Sony NXCAM camcorders get 10% education rebate

Sony NXCAM camcorders get 10% education rebate

Sony NEX-FS700 NXCAM camcorderSony NXCAM camcorders are ideal for teaching techniques used in filmmaking and documentary, so it’s great to see Sony launching an education discount across the full range. The scheme means we’re now able to offer a 10% rebate on all NXCAM camcorders – including Jigsaw24 favourites the HXR-NX70E and NEX-FS700E.

Also available with a new discounted price are the NEX-FS100, HXR-NX30 and HXR-NX5. The camcorders’ names don’t exactly leap off the page, but NXCAM as a recording format really is an exciting prospect for schools.

What is NXCAM?

NXCAM is a compression format for tapeless camcorders that compresses footage far more efficiently and gives a more professional picture quality. It’s supported by video editing software including Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro, and lets you store footage on affordable Memory Stick Duo, SDHC card or – if you don’t mind forking out a bit extra – a slot-in flash memory unit. You can record to a card and the drive at the same time, giving students an instant backup copy of their work. An 11-hour recording time has made NXCAM a big hit with corporate and event videographers, but we think the fact that it offers both fully automated and fully manual control makes it perfect for educational settings (especially when students often forget to put the battery back on the charger!)

The Sony NXCAM range

Keen to provide solutions for those schools just getting into video production, right up to colleges offering more industry-applicable broadcast courses, Sony have discounted their full range of NXCAM camcorders. The NX line are entry-level cameras that are ideal for schools – easy to use, and ranging from the dinky, handheld NX30 and NX70 (this is also completely dust and rain proof!) to the shouldermount NX5. If you’re looking for something a bit more professional, it’s well worth looking at the great image quality and performance of the FS100 and FS700. These are the kind of cameras the pros take out to shoot adverts and promos, and will really impress prospective students and/or employers.

– Go to our website for 10% education rebate on our full range of Sony NXCAM camcorders.

To find out more about Sony’s Education Partner Programme, give us a call on 03332 409 333, email learning@Jigsaw24.com or visit our site for the full Sony NXCAM range. For all the latest news, follow@Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter.

 

How to start an iPad band: Leamore Primary School

How to start an iPad band: Leamore Primary School

As an Apple Regional Training Centre, Leamore Primary School in Walsall are always trying new ways to get the most from their technology. Recently, they decided on a project to create a band using their iPad deployment that would involve the whole of Year 5 and get them really engaged with digital music alongside traditional instruments. Here, deputy head teacher Michelle Hill explains what they were aiming to do, and how they went about it…

Why did you originally decide to start the iPad Band project?

The children of Leamore Primary School are well known for their musical ability. We were keen to utilise the children’s musical knowledge and ability, whilst also incorporating our innovative approach to technology.

What were your goals?

Our goal was simple. We wanted the whole of our Year 5 class (who had at that point been learning the violin the longest) to participate in an iPad band using a mixture of iPad, digital instruments and a small selection of traditional percussion instruments. Our learning outcome was that all children would be able to musically contribute to a soundtrack.

How long did it take to plan and rehearse?

We knew we were going to be working with a fantastic bunch
of children, so we allocated two full days to learn and rehearse a soundtrack. The children exceeded our expectations and within these two days they were able to learn three complete soundtracks as a class and rehearse them to perfection.

What hardware and apps did you use?

As well as 30 new iPad devices, we invested in an Allen and Heath ZED16FX 36 Channel USB Mixer, five Alesis IO docks and iRig adaptors for connecting the microphones, guitars and MIDI keyboards. We also used Apple TV to demonstrate how to play various notes on specific instruments in GarageBand on iPad. Apple TV was brilliant for individual and small groups of children to play back their specific parts of the soundtrack and contributed to tighter quality assurance of the band overall.

How did pupils find making music with iPad?

