Productivity

How to change the default font in Adobe Illustrator (and more!)

To change the default font in Illustrator from Myriad to something else you prefer is fairly easy, although not nearly as straightforward as it should be. All you need to do is locate the following folder buried inside your home directory:

Adobe Illustrator template defaults

Users > *username* > Library > Application Support > Adobe > Adobe Illustrator CSX > en_US >

These are the base template files that are loaded each time you start a new Illustrator document. You'll need to change the ones you use most often. If you're like me and *luckily* have no clue what things like *Flash Catalyst* even are, then you can leave those alone.

Most of the time I just start with the Print template and occasionally the Video and Film one.

Open up Basic RGB.ai (or whatever template you want/use)

Go to Window > Type > Character Styles

You'll get this window, double click on *Normal Character Style*

Now under *Basic Character Formats* you can set your new preferred default typeface.

Save and Close this template.

Now, try launching a new document using the Basic RGB template (or whatever one you've just changed) and the default font should reflect your changes.

Another thing I found this useful for was tweaking the Video and Film template. I usually avoid using it because the transparency grid and those rulers/guides it has on by default I would just turn off. You can tweak these templates to your hearts content, so for starters I just turned off the transparency grid and made some changes to the guides to better suit my taste.

Enjoy.

How to Zip & UnZip files on your FTP server (Using SSH & Transmit)

Occasionally I've run into the need to either Zip or Unzip a file once it's up on my FTP server. I was pretty sure this was possible but I'd never bothered to figure it out until recently. You might not ever find yourself having a need for this, but if you deal with the occasional client who doesn't really understand compression, you might find yourself pulling off a few 30GB+ folders from time to time. Basically it's fairly straightforward (if you're using Transmit, but let's be honest - what else would you even be considering?). Step 1 was to enable SSH access on your web server/FTP. Over at Bluehost, all this took was 2 minutes with a quick message to their online support chat, they enable it on their end for your account. Next, you need to be logged in to *SFTP* as opposed to basic FTP.

Step 3 is to zip/unzip to your hearts content. With your file selected, go to the File menu and at the bottom you should see *'Send SSH Command'*. The lovely developers at Panic have included the ability to send the zip commands automatically for the programmatically challenged. Just click the gear icon and pick your poison, no typing required. Then just let it work its magic, and in a matter of minutes or seconds depending on what you're doing you'll be all set.

So to recap:

1. Enable SSH 2. Use Transmit, login via SFTP 3. File > Send SSH Command > Zip/Unzip

Hope that helps anyone looking for how to do this.

Studio Tools Series: Post Haste - Automated Project Folder Setup

Post Haste is an awesome app/utility I use on a regular basis. I have wanted something like this for a long time, especially when working in a busy studio environment with jobs coming in from everywhere and no one person responsible for getting project folders setup. I even entertained looking into getting it produced myself at one point because it was desperately needed at the time. But luckily, Paul Conigliaro came through and did everyone a huge favor with Post Haste. Basically this little utility pops up a dialog where you enter your new project's details and hit 'Create Project'. It creates a copy of your project folder template (which you define), and places it into your chosen directory of choice. Simple? Yes, but use it for a little while an you'll quickly discover how invaluable this little guy is.

I evoke Launchbar, type 'pos'... up pops Post Haste, quickly fill out the fields, hit create and boom, Finder opens to the newly created project folder ready to go. Essentially this really is no different than having your project template folder somewhere, duplicating it, renaming it correctly, & moving it to it's proper location. But it automates and regulates the entire process, and ensures consistency. It will be saving you a lot of time & headaches in the long run, trust me.

The project template you define can include files as well as folders. Which means if you usually start from a templated After Effects set-up file, you can include that in your AE folder as well, and have a fresh copy waiting for you when you start. It is a great way to ensure consistent project naming and folder structure when working. This becomes especially important at the small-t0-medium sized studios. If you're just one guy, sure you'll benefit from the consistency, but you probably know where your files are and have your own system for files. Larger studios typically have this organizational aspect under control, as typically someone or something is responsible for keeping things fairly organized. Aka, there's someone there responsible for yelling at you if your shit's everywhere and you're screwing up the system.

