Halo 2 Carnage

Halo 2 Carnage

Recently, my Photoshop posts have been lacking in layers, which I tend to equate with how much others can learn from them. A file with few layers really only allows for simple usage of the content, and leaves little room to learn from. To try and make up for some of that, here’s a multi-multi-layer Halo 2 Photoshop file where a large portion of the background was cut away to make the image fit the design on (the subsequently redesigned) Xbox.com.

You can view the original screenshot here to see how much area had to be recreated. Luckily, I just happened to have some good source material to pull from. The photo used to rebuild the missing chunk of sky is quite possibly part of the original Halo 2 artwork, as it’s from a PDF I stumbled upon not too long ago. Looking at the original PDF, you’ll notice parts of the sky which have cloud formations matching those in the screenshot. With some clone stamp work, color adjustments, and a new black gradient, the restored image looks good as new. While the original Halo 2 image surely exists somewhere out there, this is a decent Photoshop file tutorial showing how to merge two related images with minimal changes.

Whether you use it for something, learn from it, or just find the files cool to check out, I’d like to hear from you! I know I always enjoy looking through others’ Photoshop files to see how they do things.

Halo 2 Carnage

Acquisition + BitTorrent

In a newly released beta version, the Mac P2P application Acquisition now supports the BitTorrent protocol. What this means is that you can use the gorgeous Acquisition interface for both Gnutella as well as BitTorrent file sharing. The new version also adds downloaded videos to iTunes along with your other videos. As the author puts it, “Acquisition now provides a seamless path from .torrent file to your iTunes Library.” I’ve been waiting for a really Mac-like BitTorrent application for a long time, and I’m not surprised it came from David Watanabe.

Acquisition + BitTorrent

125 Windows

A warning from Apple’s Mail.app.

I would like to thank the person responsible for coding this into the program. I’m also curious how rarely encountered situations like this are thought up in the first place, resulting in a great user experience at times when one cringes and expects hundreds of windows to fly open. It’s better to leave the user with a smile and a question instead of a sigh and a screenful of windows.

125 Windows

30 Minutes with Front Row

By now, Apple’s new media center application has been pulled off a shiny new iMac somewhere and uploaded for the rest of the world to fiddle with. News of its release has hit Digg, Engadget, TUAW, and others. After seeing Front Row on Apple’s site on the iMacs, I passed it off as a small little application that wouldn’t get much attention. I had to find out just how good it was, so I went and got myself a copy of it (purely for educational purposes, you see).

After the relatively painless installation, the first thing that catches your eye are the animations built into the program. Icons revolve and fly into view as Front Row opens and your desktop slips away. Though the entire interface seems to hinge upon gorgeous eye candy, it does so leaving you knowing just what section you’re in and what’s going on. Also not surprising from an Apple product, is just how uncluttered the menus are. I’d really like to see some of the ideas used in Front Row adopted in Xbox Media Center. TV-friendly oversized fonts, wispy and chime-like sound effects, and chunky interface elements all make for a great media center experience. I was truly surprised with just how slick it is, despite a number of annoying bugs — to be expected, considering it’s brand new. Overall, I’m quite impressed with what I thought would be just some cheesy little side application. How could I forget that this is Apple? Making cool stuff is what they do best.

A side note for the “Front Row hackers” out there: For some reason, taking screenshots with Command-Shift-3/4 is disabled while inside Front Row. A quick little Terminal command will let you at least time a screenshot to your needs. Enter sleep 50; screencapture ~/Desktop/front_row.png; on one line in the Terminal, and hit return. After 50 seconds, a screenshot will be saved to your Desktop as front_row.png, even if Front Row is running. Alternatively, you could SSH into your Mac from another computer (a PC, even), and call screencapture ~/Desktop/front_row.png manually to gain some timing precision.

Update: It appears that Front Row is just a shell for the other iApps. For instance, it communicates with iTunes via AppleScript and/or Apple Events. When browsing music, it creates a temporary playlist for itself to work from. I wonder why they didn’t do like other programs do, and just read out the XML Library files… To avoid re-inventing the “iWheel” and maintaining two nearly identical code bases, only with GUI differences? Questions, questions…

30 Minutes with Front Row

iPod Video Sizes

While I don’t yet have a new iPod with video capabilities, I did get to check one out at work today. Before seeing one in person, I thought the size of the screen made the device look slightly out of proportion, but when you actually hold it in your hand, it’s just right. And now I really want one.