In terms of engagement and enjoyment, the iPad Band project will be something that the children remember for the rest of their lives! The project made an impact on a number of levels, from Daniel – who found a natural talent for drumming – to other children who realised that they could play other instruments besides the violin. Our original learning outcomes were smashed. The iPad is more about the music itself – the playing and the composing rather than the ability to play the instrument correctly. It’s a different way of looking at and approaching music. So children can use the iPad to play complicated soundtracks without needing to invest time in the technique of plucking strings, for example!

Do you have any tips for other teachers?

Just go for it! We spent a lot of time talking the project through and invested in a substantial amount of kit, but it is possible to set up
a basic iPad band without these aspects. Apple TV is fantastic for teaching and demonstrating music-making on the iPad, but it is also brilliant to use during a live performance.

What else are you planning to use iPad for in future?

The investment that we made into iPad music technology has meant that our original Year 5 iPad Band and all subsequent iPad Bands will have the opportunity to go ‘on tour’, so any live performances will not just be a one-off wonder. We’re also planning to work collaboratively with the Royal College of Music to offer the equivalent of a GCSE in iPad music-making from September. We have lots of other projects in the pipeline: from experimenting with one-to-one iPad in a classroom to investigating the possibility of paperless learning, the use of iPad with SEN children, and specific projects in all areas of the curriculum.

About Leamore…

Leamore Primary School, Walsall, is an official Apple Regional Training Centre which focuses on teaching with creative ICT (they won an NAACE Impact Award for it recently). They regularly run iPad training events for teachers, and you can see more of their projects in action at www.YouTube.com/LeamorePrimarySchool. To find out more about how to become an Apple Regional Training Centre yourself, get in touch with us on the details at the bottom.

Have a go yourself! Our six step guide to starting your own iPad band

Fancy taking a leaf out of Michelle’s book? Starting an iPad band is easy, and a great way to engage learners and get them working together with music technology, even for those with no previous skills. Here’s how:

1. Get started

First of all, you need your iPad devices. The iPad band is a collaborative project, and you can scale it up to include a whole class of students (we’ve worked with class sizes of 25-30 before with great results). You’ll also need a mixer to control the audio output of all the devices with enough channels to support them – 32 is enough.

2. Fire up GarageBand

Apple’s GarageBand app (£2.99 from the App Store) really is the best app for music-making at this level, with a huge base of ready-made loops and virtual instruments including keyboards, guitars and drums.

3. Get pupils in time

Start students off by making sure pupils are in rhythm, especially those with lower musical ability. The Smart Guitar instrument in GarageBand lets the learner simply tap the chord symbol to strum a chord in time, like striking a triangle, but far more engaging.

4. Develop musical skills further

The great thing about GarageBand is that it allows each learner to learn at their own pace and develop their skills. Once pupils are comfortable with timing, you can start to look at chord sequences, structure and song writing, then develop roles for learners based on ability, and incorporate ideas from students too.

5. Add some real instruments

For anyone who’s had peripatetic music lessons, you could think about adding some physical instruments. Using adaptors like the Alesis IO dock, and iRig and iMic, you can connect guitars and microphones directly through the iPad’s headphone jack, and an additional Camera Connector kit lets you hook up a MIDI keyboard via USB.

6. Plan the pay-off

To complete the project, and see how well pupils have achieved the original learning outcomes, plan a one-off performance. This will also help the project create a bit of buzz around the school, governors and parents. You can even get more of the school involved by adding some backing singers, dance sections and percussion like djembes and glockenspiels to supplement the digital instruments.

Want to know more about starting a band with iPad? Get in touch on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com.

 

Edit any PDF in Quark with PDF2DTP

Edit any PDF in Quark with PDF2DTP

It’s one of those design nightmares – a client comes to you with a PDF and wants it amending, but you don’t have any of the original source files! Short of manually converting the PDF one page at a time or recreating the entire document (all the while mentally editing an image of your client’s head into a vicious animal attack), what can you do?

