General Specialist


The Fastest Workstation Right Now is a single-CPU Dell?

I've had long and elaborate debates with myself over my dubious need to rebuild my workstation. After drooling over dual-CPU dual-core Opteron systems, this little review of the newest Intel-systems and its After Effects' benchmarks made the angel on my right shoulder smirk at the budget-busting devil on my left, and makes me glad I kept my credit card in the wallet for so long.

Check out these benchmarks that shows a single-CPU system run in circles around the competition. Even though I believe the other systems aren't the fastest available on the market, you can't beat the price of the new Intel Core 2 Extreme system.

Dell Precision 390 Review and Benchmarks

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OpenGL in AE: Take the Survey

The After Effects' developers have posted a quick survey about the use of OpenGL in AE 7.0, so jump on over there even if you only use "Adaptive Resolution."

I'd love OpenGL in AE 7.0 if only the annoying bug (while scrubbing, AE 7.0 re-renders frames that are already cached) would be fixed.

Adobe's OpenGL Survey



Use After Effects' Shortcuts with non-English Keyboards

Frustrated about not being able to maximize AE panels with the ~ shortcut, since your keyboard doesn't have the tilde character? The same goes for many of the most useful shortcuts that don't work on many non-English keyboards. However, there is a relatively easy way to fix this before a future version hopefully ships with the nice shortcut editor found in Photoshop CS2.

Update: Thanks to Nils Fridén for providing the OS X procedure!
Update 2: Added the paths for After Effects CS3 and a link to a script for AE CS3 that will let you edit the keyboard shortcuts easier, but you'll still have to find the Unicode for all those non-English keys.

How to map the "Maximize Current Panel" shortcut to the same key on a foreign keyboard
  • Step 1: Locate the text file Adobe After Effects 7.0 Shortcuts.txt (Adobe After Effects 8.0 Shortcuts.txt for AE CS3.)
    On Windows XP and AE 7.0 you can find it in the folder
    C:\Documents and Settings\XXXXXXX\Application Data\Adobe\After Effects\7.0
    ...and with AE CS3 it's:
    C:\Documents and Settings\XXXXXXX\Application Data\Adobe\After Effects\8.0
    Replace XXXXXXX with your current username, for example "jessica".
    On Mac OS X and AE7.0 you will find the text file in:
    ...and on Mac OS X with AE CS3 you will find the text file in

  • Step 2: Create a backup copy of the file, just to be on the safe side...

  • Step 3: Open the original file and search for the word "maximize" and you will find the row where it says
    "ToggleTabPanelMaximize" = "(`)"

  • Step 4: Now comes the tricky part; you have to find out which character is actually sent when you press the key you want to map the Maximize command to. I chose the same key as is used on English keyboards, above the Tab key, which on Swedish keyboards sends the § character. However, AE doesn't recognize this character, so we have to find out the Unicode code and enter that instead.

  • Step 5: On Windows XP, choose Run... from the Start menu (or simply hit your Windows key and the R key) and type charmap and hit Enter. This brings up a small utility called Character Map.
    On Mac OS X you start the utility Character Palette.
    Write, drag-and-drop, or copy characters to the search field..

  • Step 6: Find the character that is sent when you press the correct key by pointing and clicking on it. When you've found the character, hover the mouse pointer over it to get the Unicode which in this case is U+00A7, and switch back to the text file.

  • Step 7: Change the text between the parenthesis to the code you just wrote down, but relace the "-" (dash) with a lower-case "x".

  • Step 8: Save and close the file and then make sure you restart After Effects so it can load the changed shortcut.

  • Step 9: There is no step 9! ;-)
    Just pray that Adobe makes it easier in upcoming versions. My preference would be that pre-configured shortcut files where automatically installed for the most common non-English keyboard layouts.

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Type Guru Blogs!

I've left my old passion of typographic geekiness unpacked for almost a decade. Boring web consulting, unproductive broadband consulting and, for the last few years; broadcast graphics and visual effects, have made me almost forget the days when Patrick and I used to have Name-That-Typeface battles in downtown Stockholm. Those where the days...

Thanks to Photoshop developer John Nack's blog, I just found out that an old favorite type designer Erik Spiekermann has his own blog. Also, here's an interview with Spiekermann that brings you up to date on his old and new accomlishments.



