DMA Central


How Can You Tell if a Picture Has Been Photoshopped?

Photos are everywhere. And there’s a very good chance the photo you’re looking at has had a touch-up or two. Do you know how to tell the difference between a real or phony photo?

This famous photo – which was faked – sparked a huge debate as to its authenticity when it was first passed around the Internet a few years back.

Working in the Shop
You know you have a good product when the brand name turns into a verb. Google and Photoshop probably know this better than any brand (just Google “Photoshopping” to get an idea of what I mean). Photoshop is an amazingly powerful tool that finds itself in the hands of more and more people everyday. Some for better and some for worse. Example A: photo manipulation.

We’re here to help you spot the fakes, but doing so requires a little detective work. And like a good detective, there are subtle clues that are a dead giveaway to help you spot what’s real and what’s not.

The Human Face
When you’re dealing with a photo that is a portrait of a person, or a photo where the main subject is a person, the human face can reveal so much about a photo’s authenticity. Why? You’re most familiar with the human face. You spend every morning (let’s hope) staring at your own while you scrub those pearly whites, so the oddities will stand out. This is especially true when it comes to the eyes, nose and mouth. What better tool to use to sniff these irregularities out than your very own two eyeballs. Using your own eyes and starting with the face, here are some things to look for in spotting a fraud:

Before (on the left) and after (on the right), Photoshop. 

The Eyes
Eyes provide two great clues for use when we are on the hunt for a fraud. Contrary to what you see on the front page of magazines and spread across billboards, eyeballs DO have veins and the sclera, which is the white part of your eye, is often a little discolored and cloudy. Also, depending on the light and the subject’s face structure, the shadows around the subject’s eyes may vary, but in almost all cases there should be some shadows. If the eyes in the photo look too good to be true, chances are, THEY ARE!

Facial Features
For photoshoppers that enjoy providing the digital nose job, they know it’s no simple procedure. Replacing noses is tricky because you have to perfectly match color, texture, and lighting three facets of the face that literally stick out at you on the nose. Detecting a bad blend job on any one of these items can help you easily sniff out the fraud.

Enhancing the size, color, and shape of lips is a common request in the land of Photoshop. Just like the eyes and nose though, if the light and texture look suspicious, chances are you’re on to something. Luscious lips are usually liars. Also, notice skin tone, in the photos above of George Clooney and Beyonce. Both of their complexions are unnaturally even and clean.

You may have been too distracted by the squirrels with lightsabers to notice the repeating pattern and bad image stitching in the background?

The Environment
Spotting a fish out of water has become increasingly difficult these days all thanks to Photoshop. Sure, it’s all fun and games when you photoshop your friend on the moon, but what about photoshopping a suspect into or out of a crime scene? Photoshop has used the blur tool quite a bit when it comes the world around us and whether we know if what we’re seeing is really in it or not. Here are some tips to knowing the world around you:

1. If an image seems suspiciously out of place, the best place to continue your hunt is on the edges. Poor blending and sloppy edge work will be your indication that someone tried to pull the ol’ drag and drop on you.

2. Just as in detecting a fraud on a portrait of the face, light plays a big role in the environment as well. I mean, after all, photography is about capturing light. When searching, look for strange shadows or missing shadows from objects that you think may be photoshopped in. Replicating shadows accurately can be a time-consuming and challenging process and thus can often be overlooked or just skipped on a hack job.

This five-headed snake is the stuff of nightmares, don’t worry – it’s fake. Notice how all the heads have the exact same angle and how the heads connect to the body of the snake.

Use Technology
If you can’t find evidence a photograph has been altered, using technology can help you. Perhaps it’s time to dawn some robot eyes. There are a couple of ways to get this done.

Notice the scales of the snake don’t have a consistent pattern; any naturally born two-headed snake does.

Using Photoshop, you can choose to switch between different color layers on your suspicious image. Switching between these layers will allow you to see differences in light that weren’t recognizable before. You can do this by going into Channels and manually selecting Red, Green, or Blue. Areas that have strange highlights or shadows may be indications that you have a fraud on your hands.

Using Image Error Level Analysis can be a great way to determine if a photo has been altered. The tool will provide you a heat map-like image of a JPEG you upload. It will analyze your uploaded image and detect for you areas that it thinks have been photoshopped.

