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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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  • Archive for October, 2008

    InDesign CS4 won’t do WHAT anymore?

    Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

    I was showing the publishing power of InDesign at a newspaper in Warsaw a couple of weeks ago and I starting showing one of my favorites: how to build pages faster by adding cutlines to the description field of a photo’s metadata in Bridge then pulling it out in InDesign and pasting it under the photo. All of a sudden it didn’t work. I wasn’t sure if it was a bug or I was having a small stroke right there in front of everyone.

    All was going as planned. I clicked on a photo in Bridge and selected the Metadata pane to enter information into the Description field. I typed like the wind and everything was going fine. I placed the photo in InDesign CS4 and was telling the audience how you can access this information from the Info Panel Menu and proceeded to demonstrate.

    There it was, right in front of everyone as I had promised…the Description field with the cutline I had just typed moments before. This is where things starting falling apart. I told them you can select the contents and copy it, then paste it onto the…uh…you can select the…uh…hmmmmm.

    Well I didn’t really feel like trouble-shooting the problem in front of everyone so I told them there was also a script that would automatically pull that info out and place it under the photo.

    Back in my hotel, I started trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Keep in mind I’ve done this literally a thousand times since Adobe added the Info Panel back in version, like, version CS1 or something. But on this day I had a small malfunction.

    As I was banging away on it, I realized it wasn’t me or my computer…InDesign CS4 just wouldn’t allow you to have access to the fields anymore. You can see them…you can read them…but you can’t select and copy them.

    So I emailed my good buddy Michael Ninnes who is in the know on these things, since he is the product manager. I just wanted me see if there was something I was missing…a preference or a shortcut key or something. He informed me that, in fact, during the re-architecture of that part of InDesign it was inadvertently changed (broken).

    He has also assured me this has already been fixed for any future releases, say, if there’s a CS5, for example.

    That’s good to know, but what about today?

    In CS4 Adobe gave us some scripts in the Scripts Panel that are pretty handy. One of them addresses this very problem and is actually better workflow than the copy/paste thing we’ve done, so ultimately, this is not going to be a problem.

    Go to File> Automation> Scripts and you’ll see two folders listed there, Application and User. Expand Application and you’ll see Samples…expand that and then expand the JavaScript folder (I’m worn out).

    Toward the bottom is two scripts we can use: LabelGraphicMenu.jsx and LabelGraphics.jsx.

    If you select a photo or photos on your InDesign page then double-click on LabelGraphics.jsx, you will get a menu that gives you the choice of a few of the XMP metadata fields to choose (I recommend just sticking with the description field) and you can apply a Paragraph Style to it and InDesign will automatically stick it, formatted, under your photo for you.

    You can even have it put the text on a specific layer if you build your document with graphics on one layer and text on another.


    The LabelGraphicMenu.jsx ultimately does the same thing as the LabelGraphics.jsx except it puts a menu item at the bottom of your contextual menu in InDesign so you can right-click on a graphic and select this option instead of going to the Scripts Panel each time. Keep in mind that this menu item will only be available until the next time you restart InDesign and then you’ll have to use the script again to reapply this functionality.

    So in the end, our workflow is unchanged: Photographers take photos, download photos, add cutline (caption) information into the description field of the Metadata in Bridge, Paginator places photo, Paginator uses script to add captions automatically under all the photos on a page at one time.


    Surviving Yearbook, through the eyes of Leo Thompson

    Monday, October 20th, 2008

    Editor’s Note: Leo Thompson is no longer the Yearbook Adviser for Vienna International School, but still works there as a teacher. During his stint as the YA, he produced some great books and has helped administratively with every yearbook since.

