Blog, business, graphic design, photography

New Photography Portfolio Page!

We’re slow to toot our own horn around here, mostly because we’re so busy with current projects. But I wanted to mention a new portfolio page on the site, even though we have been doing this for years: PHOTOGRAPHY.

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We create iconic shots for our clients all the time. For instance, the image above is from Shakedown Mambo‘s CD packaging, which we designed (we also did their website!). The photo captures the energy of a recording session in progress perfectly, and feels like one of the iconic photos of 1970s jazz or rock bands.

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We have also created one-of-a-kind architectural shots, like this one of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. Multiple photographs from all hours of the day and night were composited to create this other-worldly image of their building. It’s a stunning image.

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Event photography? Yes. Production shots for shows? Yes. Portraiture? Yes. Product photography? Of course. Check it all out on the photography portfolio pages. We will continue adding more photos to keep it fresh!

Blog, business, post production for film and video

Getting Technical with Technicolor and the Canon DSLRs

Shane Hurlbut mentions a new set of “camera styles” that Technicolor just released for the Canon DSLRs (specifically the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, but they mention that the camera styles will work on any of the current EOS cameras). These new picture styles allow the camera to more closely approximate the color and f-stop latitude of traditional film, allowing for more color-correction options in the post-production process.

These are not the first “custom” picture styles to come out; in fact, people have been playing around with (and distributing/sharing on the internet) various picture styles — SuperFlat, Marvel, Velvia, Genesis, and many more. What makes this one impressive is that it has the Technicolor name on it, and, apparently, has tons of Technicolor research behind it. So this picture style is a research-based, powerful tool for making a gorgeous picture on the Canon DSLR cameras.

But remember, adding a custom picture style like this is going to mean that the image coming out of the camera is not at all ready for prime time. These picture styles make your footage ready for post-production, not ready out-of-camera. You must take these in and do color-correction before they will begin to look like what you want. The Technicolor picture style only gives you the latitude to make some wonderful images in post-production.

Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

How we get from point A to point B, or, how a CD package design comes into being

Well, I’m finishing up another CD this week, but the T-Lou CD is out and people liked the art, so I’m going to talk through how we came to the final art. Oh, and by the way, if you want to buy the album on iTunes, you can do it here. Unsure when the CD is going to show up on Amazon…

Initial Design Brief

First, we’ll talk about what the client brought to the table. They wanted something that said “party” and “Zydeco” and “fun” with the artist front and center, since it’s been a really long time since his last record. We needed to position the talent front and center. The producer sent me a few dozen images as reference, which included:

Essentially, focus on bright colors that conjure a Louisiana feel and the outsized personality of T-Lou.

Photography

My first recommendation was to schedule a photo shoot with T-Lou. The images from the studio (taken with a good camera by the producer) were still not good enough to make beautiful key art, so we needed new photography. Fortunately, I’ve been doing quite a bit of work with my new Canon 7D, so we scheduled the shoot and went to work. Several hundred shots later, here are some of the highlights:

So we now have great key art: the artist and the producer were both really happy with the proofs from the shoot.

First Design Presentation

Now it was my turn to interpret what feel they were looking for. Let’s look at some of the different concept pieces that I presented to the artist and the producer at our first design presentation:

Interestingly, the first proof is the one that is closest to the final. I went for a big and bold typeface, an image of T-Lou loving’ life and playin’ music, and some “dancing” crabs to tie into the album’s title. I was unsure about the crabs, because they kinda looked like the tripod aliens from Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” but this was first proof territory, so everything is fair game.

Now I got even bolder and funkier. There were these pictures where T-Lou just looks badass, so I married that up with some distressed type and some pretty heavy color correction (lots of desaturation, but adding contrast), and we get this beautiful bold look. But then why can’t I take it one step further?…

I think this might be my favorite design from the first round. I made the T-Lou art bigger and happier, and pulled all the color out of his photo. All of a sudden he pops off the CD cover. Still using distressed type on the artist name, but really clean on the album title. Simple and bold…perfect.

But my concern with the previous art was that it was getting way too non-traditional for a genre that has lots of tradition in it. So I tried a few looks that sit more comfortably within the established “look” of Zydeco artists. This first one has some issues, because T-Lou feels a little too low, and the ratio/balance between him, his name, and the album title just seems off. But still a good exercise, and if the client had liked it, we could have worked all of those issues out…

And then I went completely traditional. We added a sepia look to a non-retouched photo, did the “type on a curve” thing that lots of oldies/traditional albums do, and still added a crab — more now as just a graphic element — to keep it fun and tied-in with the album title.

Still loving the “badass T-Lou” look, I couldn’t resist doing something completely different. This keeps my mind fresh, and shows the client that there are options out there. If they don’t like something here, we can go a completely different direction. I had downloaded the curly background art from iStockphoto a few weeks previous for another project (that didn’t end up getting made) — it was originally blue — repurposed it for this proof by making it gold/brown and framing the artist. The type glows; the whole thing says “me and my accordion are not to be messed with.” Cool.

So wait, I had pretty much ignored the “let’s make it colorful” request from the client, so I did one with everything but the kitchen sink. The mardi gras feathers, some New Orleans brick in the background, a wood sign from a beach somewhere — making it bold and messy and colorful.

