• Welcome to The Spark
    The Spark is a blog curated by the staff of the Multimedia Project Studio (MPS) at Duke University. We are a small group of highly talented students and staff well-versed in the language of multimedia. The Spark is a resource for helpful tips, tutorials, specific concerns of the lab, and general inspiration.

Scoring Videos and abiding by Fair Use

Have you ever found the perfect song for your video, but weren’t able to use the track because of copyright? Well here’s a short tutorial on how recording your own songs in garageband can help you navigate just such a problem! Also, check out this wikipedia page for a refresher on fair use, maybe you can use that Barry White song after all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use 

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Creating a Standout Resume in InDesign

One of the first steps to getting a job is creating a resume, but you don’t want your resume to look sloppy or unoriginal. The most popular program used to create resumes is Microsoft Word,  but it can be limiting if you want to create a resume that stands out from the crowd.

An alternative program you can use is Adobe InDesign (a page layout application), which gives you more control when it comes to formatting, adding logos, hyperlinks, and more.

Read More »

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Illustrator vs. Photoshop: When to use which?

Although Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop may seem similar at first, both have very different specialities. Learn through this introductory video the basic differences between Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Topics of discussion include vector and pixel based images.

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Tips for Sharing Designs

Disclaimer: for this tutorial, I have used the Duke University logo as an example. Please use this post as a tutorial for sharing designs and not for how to use the logo. For full details on how the Duke logo should be used, please refer to the Duke Style Guide.

As a designer for the Duke Innovative Design Agency, I have had experience designing logos, T-shirts and posters for organizations at Duke. I have corresponded with apparel companies about designs many times. I even help my friend’s mom, who works for a custom merchandise company, with designs she is sent. Often, customers send her designs she can’t translate into prints because they’re missing some key characteristics. To help you (and the company you’re using) the next time you have a custom design, I’ve written a checklist! The program I am using is Adobe Illustrator CS6.

Outline text

Outline stroke

Save in the right format and version of Adobe

Save with a strong title


Here’s the logo we’re going to use

Duke Logo

  1. Outline text

This is the Duke University logo. “Duke” is typed in Garamond and “University” is typed in Interstate. If you don’t already own these fonts, you must buy them. Duke allows its students and faculty to download the font from here. However, if you wanted to send this to a third party, they may not have the font. If you sent the file to a third party and they did not have the font on their computer, then the logo would change. Your font (in this case, Garamond and Interstate) would be replaced by fonts on the other computer. To prevent that from happening, you must outline the text.

This is how you know if text hasn’t been outlined and is still editable:

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.01.42 PMNote the blue line under all of the text

To outline it, select the text, go to Type on the top menu bar > Create Outlines. Your text should look like this when highlighted (a series of anchor points like any other object):

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.03.21 PM

  1. Outline stroke

What if your logo has a stroke? Below you’ll find the same Duke logo but with a stroke (or outline) around the letters:
Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.05.32 PM

You’ll know if the stroke is part of the object, instead of being outlined as its own object when you click on an object and only the object is highlighted (not the stroke):

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.07.07 PM

To send a design to a third party, you need to outline the stroke once you’re happy with the thickness in relation to the object. Often, merchandise companies may need to scale your design to the right size so they can make the print onto the merchandise you’re ordering. Depending on the settings of the computer, the proportion of the stroke to the object may change during rescaling. It could go from what we have above to this:Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.10.28 PM

Note how the lines are much thicker when we scale down the word Duke. It’s because the stroke is remaining the same weight (thickness) but the word is smaller. To outline the stroke, go to Object on the top menu bar > Path > Outline Stroke. Now, your image should show highlighted outlines around the object AND the stroke:

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.12.36 PMNote the blue anchor points around the black objects and the red stroke.