A Career in Photoshop 
Did you know that there are whole careers around not only photoshopping pictures, but being able to detect when a picture has been photoshopped? That’s right; digital forensics is the study and breakdown of digital media and how it can be used to detect fraud. Learning Photoshop color correction, touch-ups & quick image optimization can help get you started. As technology and high-end production tools become more and more available, our ability to recognize the real deal and fake phonies is becoming increasingly difficult.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Photography,News Blog and have No Comments

App of the Month: SketchBook Pro (Review)

Game: SketchBook Pro
Developer: Autodesk
Rating: 5 out 5 stars
Price: $4.99

From Autodesk, the makers of the industry standard for 3D animation (Maya), comes SketchBook Pro. The app is not only for artists, but for anyone wanting to express themselves using a fully loaded graphics illustration app.

An art store worth of tools and colors is available at the touch of a finger with SketchBook Pro

Users start out by choosing a brush from the extensive selection, then they sketch or paint using a finger or an iPad stylus. The app allows you to export layers as .psd files and has a customizable user interface as well.

The Features 
SketchBook Pro is one of the most capable illustration apps out there. Just take a look at just some of its amazing features:

• Full-screen work space, with support for any device orientation
• A canvas size of 1024 x 768 and supports up to 12 layers on iPad 2
• Optional High Resolution canvas on iPad 2 = 2048 x 1536 with 4 layers
• Multi-Touch Interface, with two-finger pan & zoom navigation with 2500 percent zoom
• More than 60 preset brushes, including pencils, pens, markers and natural media
• Precise brush strokes
• Install more than 90 additional brushes and stamps brushes from the in-app store
• Flood fill and smear tool (just like Photoshop), and other great tools additions, like 20 levels of undo/redo on iPad 2 and dynamic symmetric drawing

A customizable UI allows users to set up their most used tools within SketchBook Pro‘s own interface. 

You can also import images from Photo Library or the camera on iPad 2, too. Plus duplicate, merge and reorder layers (just like Photoshop) and toggle and adjust the layer visibility/opacity. Everything you would expect to do with a high-end graphics application or learn using Photoshop, you can do with SketchBook Pro.

The app exports photos, has in-app email and sharing features, customizable color swatches, eye-dropper selector, custom erasers AND (if that wasn’t enough), video output using either the Apple Component AV Cable or the Apple Dock Connector to VGA adaptor.

Becoming a Digital Designer
Artists have more digital tools available than ever before, but if you’re a digital designer with an iPad or someone who wants to start learning digital art and graphic design, SketchBook Pro is a must-have.

Create both complex and simple pieces of art using SketchBook Pro. Click the image above to enlarge. 

The app gives artists full control over their creativity and the import and export features are easy to use and set up. Creating complex works of art will still take time, but the app supports you with tools to express your vision every step of the way. And at just five dollars, the app is a great investment, and should be a no-brain’er for artists now using the iPad.


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posted by DMA Jordan in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

DMA Digital Photography and Photoshop Courses Jump Starts a Photography Business


Copyright Heather Reid Kwok Photography

Images Copyright Heather Reid Kwok Photography

In July of 2006 I spent two weeks at the Digital Media Academy immersing myself in the world of digital photography and Photoshop. Since Photoshop was not the most intuitive software to me, I was glad for the hands on training to get a handle on the basic and more advanced editing tools that it provides.  The instructor knew his stuff!  He was able to show us how to achieve the same result using at least three different methods and explain which method he thought was best which helped me grasp just how much Photoshop had to offer.  It felt like drinking from a fire hose at times!  However by the end of the week, everything would start to come together and it was amazing to see how much I had learned in such a short time.

The courses were a great combination of out in the field shooting and in the classroom learning Photoshop.  I learned some valuable photography skills that helped me take better photos from the start and in the end saves me tons of time since getting the shot right the first time takes less time then trying to correct problems in Photoshop.  The small class size made it easy to get personal time with the instructor to ask my questions and learn what I was specifically looking to learn in these courses.

After two weeks I had gone from never using Photoshop to using Photoshop to edit all of my photos.  DMA’s courses allowed me to gain the skills and confidence to launch my photography business shortly thereafter.  Without the DMA course I never would have gotten my business off the ground and running so quickly.  Since the summer of 2006 my photography business has taken off thanks to DMA!    It’s the best investment of time and money that I’ve put into my business and I recommend these courses for any aspiring photography who is looking to lauch or take their photography business to the next level.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

A Closer Look at Adobe Dreamweaver

Hello! I’m Ben Jaffe, one of the instructors for Digital Media Academy’s Adventures Program. I want to give you a closer look at Adobe Dreamweaver CS4. We use Dreamweaver for creating the web site layout in our Adventures Web Design class.

