Wacom to Manga Management

Graphics tablet manufacturer Wacom has gone all anime – teaming up with Japanese comic book and digital art craze Manga for a quirky special release.

Bamboo Manga is especially for those fans who not only enjoy following these distinctive digital fellows but also like to try their hand at redrawing the characters and even designing their own.


The special pack combines Wacom’s popular Bamboo Pen and Touch tablet with specialist software Manga Studio Debut 4 and Anime Studio Debut 8. So whether you’re a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan or a My-HiME enthusiast, you can carry these characters around in your mind and recreate them whenever and wherever artistic inclination strikes.

Manga Studio gives you access to traditional Manga-style drawing tools and effects plus the all-essential word balloons to insert your own dialogue. Once your masterpiece is complete, Anime Studio breathes life into the scribbled cartoon chums with audio, video and special effects for 2D movies, cartoons, anime and cut-out animations.

Manga is a massive industry, with a global following and scores of spin-offs. With Manga Wacom you could channel your artistic flair and create unique graphical illustrations in the style of these enchanting oriental characters.

But Wacom has even greater designs on these discernible digital creatures. It’s primed to join the Manga convention circuit, inviting the most devoted Manga-kas to turn their hands at creating the characters – much like those theme park caricaturists – with their own quirky Japanese still-life models at the disposal of their Bamboo Pen.

Wacom and Manga is a natural match-up, as Manga has experienced a real revolution in the advent of commercial graphics devices. The Wacom responds as if pen on paper, meaning the digital artist can hand-draw characters straight to PC before activating their own anime adventures.

String your designs together for storyboards, fight scenes, even whole episodes. Then share via social networking sites or Manga communities.

Akin to most multi-touch displays, this distinctive black and green tablet responds to gestures such as pinch to zoom and flick to rotate. It also lets you use pen and multi-touch together to keep your digital design flowing and the stories going.

Wacom Bamboo Manga is £89 and on sale now.

Blurb: Self publishing to the iPad made easy

The creative publishing platform, Blurb, has announced its first step into the ebook market with publications ready for Apple’s iPad and iPhone.


It’s pretty fancy stuff; the ebooks are optimised fully to display images and text clearly, they are created using Blurb’s established (and easy to manage) book-making tools, Bookify and BookSmart. So, for authors wanting to create their own ebook, the file conversion happens swiftly; the cost is a manageable £1.49 per download saving Blurb authors a considerable amount of time and money. That’s a big, big win then!

Eileen Gittins, Founder and CEO says,

“This is not just an ebook offering, it’s way more than that. Blurb now lets authors create their book once and then output their book to either print or ebook formats, from the same file, quickly and automatically. Fans and customers can then buy whichever version they prefer at the Blurb bookstore.”

Blurb ebooks include all the design and interaction perks of Apple iOS technology: two-page spreads, pinch and zoom capabilities alongside lovely uncompressed images. Like all Blurb books, the ebooks can be listed for sale at the Blurb bookstore. Authors can set their own price and keep 100 per cent of the mark-up from sales.

More information about ebooks can be found at: http://www.blurb.com/ebook

Olympus SP-810UZ: Creative camera control

For anyone who may have dabbled in real estate you will know how difficult it is trying to capture shots of rooms within houses that do not do the property the justice it deserves by simply getting the whole of the room in the frame. Thankfully, instantly knocking a few grand off the asking price of a house before anyone has even viewed the dam thing may be an estate agent’s affliction of the past, thanks to the new Olympus SP-810UZ, and its ‘phenomenal’ 36x wide-angle zoom.


Being dubbed as the ‘most powerful zoom camera Olympus has ever designed’, the SP-810UZ is currently the smallest compact camera on the market to boast a zoom factor over 30x, which, when combined with Dual Image Stabilisation and enhanced ISO sensitivity guarantees pinpoint accuracy with even the shakiest of photographers.

