Incredible Video of Image Resizing Software

August 31, 2007

This is an incredible tool. Really. Just watch it and you’ll be amazed at the flexibility and possibilities of this piece of software. It looks for “seams” in an image and uses these spaces to shrink or even expand an image. Click play and you’ll see what I mean.

Found via Compiler 

Thoughts on the New Vancouver Canucks Jersey

August 29, 2007

New Canucks Jersey

A little diversion for this blog, but there’s a lot of noise being made about the newly unveiled Vancouver Canucks jersey. The consensus seems to be that people hate it. Well, I’m not one of them.

First impressions: I like the colour; it’s a great blue. I like the green striping. They are using their retro colours well here. I’m not crazy about the old logo on the shoulders, but it’s not horrible. And now for the big controversy: the “Vancouver” scrawled across the front. It’s the first thing I noticed–probably the same for most people–when I first saw the jersey and right away I liked it. It’s got a vaguely collegial feel to the lettering. But it also reminds me of European soccer jerseys (see Inter Milan or Argentina). Part of me wonders if the Euro-jersey influence isn’t actually what’s really at work here. Maybe this is a first, tentative foray into stamping lettering across a hockey jersey’s front, as a way to ease viewers and fans into eventually accepting advertising like most European club shirts. First we start with the city’s name, later it’ll be Molson, or Tim Horton’s.

In the meantime, based on the photos I’ve seen, I think it’s a decent jersey. I think they could have done something to integrate the lettering and the orca logo more; right now they do seem a bit disconnected and thrown together (though the arc of the text does try to match that of the orca’s). Both elements carry similar importance and weight which creates an odd tension. I think this is what people are responding to when they say they don’t like the text. It’s easy to be an armchair graphic designer, but maybe they could have screened back the logo and made the text the dominant feature? (They did simplify the orca logo, probably in an attempt to do just this, but maybe they didn’t go far enough.) Or layered the text over the logo somehow… I’m sure they tried a ton of combinations. Anyway, we’ll see if the excitement dies down in a few days. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see the new jersey’s in person during their training camp at Bear Mountain. I’ll reserve my final thoughts until then.

Using Wikis

August 28, 2007

As part of a bigger effort to introduce some real collaboration into my project work–and our office in general–I’ve signed up for a few wiki accounts, specifically Wetpaint, Wikidot and Socialtext. I’m starting small and looking to incorporate a wiki to help manage and develop some of my projects. Most people–or at least a lot of us who live and work online–have used wikis from time to time, at least as a consumer. Thinking about implementing wikis, from a corporate point of view, requires a shift in thinking about how content and communications are managed. (Aside: so much of the discussion surrounding new communications technologies is clouded by hype and debate about people who don’t “get it.” I find that framing a position this way rarely benefits anyone, since it naturally creates separation, and no matter how much you hold to this point of view you will have to work with those who don’t “get it,” or more likely, have to convince/help them to get it. So I will try to keep the hyperbole and drama to a minimum. We’ll now return to our regular programming.)

Organizations like to control. There may be good reasons for this, but often it’s just a leftover response, like the hunger pangs you get when walking by The Body Shop in the mall and inhaling the scent of vanilla; intellectually you know there are no cookies in there, but your gut is telling you something else. The problem is, staff talk. They always have. And these days, of course, they aren’t limited by a physical chat with one person, they blog it and tell the world.

Wikis have the potential to take the control–if it ever really was there to begin with–away from the top and hand it to the bottom. This creates some interesting dynamics. Suddenly, people who may have been used to being told what processes to follow are now actively creating the processes themselves. People whose opinions might not have been sought out previously can now directly influence decisions and policy.

I’m not sure what the future holds for wikis in my organization, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get something off the ground. Things tend to move slowly, but I have a feeling they’ll start to pick up soon. There’s a real need to move beyond fear–especially of “failure”–and experiment. Without experimentation how can progress happen?

The Power of a Quick Reply – Courtesy of Kathy Wolfe Photography

August 21, 2007

I really admire the work of professional photographer Kathy Wolfe. She achieves very saturated, glowing images that often seem to sparkle. It’s a particular style, and one that I really like. My curiosity, along with my desire to build upon my own style and knowledge, compelled me to send her an e-mail yesterday, asking about how she achieves the look. Occasionally I’ve fired off a note to a blogger here or there, on a variety of topics (not just photography). My experience over the years, though, has led me to have low expectations for a thoughtful response. Much less a timely one.

