever wanted it to do.
  7. FormCheck – I chose MooTools as my JavaScript framework and FormCheck is an elegant AJAX form validation library.
  8. Google Analytics – Google provides one of the best and free ways to track visitors to your site. Check out my post here on how you can track Shadowbox.js usage using Google Analytics.

The Business of Design

John Dickinson who is a motion graphic designer from Motionworks and Rob Dickinson who is a business consultant from Radsmarts are producing a great online series called The Business of Design. This is a powerful video series discussing how creative people can position their business to make a profit. Some of the topics that they have discussed already are: income, communication, profits, failure, pricing and discounts. This is a must see if you are a designer looking for relevant business advice.