Where things start to go to hell in my experience have been in the smaller studios. The ones where no one is really too responsible for project management like this. Everywhere has a system no matter how broken or awfully disorganized. Things just kind of hobble along for the most part until things start to get misplaced or accidentally become 'unfindable' (aka deleted or otherwise MIA). Post Haste doesn't exactly solve anything in this regard, but that's really getting into something completely different. This is definitely a great thing to adopt if any of this is sounding all too familiar...

There's a great set of preferences to customize and get it setup just the way you need it. The only thing I'd really like to see added is a radio box/selection that would allow me to choose between a couple different project templates that I have. I'm probably in the minority here, but I do a few different types of work in addition to my main After Effects pixel-pushing. iOS apps, the occasional print or web job, etc. It would be nice to have a toggle where I could select which project type it is and have it duplicate the appropriate folder.

Great tool. Head on over here to get it, and if you use it it's 'lunchware', so considering buying the man a beer.

Cloudapp - A Great Utility for Getting Files to Clients & One of the Best General File Sharing Utilities Period

In the ongoing quest to to continue to smooth out my freelancing workflow, one of the things I'm always on the lookout for are great solutions for moving files around to people. Recently I've been getting a lot of mileage out of the Cloud.app service. So far it's the fastest and easiest way I've seen to get files around to clients. I have primarily been using the Dropbox Public to get review Quicktimes and smaller deliverables out to people, but Cloud.app bests other solutions for a few reasons.

First is the shear simplicity of it. Drag a file from anywhere to the menubar icon, and the file is automatically uploaded and a publicly accessible URL is copied to your clipboard. Just hit paste to Email or IM the link and away you go. These guys have done a great job on the simplicity of the service. The corresponding website to retrieve the files is beautifully designed in it's simplicity, and looks like new little features are being added on a regular basis to make it even better. By default it's also setup to automatically upload all your screenshots. I had no idea how handy something like that was, I use it all the time.

The real beauty of this service is unlocked when you sign up for the Pro account. Not only do you get increased upload limits (free account is limited to 25mb/file, pro accounts increase it to 250mb/file) but the coolest feature is the ability to use a custom domain.

By setting it up to use your own domain or sub-domain you get customized links to share that make you look like a pro. I just set up my account to use the files.jordanlloyd.com subdomain. What's great is that other than setting up the domain for use with Cloudapp (using a simple CNAME record), all the work is still done by Cloudapp on their servers and their storage (which I assume is S3?). So technically files are not hosted by you or your domain at all, but rather just accessible via your custom domain URL. I really like the setup this way, and it might make clients feel a little more at ease receiving files from a more personal URL rather than a (likely) unknown URL/service they haven't heard of.

So I definitely recommend checking this out if you move a lot of files around during the day, especially if you deal with slightly less tech-savvy clients. Definitely look into the pro account for the added convenience of larger files and the ability to setup your custom URL. It's cheap too, $5/month, $25/6 months or $45/year.

You can checkout Cloud.app in the Mac Appstore or at (www.getcloudapp.com).

My New Go-To Utility for Saving Streaming Content (ie, Youtube Videos, Vimeo, Etc) = Jaksta Streaming Video Capture

Jaksta is by far the best/easiest/painless solution I've seen for saving Youtube, Vimeo, or almost any other streaming video or audio content. It's definitely just become what I would consider an essential production tool.

For a while I've been using one of the many Javascript bookmarklet solutions for saving Youtube videos (this one http://windowsforus.com/youtube/). Works OK enough for Youtube, but no help when it comes to saving media from any other site. Enter Jaksta. You flip it on so that it's monitoring while you're browsing for what it is you're looking to save. While it's in this monitoring state it will save a local copy to your harddrive of all incoming streaming content. Then just flick it off when you're done and boom, you have the most effortless way I've seen to save Vimeo, Youtube, Hypemachine, Grooveshark, etc.

You can check it out here: Jaksta Streaming Video Capture

Just a tip, I don't recommend leaving this thing running and forgetting about it or you'll accidentally download practically everything & end up with a ton of stuff you don't want/need. Better to just load it up when you need to grab something then close it down completely.

