Archives For creativity

Stuffie Stickers Hero

Kids love stickers. When my daughter was a toddler, we gave her pages and pages of stickers to play with—many of which ended up on the legs of an old table.

You can buy stickers of almost anything, from current movies and books to abstract shapes. But that plethora of options is also somewhat numbing—what’s special about another book of unicorns when you already have four?

So I decided to do something different one Christmas and made stickers of her favorite stuffed animals. It was easy, fun, and a great surprise when she realized that the animals on those stickers looked wonderfully familiar.

To make it happen, I took photos of the stuffies, built a sticker book at Moo.com, and placed the order. Each book has a minimum of 90 stickers, so you could make 90 unique stickers if you want—I uploaded a dozen. The books arrived in time to put them into my daughter’s stocking for Christmas morning.

Photography

You can take the photos using any camera, even a phone camera. I chose to set them up against a black background to make them stand out more. The Moo stickers are small, measuring just under an inch square (0.86 inch), and I wanted them to be immediately recognizable.

The lighting was nothing too complicated. I had previously made a homemade macro photo studio with lights on either side for another project. I used paper as the backdrop. As you can see here, I tried doing a white backdrop at first, but found that black ended up looking better for the final result. But of course you don’t need to go to those lengths. Mostly you want the stuffed animal to stand out clearly.

Lightbox

Squirrel

Edit and Prep

After importing the photos into Lightroom, I picked my favorites and applied any touch-ups that were needed. Mostly that was removing dust from the background using the Spot Removal tool, or fixing areas where the edges of the paper were visible (using Spot Removal or the Clone tool).

Since each sticker is a square, you could crop the shots in Lightroom beforehand, but Moo.com’s online tool to build the book is robust enough that I didn’t bother.

Stuffies lightroom grid

Upload and order

Next, I created a new StickerBook order at Moo.com, uploading the images for each sticker. The tool divides the number of total stickers (90) by the number of images you upload. In my case, I uploaded 12 photos, resulting in 7 stickers of each stuffie in the book. (Actually, six of the stuffies got 8 stickers, since 90 divided by 12 is 7.5—there’s one more page of the first six designs than the other page.)

Moo com sticker build

The books cost $9.99, plus shipping. That’s certainly more expensive than the stickers you can get at any toy store, but none of those are stickers of your child’s own toys. When my daughter saw that all of her fuzzy friends were in the stickers, she looked amazed. And that, in turn, was a gift to me.

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Clones three

Spring brings rain to the Pacific Northwest, and with it, occasional boredom. But if you have an iPhone or iPad, you don’t have to be bored—and I’m not talking about playing Minecraft for hours on end.

In my latest article for Macworld, I offer three fun photo ideas you can do with an iOS device (or a regular camera, but I focused just on iOS for this piece). Read it here: Beat boredom with these fun photo ideas for iPhone and iPad.

If you like the work I do, please consider signing up for my low-volume newsletter that I use to announce new projects, items, and giveaways that I think my readers would be interested in.

20130313-233727.jpgThanks to 39,000 (and counting) people today, there’s going to be a Veronica Mars movie in spring of 2014. The project, by show creator Rob Thomas, was set to fund if the Kickstarter campaign raised $2 million within 30 days. It actually took only ten hours to reach the goal. As I write this, late in the evening of that first day, almost $2.5 million has been pledged.

And to my amazement, that’s driving some people crazy. My colleague Phil Michaels, for example, tweeted, “Congratulations to fans of Veronica Mars for your eagerness to hand over money to already well-compensated entertainers.”

True, making a movie with established actors isn’t going to cure any diseases, but the general sentiment is that this is superfluous, that Hollywood is taking advantage of regular people who don’t know better and who throw their money at glitter. And there’s the persistent idea that backing a project on Kickstarter is just a way to order stuff (in this case, DVDs, scripts, posters, and other things related to the movie).

I’m no movie industry insider, but I know that this isn’t some vanity project being foisted upon folks. Veronica Mars was a semi-successful TV show that had great writing, an intentional film-noir approach to high school that was different than most TV dreck. When it was cancelled in 2007, viewers still cared about the characters, and since then Thomas and star Kristen Bell have tried to get a movie version made.

Even with an established property and an ongoing fan base, they ran into walls. No studio wanted to do it. That’s common in Hollywood. According to the creators, the Kickstarter project was a last-ditch effort. They talked to Warner Bros. and made a deal: if they could raise $2 million on Kickstarter and show that an audience exists, WB would greenlight the movie. Letters to studios and fan petitions only go so far—money talks loud and clear.

I suppose some people think this is just an easy $2 million for Thomas to pocket, but realistically that’s a tiny fraction of what it would take to make a movie. That’s basement-low money in Hollywood. That gives you a cast working at scale, a small crew, and equipment rental. I saw elsewhere that $2 million is about what each episode cost when the show was on the air (or maybe that’s the average cost of a scripted TV episode now; I’ve lost the reference). A small budget works for something like Veronica Mars, which will no doubt be heavy on words and light on special effects.

To release the movie, Warner Bros. will spend at least that amount in marketing alone, and that’s just for a small campaign. The more money raised by the Kickstarter project, the more they can put into production.

A lot of media writers are going to point to this in the coming days and project all sorts of things. I’ve seen it on Twitter tonight already: In the near future, you’ll have to pay for movies in advance; studios will turn to crowdfunding to further line their coffers; etc. And some of that will be true, and some of it will be tried, and a lot of it will fail. You can bet a ton of old properties that might have some whispers of fan bases will be resurrected. And they’ll probably collapse. Small budget filmmaking is essentially a private version of Kickstarter, with moviemakers asking friends and relatives for investment, running up credit cards, and the like. Kickstarter gives the process a streamlined approach that can involve a lot of people you don’t personally know.

This isn’t the case of a handful of movie folks rolling in money. The whole point of the campaign, and of Kickstarter in general, is to get started, and to create something worthwhile. I pledged $50 because I want to support people who want to create something good, and I’m betting that a Veronica Mars movie will be good. It may not be. It could be a disaster. I may not even go see the movie in theaters (which would cost me more money; my pledge isn’t buying me a ticket); it may not even be released in theaters. But that doesn’t diminish my desire to support the creation of good entertainment.