Valentine’s Day Theme Tutorials

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be nice to share a few free tutorials for those of you involved in post production. These free items service a variety of programs such as After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Cinema 4D, and more. Feel free to scoop these up before Valentine’s Day so you can make a special video for that special someone.

Creating Flying Hearts with Boris FX

In this Valentine’s themed tutorial, Imagineer Systems Product Specialist, Mary Poplin, shows you some quick ways to get particle effects into your workflow with Boris Continuum Complete. If you are a fan of using particle effects, then I strongly recommend using plugins from the Continuum Complete particle collection. I can honestly say that they are on par with Red Giant’s offerings of Trapcode Particular and Form. On top of that, this tutorial shows you how to take a vector image created in Illustrator, and extrude it in 3D space. With some post effects like vignettes and color grading, you are able to achieve quite an animation. What I found very interesting about this tutorial is that it looked complicated in design but easy to follow. Feel free to download a trial of Continuum Complete and create this animation for your V-Day sweetheart.

Create a Valentine’s Day Themed Animation in Cinema 4D

In this tutorial from AE Tuts, motion graphics artist Stefan Surmabojov shows us how to create custom Valentine’s theme animation using Cinema 4D and After Effects. Starting first in Cinema 4D, we create the heart shape and ending text. Using Cinema 4D’s camera tools and effectors, we are able to produce the emitting hearts and animation in 3D. Before we send it to After Effects, we can touch it up in Greyscale Gorilla’s HDRI Studio Pack to give it a photorealistic look. From there, we refine the look of animation in After Effects using Optical Flares and Trapcode Shine. This particular tutorial can seem daunting if you are not used to Cinema 4D, but it can help leverage your learning curve by showing you how to create something complex in an efficient manner. If after following the tutorial you are not getting the results you want, you can download the files from it and modify it to taste.

Valentine’s Day Particle Animation

In this tutorial by motion graphics artist Abdul Kabir, he shows us how to make another Valentine’s Day animation utilizing Photoshop and After Effects. He starts in Photoshop by creating miscellaneous shapes he will need down the line. With those shapes, he turns them into particles which form a heart with the help of Particular. With a camera added along with a null object, he is able to finesse the animation further. From there, he adds a gradient background and a lens flare reveal to tie everything together. What I liked about this tutorial is the collaborative nature of Photoshop and After Effects. I’ve found in some situations that it may be easier to create assets in Photoshop than in After Effects. Using them together is a powerful combination which I encourage users to do as much as possible.

These are just a small collection of tutorials you can use to create a gift for that special someone in your life. I’ve found that people really appreciate the effort you put in when you use a video over a physical item. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Royalty Free Music

Google to Launch Cloud-Based Music Service?

Google is looking to expand its already incredible reach into the music industry.  It is reported that the search giant/smartphone maker/insanely lucrative business will roll out an on-demand music service by November or December of this year.  What will make Google Music different – and can it succeed where so many others have failed?

According to Wired.com, Google will begin offering a paid on-demand system (because licensing companies are no longer that enthused about ad-supported music sites), as well as a free streaming service, similar to Pandora.  Wired’s sources say that Google will play 10, 15, or 30 second ads when music is streamed to Android devices and possibly, with the aid of an app, to anyone with a connection and a browser.  The source also indicates that Google’s ad-supported stations may become available on YouTube, extending the appeal to millions more viewers.

CNET reported on a possible Google Music service, saying, “Launching a music service would be simple if all Google intended to do was offer digital downloads or a subscription service. But Google has more ambitious plans to strike an unprecedented cloud-music licensing deal with the four major record companies.”  It has been reported that Google has been engaged in talks with the Harry Fox Agency, which holds the rights to thousands of producers’ materials.  Google has brought in lawyer Elizabeth Moody, who has vast experience dealing with licensing issues, to help guide them through the process.

A cloud music service would allow users to access their music, movies, and e-books from anywhere with internet access.  Google is, apparently, much closer to launching a cloud music service than their rival, Apple.  The key, though, is successful talks with licensing companies.  Without their ok or an agreeable payment arrangement, the launch could well stall for months, if not years.

