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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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  • Well if they can do all that…

    April 25th, 2007 by Russell Viers

    The other day, here in my little town in Austria, we went to see Grease, Der Musical. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I assumed the show would be in German. Since I don’t speak German I don’t know how to say greased lightning or you’re the one that I want, but I was pretty sure I could recognize the tunes.
    So we went.
    Much to my surprise, the opening number was a language I recognized…English. Wow, I thought, this will be the first show I’ve ever seen over here where I would know what was going on. So far I’ve seen AIDA and Der Troubadour in German and I’m still not totally clear on those plots. I’ve seen some movies, too, and I think I need to see them again in English to really understand them.
    So I’m tapping my foot along with Doo-wop-a-doo when, all of a sudden, out of the blue, there was a language switch and I was lost again. That’s right, they sang the songs in English and spoke the lines in German. What a mess for a unilingual, like myself.
    At intermission my son asked me if I thought they were from England or the United States. I told him I didn’t have a clue but it sounded like they were from Germany to me.
    “Nope,” he informed me, “they speak it with a heavy accent.”
    “You don’t have a heavy accent?” I asked my very American little boy.
    “Nope,” he informed me with great confidence.
    So we headed out to the lobby and some of the actors were selling programs. We approached them and asked if they were English or American.
    It seems strange that with all the English speaking countries in the world we only offer two choices. Then, when a third is offered by the questionee you feel stupid for not thinking of the other options.
    “Well, actually,” he informed us, “we’re Canadian.” Why didn’t we think of that?
    “Sorry,” we offered with embarrassment, but I don’t think it mattered. Luckily Canadians are a nice lot and I don’t think it ruined his day.
    So during the second half my mind wandered away from the show, which is easy to do when you don’t understand the language that is spoken. Oh, I know the general plot since I’ve seen the movie, but it still gives a person lots of time between songs for the mind to drift away to thoughts in a more understandable language.
    My thoughts ended up landing on this: “if they can be Canadian, speak perfect English, dance like Broadway stars, sing in perfect English, look cool and speak what I thought was perfect German, I can certainly learn how to master electronic media.
    Yea…that’s what I was thinking about while Rizzo was thinking she might be pregnant.
    I was thinking about how many of us who are so comfortable with print production are afraid, not interested or too busy to make the leap over to the growing world of electronic media…websites, video, multi-media presentations or even ads for cell phones.
    I’m concerned that many print production geniuses will eventually lose business to less print savvy freelancers who are adept at creating work that is truly crossmedia.
    I believe the day is here, or very close, where the customers are going to want one source for everything, instead of working with two or three different agencies to meet the needs of both electronic and print media.
    And if that’s the trend for the hired guns, it won’t be long before employers demand more from the workforce. Just as years ago you didn’t have to know layout to write, photo manipulation to layout or page layout if you were a photographer, but now you do. It won’t be long before employers expect a print-minded graphic artist to also build the website. Some are already feeling this.
    Now is as good of a time as any to get started.
    As I look at what Adobe’s doing with CS3, it seems they are really trying to help us with the transition. They have done a good job of integrating the different worlds together, so as we veer into uncharted territory, there is some familiar ground on which to walk.
    A good example of this is Bridge. If you’ve never used Bridge, I suggest you start. It is shared by so many of the applications that it can almost be your home base. And even if you don’t know all the programs in the new Adobe world that well, if you poke around a little you might find what you’re looking for in the Bridge.
    For example, I got an email awhile back from someone who wanted to use Illustrator’s Live Trace function on a bunch of progressive video frames to created a hand-drawn video cartoon affect. They didn’t know Illustrator and didn’t want to spend the time opening all those video files one-by-one and doing the trace. The question really was “Does Illustrator have Actions like Photoshop so I can do this faster?”Bridge. Save the video frames you want, select them in Bridge and go to Tools> Illustrator> Live Trace.”
    I’m not saying Bridge is THE tool. I’m only saying it’s a great place to start finding common ground among the various apps. From there you can start learning how the tools you already know can be used for web and video creation.
    It’s also worth noting what apps are shipping in the Creative Suite 3 Design Premium…pretty much everything you need to start a print/web cross media business. InDesign for print, Dreamweaver for web, Flash for…uh…Flash (web, multimedia…) and the programs shared by both worlds including Photoshop, Illustrator and Bridge.
    Oh, by the way, I just found out Rizzo isn’t pregnant, after all…I think that’s what’s happening up there on stage.
    You don’t have to go it alone (I’m not talking about Rizzo, anymore). In the near future we will be doing training videos on taking your print expertise and familiarity with the Design Tools over to the other side…some would say the dark side.
    We’ll focus on how Photoshop and Illustrator can be used to help you create electronic media easier than you may have thought. We’ll talk about how InDesign fits in to this scheme, too. And, of course, more about Bridge.
    And the good news is, I’m convinced, that learning electronic media creation is a heap of a lot easier than learning to speak in German, sing in English and dance bilingually…with grease in your hair.

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