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New 3D Curved Video Wall

I've done video wall techniques dating back to the original 5.0 version of this book, and in my “Down & Dirty Tricks” column in Photoshop User magazine, but this version (which I saw used in the contents page of Entertainment Weekly) is the best I've seen yet. It has a number of steps, but it's not hard to do, and it looks pretty darn cool when complete.

Quick Tip: Ruler guide trick

Any time that you're dragging out a guide from your ruler, you can change its orientation as you drag it (just in case you meant to grab a horizontal guide and instead you accidentally grabbed a vertical guide. Hey, it could happen). To change the guide from vertical to horizontal (or vice versa), press the Option key (PC: Alt key) while you're dragging, and it'll switch to the other orientation. Release the key and it switches back. That way you can position it exactly how you like before releasing the mouse button.

Step ONE.
Open a new blank document that's about an inch larger than you'll want your final document size. Create a new blank layer by clicking on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Press “m” to get the Rectangular Marquee tool and draw a horizontal rectangular selection. Press “d” to set your Foreground color to black, then Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) to fill your selection with black (as shown).

Step TWO.
Press Shift-M to switch to the Elliptical Marquee tool (Shift-M toggles between the Elliptical and Rectangular Marquee tools). Drag out a large oval-shaped selection (like the one shown here). Move your cursor inside the oval and click-and-drag to position the top edge near the top of the black rectangle (as shown here).

Press Delete (PC: Backspace) to knock out the bottom section of the black rectangle, then deselect by pressing Command-D (PC: Control-D). This leaves the shape you see here (straight on the top and sides, and curved inward on the bottom).

Step FOUR.
Create a new blank layer by clicking on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Press Shift-M to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, and draw a rectangular selection that's a little wider and quite a bit higher than the black shape (as shown here). This will become the frame of your video monitor.

Quick Tip: The automated way to turn all of your layers into separate documents

Photoshop CS comes with some built-in scripts for some handy tasks. One of my favorites is a script that you'd run on a multi-layered document, to take each layer and duplicate it out to its own separate document, and it's all done automatically. To use this built-in script, just go under the File menu, under Scripts, and choose Export Layers to Files.

Step FIVE.
Hold the Option key (PC: Alt key), which lets you subtract from the current selection when using the Marquee tools. Then, draw a smaller selection that starts at the top-left corner of the thin black shape and extends down and to the right edge of the shape, forming a smaller rectangle (as shown here). This removes that area from the selected area, leaving you with a narrow border.

Step SIX.
In the Toolbox, click on the Foreground Color Swatch to bring up the Color Picker. When the Color Picker appears, choose a dark gray color, then click OK. To fill your selected border with this gray, press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace). Then, deselect by pressing Command-D (PC: Control-D).

Choose Bevel and Emboss from the Add a Layer Style pop-up menu at the bottom of the Layers palette. When the dialog appears, increase the Depth to 400%, lower the Size to 1, then click OK to apply a beveled edge to your gray area.

Quick Tip: Free Transform: The keyboard shortcut brain teaser

Most of the time when we use the Free Transform function, we Control-click (PC: Right-click) inside the Free Transform bounding box and choose our desired transformation from the handy pop-up menu. This way we only have to remember one keyboard shortcut—Control-click (PC: Right-click). But in actuality, there are keyboard shortcuts for almost every Free Transform function (except for rotate—just move your pointer outside the bounding box then move your mouse to rotate). Here's the list just in case you feel like learning them:

  • Hold the Command key (PC: Control key) and drag a corner square handle to distort your object.

  • Hold Shift and drag a square handle on any corner for proportional scaling of your object.

  • Hold Shift-Option-Command (PC: Shift-Alt-Control) and grab a top or bottom corner square handle and drag outward to add a perspective effect.

  • Hold Shift-Command (PC: Shift-Control), grab either the top or bottom center handle, and drag right or left to skew.

Now you need to merge this rectangle layer with the thin black shape layer directly beneath it. To do this, just press Command-E (PC: Control-E) to merge the two layers into one (as shown here). Although it doesn't look like one at this stage, the first video monitor is complete, but it's too large; so you'll use Free Transform to scale it down in the next step.

Step NINE.
Press Command-T (PC: Control-T) to bring up Free Transform. Hold the Shift key, grab a corner point, and drag inward to shrink the size of the video monitor similar to the one shown here. Once you've scaled it down, move your cursor inside the bounding box and click-and-drag the video monitor down to the bottom of the image area (as shown). Press Return (PC: Enter) to lock in your transformation.