Markzware, creator of tons of plug-ins for Quark, think they have the answer with PDF2DTP. This new plug-in, or ‘XTension’, lets you easily import an entire multipage PDF into QuarkXPress 9, converting the whole thing into an editable Quark file. Then you can simply make your edits with familiar tools and export it back out to hand to your client as a new PDF.

How well does it work?

Have a look at the PDF2DTP XTension for QuarkXPress 9 in action and get the full word from Markzware in the video at the bottom. It’s already getting rave reviews from designers for its conversion speed and accuracy – Paul Ramos, a publishing professional at Difusao Cultural enthused, “PDF2DTP is fantastic! I tried it on a PDF for a book that had 524 pages, and it took less than five minutes to make the total conversion. It even isolated the images in separate files.”

Our resident Quark expert Priya Saggar reckons PDF2DTP will be a very welcome addition to designers’ toolbelts. “This is going to take a lot of tedious work out of converting PDFs to make minor edits, or quickly recovering a document when all you’ve got left is the PDF,” she said. “It does usually retail for £179 but, for a limited time, you can get it free with every QuarkXPress 9 purchase or upgrade. PDF2DTP comes as an electronic download for either Mac or Windows – all you need to do is register your Quark and fill in the online redemption form.”

You can also get more info by calling our team on 03332 409 306 and emailing sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Adobe Creative Week 2012: Our design team’s thoughts

Adobe Creative Week 2012: Our design team’s thoughts

Our design team spend most of their waking hours toiling over Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and Dreamweaver, so we thought it would be a good idea for us to check in with some of Adobe Creative Week 2012’s online seminars and see what other creatives were up to.

With the UK economy still idling in recession, big themes up for discussion were how creativity could help push growth, the decline of print, constrained budgets and changing skill sets. Adobe also showcased their new Touch apps for Apple’s iPad, Creative Cloud and Creative Suite 6. Here’s Liana, Ed and Paul’s thoughts on the week’s hotly contested debates…

Day 1: Creative Industry Overview

The overarching question to kick off Creative Week was ‘Can creativity help drive the UK out of recession?’, and the results showed the viewers had a pretty sunny outlook, 88% of them voting ‘Yes’. One of the themes touched on was creativity in education, and whether we were failing the younger generation by not giving art and creative subjects enough credibility.

Designer Liana Jackson wasn’t so sure it was such a big hindrance: “While gaining basic skills in maths and science is necessary, I’ve never felt like I wasn’t able to pursue a career in design because art wasn’t ‘credible’. I suppose it can be seen more as a hobby than an actual job, and I think more people are trying to get into creative roles now, and earning money doing jobs for people because they ‘kind of know’ what they’re doing. This can lead to a lot of pants design out there and a lot of qualified designers out of a job.”

With the rising use of mobile devices in the classroom (Adobe showed an interesting case study from Ravensbourne College), students are getting far more collaborative and diverse design skills. Whether this new crop of creativity can provide the stimulus the UK needs for economic growth remains to be seen.

Adobe Touch apps and Creative Cloud

Throughout Creative Week, Adobe evangelists were showcasing their latest products with in-depth video tutorials, which are all handily uploaded to the Adobe Creative Week site to watch back at your leisure. Of particular interest to our iPad expert Ed Reisner were the new Adobe Touch apps and Creative Cloud, as presented by Rufus Deuchler (Senior Worldwide Design Evangelist at Adobe Systems – @rufusd on Twitter).

“While Apple have been pushing their cloud services for a while, it’s great that you can now ‘work in the cloud’ with Adobe,” he said. “Creative Cloud also lets you download and manage desktop apps like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign or the Touch tablet apps such as Kuler and Proto, a bit like Apple’s App Store. Interestingly, you can also download an app for a specific time period. This would be useful if you’ve taken on a contractor for a month or two, and only need a Photoshop licence for that time.”

Ed also thought Adobe’s six Touch apps – Photoshop, Kuler, Proto, Collage, Ideas and Debut – would be really useful for designers on the move: “Each of the Touch apps is designed specifically for multitouch use, and as they integrate with Creative Cloud, will let you work on initial concepts and save them while you’re out of the office.

