Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hugo - Visually Stunning 3D

Hugo, Martin Scorese’s adaptation of the Brian Selznick book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a beautiful work of stereoscopic cinematography where the beauty of the 3D imagery works to enhance the storyline. Set in a stylized version of Paris in the 1931, the film combines elaborate period costumes and live action sets with computer generated imagery to create a world that feels both realistic and magical at the same time.

Scene From Hugo Showing Green Chroma-key Background
While the story is fictional, it is built around the real French cinema pioneer Georges Méliès and it is an homage to early filmmaking generally. The film clips featured are actual Méliès films which were restored, colorized and converted to 3D by Legend3D. The main portion of Hugo was shot using Cameron Pace 3D camera rigs and a new method of reviewing dailies that allowed Scorese to evaluate each day’s work in stereo 3D with the computer generated imagery already in place.

Same Scene After Addition of Computer Generated Elements
Much of the action takes place inside the clockworks at the Paris railway station and the giant clock works are visually stunning in stereo. I enjoyed seeing Hugo at the theater and I am looking forward to seeing it again when it is released on 3D Blu-ray.

What is your favorite 3D movie so far?

Images from:

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creating Happiness

We can create many things.  Our own happiness is one of the most important.

Many people feel that happiness is something that just happens.  They believe that they are happy when good things happens and unhappy when bad things happen. This fatalistic belief is not consistent with the actual scientific evidence.

Philosophers throughout the centuries and scientific researchers over the last forty years declare that happiness is not the result of what happens to us. Happiness depends upon our interpretation of what happens to us. Each of us control our own happiness by the way we approach everyday experiences.

Groundbreaking research by Hungarian Psychology Professor Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi discovered that people report being most happy when they are engaged in an activity where their body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. For many people, this happens most often at work. Csiksentmihalyi calls this experience “Flow” and explores it in detail in his book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Flow can be experienced in many activities; work, sports, music, art, cooking. Csiksentmihalyi found that every flow experience “provided a sense of discovery, a creative feeling of transporting a person into a new reality. It pushed the person to higher levels of performance and led to previously undreamed-of states of consciousness. In short, it transformed the self by making it more complex.”

Two things that can prevent flow are boredom and anxiety. It your activity is too easy, it won’t keep you engaged and happy.  If your activity is too difficult, anxiety will keep you from becoming engaged and happy. The key is to find an interesting activity that is moderately difficult and continue to increase the difficulty as your skills develop.

When you reach a state of flow, all other concerns melt away along with any sense of the passage of time. It really is the journey, not the destination that matters.

When are you happiest?

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Arrogant Assumption

Image by mre770 via Flickr
This blog and others like it are built on an arrogant assumption. By providing motivational tidbits and prescriptions for creativity, these blogs convey the impression that if you are smart enough, work hard enough, and follow these instructions, all will be well with your life.

But the world doesn’t always work that way.  I have friends and colleagues that I respect deeply who have been unable to find work for months. There are many people who are driving innovation and evolving new business models in their companies, but the new business isn’t growing fast enough to offset the declines in their traditional lines. Many artists and craftsmen find it difficult to market their products or skills when potential customers are worried about political deadlock in the U.S. congress or the debt crisis in Europe. Injury and illness can stop anyone.

The bottom line is we live in a complex and difficult world. I refuse to believe that people who are struggling are doing so simply because they didn’t work smart enough or hard enough. No amount of education or activity can eliminate disappointment and loss. The quality of our lives is based on how we react to our successes and our losses.

I believe the recommendations in The Creativity Paradox have value. Striving to expand your creativity will not guarantee that all will be well, but it will make every day a little better. There is joy in the effort and experience of creation regardless of the results.

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Choose the Difficult Assignment

Image of Hamilton Mountain Trail by Major Clanger

Every now and then, each of us comes to a crossroads in our career where we have to choose between two different projects. Usually, one of the assignments appears to be more challenging than the other. 

There are several advantages to choosing difficult assignments. First and foremost, you will learn more. Solving big challenges requires more research, deeper analysis and greater powers of intuition. As you engage these skills, you hone them to a finer edge and they will serve you well in this project and on subsequent projects.