Step TEN.
Now you're going to make an exact copy of the video monitor, without duplicating the layer first. To do that, switch to the Move tool, hold Shift-Option-Command (PC: Shift-Alt-Control), click directly on the video monitor, and drag straight upward (as shown here). What you're doing is “dragging a copy.”

Quick Tip: Getting out of a transformation

While you're using the Free Transform function, if you suddenly decide you don't want to transform your object after all, just press the Escape key on your keyboard to leave Free Transform. If you've made a transformation you don't like, you can undo your last step by pressing Command-Z (PC: Control-Z) while you're still in Free Transform.

Also, while you're in Free Transform, you can move your object by placing your pointer inside the bounding box (your pointer changes to an arrow) and clicking-and-dragging the box to a new location.

When you're transforming your object, you can lock in your transformation by either pressing Return (PC: Enter) or double-clicking within the bounding box.

COOL TIP: If you want to transform an object and put a copy of it on its own layer at the same time, add the Option key (PC: Alt key) to the Free Transform keyboard shortcut, making it Option-Command-T (PC: Alt-Control-T).

Once you've got one copy (and you've got the hang of “drag-copying”), drag out a few more. Just remember to hold Shift-Option-Command (PC: Shift-Alt-Control). By the way, the reason we add the Shift key is to keep the monitors perfectly aligned; it keeps your dragged copies snapped to an invisible vertical grid.

Five monitors filled the screen from top to bottom, but we need seven for the effect, so we need to scale them all down as one unit. To do that, go to the Layers palette and click in the second column of each monitor layer to link them together. Press Command-T (PC: Control-T) to bring up Free Transform. Hold the Shift key, and click-and-drag a corner point to scale all five down at once (as if they were one unit). When it looks right, press Return (PC: Enter).

Now, unlink all the layers by clicking on the Link icon, and “drag-copy” two more monitors. Once you've gotten all your screens in place, link the monitor layers again and position them so they extend off the top and bottom of the image area as shown here (you can use Free Transform again if necessary). Next, you'll want to get all your video monitors on just one layer, so go to the Layers palette, click on the bottom video monitor layer, and press Command-E (PC: Control-E). This will merge all seven linked monitor layers into just one layer.

Quick Tip: Putting selections on their own layers

In this book, we often make a selection and put the selected area on its own layer by pressing Shift-Command-J (PC: Shift-Control-J). This performs the same function as going under the Layer menu, under New, and choosing Layer via Cut.

Layer via Cut cuts out your selection from the currently active layer and moves it to its own layer (leaving a big white space in the layer below). If you want to move your selection to its own layer without cutting (and leaving a knockout where you cut), leave out the Shift key and just press Command-J (PC: Control-J). This is the same as going under the Layer menu, under New, and choosing Layer via Copy (which leaves your original selected area intact on the layer below and places an exact duplicate of your selection on the layer above).

Duplicate this one layer (containing all seven video monitors) by pressing Command-J (PC: Control-J). Hold the Shift key, and with the Move tool, drag this duplicate layer straight over to the right (as shown here), creating a second vertical stack that touches the right edge of the first stack.

Press Command-T (PC: Control-T) to bring up Free Transform. You won't be able to see the top or bottom Free Transform handles, so press Command-0 (zero), (PC: Control-0) and your image window will resize so you can reach them. Now, hold Shift-Option-Command (PC: Shift-Alt-Control), grab the top right corner point and drag upward to add a perspective effect to your second stack (as shown).

Adding this perspective effect tends to stretch out the width of the monitors. You can fix that while you're still in Free Transform by releasing the keys on your keyboard, clicking on the right center point (as shown here), and dragging inward (to the left) just a little until the monitors don't look stretched anymore. Press Return (PC: Enter) when it looks about right. In the next step, you'll create a third stack.

Quick Tip: Making your Actions palette less cluttered

Once you've created a number of Actions, your Actions palette can start to look a bit cluttered (and confusing). That's why Adobe created Button Mode, which hides all of the Actions controls, nested folders, and annoying stuff like that and puts all your Actions just one button-click away. You can access Button Mode in the Actions palette's pop-down menu.

You can also visually organize your Actions by color. Just Option-Double-click (PC: Alt-Double-click) on any Action and you'll see a pop-up list of Colors in the Action Options dialog that you can use to visually group your Actions. When you're in Button Mode each button takes on the color of its Action. You could, for example, make all your prepress Actions one color, drop shadow Actions another, and so on to group your Actions by color for easy access.

