Lego Alien Xenomorph XX121 Instructions

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I’ve been so completely obsessed with the “structural perfection” of the hand-made Lego Alien (completed kit shown above) from the Tinyminds Etsy Store that I ordered for Miles’ 11th birthday, that I downloaded Bricksmith Virtual Lego Editor, re-created the creature, and designed some cool instructions for for it this morning. (File under “Things you do when you are home alone and procrastinating”)

DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS PDF

Unboxing the kit from the Tinyminds Etsy Store. Yes, I bought one for me, too. It really kind of blew my mind that there could be a category of custom Lego kits. There are actually other designs available, but this Alien is perfection. I also purchased an astounding Predator kit for Lars. (Emily also makes Dr. Who, Adventure Time, Star Wars, The Hobbit and Kitty Cat Kits)

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Here are the instructions I designed, followed by some isometric view studies. Click on the image to see a gallery of details.

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DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS PDF

Some additional isometric views rendered from Bricksmith Virtual Lego Editor.

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And finally, a reversed version of the instruction sheet: white on black.

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Horny Cupid Photoshop Brushes

A set of eight free high-resolution photoshop brushes featuring the “Horny Cupid” from my Raunchy Designer Valentines Day Cards

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Nelsdrums-Cupid-Brushes-1-Clean

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Horny Cupid Clean
Nelsdrums-Cupid-Brushes-1-Clean.

Horny Cupid Abused
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Horny Cupid Scuffed
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Horny Cupid Splattered
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Original Cupid by Yasmin Alanis

How to line up shots for stitched panoramic images

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I like to carry a simple point-and-shoot Canon S900 pocket camera. It is convenient for capturing of-the-moment photos, but it produces a frustrating lack of detail when I am faced with large panoramic nature scenes.

Adobe Photoshop CC and other programs now have very advanced image stitching and photo merging capabilities. Here I will show you how to frame up your shots for the best possible stitched results. Of course, you can make much better quality images with good camera and a tripod, but this method is to make the most of hand-held pocket cameras.


Four techniques:

Panorama-Instructions-01Standing at the side of the highway, with my camera zoomed all of the way out, this is what I see through the lens. The aspect ratio is 4:3, and the resolution is 4000×3000 px.

While this is very nice looking, I would like to create an image of much greater detail, that shows the grand, looming presence of the mountains that I experienced with my naked eye.

All four examples are taken from one spot on the side of the road.


Example 1:
Zoomed-in landscape pan

PROS: My favorite. High resolution and low distortion. CONS: May need to zoom out for better composition and context.

Panorama-Instructions-02 1A. Holding your camera in landscape mode, zoom in to your subject, and choose a frame that includes all of the foreground and sky that you need for your final composition.

Panorama-Instructions-03 1B. Start panning across horizontally. Move your frame about one-third each time. You will need the overlap to make up for lens distortion and vignetting.

Panorama-Instructions-04 1C. Continue panning across until you have all the shots you need for your composition. Be careful to keep a point of reference, like the horizon, to make sure you shoot straight.

Panorama-Instructions-05 1D. Here are the actual photos. It took ten images to pan across the mountain range. Note the natural, in-lens vignetting. This should be removed in the stitching process. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorns-Pano-123114 1E. RESULTS: 10 images, zoomed-in, landscape orientation 15274×2996

Download the ZIP of ten images below to stitch your own panorama together.

zip-file-icon-49x64 01-Nelsdrums-Zoomed-In-Landscape-10.zip (31 mb)


Example 2:
Zoomed-in portrait pan

PROS: Highest resolution, least distortion. CONS: Difficult to line up shots. Can be time consuming when stitching.

Panorama-Instructions-06 2A. Holding your camera in portrait mode, zoom in to your subject, and choose a frame that includes all of the foreground and sky that you need for a final composition.

Panorama-Instructions-07 2B. Start panning across horizontally. Move your frame about one-third each time. You will need the overlap to make up for lens distortion and vignetting.

Panorama-Instructions-08 2C. Continue panning across until you have all the shots you need for your composition. Be careful to keep a point of reference, like the horizon, to make sure you shoot straight.

Panorama-Instructions-09 2D. Here are the actual photos. It took fifteen images to pan across the mountain range. Note the natural, in-lens vignetting. This should be removed in the stitching process. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorn-Mountains-Pano-Tight-123114 2E. RESULTS: 15 images, zoomed-in, portrait orientation (B) 24128×4686

Download the ZIP of fifteen images below to stitch your own panorama together.
zip-file-icon-49x64 02-Nelsdrums-Zoomed-In-Portrait-15.zip (55 mb)


Example 3:
Zoomed-out pan

PROS: Uses the least shots, very fast to shoot, shows more context. CONS: Most radically distorted pixels, hardest to stitch together in proper perspective, lowest resolution.

Panorama-Instructions-10 3A. Here I have zoomed all of the way out, and will shoot overlapping images from left to right.

Panorama-Instructions-11 3B. Move your camera about one-half of the frame at a time. Note how the perspective changes drastically with the addition of near-field foreground elements.

Panorama-Instructions-12 3C. The more images you shoot zoomed-out, the more distorted your final stitched image will be. Try not to go over 120 degrees. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorns-3-Images-Stitched-Perspective-1231 3D. RESULTS: 3 images, zoomed-out, landscape orientation 9588×3050

Download the ZIP of three images below to stitch your own panorama together.

zip-file-icon-49x64 03-Nelsdrums-Zoomed-Out-Landscape-3.zip (9 mb)


Example 4:
Multi-row zoomed-in pan

PROS: Possibility of making massive, detailed images. CONS: Most difficult to shoot properly, more chances for stitching errors.

