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February 24 2014


February 12 2014


Your Brain On Audio Books: Distracted, Forgetful, And Bored

Of all the ways to enjoy a book, minds wander most when we're listening to someone else read it.

With so much focus in the publishing world on e-books, you might have missed the recent explosion in the popularity of audio books. They've become a billion-dollar industry with huge annual sales growth, in part because anyone with a smartphone can now also pocket an audio book. Alexandra Alter of the Wall Street Journal writes that the audio surge is changing the very way people read, "creating a new breed of literary omnivores who see narrated books and text as interchangeable."
Our mode of enjoying a book can alter the way we absorb its material.

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January 13 2014


Focus Stacking: Post Production Photography Using Precision and Patience

The photography term ‘depth of field’ might appear to indicate a photographic effect of depth. This isn’t what the term means, though. Depth of field, in photography, is an effect where images appear sharply in focus only in a very narrow area. It’s the kind of effect you would achieve if you focused your eyes on an object 6 feet away. Only the object you wanted to look at would be in focus – everything else, whether closer or farther away – would be blurred.

If you’ve ever admired professional photographs with artistic blurring around an area of precise focus, you can probably imagine how impressive the results would be if you had a photograph that was similarly focused throughout. This is the effect that focus stacking achieves.

The focus stacking technique works especially well with close-up product pictures. If you’ve seen a modern jewelry catalog with photographs that seem deep, yet perfectly focused throughout, you’re probably familiar with the effect that focus stacking can achieve. These photographs are created by combining several images, each one a depth of field image, narrowly focusing on a different area of the object being photographed, to create a final Image that appears perfectly focused throughout. You get effective focus stacking by paying attention to three areas:

  • You need a long lens: the focal length of your lens determines the shallowness of the depth of field that you achieve (shallowness, as used here, is a good thing – it indicates how narrow an area of your image you can turn sharp while leaving the rest looking blurred).
  • How close you are to the object matters; the closer you are, the shallower the depth of field that you can achieve.
  • The aperture settings affect the shallowness of your depth of field, too. The longer you expose your photograph, the shallower the results.

You need a few pieces of quality equipment  

You mustn’t embark on creating beautifully focus-stacked pictures without the right equipment. Depth of field can be difficult to achieve without precision and control.

A quality, macro lens should be first on your list: A long 50 mm lens like the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 is an excellent choice for focus stacked images. Close-ups of products or of nature require that you bring your camera very close. Photographing your subject up close ensures that you get a shallow depth of field even if you shoot at f/8. If you’re shooting in inadequate light, you could mount your lens with an LED ring light flash.

You can’t do without a heavy, high quality tripod: While you can achieve focus stacked images with any tripod, you’ll have to put up with much frustration in getting your camera precisely in position and having it stay rock steady.

A precision focusing screen: Photographing for focus stacked pictures usually means getting your camera locked on a tripod at odd, inaccessible angles. You can’t comfortably look at your camera’s viewfinder when the camera isn’t at a good angle. A focusing screen can help you easily see a large version of the image in your viewfinder.

Setting up a focus stacked image can be time-consuming. You need a great deal of patience to find out how and where exactly to focus your camera for the best kind of results.

However, manual focus manipulation is not the only option available. One alternative, especially for product photography, is an all-in-one equipment and software system. Such professional equipment automates the process to create beautifully focused and professional results.

Getting the shots

The idea with a focus stacked shot is to get an image that is sharply focused throughout, even as you shoot with a high-quality long lens. You need to shoot at four different points along the subject. Once you have four shots, you can use focus stacking software (Photoshop has a well-regarded focus stacking module) or all-in-one solution to stack all your shots. The software can take the focused part of each picture and put them together to form a fully focused image. While it’s a time-consuming exercise, the results can be impressive.


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lion Focus Stacking: Post Production Photography Using Precision and Patience


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Author information

Mathilde Chenel
Mathilde Chenel
Mathilde Chenel is an experienced photographer. She often blogs about tips and tricks for engaging photography.

January 10 2014

10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal
Insights into the days of Ze Frank, Garrison Keillor, Cheryl Strayed and more.
Tags: Focus

November 21 2013


How to Sell Responsive Design

In a world where responsive design is one of the top concerns of businesses for their websites, there are still times where you have to persuade your client that it’s worth having. If you find yourself in the position of having to sell responsive design, the suggestions listed below can help you achieve that task with ease.

Assess Their Need for a Mobile Web Experience

Maybe your client doesn’t even need responsive design. Look at their traffic figures and see if they’re attracting mobile users? Is the website converting visitors? Does it have a visually appealing design? Does it offer a high-quality user experience across the board?

