Posts tagged ‘book’

Designing a More Delightful Wistia Account Dashboard

September 10, 2014 2:20 pm

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If you’ve been updating your Wistia settings in the Account Dashboard lately, you might have noticed it got a little facelift. Well, it’s been a while in the making.

When I joined the Wistia design team in February, one of our customers’ nagging frustrations was making simple account updates. It was such a bummer to hear! So, the account dashboard was one of the very first things I took on.

Aaron Walter describes a Maslow-inspired hierarchy of user needs in which a design should be functional, then reliable, then usable, and then finally pleasurable, or, as we Wistians like to say, delightful.

Looking at our old dashboard, I felt that it was functional, reliable, and *mostly* usable. I mean, the settings displayed and updated as they should, but couldn’t we make this experience more usable? Delightful, even?

First, I had to familiarize myself with our customers’ needs and the current design. This was tough in itself. I was redesigning an interface that was very new to me, for customers I was still getting to know. We spent about two months iterating, discussing, and scribbling. Finally, we reached a final design for the entire account dashboard. It was a complete overhaul: totally new from the styles to the structure to the interactions.

And then… nothing happened. My designs began to collect dust in Adobe Illustrator. We started talking about this overhaul, or “Cleansweep” as we were calling it, in the hushed tones normally reserved for more taboo topics like “people who don’t recycle.”

Looking back, it makes sense. We had created a project that seemed technically insurmountable. When I’d glance over the chasm between the current and ideal designs, the leap seemed enormous. Where would we even begin? Finally, Jeff, who had apparently had enough of our shoegazing, got us back on track. He suggested we snap out of our paralysis by simply taking a step.

### Enter Operation Cleansweep, Phase One

Over several cups of coffee and lots of whiteboard marker, Jeff and I came up with a plan to build and implement Cleansweep in phases. It wasn’t too hard to identify and bucket changes that belonged in the same “phase”—style changes should happen all at once, but a re-organization could wait for later. Totally new functionality? That should be separately scoped and built on its own timeline, instead of holding up the show.

### Building in delight

One thing we refused to sacrifice in this phased approach was creating a delightful experience. Delight goes beyond adding Easter eggs to make people smile (although we do love that, too!). Creating a delightful experience means starting from the users’ perspective, and giving them exactly what they need intentionally and efficiently. It’s an intricate balance between creating expected interactions and surpassing expectations with pleasant surprises.

How do you make an account settings page more delightful? By speeding it up and reducing the amount of time it takes to complete a task.

Phase One introduces a new style paradigm that makes it easier to scan and find the settings you are looking for (because we hope you won’t have to change these settings often).

We added sidebar navigation to speed up clicking between the settings sections. An overview landing page allows you to easily see your most important account information at a glance. A greeting by name commends you for your video wins with some just-for-fun stats—as well as an exploration of how many adjectives we can apply to the word “videos” (hint: refresh your overview page!). And that is just the beginning.

### Moving forward

As a relatively new web designer, this whole phase-planning idea was a bit foreign to me. Bringing a pixel-perfect vision to life was what I was trained to do! But as my first-phase design began to fall into place, I realized why this phased approach was what building for the web was like. Having a web prototype to interact with exposed situations I hadn’t planned for, and it made it much easier to share my vision for things like interactions.

What was perfect yesterday will be in need of work by tomorrow. This dance of staggered refinement keeps us always moving forward, never stagnant. One step is more attainable than a giant leap, allowing for quick iteration and improvements between steps. Besides, rolling out smaller changes incrementally provides an easier transition for users, mitigating the risk of disorienting them. That’s a win-win in my book!

I’m pleased to present this first phase to all our customers. You’ll see that the settings you know and love are where they’ve always been, just in a slightly more intuitive layout and a more delightful look. We’ve made some fun changes under the hood, but I’ll let you discover them (or even better, be blissfully unaware of their positive impact!).

### What’s next?

Phase Two of Cleansweep aims to make the account section even more usable and delightful. We’re working on more intuitive organization, smoother interactions, better billing notifications, expanded API controls, celebrating your Wisti-anniversaries, and applying all of these new styles to the rest of the account section.

We’ve got a few more planks to lay down on this bridge, but we’re a whole step closer to a more usable and delightful dashboard for all.

**How do you approach projects that feel insurmountable at first? What changes would you like to see in your Wistia account dashboard?**

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Making the Cut

August 28, 2014 6:06 pm

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Famed editor Sergei Eisenstein hard at work on his latest feature. As you can probably discern, he took his work VERY seriously.

When putting together a jigsaw puzzle, each piece is part of a pre-determined whole. There’s an image on the box, and that’s what you get. When you’ve run out of pieces and the picture matches, you know you’re done.

