Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Video Training Review: Dreamweaver CS4 Essential Training with James Williamson from Lynda.com

Written by T. Michael Testi

Dreamweaver is the Web development application from Adobe Systems and to get the most out of the program, it's important not only to master the application, but also to understand fundamental concepts of modern Web design.

Dreamweaver CS4 Essential Training attempts to do just that. In this training series, James Williamson covers everything from site structure to the value of standards-compliant XHTML and CSS. He also shows how to create clean and accessible code in Dreamweaver, as well as how to publish compelling content. This course lasts 10.25 hours divided into 18 lessons.

Lynda.comLessons 1-3 cover the basics of Dreamweaver. This includes the theory of basic site structure, what is an index page, an overview of Web design practices, and explanations of XHTML, JavaScript, and CSS. You will also get an overview of the Dreamweaver interface, as well as a lesson on setting up and managing a site.

Lessons 4 and 5 gets you started with the creation of new documents, what DOCTYPE declarations are, setting up new document preferences, and how to work with starter pages. You then learn the basics of adding text and structuring content, creating lists, getting text into Dreamweaver, and importing Word documents.

Lesson 6, "CSS Foundations," now goes to the heart of the fundamentals of using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Understanding some simple rules of using CSS will help you create more efficient style sheets. Here you will explore the anatomy of a CSS rule, setting the preferences, understanding the selectors, and working with external style sheets.

Lesson 7, "Controlling Typography," is important so as to have the ability to get your point across. In this lesson you will see the units of measurement that Dreamweaver will provide for you use. These include font sizing, weight, and style as well as line height, vertical spacing, padding, and alignment of text.

Lesson 8, "Working with Images," begins with how best to manage your images. In Dreamweaver, these are called assets and it is very important for you to manage them so that you can find them when you need them. You will also see how to place them on a page, customize them via CSS, integrate with Photoshop, and even alternate Photoshop workflows.

Lesson 9, "Creating Links," explains that without links, working with the Web would be a pretty tedious task. So creating links is very important for the structure and flow of your site. In this lesson you will see how to create links, set preferences, how to use named anchors, and how to create CSS-based rollovers.

Lesson 10, "Controlling Layout with CSS," will show you that although you may be intimidated in using CSS, that it is in fact easier to control a site by using CSS than it would be otherwise. This is all accomplished by using proper site layout. You will start with the basics, and then learn about structuring and various types of positioning.

Lesson 11, "Working with Tables," examines that while tables are out of favor for creating layouts, they are still needed for the presentation of tabular data, and in fact are one of the best ways of presenting this kind of data to the user. You will begin by reviewing table structure, importing data, styling tables, and adding user interactivity to tables.

Lesson 12, "Working with Forms," starts out with how forms work. Forms are one of those things that allow a user to pass information to your site. While this does not get into processing form data, it does show you how to create assessable forms, set their properties, insert fields, lists, radio button groups, checkboxes, text, and submit buttons. It also covers some form interactivity and the use of Spry validation widgets.

Lesson 13, "Building Templates," is a two step process. First you save the file as a template, and then you save the editable regions. In this lesson you will learn how to properly build a template by proper planning, creating new pages from the template, applying templates to existing pages, and modifying a template.

Lesson 14, "Adding User Interactivity," is important in that it allows you to create engaging user experiences for those who come to your site. You must meet the enhanced user expectations for site design if you plan on retaining the user. Here you will learn about different things that you can do enhance user interactivity.

Lesson 15, "Working with Flash and Video," is very important to a Web site, and the fact that Flash and Dreamweaver have worked together for a very long time makes it very convenient. Here you will see how to insert Flash files, set the properties, and how to encode your video for best performance. Lesson 16, "Automating Efficient Workflows," is all about helping you work smarter when using Dreamweaver. Here you will learn some important tasks to accomplish your job.

Lesson 17, "Coding in Dreamweaver," show you how to edit your code by hand when you need to in Dreamweaver. Here you will learn to set code preferences, use hints, add comments, and find syntax errors. Lesson 18, "Managing Sites," examines what you need to do to run your site, to check for broken links, handle browser compatibility, and synchronize your site.

James Williamson does a very thorough job of taking you though most everything you need to work with Dreamweaver CS4. Now if you are and old hand to Dreamweaver and really only need to know about the new features, there is also a two-hour package called Dreamweaver CS4 New Features from Lynda.com as well by the same instructor.

You can get this package one of two ways. One is as a DVD training package Dreamweaver CS4 Essential Training and the other is part of the online training experience at Lynda.com. The DVD Training Package is $149.95 USD and includes Dreamweaver CS4 Essential Training as well as containing all of the exercise files.

The online training Dreamweaver CS4 Essential Training comes in three flavors. Monthly at $25/month gets you all of the videos that are available online (approximately 21,811 videos on 318 topics at this time). Annually at $250 per year or Premium at $375 per year which get all the videos as well as all of the exercise files. Take note that the exercise files are not included with the monthly or annual subscriptions. They are included in the Premium subscriptions and the standalone DVDs.