If mobile devices contribute a small faction of visitors, it will be tough to sell. Why? Because from a financial standpoint, it may not be worth it for them.

Trouble Shoot Other Problems the Client Has

It could be that your client is not all that concerned with mobile design, but they have other issues they need resolved. Maybe it’s the visual design of their website, the lack of a content management system, or tools that will allow them to update the website themselves.

Focus your proposal on solving these problems, telling your client that you will make their website responsive as you rebuild it. This gives you the opportunity to talk about the benefits of responsive design beyond facilitating access for mobile devices.

And then there’s those “middle ground” mobile layouts that minimize layouts to pack everything for a mobile user. But this is not always the most ideal situation for smartphones. For example, the eCommerce store Accutrition renders perfectly in Desktop and Tablet layouts, but on mobile it feels very squeezed:

image0021 How to Sell Responsive Design

Many designers would jump on this opportunity to pitch them a better mobile layout. A common suggestion would be reducing the number of products displayed in a single frame. In my opinion, one of the best mobile designs out there is Skinny Ties:

image004 How to Sell Responsive Design

This is one of the most effective responsive designs I’ve seen for a small to medium sized business.

Expand Your Focus

Don’t pitch responsive design with just phones in mind.  It’s possible that phones are not an issue for your client, so in this case, you need to expand your thinking. Emphasize to them that devices used today come in a variety of sizes and resolutions; and it’s important that websites are designed to accommodate all of these various sizes.

Let your clients know that through responsive design, you can appropriately present a layout geared towards currently used large desktop screens, while at the same time accommodating laptops and older desktop monitors that lack high resolution.

Think of the Future

When discussing responsive web design with clients, try not to use the term “mobile support,” because this prompts customers to think of just phones or tablets. Instead, try using the phrase “multi-device support,” which more accurately conveys the broad range of devices and screen sizes we’re actually designing and developing currently.

One huge advantage of responsive design is that it’s very “future friendly.” Responsive design does not focus solely on screen sizes and devices on the market today; it reflows to fit a screen regardless of size and it ensures that websites will be compatible well into the future. This means that even as new devices and screen sizes are introduced, the website will still be functional. Furthermore, taking a responsive approach ensures that mobile visitors receive an experience that’s optimized for them.

Maybe your client is skeptical about their ability to attract mobile visitors. If that’s the case, making them aware of all that responsive design has to offer could incline them to say yes to your pitch. In cases like this, it can be smarter to add responsive design to an already existing package, rather than suggesting it right off the bat.

Be a Problem Solver

your blog problem solver1 How to Sell Responsive Design

As a web professional, solving problems for your clients is part of your job. The important thing to remember is that you’re responsible for solving not only the problems they know of and tell you about, but also the ones they haven’t noticed.

Think of your client’s problems as opportunities for you to offer top-notch solutions based on your knowledge and professional experience. For instance, after doing some investigating, you might notice that your client has a low number of mobile visitors because they didn’t have the support for it. This can validate your responsive approach.

If websites don’t accommodate mobile devices, then users will become frustrated, leave and likely never return. Naturally, it follows that mobile support promotes mobile use.

Important Take-Aways

In trying to pitch responsive design to your clients, here are the important take-aways that you should remember:

  • Responsive design is beneficial for more than just phones. It can be used to accommodate a broad range of screen sizes including: new desktop monitors that are large and have high resolution, and older, smaller screens that have low resolutions.
  • With responsive design, websites can move forward into the future as new devices and screen sizes appear on the market.
  • Structuring a site for responsive design now, while fixing the site’s other problems saves your client time and money. It’s also much easier than trying to tackle it later, after the website has already been set.

Responsive design has numerous benefits for your clients, regardless of who they are and the issues they’re currently facing. Show your clients that you genuinely care about their success by making them aware of these benefits and explaining all that responsive design can do for them.

Author information

Jesse Aaron
Jesse Aaron
Written by Jesse Aaron (jesseaarone@gmail.com) is a professional blogger with a passion for homebrewing. He writes on a variety of topics on his blog, Mashbout. Follow Jesse on Google Plus.

November 15 2013


I Can't Stop Looking At These Pictures Of Ugly Carrots

A new book called Defective Carrots features strange, grotesque photographs of vegetables deemed unfit for consumers.

Every day, thousands of "optically deficient" carrots are mechanically scanned and promptly removed from factory conveyor belts, deemed unfit for consumers. These are the runts of the litter, doomed to the purgatory of animal slop troughs, their dreams of making it into a salad or cake or soup forever thwarted.
Many people have told me these photographs are erotic.

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August 02 2013

It’s Not About “Productivity.” It’s About Living Purposefully.
"Being productive" is not an end in itself. Don't get caught up chasing "lifehacks" without taking into account the big picture.

June 17 2013

Turn It Up: How the Right Amount of Ambient Noise Increases Creativity
Environments like coffee shops can help boost our thinking ability (as long as they're not too loud). Here are 6 tools to help you amp up your productivity when you can't get out of the office.
Tags: Focus

May 21 2013

Manage Your Day-to-Day, the New Book from 99U, Is Now On Sale!
Are you ready to stop doing busywork and start doing your best work? On sale today, the new book from 99U shows you how to get information overload under control and focus on the creative work that really matters.

May 10 2013

Insights from A.J. Jacobs, Joe Gebbia, and Charlie Todd & More at the 2013 99U Conference
Part two of our recap of the 2013 99U Conference.

June 08 2012


How Do Real Cars End Up In Video Games? And Does It Help The Brands?

It’s so easy to forget. Not so long ago, driving a real car in a video game was unheard of. A virtual vehicle was a red or blue mix of pixels vaguely reminiscent of sedans and sports cars. And then, in 1994, a game called Need for Speed came around. It included a few real cars, along with real horsepower and top speeds. Everything changed.

Now, game studios are modeling hundreds of real cars for franchises like Forza and Gran Turismo. The models include everything from 1950s collectibles to unreleased concepts from the future, and details range from the physics of their suspension systems down to the finish of their dashboards. Digitizing automobiles is a meticulous process--reports say that Polyphony Digital spent six months of man hours for each of the premium cars in Gran Turismo 5. It a process that represents an unprecedented level of collaboration between the products sector and the entertainment sector.

So maybe it should be a little surprising that, at last week’s gaming mecca E3, Ford will be the only car manufacturer sitting alongside game publishers and developers to show off their cars. Because in a world that’s gone digital, video games are the car’s new showroom.

“Playing a game isn’t as intimidating as having to walk in a dealership, speak to a salesman and talk numbers,” explains Brian McClary, Ford digital marketing manager. “It’s a great opportunity for us to talk to the public in an un-intimidating environment where they can do things on their own terms.”

But designing that virtual showroom experience is more difficult than you might imagine. As much as Ford needs to be in the next Forza just to be competitive, there is a lot that can go wrong for the company. Games aren’t like movies: cars won’t always be shown from predefined perspectives pulling off preplanned death-defying stunts. In fact, hyperbole can create dangerous consumer expectations, especially when games are capable of so much--with a few keystrokes, a Focus could hit 500 mph in a game and corner on a dime--but that’s not what Ford wants.

“We want to make sure the user has the same experience in games as when they drive the vehicle in real life. The worst thing we could do is soup the car up in the game so when they drive it in real life, they don’t find the car up to snuff,” McClary tells us, referencing the limitless depth of precise technical data that Ford will share with licensees to ensure accuracy.

“There are other things, too” adds Ford Licensing Manager Mark Bentley. “We don’t want to see the cars flipping over for unknown reasons. Catching fire--certain, we call then thermal events--we don’t want happening if there’s no reason. If you’re driving poorly in a game, and you do end up rolling the car as a result of driver error, that can be explained. But we would never appear in a Burnout game, a game where destruction is the point of a game.” Hitting animals and pedestrians is also on Ford’s list of restrictions, which is surely one reason why one of the world’s most successful and violent franchises, Grand Theft Auto, actually contains "Stallions" rather than "Mustangs."

This give and take of licensing vs creativity makes for a somewhat odd relationship between the gaming industry and the auto industry. Ford, for instance, had to get permission from developers to share the screenshots of their own cars you see here. But sometimes, the car industry really does have have to put their foot down--like for a Ford placement in the Xbox 360 psychological thriller Alan Wake.

“The main character actually does get into an accident,” McClary explains. “The cars all have airbags. We had to work closely with our safety and legal teams. When the scene first came back, it didn’t have the airbags deployed. And we said, you have to change that.”

Complicating matters further, in most cases, developers are actually paying auto manufactures to include their cars in games. Ford confirmed game licensing actually generated revenue for the company. But if Ford really wanted a car in a game that wasn’t going to make the cut--Mustangs are no doubt a sexier sell than a Ford ST--the roles would reverse, and Ford would pay the developer to “subsidize” that placement.

Ford reports these in-game advertisements are extremely worthwhile to their brand. In research conducted by Interpret, they discovered that participants of an in-game Ford ad exposure saw:

36% increase in brand rating
28% increase in purchase consideration
39% increase in brand recommendation
45% more gamers agreed Ford Focus is fun to drive
30% more gamers agreed Ford Focus is good value for the money

Those numbers don’t just seem good, they seem a little too good when you realize that they might also apply to the same types of car placements that Ford currently gets paid to permit. In other words, it’s possible, likely even, that Ford sees as much tangible consumer benefit from licensed content as they do their own advertisements.

Which raises the question, when will all cars in video games appear with the same costly product placement fees we see in movies and TV? Probably as soon as game manufacturers can replicate the unlimited complex of ever-changing car designs without the help of manufacturers, or in other words, never.


How to Stay Focused and Reach Goals Being a Freelancer

We all work hard trying to reach every set goal and achieve fruitful results in what we are involved in. But when you are a freelancer this task becomes even more challenging. The point is that you are your own boss and at once you are the employee to fulfill all the work. It means that you take the sole responsibility for the income you get and for the working progress you achieve. So what’s the plot?

The main problem of all freelancers is the tempting opportunity to relax and put off doing something today and not tomorrow; or sometimes you work too slow and without enthusiasm which makes you fulfill the tasks in a week instead of a few days. This all happens because you are not focused and can’t concentrate on your work in the way you must.

So, this is it – a focus! This very issue I would like to discuss today. As a freelancer writer I would like to share some helpful tips which can really make someone understand why it is so hard to focus sometimes and what issues prevent it. Maybe you will recognize your own problem in the following points and find the solution to it.

1. Look like an office employee.

office employee How to Stay Focused and Reach Goals Being a Freelancer

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com

Most freelancers think that they can take a laptop along in the bed and start working right from there once they open their eyes. Or get up and proceed to working without taking off the pajamas. This is wrong! Once your alarm rang you must get up, brush your teeth, make some tasty tea or coffee with toasts or whatever you’d like for breakfast, dress up like you are going to the real office (maybe a bit less formal), obligatory make your bed for it not to tempt you, and only then you can start your working day.

Also try to make all necessary preparations on the eve of the working day, so you don’t have to do it in the morning. Forget that you are a freelancer when you get prepared for your work and believe that you really don’t have enough time to do something surplus.

2. Arrange your own working area.

As I mentioned above, working in bed or next to the TV is a no-no. You have to find a place which could replace the real office desk and be a working area for you. Having a special office-room is great but if you are not that lucky you may use a simple desk instead. Just make it look like a perfect one for work – there must be a laptop and can be your notebooks, pens and pencils, a calendar and even a place for your own cup of tea.

But no ashtrays to smoke right next to your computer! And no other things that allow you doing something without getting up and going somewhere! If you want to eat you must go to the kitchen and eat there, if you want to smoke – you go and do it somewhere else but not at your “working place”. It will be useful both for your productivity and for the physical activity you get.

3. Create a working-day plan.

calendar How to Stay Focused and Reach Goals Being a Freelancer

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com

If it will be easier for you to manage with all the tasks you must fulfill with the help of a simple to-do list, create it without doubts. And I’d personally recommend doing it every time. A precise list of the following tasks allows you focusing easier because your goals are right behind your eyes and you can start accomplishing every point one by one. Such lists help you concentrating at one task at a time and not being distracted by various activities at once. Of course, this is not a new technique but it really helps, and there is one more important thing to be told about it. When you write a tasks list think about the priority of each one. More urgent and difficult ones must be put in the beginning. Believe, it helps to cope much easier!

4. Don’t pay attention to the routine.

When you are at home there are thousands of things you want to do instead of working, and it really distracts. That is why you must convince yourself that all these routine activities are not important right away and that everything may stay on its place until you finish all the tasks you have to. Don’t start cleaning the flat, cooking, washing the dishes, playing games, watching TV and so on. It will be harder for you to get back to work then. Let everything wait until your so-called working day is over.

5. Have some breaks during a day.

meditation on the beach How to Stay Focused and Reach Goals Being a Freelancer

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com

Sometimes it gets harder to focus if you work too intensively for a long time and then just get exhausted very soon. In order to avoid this problem and not lose your focus you obligatory need to have some breaks, at least 15 minutes every two hours. Let yourself have some rest, either in a set time or after finishing a certain task. Allow you standing up and having a dinner, lying on the sofa for 10 minutes or even going outside for a fresh air and fresh ideas which will come along.

6. Reward yourself with rest.

In order to focus on your goals and have an impetus to achieve them you must invent some certain rewards. Many freelancers think that they are meant for work 24/7, and I’m the one who can’t afford herself having some rest or going somewhere and relax. Thus it means that you don’t feel the atmosphere of your own days off, and that may lead to the extra lassitude and work regress in future.

This is why you must set up some rewards for the work you do. E.g., once you fulfilled a project, have a day of leisure time and meet with your friends, do whatever you like but not related to your work. Let your body and mind forget about being tired for a little bit. Apart from some rest, you can reward yourself with shopping! You will see then that getting back to your work is much easier, and that a fresh mind is much more eager to be focused!

7. No hanging out on tumblers and social sites.

tumblr How to Stay Focused and Reach Goals Being a Freelancer

Of course, it is so interesting to sit and browse the tumblers and social updates of your friends and other users – view photos, images, and videos, read life-learning posts and so on. But once you start doing it the hours are flying away and only then you notice that the time run out. If you feel that you can afford yourself some browsing you can do it, of course, but if it sucks you in hurry up to leave such pages. Just think how much you could earn spending time on your work instead of useless images browsing, and you’ll be ashamed.

8. Don’t chat too much while working.

When you work from home and some family members are near there is a huge chance you will get distracted by talks and some requests. So it is better to ask your relatives not to get in touch with you until you are finished with your work or you’re having a break. The same thing is with online chats – if your friends are attacking you by means of messengers and social networks, try not to get involved into the conversation too deeply.

You can answer certain questions and then just tell your buddy that you are busy for the entertaining chit-chat. If you don’t do it you risk to lose the idea of the task you are fulfilling and waste a lot of time.

So I guess now you have something to think over, and I really hope that the points mentioned above will help you in some kind of way. Of course, freelance work doesn’t mean any severe schedule or conditions – you set everything on your own according to your personal preferences. But I do believe that every freelancer needs some discipline to work for better progress and successful goals achievement!

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March 15 2012


Infiniti Blue Essence

Le studio Polynoid a pu réaliser récemment ce splendide spot publicitaire pour la révélation du concept-car Infiniti EMERG-E au Geneva Motorshow 2012. Utilisant avec talent les jeux de lumières et d’éclairs colorés, le rendu est à découvrir en vidéo.





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March 14 2012


Green Carpet

L’artiste Gaëlle Villedary a décidé d’aider le village de Jaujac à célébrer les 10 ans du sentier Art et Nature. Elle a ainsi proposé un chemin de verdure au milieu du village serpentant ainsi les maisons sur plus de 420 mètres au total. Le résultat est à découvrir dans la suite.






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In Thoughts Series

Dans le même genre que la série Double Exposure, voici des choix intéressants de compositions entre différents clichés par Florian Imgrund. Une série en noir et blanc sous le nom de “In Thoughts” avec un côté pouvant paraître nostalgique. A découvrir dans la suite de l’article.














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Good Books Campaign

L’agence String Theory et le studio Buck ont conçu cette publicité pour la marque Good Books. Véritable bijou d’animation, elle plonge dans la métaphore de la métamorphose de Kafka et nous emmène dans les profondeurs de l’esprit d’un lecteur. Un voyage splendide à découvrir dans la suite.




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Rodney Smith Photography

Rappelant les oeuvres Magritte, les photographies de Rodney Smith nous envoûtent dans son univers surréaliste. Comme s’il fixait le temps, cet artiste parvient à nous subjuguer avec des clichés étranges et poétiques. Un rendu à découvrir dans une série d’images dans la suite.



















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MiniLook Kiev

Focus sur Efim Graboy et Daria Turetski, de véritables amoureux de la ville de Kiev en Ukraine. Armés de leur Canon 550D, ils ont filmé pendant 5 jours la capitale ukrainienne pour obtenir cette vidéo en technique time-lapse et tilt-shit réussie à découvrir dans la suite de l’article.




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Coca-Cola Contest

Retour sur cette réalisation de Rimantas Lukavicius à l’occasion du Eyeka Contest pour ce film promotionnel non-officiel pour Coca-Cola. Un travail avec le studio Korb en détournant les codes de la bouteille de la marque, cette vidéo est à découvrir dans la suite de l’article.








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March 13 2012


Three Way House

Voici la société Naf Architect & Design qui a pensé cette maison, située dans un quartier résidentiel de Tokyo. Avec un véritable mur d’escalade et un design très épuré, cette construction pensée pour une famille se dévoile en images dans la suite de l’article.








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