    By Leo Thompson

    As far as I know, no yearbook adviser is trained to be a yearbook adviser. However, if they were I wonder what a depressing training academy it might be. Firstly, it would start with course units like ‘deadlines’ (i.e. when you cross this ‘line’ and you are ‘dead’, or at least close to it). Secondly, teamwork (i.e. if the ‘team’ doesn’t ‘work’ then you’re neck is on the line)! And the list of undesirable units would go on and disappear into the sunset, long after which you’ll still be busily putting your midnight touches to those final pages… Delivery dates, sales figures, overheads, production targets, templates, layouts, picture quality, continuity, scheduling, allocations, photoweek. All potential headaches!

    But does it really have to be this way? Does it really have to be that each yearbook adviser has to undergo the cyclical crucifixion of yearbook production by doing battle with the demands of motivating students, meeting deadlines and making pages? Well, maybe not completely. For a start I never made a single page. Yes, two enormous, glossy 350 page yearbooks and not a single page. ‘What a slacker’ you may be thinking.

    To be completely honest I was hoodwinked into doing the yearbook, which may be an all too familiar story. When I accepted my job in prestigious international school in February 2006 I had honestly never seen a yearbook. Up until this point I had only taught in British schools and the closest thing I’d witnessed to a yearbook was the graduating booklet, or rather pamphlet. However, it was strongly insinuated in interview that the English teaching job I was applying for was shackled at the hip to the role of Yearbook Adviser. They said that the position came with a payment and ‘some time off teaching’ to get the book made. Eager to get the job and live in central Europe, I naively accepted. The ‘time off’ for my behemoth was a generous 1.5 hours a week.

    I suppose they asked me to do it because oddly school’s often ask English teachers and they seem to regard yearbooks as text heavy enterprises involving hours of writing tedium. Well, I suppose that bit is true. My other USP may have been my knowledge of Media, having previously taught A Level Media Studies for a few years, which came with the implication that I could design using state of the art software. Of course anyone who has taught such course knows this is misconceived hogwash. You just teach an awful lot of theory and usually have little or limited technical knowledge beyond the holy design grail of iMovie and Photoshop.

    When I arrived at the school there was no dedicated space for the yearbook adviser, or even my team. To boot, the old cell like space we were to occupy was deemed a fire risk by scrupulous Health and Safety officers and overruled. And to add to my woes, the previous coordinator had left under a storm cloud, having fallen out with the management. The problem now being that he was immensely popular and respected by the students and I was regarded as his unwelcome replacement, which thrust me is a position of immediate enmity. Within weeks I had already fallen out with a few students over ‘how it should work’ and to say that the future of my yearbook was under threat would be an understatement.

    I decided to do some thinking on my feet and draw upon my previous knowledge in IT Sales and Marketing, where I had spent a few years working with companies designing and selling network solutions and backup strategies. If there was one thing I could do it was design systems, so I started from scratch.

    Within weeks I had set up a new link with the IT director and booked an IT lab every Wednesday evening. I then chose my two layout editors. I treated them like adults and had private meetings with them, always trying to listen carefully and respect their views. We discussed what we wanted to achieve and how they had worked previously. We went through a few books and decided what constituted poor design. For example: lack of continuity, overcrowded pages, two many garish colors. It wasn’t that these things didn’t have their place if used with discretion, it was the fact that they were all in the same book and subsequently stood out like a Hawaiian shirt at a baptism.

    Next, I set about drawing upon the skills already within the team. I believed that the best form of training strategy would be students training students. I had able students give design presentations and demonstrations on the digital whiteboard, while students followed instructions on their computers. These workshops contained everything from saving, back up and layout, etc. The experienced started to pair up with the inexperienced, which had the added bonus of making the team tighter.

    By this state of the game, I had set up a new folder on the school network, which was backed up twice a week. I’d had a nightmare or ten about losing the digital book so it was quite high on my agenda. Each student had their own folder, and all essential files and docs were mastered and kept in an important documents folder. I could scrutinize everything being made and monitor progress, which of course was ‘always behind schedule’.