“Photoshop Touch gives you control of some basic Photoshop commands, but also lets you add comments so you can collaboratively review ideas with colleagues and clients. The Ideas app is great for sketching out concepts, letting you draw intuitively with touch gestures as vector paths, ready to scale up in Illustrator when you’re back at your desktop computer. Of all Adobe’s Touch apps, the most interesting is probably Proto, which integrates with Dreamweaver to let you create basic websites on the fly. You can be with a client and sketch out ideas on your iPad as you’re talking, using multitouch gestures to put in headers, tabs and more.”

Day 2: Design and Publishing

The decline of print media is no big news, so it was heartening to see that 69% of people surveyed on Day 2 thought that print could survive the digital revolution. Jeremy Leslie from the magCulture blog said that having both print and digital “gives us the option to pick and choose the right solution for the project in hand”, while Future Publishing’s digital Editor-in-Chief Mike Goldsmith enthused that “digital technology gives you permission to fail”, as it’s so much easier to rectify mistakes and make amends.

“Digital media can reach people far quicker than print, and with platforms like Twitter, it’s changed how we read and consume content,” said Liana. “But they reminded viewers that the challenge is still engaging that person to want to follow a link and read on.

“Design, like fashion, is also cyclical, and Adobe brought up the good example of InDesign’s first introduction, and people moving over from Quark. Everyone learned to use new tools like drop shadow, but then it became so ubiquitous that it fell out of favour, only to come back when it started being seen as different and original again,” she added.

Tutorials for Day 2 focused on Adobe’s big three apps for design and publishing – Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator – as well as newcomer Muse, which lets you do WYSIWYG web design without lines and lines of code. Check out the videos on the Adobe Creative Week site.

We’ve been using Creative Suite 6 for a while now, and our videographer Tom has also put together his own handy tutorials for Photoshop’s Content-Aware and text extrusion tools, and Image Trace in Illustrator, which you can see over at our YouTube channel.

Day 3: Film and video

‘Do smaller budgets make for more original ideas?’ Last year, the BBC spent 13% less on TV, and ITV spent 21% less (2011 compared to 2010), yet revenue went up for both. Pressure and expectation from above to do more with fewer resources and less technology can force creatives to think differently, seemed to be the reasoning.

One new avenue which has helped is social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter which, former BBC social media expert Marc Goodchild reckons, “brings producers closer to their audience”.

Liana agreed that social media is now a key part of creativity: “As Marc said, YouTube allows you to test your work and fine tune it before the final cut, decreasing risk and making it as good as it can be. It’s also great for talent scouts and HR managers looking to hire people. Pilots used to be secretive and for a specialised audience, but now they’re expected to be seen by lots of people, thus giving more constructive feedback.

“The panellists also discussed how Twitter is now a valid source of openly eavesdropping – people aren’t afraid to give their opinion because they aren’t talking to your face. There are also enough people to get a rounded, calculated result, from a different range of expertise and backgrounds.”

Day 4: Web and mobile

Cross-disciplinary skills are all well and good, but the fourth day of Creative Week asked – ‘Should you be a Jack of all trades instead of a master of one?’. A very talented 64% said designers should be skilled in newer processes like app design in addition to traditional skills.

With the ways people consume media changing, and clients wanting to be at the forefront of that change, keeping up to date with technology has never been so important. Just as a coder needs a basic grasp of design, designers should have an understanding of coding, they said.

Adobe demoed a great new resource – The Expressive Web – showcasing CSS3, HTML5 and content aware pages. As Ed mentioned above, there’s also the new Touch app Proto. Proto lets you create a website wireframe directly on your tablet device, preview in on the tablet and then export it out to the Creative Cloud where you can then start fleshing the website out in Dreamweaver.

