I’m still here…


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Contrary to popular belief, I’m still alive.

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here. No blog entries or new projects to be found and I realize how bad this looks. But trust me, I’ve been busy. Really busy. To be honest, too busy. On top of the full time job at a big game company, I’ve been updating the How to Cheat in Adobe Flash book since January. What was supposed to be an update turned into more of a rewrite due to the significant changes in Flash CC as compared to Flash CS6. It’s been a crazy year and one that has me vowing never to write another book again. Ever.
But I said the same thing after my last 3 books so take it for what it’s worth I guess.

I’ve also waved the white flag when it comes to updating both my mudbubble site and this one. I may retire the mudbubble site and turn keyframer into my one and only portfolio site. I haven’t decided yet if that’s what I want to do but I’m leaning in that direction.

Also, I have a whole other career that revolves around music. I’ve been playing drums for 36 years and most of them professionally. I’ve been becoming more and more active in the local music scene and I want to focus more of my time in that direction in the near future.

More recently, I’ve become an official contract rep for Wacom which keeps me busy playing with their latest technology.

Throw in a wonderfully supportive wife, 3 kids and 2 dogs and you might begin to understand how the cobwebs formed around here.

2014 is the year I plan to upload my favorite design and animation projects as well as many of the game design and game animations I’ve been doing for the past 3 years. Lots to show you and thank you for your support.

-c

Which “Level” Of Undo Do You Use


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Object-level Undo has been deprecated in Flash CC. This doesn’t mean it’s dead forever, it just means that Adobe has shelved the feature based on usage data. But since the debut of CC, there has been a groundswell of complaints from designers and animators who say they can’t work with Flash sans Object-level Undo.

What “level” of Undo do you use? Take the poll!

Flash CC – Top 10 reasons why it’s awesome


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10. Core – Adobe has rewritten the very core, the foundation if you will, of Flash. Flash was originally built to be a 3 story home and we reached the roof level and kept trying to add on to it – which weakened the foundation. Now with Flash CC, the core of Flash has been rebuilt to support enough stories to justify a skyscraper. So think of this as Flash 2.0 moving forward. You’ll notice this new core every time you launch Flash CC. Instead of waiting 30+ seconds for Flash to start, Flash CC will only make you wait 3. If you blink you might miss it.

9. Dark user interface – For the first time, one thing does not look just like the others. Flash CC boasts the same dark user interface as the rest of Adobe’s software offerings. Don’t love it? Switch it back in Preferences.

8. Toggle Guides & Masks – There have been a few Timeline enhancements specific to layers. You can now toggle multiple selected layers between Guide and Mask behavior.

7. Multi-device connectivity – Authoring content for mobile? Test on a variety of devices in a single click (as long as they’re connected via USB). Flash will push builds to each and every one of them and launch them automatically.

6. DragonBones extension – This is one cool extension for authoring sprite animations and spit them out to XML and sprite sheets, ready to be plugged into the game engine of choice.

5. Distribute symbols & bitmaps to keyframes – I love this feature. Select multiple objects and tell Flash to place each in it’s own keyframe in its original position. Done.

4. Swap multiple symbols & bitmaps – Now we can select multiple instances of objects and swap them all out for another.

3. Scale to Anchor Point – Need to change the stage size and all the contents of your project along with it? Now you can and even better, choose the area of the stage to base the resize on.

2. Unlimited Pasteboard – Whoa! Unlimited! Yeah, just like the sky! We can now look back and laugh at the days we were limited to a puny 2,280 pixels to work with.

1. Video Export – It’s ok, you can let the tears of joy flow now. Adobe has not only solved the video export feature in Flash CC, but integrated the Adobe Media Encoder to boot! It’s all too much for animators to handle but I think you’ll find a way to handle it quite nicely.

Honorable mention:
Line preview
Panel enhancements

A few things you might not like because they are now deprecated:
Object-level Undo
Project Panel
ActionScript 1&2
TLF text
Motion Editor
Deco tools
Bone tool (IK)
Project panel
Printing
Strings panel
Behaviors panel
Movie Explorer
Bandwidth Profiler
FXG format
Actions Toolbox
Kuler panel
Share my Screen
Code Hinting (JSFL)
Video Cue Points
Close Captioning
Device Central
Customizable Tool Panel
Importing BMP, TIFF, AutoCad, AIFF, Sound Designer, Around AU and Adobe Sounds Document formats
File Info (XMP Metadata)
Fireworks PNG Import

A day with the Cintiq 24HD


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I got lucky yesterday.

I spent the entire day with a Wacom Cintiq 24HD touch courtesy of Great Eastern Technology. GET delivered the tablet to us for a week to kick its tires. I connected my MacBook Pro (retina) to it and spent most of the day working between Adobe Photoshop, Flash and OS X.

My verdict

Huge thumbs up! Seriously, this is the Shangri-La of graphics tablets folks. It’s simply huge and and seriously well-engineered. I think if the Earth exploded, this Cintiq would spend the rest of its life floating around space fully intact. The construction just feels solid. The entire time I was drawing and designing on it I couldn’t help but mutter words like “Whoa!” and “Dammmn!”. Even checking email and Facebook was like a whole new experience.

