Can You Teach my Group a 3 Day Class in 4 Hours?

A request came in to the principal’s office. A company wanted to learnĀ  how to use InDesign to typeset books. The request came across my desk with a list of 12 topics they wanted to cover. The interesting part of the request was the part about covering the list in 4 hours. I won’t go into detail about the contents of the list. Let’s just say it covered what I typically have my instructors cover in a three day Basic Intro to Adobe InDesign class. Obviously not in detail and not topic for topic, but this list was quite comprehensive.

In an effort to reduce Scrap Learning throughout the Academy (and the entire world for that matter), let’s examine the request from the perspective of a challenge requiring a valid solution.

Since there are twelve points of interest, the simple math would dictate 20 minutes per topic.

I believe that an InDesign expert could definitely demo each point successfully in 20 minutes, as I have been tasked to do many times in the past as a consultant not a teacher.

The real test is whether participants can execute any of the activities that are demonstrated at any point in the following three days.

It is my belief that they cannot and most likely will not. They have seen how to di it, but they did not actually have time to try it so they have not learned how to do it. If they could, the link to online tutorials and subsequent queries online would have answered their questions and supplied them with the skills (to a level) where they would not be seeking training.

Don’t Just Watch, Try
Training should include time for each participant to try “to success” each task in its entirety. In my short experience as an instructor I can safely say that a 20 minute demo, deserves a 20 minute hands-on exercise or set of exercises to reinforce and “brain stamp” the activity.

Can’t We Just Buy Four Hours of Training?
The answer is no. Four hours is a waste of time. Eight hours is about right, but as usual only if the participants understand the tool.

If they have no usage, are unable to learn the basic interface elements, and how the engineers at Adobe have built the app to do what it is designed to do, then pagination from master pages and typography are skill topics that are actually outside of the application. A publication designer should know both. Layout and typography should be basic knowledge. How InDesign accommodates these skills as tasks is too far a concept apart from the actual execution of these tasks.

Know the Tool Before You Try to Use It
If the basic mechanics and workflow of the app itself are not thoroughly understood a learner will waste time trying to memorize a step-by-step example instead of learning or discovering those steps as the application offers them (i.e. via menu commands, panels of tasks, context clicking).

SFJ Academy has a syllabus, the class detailed on the syllabus is what I sell. If customers are seeking to cut costs and corners by configuring what I sell into a shorter faster solution, they should be aware that there is then no guarantee that any participant will learn anything.

That guarantee is part of the concept of a serious endeavor attempted, worked through thoroughly and accomplished with sufficient time involved. Even a publication designer who started with PageMaker or Quark two or three decades ago will benefit from such a process.

It is “that process” that we sell. Success cannot easily be achieved by providing coverage of a short list of topics. The process involves the time, the desk, a modern appropriate system and the offer to let you focus with no distractions on the task to be learned. You can find an explanation on a list of topics anywhere where there is a search bar. We sell learning.

Have InDesign render a gray-scale version of a full color photo.

Managing updates and revisions to both a full color version and a gray-scale version of the same image manually is not easy. Allow InDesign to offer (on import) either version. To do this, take advantage of a feature in Adobe Photoshop called Layer Comps.

The problem can be illustrated with a document that uses a full color version of a photo in one graphic frame and a black and white version of the photo in a second graphic frame. You could simply create a color version and save a copy as a black and white photo. However revisions and updates now require twice the work and twice the caution.

Instead, open the image in Photoshop. Save the image file as a Photoshop Document file. A PSD. By saving the tiff or jpeg or png as a PSD, InDesign will recognize the Layer Comp feature and allow you to make a choice as to which Layer Comp you’d like to apply when you import the file. Make sure to check the option to “Show Import Options”. This is a check-box that should be selected in the lower right area of the Place dialog box.

How do Layer Comps work? The quick answer is that Layer Comps are stored “states” of the settings you can apply to the Layers in a Photoshop Layer’s Panel. You can store the visibility, position and appearance properties of any layer in a Layer Comp.

In Photoshop the first task is to make sure the Adjustments panel is open (normally nested above the Layers panel). Click right next to the Scales (Color Balance) there is a small icon that looks like a box, split down the middle. One side is filled in. The other is not. This button creates a new Black and White Adjustment Layer.

Bring up the Layer Comps panel. You can open it from the Window menu in Photoshop. Click the Create New Layer Comp icon it is a button, in the lower left corner of the dialog box. Name the Layer Comp, perhaps calling it “Black and White version”. Make sure the Apply to Layers: Visibility check box is checked.

Return to the Layers panel. Uncheck the “indicates Layers visibility” switch. It looks like an open eye. This will hide the Black and White Adjustment Layer and remove the effect it has on the layer’s below. Thereby returning your image to full color. You’ll need to save this state of the Layers panel as a new Layer Comp. Click on the Create New Layer Comp button again. Give the Layer Comp a useful name, perhaps “Full Color Version”. Save the PSD file.