Day 5: Photography and Imaging

The last day’s topic was bound to cause a bit of controversy – ‘Is digital imaging all tech and no talent?’. Any designer worth their salt knows that software is a brilliant addition to photography, but it can’t make a great photo on its own, and an overwhelming 70% agreed that ‘No’, you need talent too.

It was said that Photoshop gives you the opportunity to experiment using techniques and ideas without massive costs – for example award-winning photographer Timothy Allen (BBC’s Human Planet) argued that it was much more cost-effective to use the Tilt-shift feature in Photoshop than it was to buy new lenses to shoot with to achieve the same effect.

Senior designer Paul Shillabeer thought the rise of ‘iPhoneography’ and photo-sharing sites was having a very real effect on the industry. “More amateurs and professionals are using apps and iPhones to create imagery,” he said. “This movement is getting bigger and is very accessible to all levels of photographer from pros to casual snappers. Erin Moroney [of the UK Young Photographers’ Alliance] also noted that photo stock libraries are finding it hard to compete and cannot command the high price tags they used to because people are sourcing images from so many other sources – a very similar image to what a client’s looking for could easily be found on Flickr.”

– A good taster of the current state of the design and media industries, Adobe’s Creative Week 2012 managed to wrap up all the big questions about the changing face of digital creativity. If you missed any of the debates and tutorials, you can catch up on demand here.

You can find out more about Adobe Creative Suite 6 and our full range of design tools at our site, or by calling our team on 03332 409 306 or emailing CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Video: Tascam DM3200 mixing desk, integrated audio interface, control surface and DSP

Video: Tascam DM3200 mixing desk, integrated audio interface, control surface and DSP

Rob Holsman of talks us through the features of Tascam’s DM3200 digital console and explains why this is a relevant choice for someone looking for a DAW controller and high quality audio interface.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page


Babyface vs. Fireface: Battle of the interfaces

Babyface vs. Fireface: Battle of the interfaces

Audio interfaces come in all shapes, sizes and numbers of inputs. To see what difference size makes, we’ve pitted the small but mighty RME Babyface against the heavyweight RME Fireface UFX. Our audio consultants have each taken a corner to argue why their choice should be champion.

RME Babyface

Backing the RME Babyface interface is Alex Judd, who reckons the ultra compact, bus-powered interface packs more of a punch than you’d imagine. “Marketed as the entry level RME interface, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s not a serious production tool,” he said. “The Babyface boasts the same amazing sound and ultra low latency as the Fireface series, and comes with a breakout cable for connecting two mic preamps, an instrument input, two headphone outputs, stereo line out and eight‑channel ADAT I/O.”

Alex also points to the Babyface’s fantastic routing, mixing and signal processing software, Totalmix FX, which allows you to perform complete routing and mixing, as well as adding effects (DSP-based EQ, and host based delay and reverb). But it’s the portability factor that’s the real winner for him. He said:

“It  will fit into the most crowded of studios, and easily tuck into your laptop bag (or man bag). Just hook the RME Babyface up to an eight‑channel preamp via ADAT and you have the ability to record multitrack sources when and where you need to. It’s ideal for musicians and producers who are after a simple stereo source for mixing, but who also need something to take on tour or out on location. It’s a very clever way of RME sucking you in,” Alex added.

RME Fireface UFX

Rob Holsman has been using the larger RME Fireface UFX for recording guitars and drums for his band for a while, with one of his standout features being direct USB recording. To see how to set up this function in action, check out Rob’s video below.

“There are clear uses for this technology,” Rob said, “from having a safety recording running in the event of a DAW crash to being able to record live gigs where using a computer might be ill-advised […] Sometimes there are just situations where a standalone recorder is what you want to use, and that’s exactly what this firmware update turns the UFX into – a standalone hard disk recorder.

“The decision to record a single multichannel audio file is a good one too, as it makes it much easier to write high data volumes to slower devices (such as memory sticks) than trying to simultaneously write multiple files. It also ensures that all files remain synchronous when importing into an editing program like Pro Tools or Cubase, which both handle multichannel files natively, automatically showing each channel as a separate region.”

