The Most Appropriate Job Ad Placement Ever

I’m a big enthusiast for WordPress, the software that runs this site. The crew who write it (A company called Automattic) have just celebrated WordPress’s fifth birthday, and as part of their continuing success, they’ve recently expanded their software team by hiring Warwick Poole as a “Systemologist”.

Nothing strange there, you might say, apart from the weird job title. But when you learn how the Automattic team screen their prospective employees, you sense some of the off-the-wall cleverness that defines their approach to writing code, typified by their slugline slogun “Code is poetry”.

Now it’s a mantra in recruitment advertising that when you write a job ad you write it so as to only attract one person, because you only want the individual who is the perfect fit for the job, and any other applicants would be unnecessary. A large number of applicants results from a badly worded ad.

Automattic decided to first of all screen the possible catchment for new employees by not placing their job ad in any of the usual places. Instead, they hid it inside the HTML code of their website‘s pages so that only a curious geek who was seriously interested in their code and in the company would ever discover it and go on to apply for the job. In time, the perfect candidate duly visited the website, found and responded to the hidden job ad and by doing so, selected himself as the ideal prospect . They gave him the job.

In an interview last week with Jeff Chandler (of weblog tools collection), Warwick explained how he joined the Automattic team.

Jeff – First off, congratulations on becoming the 21st employee for Automattic.

Warwick – Thanks, I am very pleased to be involved with Automattic.

Jeff – Mind telling us how this all came about?

Warwick – I am a longtime WordPress user. So I have known about the company for a while. I found Automattic´s recruitment note hidden in their HTTP headers (an innovation typical of this group) and got in contact. Then I met some of the Automattic team.

Jeff – What will your primary focus be while employed by Automattic?

Warwick – For the next few weeks, supporting WordPress.com users and helping bloggers with any support questions they have. All new employees work the support desk for 3 weeks as a way to grok the user experience and to get to know the product(s) well. It´s a great idea. All companies should do this.

Check this: http://automattic.com/about/how-we-work

Automattic are still looking for a coulple more people, but they are now making it a bit more obvious by having a dedicated Jobs page. However, Matt Mullenweg (CEO of Automattic) revealed to Jeff Chandler that there also still a secret announcement waiting to be found on the Automattic website. (hop to 00:55:00 in this podcast).

Via WordPress Weekly & Weblog Tools Collection

Factoid of the day: Automattic’s flagship software serves up half a billion WordPress pages every day from its WordPress.com free blog hosting site.

Art & Design in The British Film # 18 Oliver Messel

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Oliver Messel (1904 – 1978)

Messel was a Costume Designer and Art Director. He sometimes worked in the Art Department as well as being Production Designer for films. A large part of his life was occupied by his work in costume design for stage shows.

Messel was released from the Army to design the film of ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ for Gabriel Pascal. Co-operating on this gigantic production were John Bryan, who acted as Art Director translating Messel’s ideas on to the floor–Heckroth helping with the costumes and Bellan working out camera set-ups and working on continuity sketches-perhaps there were too many good cooks . . .

(Please click these thumbnail images to enlarge them.)

All images from Caesar & Cleopatra – 1945.

thumbnail of Caesar and Cleopatra

thumbnail of Caesar and Cleopatra

thumbnail of Caesar and Cleopatra

Read the full text ->
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Animation Notes #1 – The Richard Williams Studio Memos

While sorting through some papers recently, I discovered a few internal memos from the Richard Williams studio in the 1970’s. These were circulated among staff and freelancers (like me) with the aim of setting the highest standards, team building and flying the flag.

The first of these – the Memo To All Artists – was distributed in April 1976, and set out to define not only the precise nature of the roles of Animator, Assistant Animator and Inbetweener, but also, in no uncertain terms, the high standards expected of staff. In today’s horrid HR jargon, they would be called the “Person Specification”.

The copy I own was a copy of a copy (albeit on good quality paper), and had been slightly rotated on the photocopier at some stage. I’ve corrected the rotation and cleaned most of the dirt off the pages, so don’t expect an archivist’s white glove presentation. The other thing not to expect is any nod towards sex equality in the language used, even though there were several women animators and artists employed in the studio at the time.

This series of posts will be featured on the “Series” page here, as more papers are scanned and published.
I will include a medium resolution .pdf file of each document.

As usual, please click on the small images to enlarge them.
thumbnail of Cover sheet
Carry on reading this post >> Continue reading

The Best Photoshop Tip I’ve Ever Forgotten

There are so many handy tips about obscure Photoshop techniques floating around, that sooner or later, some of the more arcane ones just float off, beyond the reach of memory. Well; my memory, anyway.

The research I do entails a lot of scanning, and of all sorts of materials. Typescripts, books and magazines, and even old faxes that can all take a huge amount of Photoshop tweaking before they yield their textual hearts to the OCR software and become malleable, editable text once more.

I once found a tip that made it really easy to discover the exact angle that an image of a page needed to be rotated by to make it perfectly vertical once more. That was a few years ago, and through lack of use, I forgot the darn thing.
Many trial and error filled hours were spent trying to gauge tiny fractions of a degree of rotation so as to straighten my pictures. What an obstinate waste of time.

Today I was trying to clean up some old notes written by Richard Williams about various animation topics that will form a new series of posts here. Some of the notes had been photocopied at extremely wonky angles to the photocopier, and I thought it would be a good moment to re-learn the beautiful and subtle rotation photoshop technique. I rediscovered it at the Tek-Tips forum (1,354,000 members) that I normally consult for hardware problems, and there’s a huge community of people discussing tech tips about every minute aspect of computing.