    Ultimately, I saw myself as a ‘motivator’, ‘facilitator’ and a ‘guide’, rather than a page maker. It wasn’t that I couldn’t make a reasonable page- I possessed adequate skills and knowledge to fix them in most cases- it’s just that I believed I would be more effective focusing my energies elsewhere. I’d say that 90% of my time would have been organizing, equipping, and, of course, buying cookies and drinks. It’s amazing how much students appreciate little things like this after a demanding day at school. It’s bizarre that a €4 hamburger will keep a student motivated and working for two hours. It’s also slightly ironic, as in five years time some of these students would likely command €50-€100 an hour as professionals.

    I am proud to say that not only did I survive the yearbook experience, despite the inevitable first year hysteria and ensuing rush to get the ‘bl**dy book’ finished, we sold a record number in the first year and even made an €8000 profit thanks also to a plummeting dollar. This funded the training conference the following year, free books for school staff and the greatest yearbook dinner we’ve ever had. On reflection, I count my lucky stars that I found such great students, and that I had the great support from my publishers. As I wrote in the first line, ‘no yearbook adviser is trained to be a yearbook adviser’, but we can figure it out with a little help and support.

    Good luck with your book!

    L Thompson
    Grade 11 Coordinator
    Vienna international School

    My Top Twelve Tips for Restful Sleep…
    (in no particular order)

    1. Choose your strongest team. Actively seek them out by asking teachers in the know e.g.- ‘intelligent, hard working, disciplined’. I had no less than 18 capable members with only a few flakes.
    2. Generate some buzz: assemblies, director dinner with students, T shirts, annual dinner, posters around the school, articles in school publications, newsletters, adverts on info screens. It raises the profile and hence the quality of the applicants to the team.
    3. Annual training event- bonds team, educational and often good pointers for new students and advisers. A good launch pad.
    4. Motivate them with praise, food and CAS points (if IB). Vital!
    5. Communication. Have their contact info- email and mobile numbers and update regularly with plenty of reminders.
    6. Find a suitable space- e.g. an ICT Lab. after school 1-2 times a week plus available machines during the day and evening if you can find them.
    7. Team Structure- have a couple of layout editors- these are your ‘captains’- who help you build templates and undertake training for team members. I also had a two text editors, responsible for proofing the entire book. I named the rest of my team ‘maestros’ as they need to manage all elements from taking photos of their events, to page layout and design to writing text.
    8. Don’t overspend on technology. Rarely is there demand for a high end camera, or the latest software, especially if your hardware config. doesn’t support it. For instance CS3 requires a minimum of 2GB of memory . CS1 is adequate (if you are using Adobe products) to build an extremely good book- it does not need to be the latest and greatest versions, such as CS3/4, even though they have some cool gizmos and tricks like the synching tool. You would be better advised spending the money on more colour in the book and on snacks for students. ‘As no army fights on an empty stomach, no starving student makes pages on one’.
    9. Have clear design parameters (limitations)- I playfully rewrote the ‘rules of Animal Farm’ i.e. ‘No Animal shall have photos or text in the gutter’. Within these parameters students had complete creative freedom.
    10. Do books have to be so stiff and formal? We tried to jazz it up a bit thinking of things like fun divider pages, Look alike competitions, Where’s Wally? We raided magazines for ideas. Yearbooks are primarily for kids and content should reflect that.
    11. Get students to model work to other students. I modeled great pages made by students to other students and explicitly linked them to aims and themes as relevant. It provides them with ideas, sets the tone, and raises the bar.
    12. Build object libraries and fill them full of high res. images of graphics you would like students to use in the book (which can also be added via the Bridge). Students scanned in hundreds of images of objects and made numerous designs in Illustrator and we used them selectively throughout the book to give it another dimension. We even had a school wide doodle competition and used the artwork all over the place.

    Cold Peas

    Thursday, October 9th, 2008

    I was in London with my good buddy Brent ending out a two-day Beatles tour when we stopped for dinner at some British Pub that serves food.

    We were hoping to grab a quick bite before seeing Wicked at the theatre across the street.