Hold Shift-Option-Command again (PC: Shift-Alt-Control), click on the second stack of monitors, and drag to the right to create a third stack (as shown here). The lines separating each monitor won't line up with the previous stack, so you'll have to press Command-T (PC: Control-T) to bring up Free Transform. Press Command-0 (PC: Control-0) to reach the handles, and then drag the bottom center point downward until the lines between the bottom monitors begin to align.

Next, grab the top center point (as shown here) and drag upward to make the lines between the top monitors align. Don't press Return (PC: Enter) yet, because you still have to add the perspective effect to this stack of monitors.

If you've lost sight of the top transform handles, press Command-0 (zero) (PC: Control-0) again to reach them. Hold Shift-Option-Command (PC: Shift-Alt-Control), grab the top right corner point and drag upward, dragging a bit farther than you did for your second stack to add a more pronounced perspective effect (as shown). Release the keys, then grab the right center point and drag inward so it doesn't look too stretched.

Quick Tip: Making copies of layers

We often make a copy of a layer by dragging it (in the Layers palette) to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. But there are other ways of creating copies of layers. The fastest is probably to press Command-J (PC: Control-J). This makes an instant duplicate of your current layer.

Another way is to take the Move tool, hold the Option key (PC: Alt key), click within your image on the layer you want to copy, and drag. When you release the mouse button, you'll see that a new layer copy has been created in the Layers palette.

Another method is to go under the Layer menu and choose Duplicate Layer. A dialog box will appear that enables you to name your newly copied layer and to choose whether you want it to appear in your current document, in another open document, or to become a new document.

As a shortcut, you can Control-click (PC: Right-click) on your layer (in the Layers palette) and a pop-up menu will appear where you can choose Duplicate Layer.

Press Return (PC: Enter) to lock in your transformation. Now you're going to repeat the whole process one more time to create one more row: “drag-copy” the layer, use Free Transform to align the monitor lines, use the Perspective transformation (pulling it upward even farther than the previous row), then release the keys and tuck in the right side center point (as shown).

Now that your right side is complete, you can save a lot of time by using it to create the left side. To do that, go to the Layers palette, click on the top layer of monitors, then press Command-E (PC: Control-E) three times to merge all the monitor layers into just one layer (as shown).

Now duplicate this right side wall of monitors layer by pressing Command-J (PC: Control-J). Now press Command-T (PC: Control-T) to bring up Free Transform again. Control-click (PC: Right-click) within the bounding box and a pop-up menu will appear. Choose Flip Horizontal from the menu, and it will flip your duplicate layer, making a mirror image (the left side).

Quick Tip: Making selections in a straight line

If you need to draw a selection that includes straight lines but is not a rectangle or a square, you can use the Polygonal Lasso. It draws straight lines from point to point as you click. To access the Polygonal Lasso tool while using the regular Lasso tool, click-and-hold in the document where you want your selection to start, press the Option key (PC: Alt key), and then release the mouse to switch temporarily to the Polygonal Lasso. Just click in your document where you want to create a straight line. As long as you hold the Option/Alt key, it remains the Polygonal tool. When you release the Option/Alt key, it turns into an active selection. If you want to continue drawing with the regular Lasso tool without closing the selection, click-and-hold before releasing the Option/Alt key.

Once you've flipped the layer, click your cursor within the bounding box, hold the Shift key, and drag to the left until the center stack of monitors on the left side is positioned exactly over the center stack of monitors on the right side, as shown here (this leaves a center stack, with three stacks to the left of it, and three to the right). Press Return (PC: Enter) to lock in your transformation.

Merge these two layers into one layer by pressing Command-E (PC: Control-E). Press Command-T (PC: Control-T) to bring up Free Transform again. Press Command-0 (PC: Control-0) to reach the top transform handles. Press Shift-Option-Command (Shift-Alt-Control) and drag the top right corner point inward to the left to add a perspective effect, making the monitors seem to be leaning back a bit. Press Return (PC: Enter to lock in your Transformation).

It's now time to crop the video wall image down to size (remember in Step One, I mentioned to make your document a little larger than you'd need for your final photo? This is why). Press the letter “c” to get the Crop tool, then drag out a cropping border around the area you want to keep (you want your video wall to appear as if it extends outside of the document on all sides). Press Return (PC: Enter) to crop your photo down to size.

Quick Tip: Easy background transparency in Photoshop

Remember back in the old days when you wanted a background color to be transparent in a GIF Web graphic, you'd use GIF89a and click on the color you wanted transparent? Well, those good ol' days returned in Photoshop 7, but in Photoshop CS you don't have to suffer through GIF89a because you can choose a background color to be transparent right from within the Save for Web dialog box. Just use the Eyedropper tool to click on the color you want to appear transparent, then at the bottom of the Color Table, click on the first icon from the left to make that color transparent. See, good things have a way of coming back.