Dreamweaver is what we call a “WYSIWYG Editor” (stands for “What You See is What You Get”). This means we get to see our design as we create it. Before tools like Dreamweaver, we had to write HTML markup to create web sites, and didn’t get to manipulate it graphically. Here’s the Design view in Dreamweaver:


The Properties bar (across the bottom) is where we set up links, text styles, bold, italics, and change the sizes of items like images and tables. The panes on the right are for managing files, uploading to our website, and managing the CSS. When we edit in Design View, Dreamweaver is actually writing the HTML code for us.

At the very beginning of the class, we teach the kids some basic HTML. We actually build a simple webpage, coding it by hand! This helps the students understand what is going on behind the scenes, and how to fix things manually if anything goes wrong. It’s good to be able to look at the code to see what’s really going on. This is Dreamweaver’s Code View:


That HTML code is what our computers actually download when we are browsing the web. They read the code, and render out a graphical page for us to read.

After covering HTML, we talk about site design, then start on our own websites. As we create graphics in Photoshop, we integrate them into our sites. We also create a Flash animation, and add that to our site. Some students might even build a Flash animation to use as the header. (The header is the bar across the top of the page, with the website’s title).

After we build our site, integrate our graphics, and add our Flash animation, it’s time to test our sites and upload them to the internet. We test the links on our pages to be sure they all work, and upload their web pages to DMA’s web space, for friends and family to see.


After this course, your child will know how to use Photoshop, how to make simple animations in Flash, and how to put it all together into a web site. At the end of the class, the students go home with a web address for their website, and a DVD with all of the original files they used to make their content. This means that if they get access to the software (perhaps through their school), they can continue work on their web site!

I hope to see you this summer!
-Ben Jaffe

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comment (1)

Technology at the forefront of Life Long Learning


Janet Armstrong is a high school teacher at Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California. She recently attended CUE (Computer Using Educators), where she learned of DMA. Seeing the importance of technology in today’s world and the importance of keeping up with and teaching the latest technology to her students, she is going to take a DMA course this summer to advance her skills. The following is her views on technology in the classroom:

Schools have seen the need to educate students to make appropriate, efficient, and productive use of available technologies. At the same time they are compelled to reduce the digital divide that exists between higher and lower socioeconomic groups of students, giving them all access to the same tools. Consequently, as the tools advance, educators must be at the forefront of life long learning.

Life long learning is a phrase that has been buzzing around academia for the last decade. It’s a mindset educators must have to stay connected to the ever-evolving technology that seems to grow exponentially each year. Teachers and administrators MUST stay abreast these advances or they will quickly find themselves fossils.

Skills once reserved only for high school students are more appropriate today for middle school students. This has created the opportunity to expose high school students to cutting edge technologies that are fun, interesting and highly engaging. At Wilcox High School in Santa Clara we are opening two new digital media courses that will employ the use of Adobe CS4 products to teach web design, digital image editing, digital storytelling, and publication design. To be a proficient teacher I must become a proficient user of these tools. This summer Digital Media Academy at Stanford will prepare me to be such a teacher. The Introduction to Web Design with Adobe CS4 – Dreamweaver, Flash & Photoshop course will enhance my current skills as I learn the latest version of these programs to design lessons and activities for my students.

Life today is complex and diverse. As never before, communication involves the constant use of visuals, sound, and action. The digital age is here and education has the responsibility to prepare our children to use the tools today and into the future. Thankfully, the Digital Media Academy is available to assist with this process.

Janet Armstrong
Adrian Wilcox High School

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Creating "Red Carpet" for the Sonoma Film Fest

By Keith EnglishAnimation Director, Screaming Pixels and DMA Instructor.

Thought you might be interested in a project we have just delivered to a client which uses a lot of the tools you can learn, or might have already learned at Digital Media Academy. “Red Carpet” will be running before every movie at the upcoming Sonoma International Film Festival April 1-5th 2009. The main purpose of openings is to list sponsors before each movie and our quest is to make that repetitive experience as enjoyable as possible, especially when some of these run over 150 times during a festival.

This spot was produced using Maya, RealFlow and Shake (which could have also been done in After Effects if necessary), plus of course Photoshop to create a lot of the textures we needed. We were first given the poster, which the client had designed in Sonoma and although they gave us a carte blanche, from that point on it was obvious it needed to be styled as an art deco piece. cinema_interior2

To give it a poster-like look we rendered using only a 20 degree angle of view camera, so that it was almost orthographic with only a tiny amount of perspective, and then added a paint, cartoon and film grain filters all mixed back into the original so that everything was kept subtle.