Other benefits of the SP-810UZ asides its mega-zooming capabilities, is its Advanced Face Detection and Beauty Mode, which, as the name suggests, miraculously makes its subjects more pleasing to the eye. In featuring 10 creative Art Filters, photographers can creatively play around with their favourite pastime. For example, the Miniature filter enhances the colours and contrast by narrowing the field of depth, making photos look like a miniature model. The Reflection Filter is equally as creative, as it stimulates a horizontal reflection on the subject, making it look like subjects are standing next to a perfectly flat lake – a great addition for all aspiring Steven Spielberg’s!

Instead of Wi-Fi compatibility, the SP-810UZ has Eye-Fi compatibility, which, together with an optional 3D shooting mode, will capture the shots of a scene from two different angles to create images seeping in realism and depth.

A further inventive function of this truly creative camera is its In-Camera Panorama feature, which helps photographers create a super-wide angle, wrap-around photo, by panning across the scene. The three frames taken are then automatically combined by the camera.

Not a bad photographic toy we reckon for just £229.99.

Honestech Claymation Studio 3.0 review



I have long harboured secret desires to make my own animated movies – I think several visits to the Disney parks in Florida, where you can see behind the scenes helped. And of course I grew up in a world before CGI, where stop-motion animation was the big thing (I’m a big fan of Bagpuss and its ilk). So when I got the chance to try out Honestech’s own Claymation Studio 3.0 software, I was very excited. I also hoped that it might be something I could interest my young son in (although at five he may be a little young), as I’m not a huge fan of kids just playing games on computers.

If you’re hoping to produce the next Wallace and Gromit, you might find you’re in for a lot of work – and will need a lot of patience (so maybe that’s my five-year-old out of the picture then!). However, you can be up and running very quickly and the software is very reasonably priced at a smidge under 40 quid, and comes with a cute webcam in the shape of a dog. The camera quality is no better or worse than the average webcam and for younger players will probably not cause too many issues. However, the software should be compatible with any webcam you have.

You are able to choose your frame rate – from 1 fps up to 30fps, so if you are prepared to put in the time and effort you’ll get a smooth result, but again for younger viewers you can adjust the frame rate so that they can finish a film before they head off to Uni!

So, getting started is pretty simple really, set up your scene and hit the red button to start capturing your images. The delay function can be set to 5-, 10-, or 60-second intervals, which really speeds up the process. For kids of a certain age, they can use Plasticine, Lego, Star Wars figures, Bakugans – all kinds of toys – for their mini movies.

There are plenty of settings and options to fiddle with, such as the green screen (or chroma effect). This means everything of a certain colour can be replaced with a photographic or video image (it’s how they move characters to appear as if they are flying, on a beach or whatever without leaving the studio). It could be more accurate, but when you think how much this software costs I feel you can’t be too picky.

Once you’ve made your film you can add narration, although be aware that there is no option for multiple tracks, which can make voicing different characters a bit tricky. In fact a lot of the editing facilities are a bit clunky and you may decide to use some video editing software at this stage if you can.

I had hoped that this software would make the process really easy, and to an extent it does – you can be producing your own short clips in very little time. Younger children will be able to get it out of the box and create a film (maybe with some help from Mum or Dad) – which is great – but if you’re looking for a lot of control and editing ability this won’t be for you.

More at here

MindManager 8 Mac OS review

As a “creative” (surely we could have come up with a better name guys?) I love a good mindmap.  Almost every project I undertake is accompanied by a flurry of scribbles on my whiteboard at home – compounded by further doodles on paper, arrows pointing to important words and eventually some actual work. But I can’t take my big-ass whiteboard with me (I’m in the middle of the South African Wilderness typing this), can’t share my ravings with co-workers and can’t always read things I’ve written in a fit of excitement at 3 am.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Madstreetz

Naturally there are people hard at work in the software world building  apps  to help my take my dubious doodles on the go with me and one such company are MindJet, who have MindManager mind-mapping software – with version 8 out for the Mac and  version 9 for the PC.