Rob went on to deliver his verdict on the interface. “The RME Fireface UFX was already one of the best professional audio interfaces available based on stability features and sheer audio performance, but [this update makes it] stand out from the competition, pushing the UFX into an exciting class of its own and making it a simple choice for people looking to record critical, non-repeatable performances.”

The results

We’ve used a very complex system of calculations to tot up the points, and it turns out it’s a draw. Which audio interface you go for really depends on how it’s going to fit into your recording and production. As Rob said, the Fireface UFX has top quality sound and a handy direct USB recording feature, but if you’re recording on the move, you really can do no worse than the incredibly portable and affordable RME Babyface interface.

We’re an RMExpert Dealer, which means we can offer expert advice, demonstrations and even loan a wide range of units for customers to try in their own setup. Get in touch for more info.

To find out more about the RME Babyface, call us on 03332 409 306 or email audio@Jigsaw24.com. You can also keep up with the latest audio news and offers on our Twitter (@Jigsaw24Audio) and Facebook page.

To get your hands on an RME Babyface with a free Audio Technica AT2020 microphone (worth £89), visit Jigsaw24.com now!

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

Looking for a print solution for your drafting workflow? There are dozens of large format printers out there which will all produce good quality results, so we’ve pitched two of the top offerings from HP and Epson against each other so you can see what kind of printer is best for your needs…

HP DesignJet T790

HP are primarily known for producing technical CAD printers for use in architectural, engineering, surveying and construction environments. Their 44″ DesignJet T790 is a plug-and-play large format printer which combines high-speed results with intuitive use. The real stand-out points here are the ability to easily create print-ready PDFs with the optional AutoCAD plug-in and the collaborative aspect of HP’s exclusive ePrint & Share application. This free web-printing solution allows you to select, print and share files directly from the colour touchscreen.

Epson Stylus Pro 9700

Epson’s range of photo and graphics printers have a heavy emphasis on print quality, and so are mainly used in the print for pay, production graphics, pre-press proofing and photographic sectors. They may seem a little over-qualified if you only need a printer that’s adept at producing 2D drafts, but if you’re working in an environment where you work with a range of designs and media, the flexibility of the 44″ Epson Stylus Pro 9700 could be what you need. ENERGY STAR-qualified, it also boasts plenty of eco-features such as a fixed printhead and low power consumption to boost your green credentials and keep printing costs down at the same time.

How they stack up

The stats you need to know, at a glance.

Printer HP DesignJet T790 Epson Stylus Pro 9700
Printhead HP Thermal Inkjet Epson Micro Piezo TFP Variable-sized Droplet Technology
Max resolution 2400x1200dpi 1440x1440dpi (special line mode)
No. colours/cartridges Six cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black, Matte Black, Grey) Four colours, five cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black and Matte Black), ten ink channels
Nozzles 2,112 nozzles per colour, 12,672 nozzles 720 nozzles per colour, 3,600 nozzles
Minimum droplet size 6-9pl 3.5pl
Max print speed 50m^2/h 50m^2/h
Best quality print speed 2.8m^2/h 4.2m^2/h
Paper thickness 60 to 328g/m^2 up to 0.8mm 0.08 to 1.5mm
Memory 8GB 256MB
Power consumption 120W 85W
Warranty One year onsite ex printhead One year onsite inc printhead

The verdict

In terms of initial cost, there’s little to separate the two printers (both have an RRP of around £3000), but the Epson does just edge the HP in terms of consumables, with printheads included in the guarantee and ink costing nearly half per ml. The real decider should be what you want your printer to achieve – for a dedicated drafting printer, you may be better off with the quicker, more accurate Epson 9700 and its collaborative tools, but if you need your printer to do more flexible colour design work, the HP T790 could clinch it for you.