    So the waitress talks us into some chicken pot pie type of traditional dish with mashed potatoes and peas on the side…and a Coke.

    We were starving, as I think we had walked 237 miles that day seeing all the stuff American tourists are required, by law, to see.

    So my food comes and I dive into the peas. I can’t tell you why I started with the peas, I just did. And they were cold. Not just “sitting around the kitchen too long on the plate” cold, but “just pulled out of the fridge and thrown on the plate” cold.

    Our nice British waitress comes to our table and asks “Is everything okay?”

    “Well,” I answer, needing to find out if the peas are supposed to be cold, “I have a question for you. Is it customary in London to serve the peas cold?”

    She answered “I have no idea.”

    I didn’t know what to say. I was thinking “Hmmm…you’re British…you grew up here and probably have eaten a bushel of peas in your life…you work in a restaurant that serves peas with every meal…who would be a better authority in this restaurant than you to inform me of the customary preparation of peas for a meal?”

    And then she asks me “Is everything alright, then?”

    “It’s great,” both Brent and I answered…then we ate our cold peas and saw Wicked.

    Making the Pitch

    Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

    Quick Color Balance Trick

    Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

    Please Note: In the story to follow there is a reference to the possibility of a Miss Margeret Sturton from Winchester drinking excessively. This rumour has been dispelled by the aforementioned Miss Sturton who, in fact, claims to be a teetotaler. Therefore, it must be assumed she was not drinking excessively, but, more likely, out all night dancing with Germans who had been drinking excessively. We regret any inconvenience the below reference may have caused.

    My new friend Margeret Sturton from Peter Symonds College in Winchester, England emailed me with a question the other day, and it’s worth sharing.

    She attended the Fall Yearbook Conference we host every year and she saw me color balance a photo with a yellow cast very quickly using the eyedropper in Photoshop. I don’t know if I just did it too quickly or if she had been drinking excessively, but she didn’t get the notes down properly. So here is the refresher course for her and perhaps a new trick for the other two people who might happen to read this article.

    It’s all about gray. In a photo studio, when setting up lights for a photo shoot, photographers will use a gray card in a photo to measure the color balance of the set. The logic is this: if the lights are throwing off a yellow cast, the gray card will turn yellow, as well. Then, when developing the photos (or adjusting digitally in Photoshop) if you make the gray card (which became yellowish) gray again by adding filters, etc…the rest of the photo will adjust, also.

    So image a gray card that shifted to yellow ten percent. That means the rest of the shot has taken on a ten percent yellow cast, as well. Make the gray card gray by taking out the ten percent yellow and the same amount is subtracted from the rest of the photo giving you color balance again.


    So here is the problem with photos NOT taken in a studio: where’s the gray card? It’s a little hard to get David Beckham to hold a gray card while dribbling down the field for a shot. Nope…you have to find your own gray card in a shot.

    Look around you…there’s gray everywhere…especially in Seattle. If you have a photograph that has something in it that is supposed to be gray, you’re set. It doesn’t matter what shade of gray. It could be concrete, a metal trash can, a gray car or a dark gray sweater…doesn’t matter.

    Once you find that you’re only a click away.

    Notice this photo of a P-51 Mustang. It has a slight yellow cast turning the sky a bit green. You don’t really notice it in the plane so much, but often in a photo some areas show a more pronounced problem then others. Note: I’ve seen people focus on the problem areas by making selections (like of the sky) and only adjusting that. I recommend you try this solution first and then do selective adjustment only if really necessary.

    Now, select Image> Adjustments> Curves (or Levels, but I prefer Curves). You will see three eyedropper tools. The white one sets the White Point and the black one sets the Black Point (which we will discuss at another time). The middle one sets the Gray Point. Choose that one.

    Now simply click on something in the image that is supposed to be gray and BOOM…Photoshop neutralizes the color of that pixel to gray again, and applies the same adjustment to the rest of the photo.

