Teaching children with special needs using iPad

Teaching children with special needs using iPad

While schools were slightly more cautious than businesses in adopting Apple’s iPad, the hugely popular tablet is now appearing in plenty of classrooms and helping thousands of children. Few have felt the benefits quite as much as those with special needs however, and iPad is being heralded as a fantastic learning tool for children with learning difficulties.

Teachers and parents alike have been praising the device’s profound effect on skill development recently, with two distinct reasons given for its success; the technology itself, and the wealth of specially tailored apps available.

The technology

Everything about an iPad: the size, weight, shape and interface make them an ideal tool for children who struggle to learn with traditional computing technologies. iPad is the pinnacle of touchscreen technology, something seen as a huge breakthrough in assistive learning tools for children with special needs. It provides a level of interaction previously impossible with traditional computing technologies, with particular benefits for children with autism developing communication skills. Unlike using a mouse, keyboard, or even touchpad, iPad’s touchscreen bridges the gap between human-computer interaction; making something happen is as simple as touching it with your finger.

The apps

This is where iPad excels in assistive skill development: teachers, parents and programmers across the UK and US are realising the potential of this technology and have built their own specialist apps. There are now hundreds available from the App Store, carefully designed to help special needs teachers and carers including tools for:

1. helping children deal with potentially stressful social situations such as crowds;

2. making communication easier for those who cannot speak or have language difficulties;

3. developing fine motor skills; and

4. improving cognitive skills.

To help schools find the apps relevant to their teaching needs, databases (which are not driven by advertising and do not receive referral fees) have sprung up all over the web. Here are a few that could help you:

  • iPad Apps for Autism on Squidalicious.com – reviewers include an adult speech therapist and an autism sufferer.
  • SNapps4kids.com – lists over 700 apps categorised by skill learned rather than disability.
  • a4cwsn.com – Apps for Children With Special Needs features 500 video reviews of useful apps.
  • iAutism.info – A database containing over 400 apps for iPad and iPhone.

To find out how Apple’s iPad can assist your students with special needs, call our Education team on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. For more news on technology in Education, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter and ‘Like’ Jigsaw Education’s Facebook page.


5 ways to minimise PA system reverb

5 ways to minimise PA system reverb

Reverb: great for adding warmth and depth to music, a pain in the proverbial when you’re trying to set up your PA system. As Chris, the latest addition to Jigsaw AV, happens to have an audio background (he’s a member of the ISCE and IOA), we thought we’d get him to tackle the thorny issue of how to ensure your public speaking setup sounds its best when it’s not being appropriated by the local garage band…

1.    Use an appropriate source

If it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times, but given the number of people who ignore it, it bears repeating: get the right product for the job. Don’t go for a source that’s too big or overpowered – you don’t need a stadium grade loudspeaker for your boardroom – but equally don’t opt for anything that’ll struggle to reach the required Sound Pressure Level (SPL).

Another important issue that often gets overlooked in DIY installations is the fact that you’ll need to choose something that’ll radiate the sound in the direction you want – steerable speakers give you far better control over this, and have gained a lot of traction in presentation environments over recent years.

2.    Keep the source as close to the listener as possible

Keeping the source local to your listeners is one of the easiest ways to cut down on reverb. Short of delivering your pitch in an anechoic chamber there’s no way to remove reverb entirely, but keeping the source close to the listener will mean that they will be experiencing more sound directly radiated from the loudspeakers and less reverb from the room. Simple, but really important. To achieve this, mounting location for your loudspeakers are important, get the best locations possible within the design constraints.

3.    Balance coverage and listener distance

While on the one hand, keeping sources local means keeping your sound clean, the further away from your audience a source is, the more coverage it can provide. The trick to this is to balance the benefits of added coverage against the reverberation time problems. In oddly-shaped spaces, multiple short throw loudspeakers will allow you to fill in quiet areas and provide controlled coverage. If devices are used to cover larger areas, beam steerable products such as the Intellivox from Duran Audio can provide the control you need to avoid unnecessary excitement of empty space.