When you are ready to import the color version from within InDesign. Select the Place command, make sure the “Show Import Options” check box is checked. Import the PSD file. In the dialog box that opens, look in the lower right side, there will be a drop down menu with the Layer Comp versions available to choose. Choose the Layer Comp for the full color version.


Import the same file again, only this time choose the gray-scale version.


You can now update a single file at anytime back in Photoshop. The state of the layer comps will always be available on update and on import when you return to InDesign.


Great tip for automatic alignment of an InDesign facing page layout

Here’s a possible solution to a problem a student described about the requirement to insert a new left side page into a spread and thereby making the original page 3 end up as page 4, the image was then next to the spine, when it was meant to remain on the outer edge of the page.

Q. How can you create a facing page layout, that automatically keeps a mirror format relative to the spine of a facing page spread.

A. An example of this problem could be a two column facing page layout, that has a left front cover 1 spread in the middle and a back cover (page 6). You’d like to add another page to eventually change the content on one side of the spread. The spread page or pages has a design where a photo covers the top portion of the outside column and forces a text wrap away from all sides of the photo. The problem arises when you attempt to insert a single page into the left facing page of the spread. After doing so, the photo that was on the left on page 2 is now on the left of page 3 and therefore is no longer a mirror of the design structure (where the photo is always over the outermost column away from the spine).


The solution is to use an inline graphic container for the photos. Anchor the inline graphic and apply a conditional anchor based upon the anchor object’s position away from the spine. See the illustration.

The setting that you would set in the Anchored Object Options dialog box after selecting “Custom” in the drop down menu is to check the option “Relative to Spine”. Then set the Anchored Object’s Reference Point box so that it is selected on the left edge (automatically on the right edge as well) and in the middle vertically.

A Position of Custom, and Relative to Spine setting can also be applied to any object on the page including text as long as the object is inline in a text frame. The frame itself can hold nothing more than empty paragraphs with insertion points for the relative to spine aligned objects. To make an object an inline object quickly, leave a copy on the paste board. Copy it and paste it into the text frame as if it were text.

Upon insertion of an extra page. The photo will always anchor to the outermost column, in flow with the page break and inline with the appropriate position in the copy.

NVIDIA Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is ready for Prime Time

At Siggraph 2012 I was invited by Adobe to demo their CS6 video production applications running on a what NVIDIA calls NVIDIA VGX Technology. Stationed on the west side of NVIDIA booth (across from Pixar’s Brave theme based booth) we had a Dell Precision R5500 Rack Workstation with 24 gigs of RAM providing the virtualization services and (2) QUADRO K5000s providing the GPU processing and acceleration (in my case) of all Adobe enhanced filters as well as the most robust multiprocessing settings.

These world class applications were passed via a virtual desktop over Ethernet and delivered and controlled via a MacBook Air. With incredibly low latency I was able to manipulate a 3D Ray Traced title element in After Effects (while it utilized all available processor cores on the built-in XEON class processor) while playing four layers of HD video (with multiple effects) on a looping full frame sequence monitor in Adobe Premiere Pro, while also applying a Wide Angle Lens correction effect (also taking advantage of Mercury Playback Engine on board one of the Keplers) in Photoshop.

Cloud Based Video Editing from NVIDIA

NVIDIA’s Cloud Computing Concept called VGX

Theoretically this concept could be delivered to any thin client with support for a Citrux viewer, such as an Assus EEPC or an iPad.

Now, I am not suggesting you edit HD video, build 3D titles and process your wide angle DSLR raw images while riding your two wheeler along a bike path. But it is good to know that you can.


Meet me at Siggraph 2012

This year at Siggraph 2012 brings some exciting new technology I plan to showcase. Adobe Creative Suite 6 Applications show substantial gains in performance when run on platforms that include this years NVIDIA graphics cards.

GPU accelerated features in Photoshop and on to SpeedGrade improve your work efficiency sometimes as much as 13x.

Here’s the breakdown:

For After Effects:
  • Integrated CUDA-based OptiX allows for gpu-accelerated ray tracing which enables 3D beveled and extruded text and shapes to be created directly inside AE at maximum speeds w/out the need for an external animation tool.
  • New 3D motion graphics workflow with NVIDIA Quadro
  • 13x faster over CPU w/ K5000
  • 27x faster over CPU with Maximus
For Premiere Pro:
  • GPU accelerated Mercury Playback Engine allows for fluid, real-time video editing
  • 8x faster for broadcast and post production editing in MPE
  • GPU accelerated features include 3-way color corrector, warp stabilizer, uninterrupted playback and multi-cam support
  • New support for NVIDIA Quadro SDI
For SpeedGrade:
  • Professional real-time color grading optimized for NVIDIA Quadro
  • Exclusive NVIDIA video display with Quadro SDI
In Photoshop:
  • Mercury Graphics Engine for real-time GPU imaging
  • New blur, wide-angle and liquify effects in GPU-accelerated Mercury Graphics Engine

If I were you, I’d come see the Principal at the NVIDIA Booth, this year at Siggraph 2012.