  1. Save in the right format and version of Adobe

Sometimes people you’re collaborating with or merchandise companies will own a different version of Adobe programs than you own. The version on the Duke MPS Lab computers is Adobe Illustrator CS6. If someone you’re sending the design to has an earlier version, you’ll need to save your file as an earlier version so that they can open and edit the file. In addition, some merchandise companies may ask to put the file in an .eps format or save with another file extension. To both save with a different extension and in an earlier version of Adobe, go to File > Save or command + s on a Mac and ctrl + s on a PC. A menu like this will pop up:

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.40.24 PM

Click the drop down menu next to format. In this image, it says “Adobe Illustrator (ai).” In that drop down menu, you’ll find other options. To save it as an .eps file, choose “Illustrator EPS (eps).” Then, click Save. Then, another window will pop up called EPS Options that looks like this:Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 6.42.24 PM

The first option on this menu is labeled “Version.” Click the drop down menu there and choose the version you need to convert to. Then, click Save and you’re done!

  1. Save with a strong title

Finally, make sure your document has a strong title. The title should clearly describe the document as concise as possible. If sending the document to a company, it would be useful to put your name or the name of the organization in the document name. It would be useful to also put the purpose of the document (logo, shirt, flyer, etc.). For example, I named the document I used for this tutorial Duke Logo.

√ Outline text

√ Outline stroke

√ Save in the right format and version of Adobe

√ Save with a strong title

Use this checklist and make communicating designs with other people easier!

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How to Create Custom Animated GIFs in Photoshop

GIFs these days are a popular way to repeatedly relive some of your favorite moments, so today, I’ll show you a simple way to create your own animated GIFs in Photoshop. There’s plenty of free online tools that’ll make these for you, but being able to do it yourself in Photoshop gives you a lot of flexibility in designing your final products. Let’s get started.

1. Grab a couple of your favorite images that you’d like to include in your GIF. I’ll be using a headshot of Nicolas Cage and a pair of 8-bit sunglasses. Open up your main background image in Photoshop.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 7.31.52 PM









2. Next, go to Window -> Timeline and a window like this should appear:

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 7.52.47 PM

This Timeline view is what allows you to make videos out of still images, frame by frame.

3. Creating the animation is a pretty manual process, but before we get to that, let’s make sure we have everything setup correctly. You’ll want to make sure that the number next to the arrow under the first frame is 0.1. This is how long that specific frame is going to last, and we set it to 0.1 so we don’t see any delays during the animation. Also, you’ll notice the sunglasses are no longer visible, that is because I’ve hidden them within the regular Photoshop window for this frame. The sunglasses are the part of the image that is going to be animated, so let’s have it start off-screen for now.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 8.10.20 PM

4. Here’s the fun part: we’re going to duplicate the frame, one at a time, and each time move the sunglasses down slightly. First, duplicate the first frame by clicking on the little post-it note icon on the Timeline window, then make the sunglasses layer visible. You do this by selecting the newest frame (there should now be a blue background), then making the layer visible, just like you would in any other Photoshop project. Then duplicate that frame, and within the newest frame, move the sunglasses down slightly. (Slightly is rather arbitrary here, but don’t have too large so that the animation is too jumpy, but if it’s too small, you’ll be wasting time duplicating 100 layers). Repeat this process until the target object is at it’s resting place, your Timeline should look similar to this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 8.10.58 PM

5. At this point, if you select the first frame then hit the play button, Photoshop will play your animation, but it’ll only play it once. We typically want our GIFs to play endlessly, so change the default setting in the window from “Once” to “Forever”. Your GIF is now ready for exporting, but I’m going to add a little more flavor to mine. If you’re done with your GIF, you can skip to Step 7.

6. Since we’re already making something meant for the Internet, why don’t we add some meme flavor as well. To do this, we’ll be using the common meme font, Impact. Using Photoshop’s text tool, type out your message. Then, go to Window –> Character, and change the text’s font to Impact. Size the words up until you’re at the desired size, then make the font color white. To really make the font stand out, make sure you have the text layer selected, then go to Layer –> Layer Style –> Stroke. The default Stroke size is 3 pixels, and this works for most cases. You can adjust as necessary. The text is now visible on all the frames, but if you want to have the text disappear at some point, select all the frames in which you don’t want the text, then make the text layer invisible.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 8.24.51 PM









7. Now that your GIF is ready to go, we need to export it for viewing. Go to File –> Save for Web. The default settings work pretty well, so there’s no need for you to mess around with them. Once your files has been saved, you’ll want to open it with your preferred internet browser.