4.    Add or reduce the amount of room absorption

Various types of audio reproduction require different amounts of reverberation. If you’re kitting out a music venue, reverb can add much-needed depth and warmth to a band’s sound, but it tends to simply make life difficult in public speaking settings. If you have issues with RT due to restricted source mounting positions, (for example, if you’re kitting out a listed building and the owners don’t look kindly on your plan to drill holes in their hard, reflective stone surfaces to mount additional speakers) varying the amount of absorption can help remedy the situation.

As well as off the shelf wall-mounted panelling from Roominators and the like, you can now pick up portable acoustic absorbers that are great for temporary spaces like events, or anywhere where you’re not allowed to stick things all over the walls. We can also help you put together custom kits tailored specifically to your presentation space and system.

5.    Use the right frequency range

If you’re reproducing speech, bear in mind that your speaker’s not going to go under 500Hz or over 400KHz, so you can use a graphic equaliser or high and low pass filters to narrow the frequency bandwidth. This will cut out a lot of unnecessary noise and make the speaker far easier to understand. If you’re using an active speaker system, you’re also going to want to employ filters to make sure the correct loudspeakers are producing the right frequency ranges.

Want to make the most of your presentation space? Get in touch with Audio@Jigsaw24.com, or give us a call on 03332 409 306. For all the latest audio news, follow @Jigsaw24Audio on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.


Getting the perfect Panasonic AF101 shooting rig

Getting the perfect Panasonic AF101 shooting rig

If you want to take advantage of the Panasonic AF101‘s shallow depth of field, there are plenty of professional accessory kits to help improve stability and reduce glare. Manufacturers like Genus and ARRI produce scalable hardware that adjusts perfectly for large sensor cameras, so we’ve had a look at their offerings and picked out a few examples of how to get the perfect AF101 rig.

Panasonic AF101


One of the most important considerations for your setup is ensuring your shots are protected from the sun. Even when using ND Faders – essential for outdoor shooting with fast lenses – UV rays can catch between the two bits of polarised glass in your camera’s lens, ending up with a terrible smeared effect which can often render shots unusable. An absolute must-have to protect against glare is a matte box, which fits over the end of your lens. The MMB-2 Mini Matte Box from ARRI has a filter frame which accepts both 4″x4″ and round 4.5″ filters (included), which can be individually rotated and locked off. You can also attach other accessories for reduced glare like rigid fins or ‘flags’, which come with the basic package.

When it comes to attaching your camera and accessories to your tripod, it needs to be as stable as possible during shooting. The ARRI MBP-1 mini baseplate is made specifically for smaller HD camcorders like the Panasonic AG-AF101, with two pairs of 15mm rods for increased stability when using heavier accessories.

Serious filmmakers might also consider a follow focus for more precision when pulling focus. Acting like a flywheel, the follow focus attaches via gears to the teeth on the lens focus ring, so your hand doesn’t get in the way while operating it. The lightweight ARRI MFF-1 follow focus easily snaps onto your rig and features a plunger mechanism with adjustable hard stops for lenses with infinite rotation.


AF101 accessory kit

Genus is another company that offers top quality professional camcorder accessories, and we’ve put together a rig that’s perfect for the Panasonic AG-AF101. It’s based on the setup recommended by Philip Johnston on his HD Warrior blog.

The Genus Accessory Kit is based around a wide angle Matte Box, and also includes a set of French Flags for added glare protection, as well as some ‘Nuns Knickers’ – a flexible ruff to protect from any stray light getting into the lens through the filter trays. This is all made stable on your tripod with the Genus hot plate. It has rails that extend up to 410mm to accomodate more kit, and four screw attachments – 2 x 1/4″, 2 x 3/8″ – that can be tightened by hand so you don’t have to search around for your tools mid-shoot.

Call us for more information on 03332 409 306, email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com or keep up with the latest news and offers by following Twitter @JigsawVideo or ‘Like’-ing our Jigsaw Video Facebook page.

Swap your AutoCAD licence from Windows to Mac OS X

Swap your AutoCAD licence from Windows to Mac OS X

For some businesses a change of platform is akin to a divorce. However, far from being a lengthy and messy process, you can switch your software from Windows to Mac OS X relatively painlessly. In the case of AutoCAD it’s as simple as asking.