I’m not totally green when it comes to using a Cintiq either. For the past few years I have been using an older 21UX that I bought used from a random facebook user. The 21UX is a great tablet and works flawlessly after several years of service. But this week I’ve been able to compare it to its much bigger and better looking 24HD brother and the differences are noticeable.

Bigger really is better

It’s called the 24HD but in terms of its active area we’re really talking about 20.4″ x 12.8″ (518.4 x 324mm). But don’t let that sway you – the 24HD’s screen size and aspect ratio will surely satisfy your design appetite with room for dessert. The size of the Cintiq also fills the majority of your peripheral field of view, a side effect that tends to draw you in to your work (pun intended if you’re counting).
One feature my older 21UX has that the new 24HD does not is the ability to rotate the tablet on it’s mount. I honestly thought I’d miss having this ability but after a full day of using the HD24, I never thought about it. Maybe I never really used the ability to rotate the tablet with my older 21UX and liked the idea of it more than anything. After all, you can rotate the canvas inside Photoshop and many other applications anyway.

Throughout the day I was constantly interrupted by fellow employees who couldn’t help but notice the new toy I was using. Even the non-designers were incredibly impressed with my 2 minute walk-through of some of the Cintiq’s main features.

Connection

The Cintiq 24HD connects via a DVI output which requires an adapter. For the MacBook I needed my trusty DVI to Thunderbolt adapter which I always have in the bowels of my laptop bag for just such an occasion as this or when speaking at conferences and the like. What surprised me however was the lack of HDMI-to-HDMI connectivity from the Cintiq to support the newer Retina MacBooks. I would think HDMI would be a no-brainer but for now the DVI-Thunderbolt works fine and supports older, non-retina display MacBooks.

Setup

The Cintiq I’m testing is on loan as I previously mentioned and therefore came pretty much fully assembled. It weighs in at just over 60lbs and I quickly realized that sharing across the creative team would be problematic if we had to constantly move it from cubicle to cubicle every day. So I found an empty office for the Cintiq to stake its squatting rights in. As a creative team we all use MacBook Pros, so we can easily just bring our computers to the Cintiq and connect them via the Thunderbolt port.

The Cintiq 24HD display can be adjusted by height and incline. The angle of the display itself is adjusted by grasping the levers on both sides and squeezing to release the clutch mechanism. As you squeeze the levers, tilt the display to the desired angle and then release the levers to engage the clutch to lock the display in place. I had a lot of fun angling the display because of Wacom’s solid build quality. Serious tolerance levels achieved here guys as you can feel the subtle resistance in the hinging joints that connect the display to the support arms. It’s like opening the hood of a high end luxury car while still on the showroom floor kind-of-feel. Adjusting the Cintiq quickly becomes more about how good it feels than achieving the desired position angle.
The support arms lock when in vertical position and unlocked by accessing the release latch which is located at the very back of Cintiq’s base. When unlocked, you can lower the entire display to achieve a flatter angle. Just make sure you have one hand supporting the display when you release the support arms to avoid damage to the display or worse, your hand.

Whoa what’s this?


The Cintiq has 3 buttons along the top of its bezel; Information, Keyboard and touch toggle on/off. The info button displays an overlay that simply indicates what are the various express keys and various menu items across the entire display. The touch toggle button turns on and off the touch feature. But it was the keyboard button that caught me off guard in the best possible way. With the tap of my itty-bitty finger, a software keyboard appeared! Suddenly I was able to work entirely within the display area and not have to extend my left arm out to my MacBook to access any keyboard shortcuts! I could even create a text field in my graphics editor and use the software keyboard for entering text.
The keyboard can be resized and positioned anywhere on the screen. Toggle it off and then back on again and it will remember its last size and position. The keyboard feature was my big “Aha!” moment with the Cintiq and if I was only partially impressed by the tablet’s features up to this point, the keyboard would have put my confidence level well past the approval mark.

Cost

Your first born might be cheaper.
The ultimate, top-of-the-line 24HD touch model is listed on Wacom’s site at $3,699.00 US. Ok seriously, they’re a dollar away from making it a solid $3,700 so let’s just say THIRTY SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. If you can afford it, God love ya. Especially if you are one of the many independent digital artists out there hustling the grind each and every day. If you are lucky enough to work for a company that can buy you one, then you are a god among men (and women). If you fall into neither category, then I’m surprised you read this far and I apologize for wasting your time. Go make a baby and leave it on Wacom’s front steps and see what happens*. These tablets are amazing but not exactly cheap. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for and I can assure you, the Cintiq is an amazing piece of hardware that is worth every penny.
For smaller wallets there are other Cintiq models to choose from:

Cintiq 24HD – $2600
Cintiq 22HD touch – $2500
Cintiq 22HD – $2000
Cintiq 13HD – $1000

I also spent a week with the Cintiq 13HD and have not had time to formulate an official review because of my crazy workload. Ok, ok, I probably got distracted by Facebook again.