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Nokia Teams Up with Yahoo

Nokia is not one of the major players in the US smartphone market, though they do tremendously well overseas.  Yahoo has been struggling in Google’s shadow for some time despite some recent positive strides (including a deal with Microsoft).  Yahoo currently gets about 8 times less unique page views than Google.  The two somewhat downtrodden companies have decided to team up, hoping that complimentary features will mesh to create a product that can compete with the big boys.

Depending on the expert, this is a smart move or a yawn-inducing one.  SeekingAlpha says, “the companies will leverage each others’ strengths in e-mail, instant messaging, digital maps and navigation services. We believe this partnership could help Nokia resurrect its declining mobile phone market share in developed markets like the US and Western Europe.”  PC World counters by saying, “…it’s understandable that the two yahoos — Yahoo and Nokia, that is — would want some help. But it’s hard to imagine that turning to each other is going to make much difference.”

Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu says, “One could always say the partnering of losers doesn’t make a winner.  It is often true, but for Nokia, the right future that could lead to an interesting investment case is more about stabilizing its existing position and being successful in the mobile platform game, riding on the back of Apple and Google coattails only.”  The companies are hoping to get in on the very competitive field of mobile media against such giants as Google and Apple, who do not appear to be very welcoming of any new competition. Or of each other for that matter.

Yahoo and Nokia will team up to offer enhanced mail, chat, and map features to users.

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The Hot Tablet Market

Verizon vs. AT&T; Google vs. Apple.  It’s on.  The tablet computer market is heating up as Verizon announces their intention of working with Google to develop a new tablet to compete with the much-hyped iPad.  Other companies, notably Dell and Toshiba, have also thrown their hats into the ring.  Tech industry analyst for Altimeter Group, Michael Gartenberg, says, “Other vendors are not going to stand by and just cede that market to Apple.  We’re going to see more competition in this space.”  While Apple may not like the “C” word, the consumer will benefit from this race to produce the best tablet.

Apple and Google were once allies and worked closely on several projects: that was when Google knew its place and stuck to search engines. Now, though, there is an intense, and sometimes bitter, rivalry between the two mammoth tech companies.  Google has stepped into Apple territory by developing the Android platform, and Apple is edging into the mobile search area as well.  Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO, says that the tablet will be part of “the next big wave of opportunities” for the company, who hopes to enjoy some of the success that AT&T has with their exclusive Apple partnership.

Gartenberg says, “Apple has most certainly validated the tablet market with the iPad in conjunction with AT&T, so it’s not surprising that other carriers are going to be looking for other partners to bring other devices to market.”  Industry analysts expect that at least 7.8 million tablets will be sold in 2010, and they expect that figure to double in 2011.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a Google/Verizon tablet; it is likely to be months before any type of product is announced, much less details on that product.  There is no word on who will be making the mini-computers or how much they’ll cost, but industry experts (and consumers) are hoping for more features – a camera and Flash top the list – and a lower price.

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A Move for Google.cn

Google has made good on their threat to pull their search engine operations out of China – sort of.  The global search giant has redirected its Google.cn traffic to Google.hk.  The move to Hong Kong has allowed Google to technically remain in China while not having to adhere to its strict censorship requirements, an issue which has plagued Google and has been particularly worrisome to Google’s Soviet Union-born co-founder, Sergey Brin.

Hong Kong has its own currency, language, and legal system.  However, after the UK ceded control of Hong Kong in 1997, it technically became part of China.  Under the agreement, Honk Kong will operate within its own system (with Beijing-appointed government) for 50 years.  So the slide over to Hong Kong allows Google to operate in China without having to limit their search functions.  The new message on Google.hk reads, “Welcome to Google search in China’s new home.”  But because the majority of China’s internet users remain under Chinese law, censorship will continue for the foreseeable future.