If you, or one of your colleagues, have bought yourselves a shiny new MacBook Pro (or iMac, Mac Pro, etc), and want to run AutoCAD 2012, simply run the Licence Transfer utility – a piece of software that’s installed along with AutoCAD – to transfer one of your Windows licences across to a version of AutoCAD for Mac. You can use the same licence number and activation code so there’s very little hassle involved and – thankfully – network licensing is supported, meaning you can run a mixture of OS X and Windows licences on the same network.

This is also applicable if you own a Design Suite that includes AutoCAD 2012, though only the latest 2012 licences seem to be eligible.

As the UK’s largest Apple dealer and the country’s only Enterprise Desktop Alliance Systems Integrator, Jigsaw can provide more detailed consultancy on platform integration. If you’re planning a major switch, get in touch with our professional services team.

Want to know more about Autodesk AutoCAD for Mac? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook..

Bath Spa Uni student design showcase

Bath Spa Uni student design showcase

As the UK’s top Adobe reseller, we’re no stranger to helping universities, colleges and schools stock up on the latest design software. However, we don’t often get to see what students get up to once everything’s installed. So when Bath Spa University invited us to their design showcase, we jumped at the chance.

As it turns out, students at the School of Art and Design have been using Adobe Creative Suite to develop designs for everything from fabric to iPad content. Here’s a quick guide to our favourite projects…

Mobilising Design Projects: Exporting student design projects to iPads

The design showcase at Bath Spa aims to give visitors to the University an insight into the work produced by students at the School of Art and Design. After working with the University for a number of years, senior graphics and 3D design lecturer, Neil Glen, was kind enough to give us a tour and show us the standard of the work being produced.

One of the University’s aims is to get students exploring different ways of presenting projects, and a good example of this is their use of the Apple iPad. As the creative industries increasingly use iPads to show clients work, creating mobile content is now becoming an essential skill to learn, and that’s something Neil is keen to promote to his students. He explains: “The iPad is a great platform for taking work out to show people, so we publish to iPad as well as doing print-based work.”

The iPad Publishing Project: Going beyond print

The brief: Create an interactive digital publication that takes advantage of the iPad’s multitouch gestures.

The process: As students would be using Creative Suite 4, designs would need to be created in InDesign, then exported to Dreamweaver where they would be coded.

The results: Second year BA Graphic Communication (Hons) student Claire Caswell created an interactive glasses prescription timeline (below). The resulting design could be viewed on an iPad and included the ability to swipe between pages and to pinch zoom in and out. It also made full use of the iPad’s ability to change between a horizontal and vertical layout when the device was rotated.

From File to Fabric: Photoshop’s hidden skills provide precision textile prints

One of the key stops on the School of Art and Design tour is the digital textile lab, where students experiment with different software applications and physical media to find new ways to get designs into their final fabric form. “There are lots of different ways of working with the software,” explains Maggie Powell, Technical Demonstrator for the Textile Design for Fashion and Interiors BA (Hons) course, “so we try to encourage students to be resourceful and look beyond the immediate.”

That resourcefulness has led to graduates finding work with leading fashion houses like Issey Mayake, Laura Ashley and Net-a-Porter, and companies including Disney Pixar and Damien Hirst’s publishers. “When students leave here and go to work in the industry, the chances are they are going to be working with Creative Suite,” says Maggie. Having experience on an industry-standard platform “smoothes the process from education to industry,” and makes it easier for students to develop practical, professionally valuable skills.

One such skill is digital textile printing. Combining classic design principles with cutting edge textile technology, this discipline sees students create original images and guides in Photoshop, then print them onto fabric to make drapes, scarves, cushion covers, bags or whatever the brief demands. They then sync patterns with a digital embroidery machine to add machine-sewn details to each project. Because Illustrator uses vector path-based tools rather than bitmaps, each line of the design stays smooth and sharp when it’s blown up, making for more accurate cuts.

Graduate Profile: Anna Glasbrook graduated from the course in 2010, and is now working as a self-employed designer on commissions, exhibitions and trade shows. Her work has been commissioned by garden designer Thomas Hoblyn for his award-winning Homebase garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2011 and her pieces featured on US primetime drama ‘Blue Bloods’. You can see Anna’s work at her website, or up close as part of Tent London and Cardiff’s Craft in the Bay exhibitions.