With editing, it’s not that simple.

The carefully-chosen shots, camera moves, and performances all end up in the same place, the proverbial puzzle box, ready to be put together by the editor. Until the film is edited, the story that was shot (likely out of order) hasn’t been told yet! The editor is as much a storyteller as the screenwriter, and controls many aspects of the film. These include:

Pace: Editing determines the pace of a scene. Quick cuts and cuts that don’t match heighten a feeling of intensity. Crazy action sequences and car chases are notorious for lots of fast cuts – they have a lot of ground to cover! But something as simple as a family argument at dinner can become an intense war when the editing takes us around the table.

Acting and reacting: They say “acting is reacting” and editing is, surprisingly, no different. We know it’s important to see a character while they’re talking, but it’s almost more important to see how the other characters react! A shrewd editor can create a poignant moment by mixing and matching reactions from different takes, sometimes even from different lines.

In his book “In The Blink of an Eye,” Academy Award winning editor Walter Murch talks about “the slate piece,” that bit of film shot before they slate and call “action.” Even though that twenty-second piece of footage was never meant to be in the movie, perhaps the actor had the right look on his face. Murch reiterates that anything captured on film is fair game for editing.

Continuity: We’ve all seen flubs, continuity errors, things in the background disappearing, etc. We think we’re smart for noticing. Believe it or not, these sorts of errors are at the very bottom of the list of importance for an editor. When choosing between an incredible performance by an actor or making sure the lamp in the background didn’t move, the editor will choose the performance every time.

The Cutting Room Floor: Not every shot makes it into the film. Maybe the tracking shot that took half a day that the director loved just doesn’t work. Maybe the close-up that the actor wanted disrupts the feel of the scene. It’s the editor’s responsibility to be divorced from on-set situations, and use the puzzle pieces they’ve been given to tell a story in the best way possible.

And… that’s a wrap!

Editing is abstract and virtually limitless. Choosing the pace, performances, and shots is a huge responsibility of storytelling. Movies can be made or broken in the editing room. The next time you watch a film, try paying attention to the cuts – you’ll likely find yourself quickly forgetting about them and getting drawn back into the story. Great editing affects us on a subconscious level and disappears into the film.

This is the final blog for Hulu Summer Film School. We hope you’ve looked at movies a different way and learned something you didn’t know before! Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to see full-length versions of our selections and explore past lessons.

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What’s on your HDTV: ‘Hard Knocks’, ‘Black Jesus’, ‘The Knick’ and Shark Week

August 4, 2014 9:55 pm

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Beyond the summer TV shows already running (VH1’s Naked Dating is exactly what you’d expect, The Leftovers and The Strain are improving and FX has two good comedies in Married and You’re the Worst), and Discovery kicking off Shark Week on Sunday night, there are a few new shows this week worth mentioning. Steven Soderbergh and Clive Owen bring The Knick to Cinemax, which puts a twist on the usual doctor drama by transferring the scene back to 1900. Starz is ready with “Scotland’s Answer to Game of Thrones” aka Outlander, a book adaptation about a British Army nurse who time travels from 1945 to 1743. Fans of Grand Theft Auto and The Boondocks should keep an eye out for Black Jesus on Adult Swim, which is created by Aaron Macgruder and stars Gerald “Slink” Johnson (aka Lamar from GTA V and the guy in this Everest College parody). On Blu-ray, Baltimore documentary 12 O’Clock Boys Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little and cult classic Phantom of the Paradise are probably more worth your time than Divergent or Need for Speed. Check after the break for a list of what’s new this week plus a few trailers, and drop a note in the comments if you see any highlights we’ve missed.

Filed under: Home Entertainment, HD

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Apple’s $450 million ebooks antitrust settlement approved by judge

August 1, 2014 8:51 pm

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Apple’s $450 million ebooks case settlement received preliminary approval from US District Judge Denise Cote today, though the ultimate sum distributed to consumers will hinge on the outcome of Apple’s appeal. If the original verdict is upheld, $400 million will go to consumers that were “harmed” by the price-fixing scheme between Apple and book publishers, with $50 million directed to lawyers’ pockets. If Apple somehow pulls an upset and wins on appeal, the company won’t have to pay anything. And then there’s a third scenario: the appeals court could overturn Cote’s verdict and kick the case back down to her for another go. Should that play out, Apple will pay consumers $50 million, with lawyers still earning a healthy $20 million…

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Hulu Summer Film School Week 3: Color Theory & Lighting

August 1, 2014 5:24 pm

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Greetings Hulu Summer Film School students! One of the most powerful tools in a filmmaker’s arsenal is their lighting kit. Through light and color, a cinematographer is able to enhance the mood of a scene and draw the viewer into the world of the character. Even the subtlest changes in light or color can give the most ordinary of objects an entirely new meaning. Explore the role of light and color through the following visual masterpieces.