The difficult project is usually the most fun. You will meet a greater diversity of people and may get to travel to some new parts of the world. Encouraging innovation and risk taking in your team is essential to solving tricky problems and people are interesting and entertaining when they unleash their creativity.

Your success at completing the difficult project will be valued more than completing an easy task. You will find that you are offered more opportunities to select projects that are difficult, educational and fun.

What choices are you facing in your career?  Are you bold enough to choose the greater challenge?

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hartsburg, St. Augustine and Daytona in 3D

It has been a number of weeks since I posted any stereoscopic images so it seemed like a good topic for the week.  Here are a few images captured over the last few weeks in Missouri and Florida. As usual, I have uploaded each image as a stereo pair and a red/cyan anaglyph so you can chose your favorite viewing method.

First two images are from Missouri.  The pumpkins were on display at the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival and the barn is in a field near Hartsburg.

The next few images were taken in St. Augustine Florida. I particularly like the receding depth of the circular lighthouse staircase.

These last two images were captured in Daytona Beach, Florida.  It is interesting how the water in the fountain appears to float in the air.

Have you experimented with 3D photography? 

What is your favorite method of viewing 3D images?

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Making Memories Matters!

Today is Thanksgiving and I feel many reasons to be thankful. Most of all, I am thankful for my family, my friends and the opportunity to continue to explore new ideas.

In the last year, I have had the opportunity to work with printers, photographers, labs and other imaging professionals throughout the United States and around the world. It has been a particularly difficult year in many of these communities. In addition to the ongoing economic challenges, it seems like floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes have been in the news more than ever before.

One of those tornadoes hit within a block of the Convertible Solutions and Inter-State Studio headquarters in Sedalia, Missouri. The power of nature is frightening, awe-inspiring and humbling. It is a power that shakes us to our core and focuses our attention on things that really mater; our families and our memories of time spent with our families. Making memories matters!

If making memories matters, so does preserving them.  Those of us who work in the imaging field have the honor and a sacred responsibility to make sure that every photo taken, every picture printed and every photo book published is treated as a work of fine art.

What are you thankful for today?

Image above ©Copyright nick macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Creativity Meritocracy

We live in an age that is a creativity meritocracy.  If you have an innovative idea or a creative skill, it is easier than it ever has been to implement your idea and distribute the results through the web.

If you have a software concept that will enhance the way people spend their time, you can build on the communications infrastructure that is already in place, rely on the computer hardware that people are already carrying in their pockets and use an app store for distribution. A single individual can realistically compete with the development teams of large companies.

If you have a passion that you enjoy writing about, you can set up an attractive blog page in a few minutes and share your thoughts with the world. If your content is good, and you put some effort into letting people know it is there, you can build up a following of devoted readers.

If you write a great book, record a great song or film a great video, you no longer have to submit it the publishing companies and hope for the best. You can publish it yourself on Lulu, Blurb, iTunes or YouTube. If the work is good, it can develop a loyal following.

It is no longer possible for the editors and publishers and other gatekeepers to hold you back.

However, every other creator has the same opportunity. So your work needs to be very good to stand out.

What is your creative passion?

Photo at top by Hiro008 on Flickr

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

If it's Worth Doing, Do it for Others.

We offer a lot of services at the company where I work; school photography, yearbooks, specialty paper substrates, student planners, web fulfillment and now video production. This unusual diversity in services results from our belief that anything worth doing is worth doing for others.

To support marketing and manufacturing of our business units, we often find advantages to developing our own internal skills. People who work closely with our business units have a better understanding of our markets and customers than an outside service might and we feel we can react faster when we have skilled people and tools on-site.

When one of our groups does a project for an outside entity, they are exposed to challenges and requirements they might never experience within our walls. The experience and skills they develop on outside projects make them better at our internal projects as well. Sometimes these outside projects turn into significant profit centers in their own right.

Back in May, I shared a post explaining how our Convertible Solutions line of specialty printing substrates grew out of a process we developed for producing marketing fliers for our school photography sales. Our web fulfillment services also grew out of an expertise developed in supplying photo gifts to our studio customers and utilizes equipment originally installed for yearbook production.

Inter-State Video Production is our most recent group to begin offering their services independently. This group originally formed to produce training videos on Convertible Solutions binding equipment and photography training for our studio group.  As you can tell from the clips below, they do very nice work. 