Sergey Brin lived in the Soviet Union until he was six.  He told the New York Times, “It has definitely shaped my views, and some of my company’s views.”  The move, he said, wasn’t given a clear endorsement of their move to Hong Kong, but Brin says, “There was a sense that Hong Kong was the right step…There’s a lot of lack of clarity.  Our hope is that the newly begun Hong Kong service will continue to be available in mainland China…The story’s not over yet.”  Brin hopes that, soon, Chinese officials will allow an open internet, and that their current “half internet” system will prove itself unsustainable.

Why does Google continue to operate in China, if only technically?  It is because China has the world’s largest internet market – even though only 25 percent of its citizens use the internet.  Already, though, Chinese officials have been blocking links on Google.hk. Users can now search for politically sensitive topics, like the Dalai Lama or Tiananmen Square.  But the connections to the actual results are denied “much as they are for any foreign website under the purview of China’s censorship machinery, known as the Great Firewall,” according to the LA Times. If users search for one of these “forbidden” terms too often, the site will return an error message.

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An End to Google.cn?

The fact that China monitors and censors the content of the web pages that reach the citizenry is not new.  A few months ago, we saw how apps centered on the Dalai Lama were not available for download to the Chinese people; this, and other acts of censorship, sparked protest around the world.  It seems likely that continuing censorship will also shut down Google’s China website.

In the past, China has forced US tech companies to comply with their law; in 2005, for instance, Yahoo released emails from a Chinese journalist’s private account to authorities.  Google search results are sanitized; when people search for “”Tiananmen massacre,” results are carefully censored.  Google announced in January that they no longer wanted to operate under China’s “extensive web controls,” according to the Associated Press.  Google’s only comment has been to say they are in talks with Chinese officials; China’s industry minister, though, is insisting that Google obey their laws.  This leaves Google with the option of continuing to censor content or closing down.

Google.cn controls about 35 percent of China’s search market, and a closing would be very damaging to China.  Edward Yu, the president of Beijing research firm Analysys International, says, “If Google leaves, it’s a lose-lose scenario, instead of Google loses and others gain.”  So what could China lose?

While Google’s closing may be positive for China’s major search engine, Baidu, Inc., (with 60 percent of the market), it would likely be a hardship for many other companies who rely on Google to provide searches, maps, and other services.  In addition, China Mobile Ltd., uses Google for mobile searches and maps; their closing could leave some 527 million mobile phone users without these basic options.

It is uncertain whether Google will sell its smarphones in China, though citizens may still use Android phones, and the music industry is also worried.   Google launched a partnership last year with 14 independent labels and 4 global music companies to provide legal, ad-supported music, a move which has helped China battle music piracy.  This service can only be accessed via Google.cn.  Managing director of BDA China Ltd., Duncan Clark, says, “Without that, are we back to, ‘Piracy wins’?”

A closure by Google could also have a negative impact on Chinese businesses, which rely on Gmail, document services, AdWords, and other of Google’s programs.  The companies would still have to advertise on Google.com to reach customers and clients abroad.  The search and internet industry could also suffer because they would not face the competition from Google, which could spur developments and innovations.

Charles Zhang, chairman of Sohu, Inc., a major Chinese portal, says, “Without full and fair market competition, there will be no quality, no excellence, no employment opportunities, no stability and no real rise of China.”

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Google vs. Apple: A Battle of the Titans

We can only wish for the type of staff meetings they must have at Apple…Steve Jobs swearing and working up a sweat, mocking Google’s “Don’t be evil” slogan, and declaring war on its former ally.  They should sell popcorn and tickets next time.  This was the scene at a recent Apple meeting, where Jobs was responding to Google’s entrance into the smartphone business, a business which Apple wants to keep dominance over. “Make no mistake,” he told his staffers. “Google’s trying to kill us.  We won’t let them.”

Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s CEO said in a statement, “I continue to believe, as many do, that Steve Jobs is the best CEO in the world today, and I admire Apple and Steve tremendously.  Google’s cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, agree with Schmidt, issuing a statement via spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker:  “Apple is a valued partner, and we have great respect for everything they have done for technology for more than 30 years.”