You can use Dreamweaver CS4 Essential Training as a training program for the individual student, as well as the college or vocational teacher looking to supplement their educational materials. It is of benefit to anyone who needs help understanding Dreamweaver CS4. You can also try out a couple of the videos for free at Lynda.com.



Monday, December 29, 2008

Software Review: Adobe Master Collection - Premiere Pro CS4 from Adobe Systems

Written by T. Michael Testi

This is a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS4 this fall, they not only released single version products, but also six separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Web Standard, Production Premium, and Master Collection. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

What do you need to run Adobe Premiere Pro CS4? On a PC you need a 2GHz or faster processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista; on Mac, PowerPC G4 or G5 or multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.11 – 10.5.4 (Leopard), 512MB RAM, 1024x768 display (1280x800 recommended) with 16-bit video card, 10GB hard drive space for installation and DVD-ROM Drive.

 Premiere Pro CS4Adobe Premiere Pro is a real-time, timeline-based video editing software application. It has gained acceptance within the film and video industry and has been used in part in such films as Dust to Glory by Dana Brown and Superman Returns for the video capture process and so, as the name implies, it is a professional-level editing package.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 attempts to reduce the complex process that is video production. It does this by including copies of the products Adobe OnLocation CS4 and Adobe Encore CS4 to try to make each step of the video production more efficient and giving you more time to work your story.

So what is new with Premiere Pro CS4?

• End-to-End metadata workflow – will let you add metadata to clips both on set with Adobe OnLocation, and while editing via Premiere. This will give your workflow greater project intelligence as you can use the new speech recognition technology to create text-based metadata that you can use to organize your assets.

• Speech Search – this technology offers you the ability to turn the spoken dialog in your clips into text-based metadata which will make your video searchable. No more hand entering key words. Now through voice analysis, keywords can be automatically added, allowing you jump directly to the frame that you are after.

• Tapeless Camera Support – now lets you use video that has been captured directly to disk and opens the door to new workflows that save time and maintain a higher quality throughout the production process. You can now import and edit content from Panasonic P2, Sony XDCAM EX, and HD cameras directly, which will save you a tremendous amount of time.

• Dynamic workflow – use in conjunction with other Adobe tools gives a more tightly integrated toolset in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4. For example, this will eliminate intermediate rendering when moving sequences into Adobe Encore CS4 software, and take advantage of new support for Adobe Photoshop files with video and blend modes.

• Batch encoding - in the background using Adobe Media Encoder, a separate, included software application that automates the process of creating multiple encoded versions of your source files and sequences. You have the ability to manage priorities and control advanced settings for individual files.

• Redesigned OnLocation – is now cross-platform with a new Adobe-standard interface. Save time and take the tedium out of logging with shot lists and metadata-based project intelligence. Now you can take your footage right in and it can automatically be logged for you.

 Premiere Pro CS4• Editing Efficiency – now available through the inclusion of more than 50 new editing enhancements provided to streamline your workflow. Things like applying an effect to multiple clips, applying multiple effects to multiple clips, copy and paste transitions, and more precise editing and communications with clients based on the use of timecodes is all here to help you be more efficient.

• Blu-ray Disc authoring – now lets you create high-definition Blu-ray discs with Encore CS4. Working with the same interface used to create standard-definition DVDs, but now incorporating advanced Blu-ray features like pop-up menus and subtitles and dual-layer burning.

• SWF output – gives you the ability to create SWF file versions of your DVD and Blu-ray projects for the Web, complete with DVD interactivity, menus, URL links, and customizable HTML templates, all without opening another application.


• Final Cut Pro project import – will let you complete your Final Cut Pro project in Adobe Premiere Pro. Use Final Cut Pro XML interchange to transfer projects directly from Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere Pro without conversion or re-rendering. It will preserve your commonly used effects and transitions.

Premiere Pro CS4 is really a major upgrade to an already great product. Significant in this release is the ability to import and edit AVCHD Files. This is huge with regard to the new camcorders that are coming out. The increased integration into the Adobe family of products is also welcomed. For example, no longer do you have to render your Premiere Pro timeline before you can bring your video into Encore. The time you will save with this one feature alone will pay for the upgrade many times over.

The interface change to OnLocation is a welcome feature as well. No longer do you have to deal with the cumbersome methods of the previous version. Also welcome for Mac users is a native version of OnLocation.

The metadata is another prominent feature. The ability to view and input information about a clip or its source is fantastic. You can store and track copyright information and much, much more. And it can be taken through the workflow. Add to this the Speech transcription; Adobe calls it metalogging. It analyzes a selected clips audio and translates the words to the metadata panel. There are several languages that it can transcribe, including four varieties of English.

Then there is the Media Encoder that allows you to batch process media files, you can convert a MP4 file into Flash, and in fact it automates the whole process of creating multiple encoded versions of your source files. While there may not be a lot flashy, high profile new features, filters, etc, there are a whole lot of time-saving, workflow streamlining advantages that come with Premiere Pro CS4. These alone make it worth the upgrade and so I highly recommend Premiere Pro CS4.