What internal services could you improve by offering them to outside customers?  Could these become independent profit centers?

 The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quality Your Way

The latest issue of After Capture magazine contained two articles on the Newsbytes page with these headlines:

Simply Color Lab Introduces Simply Vivid Prints!

DxO FilmPack 3 Recreates Classic Film Look!

Simply Color Lab is an Akron, Ohio based photo lab that serves professional portrait labs. Because the article references inks, rather than dye layers, it is clearly promoting prints made on a digital press instead of silver halide photo paper.  Since this could be perceived as a lower quality service, I think it is brilliant to address the perception head on by pointing out the ability of the press to produce more saturated colors across a wider color gamut.

A few years ago, most professional portrait photographers would have turned up their nose at prints that were highly saturated. The very definition of professional quality was subtle and accurate color reproduction with soft muted colors. It appears the definition has changed. Or has it?

The DxO Filmpack 3 is also targeted to professional photographers and it promises to recreate the magic of dozens of black and white or color film stocks on digital images with one click. DxO is targeting photographers who long for the soft muted colors of the film age.

So which company understands color quality? 


There is no longer one agreed upon perception of professional color quality. Each company can provide high quality results by consistently producing the results its customers expect. Finding a customer group whose quality preferences differ from the norm is one of the best ways to identify a new business opportunity.

Does your definition of quality match your customer preferences? 

Are there customers with a different preference you could serve with an alternative offering?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tweet to Expertise

Twitter is a perfect crowdsourced educational tool.  The 140 character site for sharing quips and links can help you develop expertise in any topic in just a few weeks.

The learning culture that has evolved on Twitter consists of millions of users following people and subjects of interest and sharing comments and links to relevant content.  Particularly good content is retweeted which spreads it to even more Twitter users.

Here are five reasons why Twitter is the perfect tool for learning:

1.  Content is current.  Unlike most books and classes, the content on Twitter consists of news articles and blogs written within a few hours of being tweeted. This means the information is fresh and up-to-date.

2.  Content is delivered a little at a time.  We learn best when we see information multiple times in different formats and context. Since most links are to articles with only a few paragraphs or a few pages at most, you can learn a little from each article.

3. Content is not coherent. Because information on Twitter comes from a variety of sources, it is not organized neatly and wrapped up with a shiny bow. I believe this is an advantage because it forces the reader to consider and reconcile conflicting points of few.

4. Content is filtered for quality. Any link on Twitter is there because someone read it and thought it was good enough to post.  If someone retweets the link, they thought it was good enough to share.  This crowdsourced filtering system causes good content to be repeated and bad content to fade away.

5. You have partial control over the content. Because you choose who you follow, you can add people who share content that interests you and remove people who share content that you don’t value. However, your reliance on others to choose which content they share can provide enough variety to continually bring you new ideas. Managed properly, it can be a perfect balance.

How does social media fit into your learning plans?

How do you feel it compares to other learning methods?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sincerely Social

Elise Ellis manages social media for Black River Imaging.

The comedian George Burns once quipped, “Sincerity - if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” When I read the social media feeds of some professional imaging companies, I get the impression that they based their interaction style on Burn’s philosophy. Plenty of product news, but everything else feels a little unnatural.

Black River Imaging, a professional imaging lab in Springfield, Misouri, has a totally different approach. Black River Imaging has embraced social media with real sincerity, enthusiasm and a love for genuine interaction with their customers and fans. The 19,000 fans of the lab’s page on Facebook can sense that the page is managed by a real person who loves life, loves photography and loves interacting with them on Facebook.  It is not uncommon for a post to generate dozens of comments and likes.

The Black River Imaging Blog includes book reviews, photography tips, social media ideas, guest posts from photographers, reports from tradeshows and a few product introductions. Each post is thoughtfully written and brimming with joyous enthusiasm.

The creative energy behind Black River’s social media presence comes from the lab’s Sales/Social Media Representative, Elise Ellis. In one of her blog posts from January of 2011, she poses these questions about photography: “Are you shooting from your heart? Are you having fun? Are you shooting what you like to shoot?

Later in the same post, Ellis describes how to authentically define your own style. Although she was writing about photography, her comments could apply equally well to how she approaches posting on Facebook and blogging.