If your graphics program supports it, you can actually stitch a whole grid of images together. To do this, you will need a good eye and points of reference in the viewfinder to line up the shots properly.

Panorama-Instructions-13 4A. Here we have the 3 stitched images. They are fairly low resolution. To recreate this in high resolution, you need to shoot additional rows of images.

Panorama-Instructions-14 4B. Find a good reference point, zoom-in and shoot across horizontally like I have described above. Give yourself plenty of overlap.

Panorama-Instructions-15 4C. Continue across until you have all you need for the composition, then move down for the second row.

Panorama-Instructions-16 4D. Create a second row from your previous reference point. Continue until you have an equal amount of second row images. Add additional rows as needed. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorns-3-Images-Stitched-Perspective-1231 4E. RESULTS: 12 images, zoomed-in, landscape orientation 38352×12200

Using the methods described here, I was able to make all of the panoramic images on this site using only a small, handheld point-and-shoot camera. Let me know how it works out for you.

Baker City Hi Rez Eastern Oregon Scenic Winter Panoramas

Skiing at Anthony Lakes on New Years Eve

Kids Yard Sale Poster Illustrator Template

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Click image above to see the full poster.

My kids were planning a yard sale to make a few dollars from their old toys. I thought that a LEGO themed poster would attract the attention of kids on their way to or from school.

Using free Lego Alphabet in vector blocks and this nice set of vintage toys, I configured the words BOYS TOYS and added the gradient fills to make it fun. Then I realized that we had a lot of really great books that might attract the attention of parents – so I added that. Finally, I colored the vintage car toy to match the color scheme and added the informational type and map (made of lego blocks).

Our target audience was kids at the nearby gradeschool. So my sons and I went on a wild posting at night, and – taking a lesson from big tobacco marketers – made sure to place our posters down at kid eye level. We also posted online versions of the flyer to neighborhood parental social networks.

The result? Our “Boys Toys” yard sale was a huge success. And it didn’t hurt to provide free donuts!

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Feel free to download the tabloid Adobe Illustrator CS6 file to change as needed for your yard sale.

Download 70mb File

Mac Mail + Address Book Not Working OSx 10.8

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OMG this problem has been making me go insane. Finally, solved my problems this morning – after 4 months of grief.

My three main symptoms:
Mac Mail – Mail Quit Unexpectedly at least 2x daily
Mac Mail – Cannot add contacts to Address Book
Address Book – Does not save new addresses

The story: I have been having little problems since the day I got my new MacBook Pro. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried looking up solutions online, rebuilding permissions with disc utility, deleting preferences, etc. I even tried rebuilding my entire OSx account. Nothing worked.

My theory is that home folder permissions were corrupted when I used the migration utility to transfer my main account from a work laptop.

The solution:
Reset home directory permissions and ACLs

Reset-Password-ACLs

Do this:

    1. Restart your computer
    2. Press and hold the option key after the chime
    3. Boot from the Mac OSx Recovery partition
    4. Launch the Terminal app from the “” menu
    5. Type in “resetpassword” and hit return (all one word)
    6. Password Reset Utility launches
    7. Select the volume containing the user account
    8. Select the user account from the popup list
    9. Click the “Reset Home Folder Permissions and ACLs” button in the lower right.
    10. When it is done, restart your computer.

Then go verify that you can indeed save new contacts to Address Book, and that you can add contacts to address book from Mail.

Cropping YouTube Thumbnails using CSS

Tired of low quality YouTube thumbnails? Is your developer using the YouTube API to pull in distorted video thumbnails with black bars showing? I’ve discovered that there are four versions of thumbnails available, in different sizes and image quality, with and without black bars.

Four YouTube Thumbnail Resolutions
Low Quality Default, 120×90, approx 4k
Medium Quality Default, 320×180, approx 16k
High Quality Default, 480×360, approx 32k
Max Res Default – Size of largest movie resolution, approx 380k

Below are three representations using the same YouTube High Quality Default thumbnail which has black bars. I’ve used CSS to crop the black bars off the image so that it looks 16:9 like the original video. Keep in mind that there are many other ways to do this.

If you right-click on any image, and open it in another window or tab, you will see that it is the same large image.

1. Original YouTube High Quality Default Thumbnail – 480×360

Thumbnail Cropping

2. Scaled YouTube High Quality Default Thumbnail – 200 px Height

Thumbnail Cropping

3. Scaled and Faux Image Cropping applied – 150 px Height

Thumbnail Cropping

Here is the CSS:

img{border:none;
    }
img.hqdefault{
    height:200px;
 }
.crop{
	float:left;
	margin:.5em 10px .5em 0;
	overflow:hidden; /* this is important */
	border:0px solid #ccc;
	}
/* input values to crop the image */
.crop img{
	margin:-25px -0px -25px 0px;
	}

And here is the HTML:

<p class><a href="http://img.youtube.com/vi/WfA6Jb90LwY/hqdefault.jpg" title="Thumbnail Cropping"><img src="http://img.youtube.com/vi/WfA6Jb90LwY/hqdefault.jpg" alt="Thumbnail Cropping" /></a></p>

Mickey Finnegan Music Video Tips

Mickey Finnegan, who directed my LMFAO Halloween House video, as well as music videos for LMFAO, Cee Lo Green, Dev, Katy Perry, Lil Jon, Soulja Boy, R. Kelly, gives some thoughtful tips to our Kia Soul Music Video Challenge contestants.

General Guidelines

Framing

Editing Dance Sequences

Lighting

Questions & Answers

Announcing Grand Prize Winner

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