Apple and Google worked very closely with one another on the iPhone, building it with Google’s powerful search and mapping features.  Jobs sees Google’s foray into the smartphone world as a sort of betrayal, hence the “Google’s trying to kill us” line.  Apple has also started legal proceedings against a Taiwanese company that manufacturers the OS for Android phones, saying they infringed on Apple’s copyrights.  Jobs said, “We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions or we can do something about it.  We’ve decided to do something about it.” Many in the industry see this as only the first strike, and Google insiders worry it could delay Android’s answer to the iPad.

An industry insider, who chose to go unnamed (because Steve Jobs will hunt him down), told the New York Times:  “It’s World War III.  Amazing animosity is motivating two of the most powerful people in the industry.  This is emotional.  This is the biggest ego battle in history.  It’s incendiary.”

The two companies, and the two CEOs, squabbled back and forth as Google began developing the iPhone.  Steve Jobs accused them of stealing Apple’s proprietary technology, Google saying some of their Android technology predated the iPhone.  At one point, Jobs threatened to sue Google if they used multitouch screens.  But while Steve Jobs is impressive, influential, and probably a little scary, Google is not backing down, not when their financial future depends so greatly on the success of Android devices.  A former Google employee said, “Google is not a company that is particular afraid of anyone, including Apple.”

Google had been playing the nice guy, but after they issued a multitouch phone with many features associated with the iPhone, the gloves came off.  Apple is now rumored to be considering Bing as its preferred search engine, which would be a huge loss to Google.

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Pirates on the Book Front

The struggling music industry is not the only one at war with digital pirates:  the burgeoning e-book industry is reporting its share of losses from thieving readers.  According to a study conducted by Attributor, a copyright protection firm, nearly $3 billion was lost to illegal downloads and unauthorized copies of e-books.  Will publishers wage war on pirates like their music compadres?

Venture Beat reports that Attributor tracked unauthorized downloads of over a period of 3 months for 913 different titles.  They arrived at the $2.8 billion loss by estimating that there were more than 9 million downloads of each of these books, then applying those figures across the industry and over time.  The Attributor report claims that about 10,000 copies of every book published is downloaded for free.  The  hottest reads:  technical and science texts and business and investing books, which lose, according to Attributor, about $1 million per title in sales.

In an article published in the New York Times last year, David Young CEO of Hachette Book Group (under whose umbrella the Twilight series is published), says “It’s exponentially up.  Our legal department is spending an ever-increasing time policing sites where copyrighted material is being presented.”  Author and president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America says, “It’s a game of Whac-a-Mole.  You knock one [pirate] down and five more spring up.”  Text book and Dummies published John Wiley & Sons goes so far as to have three full time employees whose sole job is to look for sites with unauthorized access to their titles.

But is the problem as widespread as Attributor claims?  According to Venture Beat:

 

“[T]here is no data which could lead anyone to believe that everyone who downloaded a book would have bought it otherwise. This is the same irrational argument that the recording industry makes against music piracy. Just because someone will take advantage of something when it’s free of monetary cost to him does not at all mean he would purchase it otherwise; anyone with even the most basic understanding of economics can tell you that.”

That, and the fact that Attributor is asking Google, Yahoo, and other search sites for a percentage of ad revenue on sites where purloined books are advertised, throws the $2.8 billion into a suspect light. A blog in the UK’s Guardian opines that book piracy will never be as endemic as music and film piracy.  Why? Publishers have learned a lot from their music counterparts.

“More importantly, though, publishers have a headstart on the music and film industries and already have some experience of what happens when controlled content is made widely available for free. Victorian publishers were convinced public libraries would ruin them: they didn’t. Lending libraries brought books off the estates and into the tenements, and publishers were suddenly selling a lot more books to a lot more people. This happened as the result of a system that, like Spotify, allowed readers to legally obtain books for free while the authors still received some money. If the publishing industry can remember its own history, digitisation should be a doddle.”