You will notice that I didn’t just present the artwork in a square on a piece of paper. I snagged a CD I had photographed from another project, and superimposed the T-Lou artwork onto that photograph. I believe that one extra step — making the art look like the final packaging — gives the client a much better idea of what his CD will look like once everything is done and shipping.

Client Reactions + Second Round of Proofs

Well, the clients flipped — they loved that first round of proofs. The energy, the photography, even lots of the typefaces chosen, were really making T-Lou excited.

They loved the crabs, but didn’t think they were “fun” enough, so I suggested maybe adding some cartoon eyes that I had found but discarded while working on the first set of design ideas. They liked that. So we decided to work on revising the first proof to everyone’s liking.

T-Lou comes from Louisiana, and really wanted the Louisiana coast to play a large role in the art. While almost all of the backgrounds are of Gulf Coast beaches, I had bleached out the colors of the backgrounds to focus attention on the artist. T-Lou said no, we want to see the blue of the ocean and the sky; adding back more colors would get us to that “make it colorful” initial request, too.

T-Lou also doesn’t like sans serif typefaces that much; he likes the refinement and formality of serif type better. So I needed to give him some options with different typefaces, since that first proof had the really big, thick, sans serif type for the “T-LOU” at the top.

So here is what we delivered for a second round:

Blue ocean, crabs with cartoon eyes, curved serif type across the top. Nice.

Maybe using the beach/weathered wood signpost plus the cartoon-y crabs? And we have a really bold typeface for “T-LOU,” but it still has serifs on it. Tricky, aren’t I?

Now here I have used the same design as above, but changed the colors up to see what happens. The light green allows the crabs to move to the forefront (the yellow was pretty strong), but I’m still not sure if the balance is right.

Ah, so the honkin’ big type was the problem. Pull that out, and replace it with a very refined slab serif, and the balance between all of the elements on the cover works out. So what did we accomplish? A few things:

  • lots of color,
  • T-Lou looking awesome and havin’ a great time,
  • a proper balance between his name, his photo, the crabs, and the album title,
  • a Louisiana coastal feel
  • the crabs with the cartoon eyes ensure that you know this album isn’t taking itself too seriously; in fact, you know that this guy likes to have fun.

The finished product! If I get around to it, I’ll take pictures of the traycard and CD face, which look awesome too. But for now, we see how I got from the client’s initial design brief to the final product. Everyone is very pleased with the outcome.

Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

What Hearken Creative did this summer, part 4

T-Lou Zydeco makes some crazy-cool Zydeco music. See for yourself:

This guy knows how to make a party hop. And I got to create a cool look for his new CD.

The client is really happy (“Thanks, Loren; it was a pleasure working with you…job well done. Good job!”), the producer is happy, and we have another winner. Just listen to this wonderful music:

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Tomorrow, I think I might upload some of the original proofs that were presented to the client, so that you can see some of the thought that went into creating this cover.

But overall, this was a wonderfully successful project. I have another CD design that is going to press this week, so I’ll post that one in a few weeks when it comes off press.

Forgot to mention: I did the photoshoot for the artist, in the studio while they were mixing the album down. This is another benefit of hiring Hearken Creative — we work across disciplines to make the best possible product for the client. It also is a benefit of purchasing the new Canon EOS 7D a few months ago.

Blog, business, post production for film and video, sound

Wow…Da Vinci on a Mac for $995

This is incredible. Just announced at NAB: A Da Vinci Resolve system will now run on a Mac for $995. You still need a control surface, and it’s probably a somewhat stripped-down version — simply because you can only run one processer with it, but here’s the thing: incredibly powerful color correction is now possible for smaller and smaller boutique houses. If Hearken Creative grows a bit, I could foresee starting out with a Mac-based system and then move quickly to the Linux GPU cards via high speed InfiniBand connections.

The Da Vinci system is an industry-leading high-end color correction system for film and digital post production work. Da Vinci was purchased by BlackMagic Design in September 2009, and has been working to re-frame the playing field for color correction software. This will affect Apple’s Color as well as Avid’s built-in color correction (such as in Adrenaline).

The price of all of this stuff just keeps coming down further and further…

Blog, graphic design

Color And Design Affect Gift-giving?

Leatrice Eiseman is a color goddess. She has made it her life’s work to understand how color affects us on a visceral level. She had a great post in December, about choosing gifts based on people’s coloration:

Taking a bit of extra time and thinking about the personal coloring of the gift recipient can be a vital clue to your success in gift selection as most people tend to prefer colors that blend with their natural coloring. For example, have you noticed that redheads, people with golden blonde or brown hair with amber brown eyes invariably gravitate to earthtones?

This struck me because, as I was riding home today, I realized how much the things I put around me really do follow my color likes, which actually do follow my coloration. I’m light-skinned, have brown-hair and gray-blue eyes. So I’m drawn to earth-tones, greens, and blues.

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The bike is green. As I look around the office, there are candles in green and blue, the desks are rich honey brown (the old IKEA office furniture color that was the best they had until they discontinued it), and the lighting is all incandescent/halogen (no fluorescent). I have subconsciously surrounded myself with things that scream my colors.

Now Eiseman says give gifts based on people’s coloration. I’ll have to give that a try…