Voila! You’ve made your own custom GIF and can share it with the world.

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How to remove background noise and hissing in Audacity

When making voice recordings in the lab, you’ll note that we have some great hardware and software for you to use. That said, even the best microphones are prone to picking up background noise. Luckily, there is an easy way to remove the annoying hum of that air conditioner or the whistling of the wind from your soundbite, resulting in a clean and crisp recording. Check out the video below to see how:

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The MPS is hiring students for Fall 2014!

The Office of Information Technology has a few openings for student support staff to work in the Multimedia Project Studio for Fall 2014.

MPS Consultants provide support for students, faculty and staff working in the Multimedia Project Studios on East and West campus. Projects encompass video editing, graphic design, website construction, audio editing and more. We are looking for students with experience in at least one of those areas – if you’ve done projects for class, student groups, or just for personal fun and want to expand your skill set, this is a great job to have.Successful candidates usually have at least some experience with video editing, since the majority of lab questions are about video editing, but there is opportunity to learn that stuff if you are really skilled in other areas and want to learn.

If you think you might be a good candidate for this position, please check out our job descriptions and application on the OIT website, and send in an application! We are also hiring for staff in the Link and other areas. The link is below —


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PTZ Shootout

2014-07-21 13.59.54

We currently have mid-model PTZ cameras all in one location and hooked up to a test monitor.  On hand is the Sony BRC-Z330, Panasonic AW-HE60, Vaddio HD019, Cisco PrecisionHD, and Logitech BCC950.  With the exception of the Logtiech all three cameras have similar price points and options.   We did this round up to see how they perform against one another.  If you have a project coming up that needs a PTZ, it’s good opportunity to familiarize yourself with some common options.


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Panasonic Mini-Event


Panasonic is coming on site today from 2:30-5pm at MPS West in the Perkins / Bostock Library to demo their PTZ line up. We will be testing their cameras in several conferencing and production scenarios. Representatives will be available for questions. We will be exploring the AW-HE120, AW-HE60, and AW-HE2.

More information:

  • http://www.panasonic.com/business/provideo/AW-HE120.asp
  • http://www.panasonic.com/business/provideo/AW-HE60S.asp
  • http://www.panasonic.com/business/provideo/AW-HE2.asp

This is a walk-in style event, we invite you to stop in and check out the demo.

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PrimeSense At The MPS!

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 5.01.23 PM

A new PrimeSense scanner has been purchased for use in the MPS starting this fall.  We couldn’t help ourselves when we explored some applications in the Media Lab.  To demonstrate the potential, we used a powerful application called Faceshift that captures our movements and expressions in real time.  Just a quick preview of things to come this fall at the MPS, keep checking back for previews of some of the other new gadgets we’ll be bringing to Duke.

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  • What is the MPS?

    The Multimedia Project Studios are a series of high-end computer labs located at Duke University. We feature cutting edge equipment and industry standard software and are staffed by a corps of student Multimedia Consultants who are available to help you out with your project on a one-on-one basis, but are not able to do production work on your behalf.
    MPS Lab Locations & Hours
    MPS East
    115 Lilly Library
    The MPS in Lilly is open whenever the library is open. Check their site for hours, which can change during holidays and academic breaks.

    MPS West
    006 Bostock
    The MPS in Bostock is open whenever the library is open. Check their site for hours, which can change during holidays and academic breaks.

    Staffed Hours for Both Locations

    Winter, summer, and other break hours will vary, according to student consultant availability. To check consultants' availability, view our Live Schedule.

    Sunday - Thursday: noon to midnight
    Friday: noon to six
    Be sure to check our Live Schedule to see who will be on staff and our staff page to meet our talented consultants.