But tonight, sitting down to my laptop, a response came in from Kathy, less than 24 hours after my original note. She was forthcoming with some details about how she shoots and edits her images, and overall very encouraging and friendly. I was surprised and impressed. I regularly read her blog and subscribe to her RSS feed, but now, as a result of her quick and kind response, my impression of her has been elevated. Her professionalism and grace are evident, and it can’t but help have an impact on how I view her work.

Now, Kathy and I will likely never meet face-to-face, and we’re not likely to run into one another on the street, each with our cameras in hand. So an argument could be made that Kathy’s efforts, while admirable, won’t really have much impact on her bottom line. Well, this misses the point. First, these days, the world is smaller than we often realize and circumstances could result in a referral or contract coming from an unlikely location–you just never know. Second, goodwill travels fast. Google makes research an easy thing these days. And someone looking for a photographer, or dentist, or stylist, or mechanic, or videographer, or financial advisor, or… will use the web to see what people think. So whether Kathy Wolfe and I are in the same city or region is really irrelevant. And ultimately, Kathy’s communications ability, both visually and through the written word, can only be of benefit to her.

It’s a Wrap! We’ve Finished Shooting our Corporate Video

August 16, 2007

Today was the last day of shooting for three videos we’re producing at work for our largest client. It’s an ambitious project. We’ve been using online video internally for a couple of years, and it’s been quite successful (and will be expanding). For our external audiences, however, while we have previously produced videos, I mostly project-managed contracted resources. We never fully took on the task of fully producing them in-house. Partly it was a lack of resources–that is, I had no help–and also that we didn’t have the equipment. I now have both.

We’re still building our equipment inventory, but we’re at the point where the barriers to producing a good-looking production are essentially eliminated. We still need a full lighting kit, otherwise we’re rolling.

Here’s a quick summary of some of what we’re using:

And there’s more. A nice big light (brand name escapes me), accessories, software on the editing station, DV tape recorder, etc. Like I said, we’re decked out quite nicely.

So back to the project. We’ve shot three short (max 3 min each) commercial-style videos explaining the benefits of being part of a pension plan. A few months ago I pitched three concepts to a sub-committee of the full board of trustees and they chose a hybrid of all three. I returned with their feedback and we started in on storyboarding and scripting the new concept. Finally, I presented the polished scripts to the same committee confident that we had hit the mark. Sure enough, they bought it.

This was a great success for a couple of reasons. First, I went in planning to have the committee approve the scripts at the meeting so that I could leave with my marching orders ready to roll. Some colleagues thought this would never fly, since approvals are not usually granted so easily by the committees. But I was undaunted: I viewed it as my responsibility to provide them with a compelling vision of what we hoped to achieve and a strong enough script and presentation that the committee would have little reason not to give me the green light. And it went off perfectly.

Second, we have a mandate to produce plain language materials, but, given the industry (pensions), it’s not always easy. Not to mention satisfying a variety of stakeholders who typically want to include a lot more information without realizing the impact on readability, comprehension, etc. Anyway, the scripts that we developed were plain languaged to the extreme. We worked hard to distill pension concepts and benefits down to their barest essentials. Again, some were worried that our trustees would never buy into this vision. And, again, they were wrong. The trustees loved the concept, the language, the simplicity.

Anyway, so now we’re on to editing, and we’re right on schedule. Next step is to preview it for the trustees, which we’ll be doing in a couple of weeks. I’m a little anxious, naturally, but confident that what we’ve produced will exceed expectations.

Blog Update: Summer Break

August 2, 2007

Where have I been? Well, I’ve been on a bit of a break. Self-imposed and necessary. The summer has been busy and I needed to give my brain a break.

I’ve gained new-found respect for serious bloggers who work to maintain a fresh blog. And I say “work” intentionally, because it is.

Anyway, I’m back and hoping to maintain some consistency with the blog. My plan is to focus a bit more on my work projects, chronicle what I’m learning, what’s working, what’s not. Some really interesting work is coming out of my office these days and I think it’s worth sharing. I’ll dive into it a bit more in my next post.