To find out more about large format printing, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Webcasting and live TV at Wiltshire College

Webcasting and live TV at Wiltshire College

When Wiltshire College were looking to update its analogue TV studio, we provided them with NewTek’s TriCaster Pro – a portable production system that would let students create live webcasts. We also supplied them with hardware controllers that would help make broadcasting engaging and accessible for students.

Upgrading the studio

Comprising four campuses, Wiltshire College are part of Skillset Media Academy and have a Centre of Vocational Excellence Award for Digital and Broadcast Media. Wiltshire’s Interactive Media Centre, on their Chippenham campus, is a two-storey, self-contained broadcast studio with a production gallery. The studio already had three cameras, a range of lighting and a Panasonic MX 75 Production Switcher for vision mixing, but Paul Bryant, the assistant programme area manager for the digital media courses, wanted to upgrade.

“What we were looking to do was to be able to webcast our output from the studio. There was nothing wrong with the MX70, it was just a bit awkward to use,” Paul said. “At the time, we were involved in a project with a number of local schools and were exploring the possibility of some of their students producing live TV while others could watch the programme back in classes.”

Portable production solutions

Jigsaw24 had been one of the College’s suppliers of Apple computers for a number of years, and when they realised they wanted a live broadcast solution, Paul got in touch with our broadcast team. The College had already researched NewTek’s TriCaster so, during the consultation process, we looked at exactly what they needed to achieve – particularly the ability to broadcast straight to the internet – to make sure that TriCaster could meet all of their requirements.

The portable live production system seemed like the perfect choice for the College’s workflow, and would act as a suitable replacement for the Panasonic mixer they were using. “TriCaster is a remarkable piece of equipment,” said Paul. “And when you compare the price to similar items, it really is quite good value!”

To get the most out of TriCaster, we suggested a couple of external hardware controllers that would give students improved access to certain TriCaster features. NewTek’s LiveControl surface gives precise control over fast-paced live webcasts at students’ fingertips, letting them switch and mix inputs from different cameras, as well as integrate professional titling such as captions and subtitles. And the TimeWarp controller is ideal for giving broadcasts a polished feel, with simplified cueing of instant replays.

Putting it into practice

TriCaster is currently helping students get to grips with the principles of TV studio production on a range of courses, including the BTEC Level 2 Media course and BA (Hons) Creative Digital Media. “The great thing about the TriCaster setup is that if we need to, then the whole thing can be operated by just one person, but when we are dealing with larger groups, we can quite easily cope with a group of five students – all of whom feel like they are making a contribution,” said Paul. “It was quite easy to get it going and the students seem to pick up all the principles very easily. I’m especially impressed by the realtime reflections of presenters in virtual desks.”

Thanks to TriCaster’s portability, the College have also been able to take the system to careers fairs 
to help get people interested in the College’s courses, and give potential students a taste of creating broadcasts on the fly. Using TriCaster with one of their studio cameras, an autocue and a green screen, people get the effect of reporting from a TV news studio.

Future upgrades

Looking to the future, Paul has already seen the potential to get more from their new setup: “We have not yet done any work on creating our own backgrounds, but this is something we plan to rectify in the future.”

In the long term, the College would ideally like a complete update of the studio, switching from 4×3 SD to 16×9 HD recording formats. Top of the wishlist is the new TriCaster XD850, which could replace their current model, and give them the HD broadcasting capabilities they are looking for as well as high quality 720p webcasting.

For more information on live TV and webcasting solutions like NewTek’s TriCaster, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com.

Export Inventor data directly into Revit

Export Inventor data directly into Revit

The BIM Family Toolkit Technology Preview allows you to easily export Inventor configuration data from iParts and iAssemblies (parameters, file properties and component visibility) directly to Revit families. 

Once the family data has been imported into Revit, you can create a simplified version and leverage the imported parameters and properties to reduce the amount of time it takes you to create BIM-ready models.

Download BIM Family Toolkit via Autodesk Labs

This recent update adds a set of installers for 2012 which won’t expire until November 20th 2011 – as opposed to the 2011 installers which, though still present, will expire on August 1st 2011.