I’m torn between the two capacity versions, 30 GB and 60 GB, so I decided to do some math to figure out what I can expect my videos to compress to. My main experiment was with an episode of “24.” When the original DVD title is dumped to disk (look at me, I’m breaking the law!), it occupies just over 1 GB. When scaled down the the iPod’s screen width, the new dimensions will be 320×180 — which, in a simple Photoshop mock-up, doesn’t look too shabby. The iPod’s aspect ratio is 3:4, and my “24” episode is 16:9. Since you will want the video to always be as wide as possible, use the width as the one measurement of the iPod’s screen, and let the vertical changes fall where they may. 320 pixels/16 width = x pixels/9 height gives the scaled height of 180 pixels. Knowing the width will always be the same 320 pixels (unless you have a video that’s taller than it’s width, which is odd), you can put the two together and get 320×180 as your 16:9 iPod video dimensions.

I used HandBrake to handle the video conversion to a constant 750 Kbps. While the hour and a half long conversion was running, I decided to figure out what my completed file size will be. HandBrake reports at the title I’m encoding is 42 minutes and 41 seconds. 42 minutes*60 seconds/minute is 2,520 seconds, plus the extra 41. So, there are 2,561 seconds in this title, and it will be encoded at a bitrate of 750 Kilobits per second. The “bits” part is an important distinction to make, and it’s one that I try to do to at all times. Abbreviated, Kilobits is “Kbps”, not “KBps,” as “KB” with a capital B means KiloBytes — the common metric for file downloading and uploading. Since a single byte is 8 bits, 1 KiloByte is equal to 8 Kilobits. Thus, we can take the 750 Kilobits and divide it by 8 to get the (smaller) number of KiloBytes. Remember, your unit of measurement is getting larger, so the associated number must get smaller. 750 Kilobits per second divided by 8 bits gives 93.75 KiloBytes per second. This is the speed the iPod will be processing the video at, in more “friendly” units (personally, I can’t think in Kilobit sizes, whereas KiloBytes I can easily quantify). 93.75 KB per second * 2,561 seconds yields 240,093.75 KB. Divide that by 1024 (1024 KB in a MegaByte) to get the final video size of about 234.5 MB. Compressed to 320×180, the video will occupy 234.5 MB. Don’t forget to factor in the audio, which runs at 128 Kbps (resulting in about 40 MB). To store the entire compressed title, you’ll need about 275 MB. A whole season of “24” will use just over 6.5 GB on the iPod.

Or you could just use a converter of some sort. I don’t expect to store more than 15 or 20 GB of music, so I think the new 30 GB iPod will be just fine for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a situation where I’ll need an entire TV season on my iPod at once. More space is always better, but having done the math, I think I’ve made my choice — one my wallet will appreciate. And hopefully, this will be the most math-oriented any of my posts will ever get!

iPod Video Sizes

Xbox 360 Marketing

With the upcoming release of the Xbox 360, I thought it would be fitting to post a few related images I had squirreled away (I save almost everything interesting I come across — a digital packrat).

The first image I have is the new Xbox Live logo for the Xbox 360, which uses the new, official, Helvetica-looking Xbox font. I like the old blocky font more, but I’m sure Microsoft will still manage to pull the marketing materials together nicely. Overall, I enjoy the Xbox marketing styles far more than those used for Windows.

The second file is an Xbox 360 ad I saw on a website, and recreated it in Photoshop. You can see the preview here, or download the layered Photoshop file. Enjoy!

Xbox 360 Marketing

Hi-Res Tiger Icons

Following a request, I edited a bunch of high resolution Tiger icons out of Jaron Brass’ excellent Tiger wallpapers and saved them as PNG files with a mask so they can be placed on any background image or color. The Mac OS X icons were originally designed by Cesar Carrera (and copyright Apple — don’t sue me, please!), however I’m not sure if the ones included here are all his. In this set, you’ll find:

  • Address Book
  • the Applications icon
  • Automator
  • Bonjour
  • Core Audio/Image/Video
  • Dashboard
  • .Mac
  • FileVault
  • Finder
  • the Home icon
  • iChat
  • Keychain
  • “Mac HD”
  • .Mac Sync
  • Mail
  • Preview
  • QuickTime
  • Safari
  • Spotlight
  • Xcode
  • the Apple logo from “About This Mac…”

Each image about 500px in size, which is considerably larger than what you’ll find in Mac OS X’s standard icons. Here’s a preview sheet of what you can expect. If you like what you see, download the whole lot (3.7 MB). Personally, I’ve used a few in the past for sprucing up Keynote presentations given at MUG meetings. I’m not sure what other purposes they have — post below if you find them useful!

Hi-Res Tiger Icons