*Actually this is a very bad idea and no reason to have a child. I take no responsibility for any children that end up at Wacom’s front door. On 2nd thought, if Wacom takes the child in, think of how awesome he or she will be at using these tablets in a few years!

Wacom Cintiq – Does Size Matter?


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I just received an email from a friend;

I love all your books and have learned most everything that I understand about Flash cartoon animation from your books. I have a question on the Cintiq tablet. You mention that you use one and I was wondering about your opinion about which size you think fits best for creating Flash cartoons? As you know Wacom has the 22″ and 24″ and they’ve recently come out with the 13″. I’m particularly interested in the 13″ but I’ve wondered if having a larger screen size is more ideal. I would certainly welcome your opinion based on your years working with Flash for creating cartoon animation. I look forward to hearing from you, thanks.

I’ll preface my response by saying I have only been able to use the Cintiq 13HD and for only a couple of days. A local dealer loaned one to me and soon they will be asking for its speedy return. I have seen the 24HD being used at a local conference event and I can say with certainty, it is a beautiful piece of hardware.
Which one to choose? I will break it down like this:

Cintiq 13 – The perfect choice if you want a Cintiq tablet combined with portability. The 13″ size fits perfectly in my laptop bag alongside my MacBook Pro and I can easily take it with me almost anywhere. Keep in mind, you will need a power source wherever your travels take you as the Cintiq 13 is not wireless in any way. In fact, I found the tethered nature of the 13 to be slightly annoying, but I admit I’m splitting hairs with that complaint so don’t take it too seriously. The small screen also means that everything being displayed is well, very small. Almost too small. I had a difficult time selecting menu items and tools across Adobe Flash and Photoshop. There’s also a persistent arrow cursor displayed under my stylus that covers up the items I try to select, turning the simple task of selecting things into a game of blind luck. I have not been able to find a way to hide this cursor in the tablet preferences.

UPDATE! It’s been a few more days of using the Cintiq 13HD and I have grown more and more fond of it. I’ve started to forget about the cables needed to connect the device to my computer and the cursor “issue” has all but gone away for me. Yes, the screen is still feeling smallish, but I’m an adaptable kind of guy and I’m finding myself selecting and moving about my applications in a swift manner. Still the best part? Transporting the Cintiq alongside my MacBook in my backpack between work and home. Portability is this tablets’ key strength.

Cintiq 22HD, 24HD or 24HD Touch – As mentioned previously, I have not been able to actually use one of the larger Cintiqs but I can say that if portability is not a priority and your budget can provide for it, go big or go home. Maybe someday I’ll get my grubby hands on one and really kick its tires.

Sneak Peek: Playing with Lighting in Photoshop and After Effects


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I got to meet Sylvain Paris and obviously being French, I asked him where in France he was lived. He told me that he currently lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts which is the town I grew up in.

Phil Hansen


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The most inspiring moment (for me) at the Adobe Max conference in Los Angeles last week. If you are a creative type, or even if you aren’t, this will surely inspire you in some way.

Adobe MAX session test


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Wacom Webinar – Flash Animation Techniques


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Wacom makes cool products. Wacom loves the artists that use their products. Wacom also loves the graphic design and animation community. But most of all, Wacom is cool because of people like Westom Maggio and Joseph Sliger, the hosts of a regularly scheduled webinar that showcases artists, designers and animators of all walks of life and how they integrate Wacom products into their workflow. This week I was asked back to present again on Flash design and animation techniques because contrary to popular belief, Flash as a development tool is very much alive and well.

Adobe Edge Animate Test


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[edge_animation id="3"]

The above animation may not seem like much but consider the fact that it was created entirely in Adobe Flash (I know, still not impressed), exported using the Sprite Sheet Generator (yeah…big whoop again), imported into Adobe Edge Animate and published to HTML5 and embedded into this WordPress theme using a plugin (admit it, it’s kind of cool now – especially if you are seeing this on your iOS mobile device).

The new Citrus game engine


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In an effort to step up my Adobe Flash Pro game, I’m learning about, well, Flash gaming – specifically the new Citrus game engine. I recently worked with Tom Krcha by supplying him with a couple of animations for his recent Citrus article. I used the new DragonBones extension, a new open source skeletal animation extension that outputs texture atlas sheets and animation metadata all within the Flash Pro IDE. Check out Tom’s complete tutorial. Meanwhile, I’ll be building my own simple game engine to use as an example for a future book update ;)

I’m a faculty member now


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Hot off the press…

The HAS MFA in Illustration program welcomes faculty Chris Georgenes to its ranks! Chris joins faculty Nancy Stahl team-teaching Creative Digital Illustration, a week-long course offered during the two-week summer residency in Connecticut.

Read more here on the Hartford Art School blog.

Adobe CS2 Free Download! (UPDATED)


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Just when you thought the gift giving season was over, Adobe decides to give CS2 away for FREE!

UPDATE: That URL is now broken as it is apparent to me that the link to download CS2 may have been in error on Adobe’s part.

And the official word from Adobe.