You can see it demonstrated below. (all the images get bigger when you click them)

First: Scan your image –

thumbnail of Sloping scan

Your typical wonky scan that needs to be rotated. But by how much, exactly? One degree? One and a smidgin?
First you need to get to the Measure Tool. This is not an everyday tool, I suspect from the fact that it’s buried way down a right click submenu, and it’s probably most commonly used for measuring the edges of right angled components. However, it also measures angle, much to my joy.

thumbnail of Where to find the Measure Tool

Dig down by right clicking on the eyedropper tool and you’ll find it.

thumbnail of Underline the feature whose angle you want to measure
Drag the Measure tool along the baseline of the text, or whatever it is whose slope you wish to measure. This example shows the very thin line of the Measure tool on the baseline of some type, between the two purple arrows.
O.K. Now click on Image > Rotate Canvas > Arbitrary and Tadaaah!! the angle in degrees is already in the box, awaiting your next click Clockwise or Counter Clockwise….

thumbnail of Accuracy and convenience
Accuracy and convenience. Who could ask for more? Just click OK!

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Straight up! The grid shows how accurate this method is. To remove the grid press Ctrl and “H”

Coming soon: The Richard Williams Notes

Paul Lasaine, Production Designer, Art Director, etc.,

thumbnail of Cody and Surf Colour Key

I’ve just added a link to Paul Lasaine‘s blog in the blogroll. I remember Luc Desmarchelier telling me about him when he was working at Dreamworks back in the 90’s. If you don’t know Paul Lasaine or his work, here’s the link….

Click the thumbnails to reveal the big images, please.

thumbnail of The Wave
Those first two images are from Paul’s work on Surf’s Up. This next one is from his pre-production work on Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt.

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Egyptian Sunset – Dreamworks’ “Prince of Egypt”.

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The Road to Eldorado – Dreamworks

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Open Season – Sony ImageWorks

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Unnamed project. Luc Desmarchelier was working on the same gig at the time.

Go feast your eyes!

Pressed Metal Paintboxes

When you were very young, did you ever yearn for a great big paintbox like this?

thumbnail of The 92 cake behemoth of my dreams
The 92 cake behemoth paintbox of my dreams, by Page of London.
(Click it to see it bigger, please.)

I remember wishing for a really big paintbox while using the piddly little 12 and 18 tablet jobs that were just within range of my minuscule pocket money, and struggling to make clean mixes from the small thin tablets of grainy colour. I nearly always ended up with mud.
The paper available to me at the time had a nasty rough texture that was amazingly absorbent. The people who made it must have been trying to put young people off the idea of painting.
I think it was called sugar paper, though I can’t for the life of me imagine the link between sugar and paper, unless sugar was once sold wrapped in this nasty feeling stuff? (It was. – ed)

The smell of those paints is something I can recall with great clarity across all these years. It was given off by the gum used as binder for the colours.

A few years into my junior painting career I finally managed to obtain one of these lovely ninety two colour tin paintboxes. I had the idea that the more colours I had at my disposal, the less likely I was to make mud. I was mistaken of course, because it never occurred to me to use two water pots to keep my crappy little brush and palette clean, so I went on merrily polluting my colours as I dabbled them together. The paintbox was left behind with so many other aspects of my childhood many many years ago.

I picked up the example above on eBay a couple of years ago for pennies; far less money than it was originally sold for way back in the day. Mind you, it was rather well used:

thumbnail of The muddy interior of the paintbox
Someone else had been happily making mud in this paintbox, and you can see clearly how thin the little tablets of paint were.

It was made by a company called Page of London who once dominated the kiddy paintbox market in Britain and its former colonies.

Once you get past its period charm, you begin to see some seriously disturbing perspective weirdness. Notice how the ship and the row of cranes have diverging vanishing points even though the ship is presumably parallel to the dockside cranes. The scale of the lorry is completely out of whack with the train, which in turn makes nonsense of other scale relationships between the porters, their barrows and so on.
Throw in the dangerously low flying aircraft and what appears to be an attempt at lowering cargo straight down funnel number two, and you begin to understand why the boy on the left might seem to be jabbing himself in the eye with a large bodkin. I wonder how much the illustrator was paid for this.

There’s one more tiny but puzzling detail in this lid design. It’s the name of the ship: ‘Royal Blue’. When you open the paintbox there must be nine or ten different blues; but no Royal Blue. This is not odd in itself, but when you see one of their other tins that also includes the name of a colour (Vermilion) splashed large on the side of a bus in the scene, you start to wonder if there is a continuing theme running through all the lid designs.

thumbnail of A double decker called Vermilion
A double decker called Vermilion(A)

Unfortunately my swift (read: lazy) sweep of the web looking for more evidence to support this theory didn’t turn up any more examples to support the idea. You’re welcome to send in further examples if you know of any, or better still, own one of these paintboxes.

Here are a few more that I found on the web, and I bet that whatever they look like, they’ll all have that unforgettable smell.

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Alice In Wonderland.

thumbnail of Robin Hood
Robin Hood.

This last one is arresting. Can you spot any strangeness in this picture?

thumbnail of Pony and Kite
The Girl, The Pony and the Kite Flier.

Sadly, my web search for Page of London did not reveal that the company was still in existence. It would be nice to know that they had somehow made it through to the 21st century, but I suspect that they would have had to abandon the decorative tins somewhere along the journey into this century, and adopt boring plastic packaging just like everyone else. (I also wonder what happened to the illustrator – Did he / she go on to do covers for colouring books? The style would suggest a strong aptitude for that kind of work.)
Whatever the outcome for the company, this end of the artist materials market is being very well supplied by the Chinese now. (Supplies! Supplies!)