The course prepared me very well for my career and the steep learning curve I’m on at the moment! My ideas always begin with a photograph and I find Photoshop an invaluable tool for manipulating my source images, as well as creating contextualisations of my work,”explained Anna.

Bringing Designs to Life: Transforming software layouts into physical objects

Bath Spa’s new 3D Design course, BA (Hons) 3D Design: Ideal Material Object, encourages students to integrate hand drawing with software design. Students use software to grapple with resistant materials like wood, plastic and metal. One recent project involved coming up with a product that could be used at home and in the garden, then producing a prototype. We take a look at how they did it…

‘Inside/Outside': A first year project

The brief: Design and produce a cost-effective, reusable item suitable for outdoor and indoor use.

The process: First the students drew out their designs the old-fashioned way: by hand. Then they scanned them into Photoshop and combined them with original sketches in Illustrator to create a fully-fledged product design that has enough detail to satisfy the brief but can still be understood by the university’s cutters and printers.

The finished designs are exported straight from Illustrator to Bath Spa’s cutting and etching tools, as this ensures the graphics remain sharp when  blown up to be mechanically cut: “We also take the vector output and bring those files through other packages like Rhino,  which allows us to do things with laser cutting, CNC machining and 3D printing,” said Neil Glen, senior graphics and 3D design lecturer. This means students can experiment with different techniques to produce a wider variety of work, and realise more complex designs than would otherwise be possible.

The results: Students came up with a huge array of intriguing (and pretty attractive) new products. Our favourites (below) included Ros Bryan’s laser-etched apple tray and Daniel Clements’s combination drinks holder/tealight (the threatening-looking spike is to help it stay upright in the ground).

To find out how Adobe Creative Suite can fit into your design courses, call us on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. We can help with everything from deploying software and arranging Adobe Volume Licensing deals to networking and organising staff training.

Extensive AutoCAD support in Navisworks

Extensive AutoCAD support in Navisworks

Navisworks’s extensive support of previous versions of AutoCAD is a welcome feature that makes the transition to BIM far easier for everybody. Navisworks supports a diverse range of authoring applications and laser scan formats thanks to a combination of file exporters and file readers and this list continues to grow as users strive to collaborate with an increasingly diverse supply chain.

Exporters can be installed as part of the Navisworks product, or as a separate standalone installer and allow you to export a Navisworks Cache file (NWC) directly from your AutoCAD-based app. One of the benefits of using the exporter is that you can then distribute a more compressed, un-editable version of the model, and you know the receiver will view the model as intended (i.e. it removes the issue with Object Enablers that the Beyond Design blog explains very effectively here).

File Readers
Navisworks includes RealDWG, which effectively means that it can open DWG files as though you’re in AutoCAD, thereby ensuring file fidelity. Object Enablers can also be installed and configured for Navisworks, meaning that it can support custom objects and properties from Civil 3D or other third party AutoCAD-based apps.

Previous Versions
While many companies would be happy with support for three previous versions, Autodesk have gone the extra mile with Navisworks 2012. It supports:

– Nine versions of DWG, AutoCAD 2004-2012,

– Nine versions of the 32-bit Exporter, 2004-2012,

– Five versions of the 64-bit Exporter, 2008-2012

As a heads up, Autodesk plan on dropping AutoCAD versions 2004-06 (inclusive) as of the next release. If you’re using these versions, now would be a good time to consider an upgrade.

For more information on Navisworks, give our CAD team a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.

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.

Vectorworks guides collated on YouTube

Vectorworks guides collated on YouTube

Vectorworks’s YouTube channel is crammed full of video tutorials, hints and tips to help you get more from your Vectorworks workflow. Whether you work in 2D or 3D, they can make the hard tasks seem much easier and more enjoyable to do.

The videos about Vectorworks Architect provide tips on how to change easily from 2D to 3D, change fonts and create white models. We’ve included one below to whet your appetite.

There are also videos to help you duplicate symbols using small file space, layer colours much quicker and convert 3D locus into stake objects that can store Landmark information.

If you’re one of the 450,000 designers in AEC, entertainment and landscape design industries who use Vectorworks software, it’s well worth a look.

Visit the Vectorworks YouTube channel here and start browsing through their 124 videos.

For more information on Nemetschek Vectorworks, call us on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@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