    If you don’t like the adjustment, keep click on gray stuff until it looks the way you want it to. Just like the airplane photo above…the sky is blue again and the plane looks better after a single click of my mouse.

    I had a lady ask me one time “What if there isn’t anything in the photo that’s gray?”

    Well…then you can’t use this technique. But if there IS gray, you’re set.

    After showing this trick at a conference in Oklahoma, a person in the audience approached the next day and said “I saved about three hours work adjusting photos last night. I had a bunch of photos of old people to adjust and all I did all night was click on gray hair, click on gray hair, click on gray hair….

    Thinking About a Green Yearbook?

    Friday, October 3rd, 2008

    Last year, when I visited Stephanie at St. John’s in Waterloo to discuss her yearbook, she said she wanted to use a “going green” theme for the book. First off we started discussing recycled paper and what that involves. She pulled off a brilliant book with an awesome nature theme and we used the agreed on recycled paper.

    This year I had a request from Mikhayla in London to do a “going green” theme book and we started talking recycled paper. She wanted more. She wanted to know about paper, but also other things Walsworth can offer that help her show she is truly “going green” with her yearbook.

    One suggestion I had right off the bat was to go with lighter paper than the 100# gloss they had used in the past to save on shipping cost and fuel wasted in transport. We talked about eco-friendly cover options and more.

    But she still wanted more, so I called Joe Cupp at the Walsworth plant and asked him “What does Walsworth offer a school that wants to push this green initiative…something beyond just recycled paper.”

    Well, Joe just dumped information on my about all the great things Walsworth is doing for our ecosystem on so many levels, not just recycling and vegetable inks. We have an entire “Green Initiative” for the company that focuses on five key areas:

    • Reduce quantities or frequency.
    • Recycle materials and purchase recycled products where feasible.
    • Replace old, energy stealing technology with new.
    • Sustainability of resources provides for our future.
    • Teach employees and Customers what they can do to achieve these environmental goals.

    Within these key areas Walsworth has, company-wide, taken on helping the environment. Here is a pretty comprehensive list:

    1. Recycle of all scrap paper, aluminum, alloys and corrugated. Walsworth Publishing Company has routinely sorted and recycled scrap material. Unprinted “white” paper is segregated from printed scrap and baled for easier shipping. Aluminum plates are also recycled along with other scrap alloys such as copper, brass, steel and magnesium. Corrugated is recycled – and may actually show back up in the binder’s board we use for hard bound books.

    2. Is Recycled paper better? Many of our papers are currently made with 10% or even 30% recycled content. A good rule of thumb is – if the use of the paper is to be one step of quality lower than the original use, the recycled paper will work well. Printed books to magazines; magazines to newsprint; newsprint to corrugated boxes; corrugated to binder’s board. Once paper fiber has been produced, the recycle process shortens this fiber again – making the resultant paper weaker and thus does not handle well on press. Also, the amount of energy as well as chemicals required to recycle paper into a great printing sheet is greater than if virgin pulp was used.

    3. Reduction of VOC’s from inks and cleaners. Our Purchasing Department has made major strides finding and introducing us to materials with a dramatically smaller volatile organic compound footprint. All new materials go through a rigorous approval process to insure our carbon footprint is reduced. These new materials are better for our employees, our local community and for the whole environment.

    4. Use of sustainable materials in our printing ink. Our printing ink must perform to reproduce rich, saturated colors on a variety of paper stocks. The inks we use for web contain soy oils as part of the vehicle system while our sheet fed inks utilize linseed oil made from flax.

    5. Recycle of used blanket wash into water and reusable wash. Utilizing new technology, we distill our used blanket wash, breaking it down to water and reusable blanket wash. The small amount of residue and waste ink is then incinerated off site through our waste removal service.

