Welcome! My name is Alan Shisko, and I'm a freelance motion graphics artist working out of Toronto, Canada. I've been very lucky in my career to have had many inspiring teachers, and decided to start this blog to give back to the community that has enriched me both technically and aesthetically. Perhaps my words and images will inspire you to do the same! If you wish, take a minute to view my demo reel at Shisko.com, or view a comprehensive gallery of my past work Here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Vectorizing Bitmaps

Sometimes you'll find that you need to vectorize a bitmap image (the differences between vector and bitmap imagery are described HERE). The reasons for this are many: perhaps you want to be able to scale it waaay up and don't want the image pixellated. Perhaps it's a "look" that you're going for, or maybe you need imagery to edit and place in a Flash scene.

You can use the 'live trace' functionality in Adobe Illustrator (overview and tut's HERE, technical white paper HERE) but what to do if you don't have Illustrator?

I stumbled across VectorMagic, a research project that came out of the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It's a very effective, easy-to-use web application that does a really nice job converting imagery to vector. Compare the results of VM to Illustrator and Corel HERE. I've played around with it with a few images and have been very impressed with the results (click on the header image on this post), and you certainly can't beat the price: Free!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Max2AE Global Scale

If you use Boomerlabs' "Max2AE" plugin a lot, you've probably come across an issue where you have to scale your After Effects layers very small to get them to fit the 'world space' that was exported from your 3ds Max project. Depending on your project settings, you might find that you need to scale a 3d After Effects layer as small as 1% to get it to 'fit'.

Now the interchange will still "work" visually (things line up where they're supposed to and such), but you'll find yourself saddled with a few gotchas. For instance, dealing with layers that are so 'small' can make layer tranforms (like moving) very difficult to execute when scrubbing in After Effects. Panning around the worldspace can be painful. And most importantly, you'll find that your shadows look AWFUL.

Fortunately, there is a simple way to fix this problem, so long as you know what to look for and plan ahead a bit. Take a look at THIS tutorial (Quicktime, h.264, 9:35, 33 megs) that walks you through the process.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Alright, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, one more post on keyboard shortcuts. Paddling around the 'net the other day, I came upon KeyXL... it's the self proclaimed "largest online database of keyboard shortcuts in the world". Be still my beating heart! A quick gander seems to suggest that it is, indeed, a fairly substantial repository of cutz. Granted, many applications aren't followed too closely (kind of weak in the video editing category for instance) but they're right on top of the latest Adobe CS3 suite. Indeed, they seem to be cribbed directly from the Adobe help files.

Ok, so why wouldn't I just hit the "f1" key and check out the kb shortcuts in After Effects? Well, for one thing they're multi-paged in the app 'help', and are thus hard to 'browse' if you're just kicking around on a render looking for something geeky to do. Plus all cutz are close at hand for all apps, making it a fast reference. And you can search the page with your browser keyword 'search' function (ctrl+"F", usually) to locate a particulary pesky shortcut. Worth a look.