The character models were built to be almost comic-like, flat and graphic, and the last thing we did was to take off the specular highlights on their eyes to flatten it a even more. The sets were also designed to be slightly exaggerated, especially the car of course, which is just the front end of a car. We only built  just as much as we needed for each shot.

The champagne was created using RealFlow. The bubbles were from Maya’s underwater Paint Effects, painted onto the interior bottom of the animated glass, which had its visibility turned off, and then those bubbles rendered, taken into Shake, color corrected, then warped with a filter to look like they were inside the liquid, rotoscoped out to be seen only in the area of the liquid and finally layered over the glass as a “screen” to combine the lighter areas of both the original image and the bubbles.


The flash bulbs were created by rendering the two finished characters separately (as they were massively different scales), then rendering them again with an all white version of each character with a single spotlight ahead of their faces for the complete sequence. This created a grayscale image of each face front lit and black on the back of their heads, which when applied as a matte to a brightness node in Shake would brighten just the front of their faces.

faceTheir eyes were tracked, again in Shake, and a 2D flare added to the front ofeach eye. So now we had two complete sequences, the first with their normal face renders and the second with the flash on the front of their faces continuously including a continuous flare. Now we just used a “mix” node in Shake to dissolve between the two sequences every time we wanted a flashlight to go off. 3 frames up for the flash and 10 down for the bulb fading.

feetOnly the bottoms of her dress and bottoms of his pants used Maya’s nCloth, with all else being regular polygonal geometry modeling. The hair on both characters was created using Joe Alter’s Shave plugin in Maya, but without any dynamics on it. Everything was rendered using Maya’s software renderer except for the champagne liquid and glass shot for which we used Mental Ray in Maya as it’s much faster with refractions. The project, from conception to delivery, took just three weeks.

Cody Westheimer, a very talented LA composer created the music for the piece. Well actually, that is where we really began, with the music and then everything was animated to that. Hopefully in the end it looks and feels as though it was all created together.

If you have any specific questions I would be happy to answer them. And my advice to all of you who want to work in this business? … really learn the tools and then … BE PROLIFIC.

Watch the video here:

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Why take a live-instruction web design course?

By Mike Johnson, Lead Web Design Instructor -DMA @ UC San Diego

With so many web sites, video tutorials, books and pay-to-view resources covering just about every aspect of web design, why invest in a week-long instructor-led course? Ask yourself: when was the last time you threaded 40 to 80 hours of focused hands-on study into your busy schedule? Who did you turn to when you hit a snag? Moreover, how did you decide which resources would most effectively equip you to build web presentations for your organization, clients, students or customers?

When you attend Introduction to Web Design wth Adobe CS4 – Dreamweaver, Flash & Photoshop at DMA this summer, not only will you begin to get your head and mouse around these three power tools, your instructor will focus on helping you leverage your existing creative skills and learning style to complete a significant project. DMA instructors purposely schedule one-on-one time during each day to individualize your experience to the greatest extent possible. Two years ago, an accomplished artist and college instructor found herself uncomfortable with Dreamweaver as a creative canvas but she was an Adobe Illustrator expert. We strayed from the script and used Illustrator as her starting point, then easily brought her work into Dreamweaver where she gave it legs for the web. As Adobe continues to integrate its professional applications, students have become better able to approach web design from whatever angle their past experiences bring them. Whatever your background, there is an approach that will work for you. Warning: once you begin enjoying the heft of your favorite digital tools and techniques, you’ll want to spend another week with Advanced Web Design Techniques with Adobe CS4. Click here for course information or register now.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comments (2)

DMA Returns to CUE March 5-7 with the John Lennon Bus

Every year since 2002, DMA has presented hands-on sessions at the annual Computer Using Educators Conference in Palm Springs. The thing I appreciate most about this conference is the reception we get. Every year, hundreds of teachers from across California visit our 60-minute hands-on sessions, getting a taste of our 5-day immersion courses. While there is only so much you can learn in 60 minutes, I am always amazed at how much content our instructors cover, and how much people take away. This year, we will be doing sessions Thursday through Saturday in topics including Final Cut Pro, Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop and iLife. And, for the first time, we will be joined by our new partner, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.


