27 October 2018

review: Quark Xpress 2018

I don't have a great history with Quark XPress. I used it in the 90s when it was the top page layout program out there, but I preferred other software like Pagemaker and even Pagestream which I had on my still functioning Amiga computer from the 80s. When Adobe's Indesign reached version 2, it had advanced beyond them all and I switched to that and have been using it ever since.

Recently I have had to reacquaint myself with Quark because a job that uses it to produce a monthly magazine. I knew the version at the magazine office was a little out of date and I was appalled at how little the software had changed. Well, the version there is not a little out of date... it's almost 8 years out of date! So glad to say, having a chance to play with the 2018 version, its very much improved. I still don't love it mind you, but it is a viable alternative to Indesign and Adobe's horrible subscription service.

Some of the best improvements are the in the interface which finally looks like a modern application, is much better and more logically organized and has a very nice preview window, something earlier versions lacked and made them very hard to design with. Maybe better still is the way it handles fonts and the typography in general. Also gone is the stupid adobe distiller requirement to make professional PDFs. That thing was always a pain and should have been gone long, long ago.

On the more negative side of things - the interface is improved but still not great to work in. Some things that should be easy, like adding a visible bleed to the document are hidden in weird menus you would not find unless you really look hard for them in the documentation. I hate how Quark handles images, it's the same as always and I don't get why they keep this workflow of basically an image window inside another, one to scale and distort and the other to move/scale the image within. You have to keep switching tools to work within an image. I find it slow to open as well, but even with that there is a huge improvement from the version I use at work.

A giant step forward is the ability builtin to open Indesign files, making switching to Quark pretty easy and while, again, it took a bit of time to figure out, you can break a PDF down into separate elements you can edit directly in Quark after you have imported it. Working at a magazine, there needs to be a way to have many people working on the same project and that is something Quark has always seemed to have an edge with.

 It's not as easy as Indesign and is not as full featured, but its more than up to most tasks and even makes some, like digital publishing easier than Adobe's offering.

So in general if you want to avoid the Adobe scam, Quark is a good way to do that - with one big caveat. The price. While it's available on the Mac App store now on sale for 400$ it's normal about double that for the full version. This is not a competitive price, especially for such an old software that has lost so much marketshare over the years.

Will I use it myself? Not likely, except in cases where the client insists (and pays enough for me to buy myself a licence). Affinity Publisher is still a ways off from releasing a truly usable commercial version but it already outdoes Quark in terms of interface and even some functions. Plus when officially released it's likely to be 50$-60$ with paid updates 3 years apart like their other software which will integrate seamlessly with it. If I had to use it, it wouldn't be the worst thing and I'm sure I'd get used to Quark's quirks pretty quickly.

21 October 2018

Yes I'm still anti-social

Seems like every four years I update my status about how I feel about social networks and related topics so  - its that time again!

I still don't have a cell phone. Good, now that's out of the way and you've picked yourself off the floor...

I still look into social networks and media as possible ways to promote my work, get work or keep in touch with people. So I'm not, nor have I ever, been one of those social media is evil and none should ever use it, think of the children! sort of people.

This past year in particular I have tried to get more out of my You-tube account as I go there often for reviews and tutorials as well as put my films on it. Maybe my interests are just too narrow, but I don't get why anyone wants to see and hear strangers tell them about their lives etc. It's become a huge money maker for some of these influencers as I think they call them. They are literally legends in their living rooms. I have NO IDEA how to drive people to look at my videos there but I do feel lucky that I don't get attention from many who leave comments, I've read a few on other channels audit's pretty dismal stuff.

Vimeo on the other hand has easy ways to add subjects you like to your feed (animations, Montreal etc) and I get some hits there for my work. Sadly they charge for loading more than 5 gig of videos now and I simply can't afford any fees. I doubt I would get more attention if I did pay.

Google+ seems to be going away for everyday people, many who already assumed it's been gone for years now. You are gifted an account just by using gmail and I was sort of pressured to trying it for a work project and it never worked out.

I use Flickr to put my photos and drawings online and I have more luck there getting seen. Occasionally, I get some comments and likes but it hasn't really done much for me professionally.

Which bring me to LinkedIn, a service everyone and their brother seems to want o me to join. When I ask if any of them have ever got a job offer from the site, the response is always no so far. What good is it then? It's a job networking site, non? It must work for some but I haven't found them yet.

Facebook and Twitter the big fish in this pond really just turn me off. Getting news from either has always seemed like a really bad idea. They do have potential uses and I know it's a great way to get those photos of the kids to relatives all over the world without having to send them all emails and the messaging system seems to be pretty popular but I really don't have use for those things too much.

The privacy concerns and problems that keep coming up are another reason I can't buy into to the social network trends. I just don't want to send my personal information to every company that wants to try and sell me things or potentially put my identification out there to be stolen. Not that I have anything anyone would want to take. I don't see interactions I like or desire to have on this sites either. I'd love to talk about photography or animation or get constructive feedback, but a "like" button isn't any of those things. I don't need attention for attention's sake and I haven't seen any sign it would help me get work. I think the ship has sailed on those early days when there weren't another 2 billion people on these services.

If money wasn't such an issue, I might get a cell phone to replace my land line at some point. Just for the convenience of if and safety on long bike rides. I am perfectly happy with my iPad right now with wifi for communicating out of the house/office. even if I eventually do get a cell phone I can't imagine I'd be carrying it around too often.

I have to say I don't still feel like I'm missing out on much. I have lost friends who won't communicate unless it is through Facebook, but I am still here, in real life, with email, mailbox and a phone number should they change their minds. In the meantime, Have projects to work on and people to see - in the real world.

16 October 2018

Tell Tale heart selected for Another Hole in the head film festival!

This year, the Another Hole in the Head film festival has chosen my short animated adaption for Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell Tale Heart to be part of the films shown!

If anyone is close, please go and be sure to mention to everyone how much you love my movie! I would like to keep making them and word of mouth is about all I can afford these days to find support for them!

15th Annual Another Hole in the Head
SF IndieFest’s Genre Film Festival
November 28 – December 12, 2018

11 October 2018

The raven - set design

Moving ahead on my next gothic horror animation. Trying for a more detailed, yet still render in a realistic amount of time look. To that end I removed a lot of reflection and the fire is an animated texture not a simulation. I also added noice to the main light to give more detail to things so i don't have to put stuff on every wall. The use of shadows also fills that space with shapes so the need for paintings and moulding is reduced. I still have t make the narrator character and his dead wife, Lenore but at lest the raven itself is ready. This set is made so I can easily make some of the walls and ceiling invisible for camera placement. There is a balcony and a street out the french doors and I think it will be snowing outside. I put a ton of work into the doorway because that is where we see the raven mostly so it have to hold up for many shots and different angles. The painting over the fireplace is temporary as it will need to be made with the image of Lenore from my model of her eventually.