Getting Started Programming Your First After Effects Plugin

I'm a scripter that has never come closer to real programming than falling asleep to an old Beginning C Programming book. But, if I knew how to do an #include, I'd start looking at this PDF where the AE API engineer Bruce Bullis has thrown together a getting started guide to your first plugin:
After Effects API Zone: Getting Started : What you’ll need (PDF)


Flash Pro 9: ActionScript 3.0 Preview Available for Free

A quick heads-up for all you Flashers: you can now download a public alpha build of the new ActionScript version 3.0 that will be included in Flash 9.

Flash Professional 9 ActionScript 3.0 Preview now available


Maya: Pay $280 to stay legit?

We have two licenses for Maya Complete at work, and we paid extra to get a USB hardware license. However, when this "dongle" was sticking out of the front of a workstation one day, someone accidentally touched the dongle with his knee.

So, for the last couple of months, the use of Maya has been depending on superglue and a gentle touch. This is proving to be harder and harder, but the Swedish distributor wants approx. $280 for a new dongle. I mean, what can the manufacturing and distribution cost be for the device? It can hardly be 10 per cent of that...

Is this a reasonable cost for using something that others just download via BitTorrent? I've heard numreous stories about animation shops buying software, but leaving the anti-piracy obstructions in their boxes and just using cracks in everyday production. As long as you have paid, right?


AE Preset: Scaling a Motion Path

If you've set up an After Effects animation with lot's of position keyframes, you probably know that you can move the entire animation around by parenting the moving object to a null, and then move the null. But if you suddenly want to scale the animation path without scaling the moving object itself, you're in for a hard time. After watching Aharon Rabinowitz's very complicated method of getting around the problem of not being able to scale a motion path, I thought to myself; "there must be an easier way" and decided to use this as an excuse to dip my toe in the pool of expressions. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that Aaron spends so much time on all his great AE tutorials and AE podcasts! Here's an After Effects 7.0 Animation Preset that you can apply to a layer with an animation, and then just scale the animation to your heart's content. If you want to rotate the animation, just parent it to a null, and rotate the null! Download preset Scale MotionPaths (ZIP-file, 1 KB) Of course there's a way to both scale and rotate without the help of a null. I asked the expressions-guru Dan Ebberts who instantly whipped up this preset that will let you do both: Download preset Scale and Rotate MotionPaths (ZIP-file, 1 KB)
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Jahshaka: Open Source Realtime Compositor

Has anyone tried Jahshaka yet? The feature list is very vague and seems to pertain to version 3.0 that isn't released yet. There's a wiki that seems to have some fairly updated featere descriptions, but not enough to get me to lose a couple of hours of sleep on downloading and testing it.

Post a comment if you've had any experience with it!

Crooked Perspectives: Texture Tiling in Google Earth

I was just checking out the new Beta 4 version of Google Earth, and was looking at the 3D buildings on Manhattan, just south of Central Park. Suddenly I saw a weird effect of the source image tiling the makes up the ground texture; photographs taken with two totally different angles right next to each other.

As I just delivered over 250 GB of 1920x1080, 16-bit animations of fly-overs of the same data that Google Earth uses, I've grown accustomed to having to find out and replicate the same angle of view as the photographs were taken from. Fortunately, even though some of the sources contained over 4 GB per image, I never had to conceal this sort of problem.


Locate the Logo: How to Find Vector Logotypes When Your on a Deadline

Here's a collection of good resources for finding logotypes, especially vector ones.

If you can't find what you're looking for, you can always use the old PDF trick of going to the corporate website and looking for annual reports or other documents where the logo is likely to be found. Then just open that page of the PDF in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.

If you still have no luck, do a Google search limiting the scope to a particular site, such as this: pdf
If all fails, you could probably find a bitmap of higher resolution in a PDF than on their site, usable for taking a screen shot of and perhaps trace. (vector logos) (vector logos)
Beers (vector logos)
International Flags (vector, but remember to search for the French spelling of the country you're looking for)
French road signs (vector)
Other signs (vector)
Apple illustrations (vector)
Euros (vector) (vector logos) (logos: bitmap and designer info)
Swedish Roadsigns (vector) and their typeface (TT) (bitmap logos)

Update 2006-07-13: here's one more tip from AE Freemart:

stock.xchng (bitmap photos)