The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a non-profit 501(c)(3) mobile audio and HD video recording and production facility. Since 1998, the Bus has provided free hands-on programs to hundreds of high schools, colleges, Boys and Girls Clubs, music festivals, concerts, conventions and community organizations. Working together with some of the biggest names in music, the Lennon Bus encourages students to play music, write songs, engineer recording sessions and produce video projects using the latest audio, video, and live sound equipment. As a partner and sponsor of the Bus, DMA trains and supports the Lennon Bus staff, ensuring they are up-to-date on the latest digital media applications. In the summer, we co-teach (in collaboration with Lennon Bus staff) a summer computer camp course for teens called Music & Video Production at seven prestigious universities across the country. We also exhibit alongside the Lennon Bus at various national conferences like MacWorld and NAB.

At CUE, (in addition to the 60 minute hands-on session) DMA will offer short software demos, followed by Q & A, in an area adjacent to the Lennon Bus in the Exhibit Hall. It is a great opportunity for teachers to interact with our distinguished DMA teaching staff in a more intimate setting. We will be utilizing content created on the Bus in the demos.

If you are attending CUE this year, there will be lots of surprises, including an “special” invitation to attend DMA this summer at a discount. Hope to see you there!

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comment (1)

Kids Learning Pro Web Design at Age 10! Technology Classes + Computer Camp for Kids

“Wow! That animation looks great! Ok. Now we’re going to take the animated Flash movie you just created and you are going to import it into Dreamweaver on your web page. Let’s all do this together! Ready?”

I am right in the middle of another great Digital Media Adventures course for kids at Stanford: Web Design and Flash. We are taking an in depth look at the Adobe Creative Suite applications: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and Adobe Flash. We are on the third day of the five-day course at Stanford University. My class just got back into the classroom from playing a crazy game of Slaughter Ball. It sounds scary, but it’s a lot of fun. Sort of like Dodge Ball. The kids in my class are a little out of breath from playing ball, but that’s to be expected at a summer camp. They came running in and jumped (literally) in their seats excited about their Flash movies they created just before the break.

While the kids are experiencing all the fun of a summer camp, they are also getting an unbelievable learning experience. That’s what makes this the full summer computer camp experience. They are learning the same pro applications we are teaching across the Stanford campus in our adult web design courses. The professional Adobe applications like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Flash are the real deal! The kids pick up the technology so fast. That makes it really fun to teach. It’s interesting how much better kids interact with technology they have grown up with their whole life.

Earlier in the week, the kids in my class had already designed and created their own logo and company business card design. Their custom business card had their picture from a photograph taken in the class. The graphics and effects they created turned out amazing. They had learned the ins and outs of the Adobe software and were creating a matching website to go with their cards and logo. They were now adding an animated movie they created in Flash to spice up their website design.

In the next three classrooms I can faintly hear the other Adventures classes. The kids in 3d video Game Design course are screaming about some new level they created trying to destroy their enemy. From the Robotics and Programming class I can hear cheers of two robots racing. I see the Film, Digital Movie Making and Effects class go by with all their cameras, mics, lights, and scripts to go act, film, and direct their next scene. I wish I’d been exposed to this when I was this age! This computer camp is the real deal.

kids computer camp learning and fun

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Are you Baffled by CSS? Learn Web Designer Skills!

By Sandy Novak, Instructor

Are you feeling lost when it comes to Dreamweaver and CSS? I know exactly how you feel. After years of producing professional table-based sites, I found it very challenging to make the transition to CSS. As a visual person, and I needed to discover a simple functional way to tackle CSS layout with Dreamweaver. I found success by focusing on simple layouts while enhancing my pages with eye catching Photoshop images and graphics. I have been teaching CSS web design with Dreamweaver for over two years and my students are able to integrate solid CSS layout techniques into beautiful, consistent, and accessible sites that validate perfectly.

The Introduction to Web Design wth Adobe CS5 – Dreamweaver, Flash & Photoshop and the Advanced Web Design Techniques with Adobe CS5 courses at DMA cover Dreamweaver Photoshop and Flash and focus on web design work flow, tips and techniques. Hands-on step-by-step projects will guide you through the web design process and will build your skills and confidence so that you can be truly productive after the course is complete. Both classes focus on creativity and are designed for the non-programmer.

Check out our course location page here: Web Design Class Locations for Digital Media Academy training locations.  Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, UC San Diego, Harvard University, and University of Chicago offer exciting and challenging Digital Media courses for adults.

Check out Sandy Novak’s website here:  Sandy Novak

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments