Photoshop PSD Template for Canon J (MG 5420) CD/DVD Label Tray

I recently decided to move from printing sticky labels on a laserjet to actually printing directly onto DVD’s with the Canon MG 5420. It’s better than sticky labels in pretty much every way. Although I’ve never had an issue with sticky labels peeling off and damaging DVD drives (even from jobs over 5 years old) the laserjet just didn’t look very good, I’d always see the DVD-R logo beneath the thin label, and the toner would rub off unless I dried the sheets for several days.

Enter the Canon MG 5420, a lowcost inkjet ($90 at Officemax) with a CD/DVD tray. However it does not come with templates of any sort and you must use their “EZ Print ABC 123″ whatever it is software, which is extremely limiting. I created my own PSD template for the “J” type tray using these instructions as a starting point. Please see the below link to download my PSD template (for Photoshop CC). If you are interested in creating your own template for the J tray in another application, see the above linked instructions and simply use these measurements:

Page Length: 224mm

Page Width: 130mm

Offset A: 65mm

Offset B: 120mm

Canon J Tray PSD Template

As you can see from the image, you have to correctly set the paper size when printing from Photoshop, otherwise it assumes you are printing on 8.5×11″ paper. To set the paper size, hit Print and then “Print Settings”. Under the Paper Size dropdown, select “Manage custom sizes” and create a new custom size that matches the Page Width and Length measurements for the tray (in this case, because it needs to be inches for some reason, use 5.12 x 8.82″). Then hit OK, and be sure the Tray is selected as the source under the Quality & Media tab (on OSX, not sure what the Windows equivalent is).

Happy printing!

EDGEucation Loans: The Loan Servicer From Hell

Read below for a gripping and entertaining documentation of my experience with loan servicer EDGEucation Loans, in which I was locked out of my account arbitrarily, discovered they have no system of payment confirmation, made countless phone calls to their support, and was debited twice for the same payment.

Originally posted April 30th and updated May 1st.

Recently my student loan servicer was changed from Direct Loans to EDGEucation Loans. How cool and hip – it’s like they’re on the bleeding EDGE. I had little say in this matter, but I went along and created my online account so I could continue making payments.

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ProRes 4444 and Alpha Channels

Quicktime Rage Face!

As much as I complain about Apple codecs and Adobe products, occasionally a bug comes up that is truly mind boggling. Take Prores 4444 and alphas: “if the first frame has no alpha, then nothing passed it will have an alpha either”. Thanks, Apple and Adobe!

This problem was solved in After Effects by creating a 1×1 pixel mask on the first frame of everything rendered using Prores 4444. The mask moved out of the way after the first frame, and the alpha channels rendered intact for the rest of the sequence. It’s all voodoo, voodoo I tell you!

This bug was reported May of 2011 and nothing has been done yet (most likely because Adobe engineers threw up their hands and blamed Apple).

On a side note, this is frustrating because I like to use Prores 4444 to convert EXR sequences after rendering but before compositing (if the EXR’s only contain rgba information). Taking 70gb of EXR’s down to one 2gb nearly-lossless Quicktime file is a pretty good trade off. Except when the Alpha doesn’t render.

VFX Work featured in Times Square

Extinction in Times Square - Photo Credit: Alek Rost

Last September I acted as visual effects supervisor for the local indie film “Extinction“. The film, which includes about 30 green screen composites, day for night shots and miniature smoke composites, was just featured in the NYC International Film Fest outdoors at Times Square. Here’s one of the shots, a greenscreen day-for-night.

And here’s the full visual effects breakdown video:



Pretty cool!

Your Linear Workflow isn’t Linear unless you do the following (Maya 2011)

Think all you have to do in Maya 2011 to work linearly is set the two input/output options in the render globals? Wrong! Well, you’ll technically be correct. But you actually have to set three other options hidden away in the preferences, otherwise your nice 32bit linear EXR files will look totally washed out.

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Shattering an Hourglass in Houdini

Several months ago I supervised a project called Speak and May the Plague Take You. This short film required some surrealistic imagery of giant clocks smashing into the ground, including an hourglass. After wrapping the project, I wrote this technical breakdown because I tend to forget everything. Since glass shattering is a somewhat common effect but not necessarily simple to achieve, I hope this breakdown will help other Houdini artists grasp the fundamentals and maybe save some time.

The hourglass shattering effect required a lot of exploration in Houdini DOP’s. The sidefx glass of water shattering tutorial (I hesitate to call it a tutorial) as well as the example files for the voronoi fracture OTL were helpful in giving me a starting point to build my effect.

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With Strings Attached Breakdown

With Strings Attached is a 3D animated short film by graduating senior Jerika Melgar in which I was tasked with rendering, editing and final exporting. Upon reviewing the set and shots, my head was flooded with ideas for cool lighting. Consequently I proposed to relight the project in addition to my other tasks. This was my first foray into lighting for animation and presented a number of challenges.

For better or for worse, I decided to take charge of the visual look of the project upon receiving the first round of animation. Jerika had no plan for lighting, other than the established set lighting that was done by another student previously, which I personally found flat, boring and impractical to render for animation. Having done a significant amount of lighting design for film productions in the quarters before, I felt I could do better.


Previous established lighting. Original modeling, texturing and lighting by Michael Devore.

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And Now for Something Completely Different: Album Reviews

There are very few artists with whom I endear so much trust that I will purchase an album without even previewing it. dZihan & Kamien were one band, along with dZihan’s wife, the singer Madita. D&K’s distinctive blend of Austrian/jazz/turkish/lounge music was ever-present during my youth in high school and early college, informing a lot of my musical taste. When Vlado dZihan married Madita and they recorded a record together, it was a great fusion of live-band bossa nova and D&K’s signature eastern/trip-hop ambience. Even with her second album, “Too”, those signature elements were still present, although subdued in some songs under heavy glam 80′s techno sounds. This combination wasn’t bad at all, in fact, there were many standouts on that album and it ranks as one of my favorites.

Continued after the jump:

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