“You have to be authentically you when defining your style. You can’t be someone else. Emulating someone else will not get you far in the photographic world. But being the best ‘you’ you can be will. Clients, potential clients, past clients will all recognize the disconnect that is happening within yourself when you are not being who you are meant to be. It will come through in your work. It will come through in your daily life in the form of unhappiness and upset. Finding the one thing that you get all excited about photographing will help you to begin developing your personal style.”

I believe this is great advice for photography, blogging and just about everything else in life!

How sincere does your company sound on Facebook?

Are you posting from your heart?

Are you having fun?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Marketing Services Done Right

With offset printing volumes declining, there are a lot of people, including me, lining up to give superficial advice to printers. The usual recommendations include:

Printers must embrace digital printing!

Variable data printing is the future of marketing!

Printers need to evolve into marketing service providers!

Direct mail should be part of a cross media strategy that involves, print, email, web and social media!

Use Personalized URls and personalized QR codes to increase response rates and improve trackability!

I believe strongly in all of these points.  But each of them are easier said than done. Buying and installing a digital press doesn’t automatically generate business suited to digital printing. Managing a cross media campaign that includes variable data printing requires skills, processes and tools that are not abundant in the typical offset print shop.  As a result, there are a lot of digital presses that are underutilized.

Concentric Marketing Solutions is a new marketing services company that recognizes the complexity of the challenge and have organized a team of skilled marketing and printing professionals to offer “a new marketing paradigm.” They offer brands, agencies and printers a powerful multi-channel, data driven, approach to campaign management that both generates and measures results.

Here is how the Concentric Marketing Solutions website describes their difference:

“We concern ourselves with finding the best growth opportunities for our clients and partners, not just with producing relevant dialogue. We don’t just execute better campaigns. We find and implement the right strategies across all marketing investments.”

Concentric is new and time will test their innovative approach.  I have spoken many times with Barry Esslinger, the VP of Business Development at Concentric and believe strongly in the path they are taking.  The creativity in the design and messaging on their new website reinforces my belief that they are going to make difference in our industry.

How aggressive has your company been in the transition to providing marketing services?

What companies or websites do you consider great examples of promoting marketing services?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Not Too Hard - Not Too Easy

For the true artist, the work is not too hard.  The project was selected because it requires the talents, skills and experience of the artist. The artist carefully selects the right tools and team members and jumps in with energy and enthusiasm. Concentration and engagement erases all consciousness of time. Challenges arise and are resolved. Soon the work and the artist are completed.

For the true artist, the work is not too easy. The artist approaches every project as if it were the first. What new tools or techniques could add uniqueness and encourage engagement? The artist stretches beyond the traditional limitations to explore new possibilities. The emotions are touched in a way that is both timely and timeless. When the work is complete, both the art and the artist have grown.

True artists exist in every field, not just the arts. Whatever you do, do it as an artist!

Is your work too hard?  

Is your work too easy?

The paragraphs above were written and scheduled to be published before we lost Steve Jobs. Steve was the ultimate artist. While I am certain that he worked extremely hard, he made it all look easy. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Brilliant Copy Writing

Last week I received this email from Elaine Montoya, Chief Imagination Office of Motion, inviting me to attend the Motion 2011 Conference.  I thought that the copy writing was so brilliant that I had to share it here!

What does it mean to feed your brain?

Some believe it's a combination of eating the right food, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Seems simple enough.

But what if you're a creative? As creatives, we have to feed both our left brain AND our right brain. It's twice as hard. That's not fair.

Whoever said life was fair? It's not. We have two brains to feed. Get over it. But we also have twice as much fun as non-creatives! Come on...admit it. We're more playful, we look at the world differently, and we have a passion for what we do. 

What? You don't have the same passion that you used to?

You're not alone. It's common in the industry. Tight deadlines, long hours, difficult clients – it all takes a toll. Bit by bit it squeezes your passion dry, making you stop and ask – Why am I doing this?

Because it's who you are. It's in your heart. It's in your DNA. It's in your soul. You are a creative.

So what's the answer if you feel like you're stuck in some deep dark pressure cooker, with no safety valve, just waiting to explode?

Stop. You need to stop. Seriously. If you don't stop and take the time to feed your brain, you will explode, never to return to the wonderful world of creativity.