Using the mind mapping technique pioneered by Tony Buzan, users map their ideas and information in a web diagram, branching out from a central topic, to create related topics that eventually build into a ‘mind map’. Mind maps can contain all the information related to the project, from text documents, audio and video files, web links and connections to back-end databases, so that all project information is accessible immediately and not distributed over several siloed sources.

MindManager features information visualisations that let you easily lay out, organise and work with ideas in a variety of maps, outlines, charts. You can work closely with everyday programs such as Microsoft Office and there is an iPhone app so you can work on ideas on the go. I didn’t get a chance to test this as much as I’d like but you can make the app and the application play nicely together.

MindManager is pretty easy to use, which is massively important and getting technology between you and your ideas is counterproductive when it becomes fiddly. I’m working on a few longer projects and made a conscious effort to fire up MindManager every time to see how it progress. I was pleasantly surprise. Many, many similar apps have fallen by the wayside.

So, if you’ve graduated from pen and paper scrawls then give MindManager a whirl. There is a free 30-day trial.

MindManager 9 for Windows is $349 and MindManager 8 for the Mac is $249.

TWIG: Green Screen Kit, Edifier iPod Dock, VHS MAGIX and the James Dyson Award

The Week in Gadgets

It’s becoming easier and easier to produce and share content online – good quality cameras cost a fraction of what they used to, decent editing packages can be had at low-to-no cost and you can distribute your masterpieces online for free. If you want to take your creative photos and videos to the next level you might want to take a look at Westcott’s Green Screen Kit. Green Screening is a visual FX technique for creating compositing effects. Basically you stand your subjects in front of a solid colour background and photo or film them. Then you remove the background and replace it with a background of your choosing – a Parisian café, an underwater kingdom or an explosion.


The Green Screen Kit provides you with a 5’ by 7’ green screen (and some wall hooks) so you can shoot your subject (little tip – keep them well lit if you can as this helps when pulling a clean key). The Green Screen is bundled with some PhotoKey Lite software, for one-click keys – no fussing about with garbage mattes and the like. The software works surprisingly well for a £69.99 bundled package. For someone used to working on high-end packages like Shake and fiddling with node based chroma keys, the software is a little on the simple side. However, it is amazingly easy to use and for people starting out with visual effects – or hoping to add a little something to their homemovies or YouTube videos there is a lot to like – including 100 pre-packaged digital backgrounds and the ability to add your own.

Edifer, makers of the Soundbar which we cast our watchful eye over here and the opera house-shaped Prisma which we reviewed here are back with the Breathe iF600. New iPod docks are a weekly happening in my inbox, so it’s a testament to the Edifier design team that I raised an eyebrow when I saw the Breathe’s dome like design, which literally caught my eye. Moving away from the classic boombox-style that most iPod docks seem to go for, the Breathe looks a little like the top half of an eggshell. Replete with control buttons, an Aux input (if you have a non iDevice PMP) and a Music Pause function that automatically detects when a call is incoming on your iPhone. On sale now at John Lewis for £169.

As someone old enough to remember and own VHS tapes, the MAGIX Rescue Your Videotapes system is a godsend. I have an old VCR kept in reserve just in case I ever want to watch some of my rare VHS-only films, TV shows I taped off air or home movies. MAGIX rescues my dusty tapes and puts them somewhere useful – my hard drive. An end-to-end solution, magic comes with all the cables you need to hook your VCR or old-fashioned camcorder into your PC. It also has digitization software that enables you to store the compressed files on your hard drive, burn them to DVD or share them to online sites such as YouTube or Vimeo, holding your hand through each step of the way. MAGIX Rescue Your Videotapes 3.0 is available from Amazon and PC world for £59.99

This Tuesday the international winner of the James Dyson Award will be announced. They received over 500 entries, which have been whittled down to 15. Dyson sent us this little video of the finalists and we thought you gadget fans might like to check it out. Our favourites include the Butterfly mobile, micro scooter, Move-it, a cardboard box to trolley convertor and Wanderest, a portable seat you can strap to lamp posts. Check it out.