Jaksta is $49.95, so it might be a little overkill for general use, but will totally pay for itself in time saved if you often find yourself needed to source content & clips for presentations, pitches, meetings, or any number of other particular situations you might find yourself in while in production on something.

Simple and Affordable Archival & Backup Solution (for Small Studios Dealing With Large Amounts of Data)

This is an overview of an archival + backup strategy I designed while working at a small (4-person) video production company back in 2009. There was absolutely no backup (let alone a system for archiving past work) in place when I started. Things were in a state of absolute chaos. Data and projects were literally everywhere. Spread across 4 workstations, dozens of external harddrives, old PCs stuffed in a closet, a NAS or two. Just shit everywhere. And the kicker? Not a single file backed up anywhere to be seen. When you tried to find a project it required hopping onto a bunch of different machines, trying to find what you were looking for, then starting a painful process of attempting to wade through what was the latest, most up to date version (there was no versioning in place either). There was kind of an archive of burned DVDs in a case, but it was next to impossible to use in any capacity as it was just hand-labelled misc stuff. This was the only thing that remotely constituted a 'backup' of anything.

This is a look at the system I set up to handle the archival & backup of completed projects. In a future post, we'll take a look at how we handled the in-studio backup for day-to-day work, but first let's take a look at the archival method that involves creating a library of bare, dockable harddrives.

Archival & Backup is a very non-glamourous and annoying part of what we do, nobody's going to deny that. But, what's very important to understand is that the second a client trusts you with a job, it's your responsibilty to ensure that you're taking the necessary precautions to protect their data. In this instance I'm referring more to event-type work, ie things that you shoot that only happen once. Failing to backup your design work and losing it isn't a complete disaster, as you can always just re-do it (albiet losing a lot of time in the process). But you can't redo someones wedding, and you can't redo some corporate event that you shot last year if you lose it.

The particular requirements for this system were vague at the beginning. Basically they're was nothing, except the understanding that something needed to be done about it. It was no way for any operation to run. because there was such a backlog of projects from years of neglect and pileup, it wasn't really feasible, or advisable to just buy a server and dump it all on to mass storage. We needed somewhat of a fresh start, and a plan to move forward.

This archive system is very simple to setup and implement, and has an extremely low cost per GB, and should be feasible for almost everyone, especially if you have no current system in place right now. The most important thing about backups are that they exist. Plain and simple, you either have them or you do not. There are of course varying degrees of how safe/secure your backups are, but we'll leave that discussion for another time and place. Just think of all the future jobs you'll probably lose if you have a crash and lose your clients data and can't recover it. It can be an expensive lesson to learn. There was a time when I was finishing up school and I lost a harddrive FULL of work 1 month before graduation. Contained on it was all the work I needed to prep for the year-end show, and prepare my portfolio for the job hunt. I got the data back, with the help of cbltech.ca, but it was a very expensive way to learn how inexpensive backing up can be. If you haven't learned this lesson yet, if you aren't prepared then you will at some point. Guaranteed.

So, what follows is an archival and backup strategy that I designed and implemented at said small 4-person studio a couple years ago. What we were dealing with was a fairly large amount of project data, and finding room for it was an issue. We needed a system for cleaning up and getting rid of (archiving) old completed projects.

Two things were needed, first was a server setup to deal with the amalgamation and central hub for active projects. We will deal with this aspect of things in a future post. For this archival system I'm about to describe, It assumes you have all your completed project data located in one central spot (& likely on a server).

The key to this system was that it was a very inexpensive, safe, pay-as-you-grow solution for us. It is something that should work well for small (under 10 person) studios dealing with a large amount of data (video and/or photography). This probably isn't as applicable to individual freelancers, larger studios, design studios not doing any video or motion graphic work, or anyone with a lot of cash to invest in a more robust system. That being said, I don't currently think there is a better solution at this price, which is low to begin with, but literally gets cheaper to operate every week as drives come down in price.