Now open the photo you'd like to appear inside your video wall. Get the Move tool, click on this photo, and drag it over into your video wall document.

© Brand X Pictures

When the photo appears in your document, it will probably appear in front of your video wall, so go to the Layers palette, click on your photo layer, and drag it below the video wall layer (as shown here) to put it behind the wall.

In the Layers palette, click on the video wall layer, then add a new blank layer by clicking on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. We'll use this layer to add some shading to the video wall so it looks more rounded. We'll add a highlight in the center, and shadows on both sides. Press “b” to get the Brush tool, then Control-click (PC: Right-click) in the image to bring up the Brush Picker. Choose a very large, soft-edged brush (I chose a 300-pixel brush).

Quick Tip: Don't confuse Clipping Mask with Clipping Paths

The layer term Clipping Group (now known in Photoshop CS as Clipping Mask) is often confused with the well-known path term Clipping Path, but the two are entirely different. Okay, they're not entirely different in what they do: a clipping mask puts your image inside type (or anything black) on the layer beneath it, so you could say it clips off everything outside the type. A clipping path is created with the Pen tool and you can choose to save this path with your document, so when you import your image into another application (such as QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, etc.), everything outside the path is clipped off. This is most often used for clipping off the white backgrounds that appear behind objects.

In short, it'll help if you remember that a clipping group is a layer technique, while a clipping path is a path created with the Pen tool that's used mostly in print for silhouetting images against their backgrounds.

Up in the Options Bar, lower the Opacity setting for the Brush tool to 45%. Then press “x” to set your Foreground color to white, and paint a stroke from the bottom center of your image up to the top (as shown here). It doesn't really matter whether you start at the top or the bottom, just paint a stroke through the center.

Press “d” to set your Foreground color to black, then paint a stroke down the left side, and a stroke down the right side (as shown). Adding these strokes helps to give the rows of monitors more dimension by adding highlights and shadows.

To get this paint-stroke layer to blend in with the rest of the image, go to the Layers palette and change the layer Blend Mode from Normal to Color Dodge (as shown here). Next, to make these highlights and shadows only appear on the monitors themselves (and not over the photo), press Command-G (PC: Control-G) to create a clipping mask and group them into the monitor frames.

Quick Tip: Easy-to- remember keyboard shortcuts

In the technique shown on this page, you have the option to Create a Clipping Mask (otherwise known as Group with Previous in prior versions) to keep your highlights and shadows within the layer directly beneath them (the monitor layer in this case). The keyboard shortcut is easy to remember because it uses the same keyboard shortcut almost all other Adobe products use to “Group” objects together. It's Command-G (PC: Control-G). Adobe has gone to great lengths to keep you from having to learn a new set of keyboard shortcuts for each Adobe application, so once you learn one application's shortcuts, chances are you can apply them to other Adobe applications. Many of Photoshop's shortcuts are based on Adobe Illustrator shortcuts, so if you know those, you're well on your way. So keep that in mind when working in Photoshop. If you don't know the keyboard shortcut, ask yourself what that shortcut would be in Illustrator, and chances are you'll be right. However, if you're used to CorelDRAW … you're about out of luck.

Once you apply your clipping mask, you can see the highlights appear in the center of your video wall (as shown here). If the highlights are too intense, lower the Opacity of the paintstroke layer in the Layers palette.

To get some sense of scale, it's a good idea to add an object (in this case a person) to the photo to create the idea that it's a pretty large wall of monitors. In the example shown here, I opened the photo of a woman, selected her with the Lasso tool, then dragged her over onto the image.

© Brand X Pictures

Add a Drop Shadow from the Add a Layer Style pop-up menu at the bottom of the Layers palette. Lower the Opacity to around 60%, and increase the Size of the shadow to 7 to complete the effect.

Quick Tip: Getting rid of white edge pixels in collaged images

In the technique shown on these pages, when I brought the girl into the image, she had a tiny white halo around her arms and hair. This leftover fringe came with the original image that I took her from, which had a white background. When I selected her, it brought some of the fringe along too

I was able to quickly get rid of that white fringe around the edge by going under the Layer menu, under Matting, and choosing Defringe. I used the default 1-pixel setting, clicked OK, and it immediately removed the white edge fringe. It does this by creating a new edge pixel that is a combination of the background and the edge of your object. If you try a 1-pixel Defringe and it's not enough, undo it, and try a 2-pixel Defringe.

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