You can interoperate between 2011 and 2012 versions:

Export Inventor To Revit Table

Thanks to It’s Alive in the Lab for the heads up on this one.

If you’d like to discuss any element of your BIM workflow (or set one up), give our CAD consultants a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.

Speeding up rendering at the University of Glamorgan

Speeding up rendering at the University of Glamorgan

The University of Glamorgan were looking for a solution to improve render times on their animation courses. We helped them set up a render farm that would allow quick, collaborative rendering and reduce their workstation downtime. We also provided them with all the animation and rendering software they would need to give their students experience using industry-standard applications.

Eliminating downtime

Before coming to us, the university were using localised computers (i.e. not networked to each other) when rendering animation students’ projects. Each render had to be done on these individual workstations and so, while one machine was busy rendering, it was out of action, and any further design work would have to wait until the process was complete. On top of that, Glamorgan were also using external hard drives for backup, as there was no central server to store files on. This made collaboration difficult and working from home virtually impossible.

Glamorgan needed a solution that could render jobs from an entire class at once, and free up workstations so that students could make the most of their time on campus. They were also looking for a truly collaborative environment that would let their students work together on joint projects, sharing files across a network.

Finding a render management solution

Peter Hodges, head of animation at Glamorgan, gave Jigsaw24 a call and arranged a consultation with our 3D specialist, Ben Kitching, and together they looked at options for the university. They decided that Qube! (a render farm management system) would be the best solution for cutting downtime and allowing collaborative working. Qube! is able to handle thousands of student projects at one time, and its multi-threaded Supervisor tool would make management of the system easy. It would also provide support for a wealth of modelling and animation software and came with a number of application pipelines, including Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya.

The university had also invested in a set of render nodes (computer clusters that form the render farm). These were sent to Jigsaw24 HQ for a system preflight, which involved our engineers making a carbon copy of the disk that could be deployed across all of the other render nodes. We then went onsite to check the farm was running as it should by submitting a number of test jobs.

Software and training

Ben suggested an exhaustive arsenal of exceptional modelling and animation software to complement Glamorgan’s new outfit. These included professional 3D tools such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, Maxon’s CINEMA 4D and LightWave, and plug-in rendering tools like V-Ray and iray. Softimage, Boujou, ZBrush, SketchUp Pro, Brazil and Renderman were also included, so students could add greater detail and effects to characters and scenes. We even supplied Adobe Production Premium, Apple Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio for integrating animation into broadcast workflows.

As part of the installation, we went to the university to configure all the software and, while there were a few initial teething problems in arranging licences for the university, Ben soon ironed them out. He then provided training for the staff at a time that was convenient for them, as well as adding onsite and remote support to the package so we would always be on hand to solve any problems with the system.

Efficient, collaborative rendering

The whole solution has allowed for greater collaboration between VFX and animation students. With the help of Qube!, their new render farm can now be managed more easily and run more efficiently – the Integrated Charting feature lets staff create reports on frame times and CPU usage right on the GUI. Qube! has allowed Glamorgan to push through jobs faster, and to save all their work on a single, central server without being tied down to rendering times.

The students’ experience of working on the new farm will set them in good stead for getting a job once they graduate. The Autodesk software we provided is something everyone starting out in animation will benefit from experience using. And a few of the more specific apps, such as Brazil, will really make the students’ CVs stand out to potential employers, as they will have a wider knowledge of different animation techniques.

Commercial potential

Glamorgan have even thought about the commercial advantages of their render farm, and aim to get the system turning a profit to put back into the university. Their new setup is powerful enough for outside companies to hire for rendering, even while being used by students. As a Citrix Silver Partner, Jigsaw24 have been looking at virtualisation technology options at Glamorgan to give companies secure, collaborative access to the render farm, while also allowing their students to work from home and have access to their applications, shared storage and render farm.

For more information speeding up render times, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com