What you need:

  • a "drive toaster", referred to as a drive dock (ideally 1/workstation)
  • Bare harddrives (in pairs, at your desired size)
  • Drive Cases
  • Media Catalog (OS X only)
  • Optional:

    • eSATA PCIe card (Mac Pro only) + esata drive toaster

    Drive docks (preferably 1/workstation):

    These things aren't exactly invincible, I've had a few die, but they're so cheap to replace it's not really a huge concern. They come in a wide-assortment of flavours now. 1-bay, 2-bay, 3 or 4-bay(!), card readers, one-touch backups (forget about this on the Mac though), USB2.0, esata, FW800 etc. Pick your poison. I recommend a dual-bay dock so you can clone two drives simultaneously to save a bunch of time (do it overnight or on weekends in general though). These will run you anywhere from $25-$50, and are available almost anywhere online. All you do is put in a bare harrdrive and it mounts on your computer, forever eliminating the need for annoying external enclosures, cables and power supplies.

    Depending on what you're using it for (in this case making and retrieving files from archived drives), you can usually get away with a basic USB 2.0 one. If you think you'll be referencing data on your archives frequently or are concerned about speed, get one with eSATA and drop an eSATA card in your Mac Pro. If you're not using Mac Pro's, just stick with USB2.0 and you'll be fine, as you'll be used to waiting around anyway. :P

    Bare Harddrives:

    Depending on how much data you're churning out, how often you want (or need) to archive, and how little you want to spend will help determine what size drives you'll be buying to archive to. The beauty of this system though is that it easily scales over time, and basically gets cheaper to maintain as drive sizes go up and prizes drop. At the time of writing this, the sweet spot in terms of price/GB is with 1TB drives, with the cost of 2TB dropping rapidly. I would stick with 1TB drives for now if that fits your production needs. This was ideal for us at the time (mainly XDCAM EX & HDSLR video with 1-3 shoot days/week, and on-location event photography). We were archiving on average about 1TB/Month most of the time, with a per project average of about maybe 75gb. This meant archiving anywhere from 3-10 projects a month, depending on size, duration, completion date, etc. Another win for this system is the total flexibility to archive as much or as little as you need to each month. Busy month? Just buy an extra set of drives. Slow month? Just hold off and do a double batch next month.

    Notes: You don't really need the fastest drives for this system. The cheaper 'Green' drives (lower RPMs & power-consumption) are fine for this type of backup, especially if you're concerned about keeping costs low. You don't really need to have the fastest drives if they're just sitting around on a shelf all the time acting as an archive/backup. At the time I was getting the Western Digital Caviar Greens a lot, or the Blue. I avoided the Caviar Black as they're faster but more expensive. Remember because you need a pair of drives, and we're not as concerned with drive failure, going with the cheapest harddrives is the way to go, so just buy whatever's on sale. I like to use Newegg.ca if you're not around the corner from a cheap computer supply place. I recommend www.CanadaComputers.com if you have one nearby.

    Also, I wouldn't recommend buying a large supply of drives all at once, because of how quickly harddrives drop in price. I liked to always have a couple pairs of empty drives ready to go, and would re-order about 4 at time every 2 months or so as needed.

    Drive Cases:

    You need something to put the drives in once your archive drive & backup drive are created. At the time I went with these Weibetech cases. I highly recommend these, but they're comically expensive for what is basically $0.04 worth of plastic. Packs of 10 of these at the time were running me like $60+. Recently I found these over at DealExtreme, at about $2.88 with bulkrate prices, seem like a much better deal. I just ordered a bunch of these to try out, so I can't vouch for them yet, but I'm sure they'll do fine.

    Basically anything that protects your drives and are easily labelled and identified will do fine. There are a few other options, you can get fancy or not it's really up to you. If you're going real ghetto you can just sharpie onto the drive itself and put it back in the package the drive came in. Or, I'm pretty sure they'll fit in old VHS cases which would also get points for general awesomeness.

    Media Catalog:

    http://halfduplex.net - $24.99

    After looking at a few options, I chose to go with Media Catalog as the software used to track the data that is on the archives. It does this job very well, with minimal frills. This piece of the puzzle is crucial, because it allows you to create a tagged, searchable index of a drives contents so you can find and locate projects or files fast. If there are anything other options out there that you've found you like better, please let me know!