Required Viewing:

1) The Red Balloon

Cinematographer: Edmond Séchan
Winning both an Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and the Palm d’Or for short films in 1956, writer-director Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon is among the most endearing children’s films ever made. Its elegant and nearly wordless story tells the tale of a young boy named Pascal and his wayward balloon as they navigate the streets of Paris. From early on, it becomes apparent to Pascal (and the audience) that the balloon has a mind of its own — one that is mischievous and surprisingly headstrong – as the pair’s adventure through the city draws bemused looks from adults and the envious gaze of local neighborhood bullies.

Rather than photographing Paris in its traditional beauty, Lamorisse and his cinematographer Edmond Séchan focus on the city’s drabness, highlighting the contrast of dank buildings and alleyways against the vibrancy of the balloon’s deep red color. Lamorisse composes the action in such a way that the balloon is always at the viewer’s center of attention, bobbing and weaving past glorious backdrops as it hovers above Pascal. In one memorable and charming scene, Pascal and his red balloon pass by a little girl with her own balloon, a blue one. As Pascal keeps walking, the red balloon floats towards the little girl and begins to “flirt” with her blue balloon before Pascal ultimately manages to wrangle it back.

The film takes a darker turn when the neighborhood bullies catch up to Pascal and ensnare his red balloon, subjecting it to abuse at the end of a slingshot. But that tonal shift is essential, as it sets up a magical finale that won’t be spoiled here. The Red Balloon achieves rarified air, capturing the essence of childhood innocence, heartbreak, and joy in such little screen time.

-Naveen Singh

2) Eraserhead

Cinematographers: Herbert Cardwell and Frederick Elmes
David Lynch’s first feature film is a surreal meditation on the anxieties of becoming a father, of living in an alienating and dehumanizing world, and of feeling trapped in a life that is fundamentally fated to tragedy. The stark black and white photography and low-key, high-contrast lighting create a world that is apart from reality. Eraserhead might draw formal comparisons to other works and may have influences that inform its technical execution, but the film is timeless in its depiction of Henry (Jack Nance) and Mary (Charlotte Stewart) as they give birth to a child that seems completely alien.

Eraserhead‘s cinematography and lighting help create one of the most self-assured, visually-compelling, and visceral portraits of an abstraction ever put on celluloid, and for that alone, it has a place in cinematic history.

-Christopher Rowe

3) Electrick Children

Cinematographer: Mattias Troelstrup
A critical darling at the 2012 SXSW Festival, Electrick Children
tells the story of a young fundamentalist Mormon who believes she has been impregnated by a rock song and ventures off to Vegas to find the singer on the tape, whom she believes is her baby’s father. While the plot may seem outlandish to most, the innocent idealism of our main character coupled with the film’s symbolic use of color and light make the whole “pregnant-by-cassette-tape” deal a bit more plausible than it initially comes across.

Throughout the film, a sharp contrast is drawn between the landscape of Rachel’s countryside compound and the urban sprawl of Las Vegas. Cinematographer Mattias Troelstrup capitalizes on the countryside’s natural light, giving each frame a subtle desaturation to reflect a sense of comfort yet also boredom towards the surroundings. The softened grading provides the perfect contrast to Rachel’s subsequent experience in Vegas, a world of bright lights and big personalities. There’s nothing conventionally glamorous about the slacker musicians and the “bummin’ it” lifestyle that Rachel encounters in her Vegas adventure, but through her unexposed eyes, and the subsequent cinematic interpretation from Troelstrup, everything is bathed in a technicolor glow to reflect the child-like wonder that Rachel feels towards this brave new world.

-Kelly Lin

4) Persona


Cinematographer: Sven Nykvist
“Lighting Persona by Michael Koresky

Supplemental Viewing:

5) Take this Waltz
Cinematographer: Luc Montpellier

6) Red Desert
Cinematographer: Carlo Di Palma

7) Wild Strawberries
Cinematographer: Gunnar Fischer

Extracurricular Resources:

1) No Film School – A must-read blog for any aspiring cinematographer, No Film School has tons of great tutorials on how you can achieve the perfect lighting set-up for your own film. Check out these recent articles on how to create a three-point light set up with flashlights and magnifying glasses and the tools professional cinematographers use to light their scenes,

2) If it’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die: The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling – Besides having the best title in book history, this book has some valuable insights on how color is used to evoke emotion.

3) Sparkles and Wine Teaser – This music video is a testament to just how much lighting and color can affect tone, mood, focus, and perception.

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