Dinner is served. We'll feed your right brain and your left brain. And we'll even give you heaping seconds. You'll stop. You'll meet new friends and party with old ones. Then we'll feed you again. You'll go home remembering why you got into this business to begin with. Refreshed. Rejuvenated. Full. Life is goodmotion.

// feed your brain //

with respect,
elaine montoya

I spend most of my time in still image photography and book publishing, so I can't really justify attending the Motion 2011 conference, but after reading this email, I wish I could.  If it sounds interesting to you, here is the link: .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It Is Who You Know!

Discussing book binding at Graph Expo
The old adage states “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters.”

This saying has always troubled me because it implies that you can be a total fool and still be successful if you just have the right connections. In the world that I have observed, connections may help a person get started, but it requires talent, skill and a lot of hard work to succeed.

Recently, I have realized that your connections determine your ability to succeed in a more indirect way. What you know does matter, but who you know determines what you know.

Most human knowledge is acquired second hand from other human beings. The information can be transferred through face-to-face meetings, books, magazines, blogs or tweets. The people you meet in the hallway or follow on Twitter determine the quality of ongoing education you receive every day.

Last week, I attended Graph Expo which is the largest gathering of digital and offset printers each year in the United States. It was a great reminder that face-to-face interaction at trade shows is critically important even in the Internet age. Nothing can replace the exchange of ideas that takes place when a group of skilled professionals with common interests and challenges come together.

When you attend a show like Graph Expo, seek out the people who are investing in new technologies and implementing new processes to expand beyond the traditional boundaries of the business. These are most interesting people and the ones that can teach you the most.  As you hear new ideas, think about how you could implement them in your company.

The most important impact of a trade show takes place after you get back home. Don’t just file the ideas away.  Do something!

What have you learned at a trade show recently?

How did you use your new knowledge?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Collision of Ideas

It is not a coincidence that artistic and scientific creativity of the Renaissance took place in the most urbanized region of Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. Creation happens from the combination of ideas and the cities of Northern Italy brought people together where they could exchange ideas and combine them in new and unique ways.

In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson calls these types of situations “liquid networks” and describes how they widened the pool of minds that could come up with and share good ideas. “This is not the wisdom of the crowd,” he explains, “but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network.”

Creative groups have clustered together into geographically based networks for centuries, but the Internet has enabled people to exchange ideas unbounded by geographic limits.  Now people can connect with people who share their interests anywhere in the world. The result has been a tremendous acceleration of the pace of innovation.

Twitter is enabling the exchange of ideas at a face that is almost frentic. We learned during the east coast earthquake that news on Twitter moves faster than seismic waves. But the ideas that intermix on Twitter may shake things up more than an earthquake. Twitter is the fastest, most democratic idea distribution system that has ever existed. It also has a natural crowd based filtering system because people only retweet their favorite content.

Twitter has already been credited with bring down governments.  I believe we have only just begun to see the impact that it will have on the pace of innovation.

What networks do you use to exchange ideas?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Diverse Experience Drives Creativity

The mother of Johannes Gutenberg had an estate in Eltville am Rhein and it is probable that he spent time as a youth at that estate. This is a region that is famous for the quality of it’s wine even today, so it is highly likely that the young Gutenberg was exposed the screw press technology that was used to extract the juice from the grapes. Later, he became a goldsmith and mastered the molding and casting techniques that would be required to create movable type.  

Around 1439, he brought the two technologies together along with an oil based ink to invent the printing technology which changed the world. Would this have been possible if he hadn’t been exposed to both wine making and metal working?

In 1972, Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Afterwards he became interested in computer design and in 1984, he enthusiastically announced the Apple Macintosh computer system. The graphics and typography capability of the Macintosh launched desktop publishing which impacted the printing industry more than any other invention since Gutenberg’s press.

Would the Mac have included those typographical tools if Jobs hadn’t taken that calligraphy class?  Not according to Jobs.

In his famous Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish address at Stanford in 2005, Jobs explained “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.”

Innovation often involves combining elements from diverse experiences.  Expanding your range of experience is one of the best ways to improve your creativity.

How broad are your interests?  What new area are you going to explore this year?

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
Steven Johnson links Gutenberg's experiences with the invention of the printing press.