    So, Now What?

    Once you have all the pieces, it's time to get stuff ready to archive. Exciting stuff I know...

    Organizing your projects for archival will maybe be covered at another time, but for now we'll assume it's organized in some form of system, in a central location. Take the projects that are going to be archived and collect them together. If you're archiving to say a 1tb drive, pool together roughly about 1tb worth of projects together as a batch. Don't split projects over multiple drives, it's not worth the hassle. If projects are so large that they won't fit on one drive, you've got much bigger problems than this system is designed for.

    Once you've got your batch of projects ready to archive & backup, pop in your first drive and copy the contents over to this drive. Make sure you label the drive appropriately so it's easily identified not only on the shelf, but in the Media Catalog. Depending on how much data you are copying this will take some time, so either get a dual-bay drive dock or do it overnight or over a weekend.

    The idea is that one drive is the Archive, the other is the Backup (they both have identical contents).

    The Archive goes on the shelf in the studio, and is used when needed to pull things out of the archive. The Backup goes off-site and is safely stored somewhere other than your office.

    Index your Archive drive in Media Catalog. Label the physical drive, put it in a case, label the case & put it on the shelf. Similarly, label the Backup and pack it up and send it to your offsite location (you don't need to archive the Backup copy). Once this is done and you've verified that the data was properly copied over to two drives successfully, you can delete this data from your server.

    You'll need a naming system for your archives, you can use whatever you like. Obviously something chronological in sequence works best. We just used a variation of the police alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, etc).

    That's pretty much it. Schedule and assign someone to do this as often as you need to. It could be once a week, or in our case it was about every month or so.

    Like anything, this system does has it's pros & cons. Here are the biggest ones for me:

    Pros:

    • Cheap, very low startup cost. Only gets cheaper over time as drives get cheaper.
    • Off-site. Gets your archived data moved offsite to a safe second location (purely for Holy-Shit scenarios, fire, theft, natural disasters, etc at main location).
    • Simple to add a 3rd level of redundancy if you're super paranoid (just clone a 3rd drive and keep it at a 3rd location).
    • Easy to search, locate and pull up files/projects within the archive.
    • Easy to scale up or down on the fly month-to-month.

    Cons:

    • More of a manual solution. Adding automation is very possible but we found it tricky due to the nature of the work we were doing. It's hard to setup rules for when things should automatically be archived when projects cover a wide spectrum and no two are ever exactly alike.
    • Only as good as the whoever's responsible for keeping this archival up. Good news is it's simple and anyone can do it, but I found it's easier for someone to be assigned the responsibility for doing it each month.
    • Leaving drives on a shelf in a case for extended periods of time is not recommended by many. You can't and shouldn't let drives sit without spinning them up every now & again. I suggest a 6-month 'Backup Integrity' check that someone gets the unlucky pleasure of being responsible for where they go though both the on-site & off-site drive pairings and make sure they are synced, incase any changes occurred to the archive.
    • All your archive data is not immediately accessible if you are not physically in the same location as your archive drives. This is not a solution for people who want or need that. It's a much more expensive server solution that we never quite needed in my experience at our studio. Once a project was done and archived, 80% were probably never needed again so this was fine for us.

    Closing:

    Archival & backup strategies in general should be tailored to suit your particular needs. There unfortunately isn't one universal solution to be had. With that said, this one worked, and worked well for the situation we were in, and may or may not be the best fit for everyone.

    I hope to do a few more posts on a couple of the other backup strategies I put in place here for in-studio, and in-the-field backup, because I think it's important experience to be shared. There wasn't a whole lot of other information to be found about this mid-level, not too high end, yet affordable style of archival/backup back when I was trying to figure out what we should do. Plus in our case it had to be fairly hands on, we didn't have an IT department, or even an IT guy, I just doubled as the IT guy in between trying to get my work done. It's far from fool proof, but definitely much better off having implemented it.

    If you have any questions, or are looking for some consulting to cater a system to your individual or studios needs, please feel free to get in touch and I'd be happy to help.

    Jordan