Those Bad Bloggers

Someone has been waiting for years to use the word, “musicblogocide,” and that person is fulfilling his dream today.   According to Geek.com, “In what is being referred to as the Musicblogocide of 2010, Google has deleted at least half a dozen popular music blogs that they claim violated copyright law which were hosted on Google’s Blogger and Blogspot services.”  A good move?  Something to keep in mind is that popular blogs sway opinion and can point consumers to an artist.

Google has targeted copyright violating bloggers who make it easy for readers to download free mp3s or who post videos without the proper licensing from the music labels.  But is that really the case?  One of the bloggers who was deleted said that he’d been encouraged to post new songs by the music labels themselves – who then filed copyright violation charges against him.  So, the cynics would say, they’ve had their free publicity, maybe a few sales, and suddenly now are opposed to the postings.

There is also a problem because of the vagueness of the charges against these bloggers.  Google says, “When we receive multiple DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaints about the same blog, and have no indication that the offending content is being used in an authorised manner, we will remove the blog. [If] this is the result of miscommunication by staff at the record label, or confusion over which MP3s are ‘official’ … it is imperative that you file a DMCA counter-claim so we know you have the right to the music in question.”  DMCA complaints are notoriously vague and don’t specify what the actual infringements are.

One of the blogs deleted by Google is I Rock Cleveland.  Blogger Bill Lipold told The Plain Dealer, a Cleveland newspaper, “It’s difficult to get across…that there’s a difference between someone working with the blessings of the artists and labels and someone who leaks Bruce Springsteen’s entire discography.  They don’t see the distinction between someone who’s adding value and someone who’s facilitating piracy.  That goes to the root of this whole mess.”  Lipold’s been unsuccessful in convincing Google of this.

The Twitter response has been swift, with one user writing, “I say we boycott @Google and start using Bing. Doesn’t everyone know BLOGGER sucks anyway?”

The blogs deleted also had their entire archives deleted, which was months or even years of work that had attained good search engine rankings.  Now, if they do choose to start somewhere else, they’re starting from scratch.  Music piracy is serious, but are these bloggers the problem?  Or were they helping drive sales?

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Android OS Growing

A few months ago, many of us may have said, “Android?  Who?”  iPhone was the undisputed king of the smartphones.  While Blackberry has its devotees, iPhone is generally seen as the best, the coolest, and the one with the most apps, usability, and versatility.  You can do anything from play an Albanian lute or read a novel to learn first aid or access satellite data.  But maybe this king’s reign is coming to an end?

The International Data Group (IDC) conducted a study that indicates Android will continue to gain ground and will eventually overtake both iPhone and Blackberry by 2013.  What is Android doing now, and what is it likely to do in the future?

New Android devices are continually coming to market, the most publicized and anticipated was Google’s Nexus One.  The OS boomed in popularity at the tail end of 2009, and 2010 looks equally good.  Dell, LG, Acer, Samsung, Motorola, and Sony have all issued Android devices.  Many companies have replaced Windows Mobile and Linux devices with Android.

While the hyped Nexus One had lackluster sales earlier this month, other Android devices have been selling very well.  IDC projects that by 2013, Android will grow about 100 times larger than it was in 2008 – and there will be about 68 million phones with the OS.  Adding to the count will be netbooks, tablets, and PMPs that will feature Android.

Electronista posits another reason Android is likely to overtake iPhone:

The upset would come about as a virtue of the Android ecosystem. As more companies start making Android phones, the platform should become the default choice for those who aren’t making their own operating systems and will replace both Linux and Windows Mobile in these areas. Apple and RIM are the only manufacturers for their platforms and limit their exposure as a result.

As an interesting side note, a study by Facebook app store, Mplayit, found that the top apps among iPhone, Android, and Blackberry are more similar than not.  Apple’s claim to fame is that there is an app for everything but the study found that there is “a great deal of similarity in the most popular apps in the most active categories, demonstrating that despite the big differences in the number of apps available by device, for the majority of consumers, there is less and less to choose between them.”

So maybe the biggest app store is not going to be as big of a selling point in the future for Apple as it has been, helping Android compete with only 20,000 apps.  Compete and win, if IDC is correct.

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