    6. Reduction in scrap through better estimates of need and improved paper yield. Throwing out leftover material has been reduced by planning tighter spoilage allowances, mixing less pounds of spot color ink, planning for the minimum sheet size for each job, and by utilizing new technology to reduce waste. For example, our new Heidelberg perfectors use only forty sheets for make ready of both sides – while our older, Komori presses required 120 sheets for each side – thus we save 80% on maker ready paper.

    7. Using digital devices to replace litho printing. Although currently slower and less capable of outstanding color reproduction, digital technology is improving. Where feasible we move projects to digital presses where waste is one or two sheets at the max.

    8. Moving from analog proofing to on-line. Analog proofs require toner, paper, labels, wrapping & packaging, ground transport several times, and of course, air transport to meet deadlines. On-line proofing offers 24/7 conveniences with no need to expend energy or materials to move this information. Likewise digital capture has eliminated the need for silver based films and photo processing.

    9. Virtual meetings replacing face to face meetings requiring travel. Although face to face meetings are important to us (as well as the occasional business lunch), making some meeting virtual does save the energy needed to travel.

    10. Use of sustainable forest products. Walsworth has earned both FSC & SFI Chain of Custody certifications. We are able to fully participate in those programs where paper is made from sustainable forests. The certification is your guarantee of this. Not only are certified forests sustainable, but all the wildlife in that forest is protected.

    11. Exploration of wind power for electrical needs. As wind generated electricity becomes feasible, more of this power is added to electrical grids for residential and industrial use. Walsworth regularly meets with our state and local energy organizations to promote research and implementation of wind generated electricity. Our company purchases wind credits through our electrical provider which supports our green initiative.

    12. Conversion of motors and appliances to EnergyStar models. Just as new technology has brought us improvements in direct manufacturing, our auxiliary equipment can be upgraded as well.

    13. Replacement of inefficient lights with better models. Incandescent bulbs often produce more IR (heat) energy than they do light. Newer style bulbs along with simply shutting off unused lights help us here. (Leaving an office for more than 15 minutes is the threshold for saving power). The new bulbs and fixtures allow us to reduce power consumption. We are reducing the number of fixtures in all areas.

    14. Purchasing Green Seal products. These cleaning and paper products have been certified as being made under environmentally friendly conditions and contain human and environmentally safer materials. These materials include paper for end sheets in our books, to paper towels and wipes, to cleaners.

    15. Shutting equipment off when not in use. Shutting off computers and production equipment when not in use not only reduces energy consumption, but it increases the life of the equipment.

    16. Photovoltaic Renewable Energy. Our company is currently researching the benefits of photovoltaic renewable energy (solar panels). We will continue to look at this alternative along with fuel cell technology for possible use in our corporation.

    17. Energy Management System. We plan to install an energy management system in each facility within the next two years. This system will allow us to monitor and control our peak usage at all times which will reduce our demand. This will reduce our carbon foot print significantly.

    18. Water Use Reduction. Over the last 5 years, we have reduced our water usage by 60% through water recycling and reduction. This has minimized our waste water output by the same amount.

    19. Plant a Tree. Within the last three years, we have planted trees around our facilities in an effort to support our green initiative. We have increased our tree and shrub count by 200% on Walsworth properties.

    At the Fall Yearbook Conference last week in Lindau I caught up with Stephanie and apologized for not going far enough for her the previous year and researching this information…I had no idea Walsworth was making such a push.

    She said it was no problem in that their green theme is ongoing throughout the school and would still be of value in this year’s yearbook. Other yearbook advisers who were listening into my remorseful pleading for forgiveness also asked for this information, so I’m glad to provide it here.

    One final note on something I’ve been doing in Europe for the past two years is paperless contracts (if you want them). I have been creating contracts as PDFs that will accept digital signatures. All you have to do is set up your digital signature on your version of Acrobat and then click in the space provided, enter your password that you set up and return it to me via email. I then email it to the plant…no paper.

    I must say I’ve been proud of the quality of workmanship Walsworth has provided all of my customers here in Europe…but now I have pride in knowing they go further than most printers in helping our current ecological crisis.