Project Spotlight – Harvard Thesis Template

Harvard Logo

Challenge

The Harvard University Extension School came to us to develop a template, built in Microsoft Word, that would render the formatting process for a typical student thesis less arcane. Originally, they were considering different specifications for each department. To standardize the process, they decided to combine requirements among departments. This was the best option because they had so many departments each with their own particular requirements. The end result is a more streamlined process, not only for the students, but for the faculty in charge of overseeing dissertations.

Solution

Graduate theses at most colleges and universities typically have strict requirements covering margin widths, spacing of various editorial elements on a page, and formatting styles. Running afoul of any of these requirements can cause major headaches for students, who are usually wholly engaged in generating content and don’t want to be bothered with thesis design.

Word Wizards, Inc., designed a template that, using styles, dropdown menus within the document and a unique, Web-based help system accessed from links within the template’s document comments, became the Harvard Extension School’s default student thesis template.

Process

We produced 4 or 5 drafts for the faculty to test and improve upon. During that process, additional features were added to the template that they had not previously  considered. An html based help system was incorporated that is attached to the template, allowing a student to access help for standard and advanced MS formatting techniques. As the student begins to build their document, each formatting requirement has assertive text explaining how to do it in MS Word. The student not only gets instructions on how to produce their document correctly, but they also learn to understand the features that are necessary to make that happen.

Outcome

The template was very successfully received by the client. The faculty feels this will be a tremendous benefit to their students, greatly reducing the time spent fussing over thesis formatting requirements, and allowing them to focus on creating the best possible dissertation content. We were able to satisfy the needs of our client, and exceed their original expectations for the project. By working closely with their team, and leveraging our 25+ years of experience providing desktop publishing and graphic design support, Word Wizards was able to produce a deliverable worthy of an Ivy League client.




508 Compliance – ICT Refresh 2017: Final Rule Posted

For the past year, we have reported on the forthcoming update to 508 compliance standards. On January 9th, 2017 the final rule was officially posted to the Federal Register. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standards and guidelines refresh is intended to improve on the existing framework of 508 compliance law, updating the rules to match changes in industry trends and technology. Our team contributed to the public commentary as the rule-making process has unfolded, and we are glad to see that the new rules have now been posted.

International Standards

References to WCAG 2.0 have been added to the 508 compliance guidelines, providing more specific criteria, and the benefit of internationally recognized compliance norms. To be clear, the ICT refresh does not throw out the previous standards of 508 compliance. The access board chose to build upon the existing 508 compliance regulations, without starting from scratch. It will take some time to explore all the specific changes of the new guidelines, but in general the refresh has clarified some major issues, and expanded on areas that were not covered by the previous law.

To view the WCAG 2.0 conformance standards click here

Embracing New 508 Compliance Laws

As stated on the Access Board Website, “The final rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT.”

The new rules go into effect in one year. Vendors, agencies, and businesses must now begin to take a look at the changes, and update their compliance strategies and workflow. Our team is committed to helping people stay up to date with changing regulations. Please share your thoughts with us in a comment, or contact us directly for information on how we can help your team achieve and maintain compliance.




Out of this World – Free Animation and Graphics from NASA

On June 30, 2016 at an event hosted by Interface Media Group, WIFV (Women in Film and Video) brought the fascinating animation portfolio of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) and its director Dr. Horace Mitchell, to the attention of the local film and video production community.  The NASA-SVS Gallery of 400 videos and 6,200 visual images are free to anyone who wants to download and incorporate breath-taking scientific content, with the proper attribution to NASA of course!

Dr. Horace Mitchell makes an Impression

Man sitting in chair

Dr. Mitchell, who has a Ph.D. in physics, developed an interest in visualizing his scientific computations.  Using a variety of in house custom developed software, he and the SVS team uses raw data to produce scientific visualizations which have wide appeal in popularizing NASA’s scientific endeavors to the world.  They translate the data from satellites and earth based observations into gorgeous representations worthy of the finest impressionist painters.  In fact one these data generated videos is actually called Van Gogh Sun: (watch it on You Tube).

Check out these colorful images formed from bites and bits of data worthy of the famous one eared Dutchman himself.

The Perpetual Oceanof Data!

Another example of the NASA-SVS work which has gone viral (with over 300,000 viewings) is Perpetual Ocean which uses no audio narration at all, only ocean flow data and a software which in the erudite words of Dr. Mitchell, “drops digital particles into the flow fields” to produce graphic animation of ocean currents which translates esoteric earth science into spellbinding images.  Take a look, you won’t believe your eyes.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEe1bVjORN4 .

The SVS team, along with their partners in production at NASA Goddard, Conceptual Image Lab, Goddard Media Studios and NASA Hyper wall Productions, want you to take advantage of the work of thousands of NASA scientists to help spice up you productions for free.  A better use of taxpayer money for the advancement of “the Biz” is hard to imagine. Special thanks to award winning children’s animator Kristin Harris for organizing WIFVs animation round-table series.

  1. http://www.kristinharrisdesign.com/
  2. Scientific Visualization Studio



Augmented Reality – Pokemon Go I choose You!

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have taken both our attention and the market by a storm within the past several years.  From headsets to our own smartphones, both have come leaps and bounds from the old Disney Quest Aladdin Magic Carpet VR ride, with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset by Oculus VR being one of the forefront pioneers in this budding new industry.  Developed and initially sold as a developer’s kit (DK1) for $300 in March 29th of 2013, the Oculus Rift has recently released a consumer version (CV1) for $599 that was originally available for pre-order in January 6th, 2016. The Oculus is not alone in this frontier however, with competitors like the HTC Vive (another VR headset) by Valve Corporation released April 5th, 2016 at $799 a unit (not including shipping and handling), the Oculus has stiff competition in this market.

Rift and Vive side by side
Rift and Vive side by side

Google Wants to Play

A far more budget friendly option to VR giants like the Oculus and the HTC Vive however is offered by Google in the form of a collapsible (and eco-friendly!) smartphone mount called Google Cardboard, released June 24th, 2014 and sold for $15 a unit. This contraption requires the use of a head mount (or your hands) to play app-store games available for both Android and iOS.  In addition to the Google Cardboard, Google has also brought us the game Ingress (owned by Niantic Incorporated after it separated as an independent company from Google), which is an Augmented Reality Science Fiction game that allows players to join one of two teams to defend (real life location based) Control Fields as their territory.  This game encourages players to go outside and physically move to other locations (the game limits player’s options/abilities while driving to encourage exercise), using local landmarks and places of interest as focal points for players to defend.

Gotta Catch Em’ All! Introducing Pokemon Go

 

Pokemon go launch meme

Continuing the trend of AR in pop culture today, Nintendo teamed up with Google and Niantic to develop their own AR smartphone game based off of one of their most popular game franchises ever, Pokemon GO! After a good humored prank conspired by Google and Nintendo, where Pokemon appeared online in Google Maps, video gamers everywhere cried out for more. Benevolently answering our plea, Nintendo and Google put their heads together to develop a free game that functioned off the same landmarks/real life locations as Ingress, however with a different spin in favor of Pokemon nostalgia. Launched on July 6th, 2016 Pokemon Go offers Pokemon fans everywhere their dream since childhood: the ability to walk outside of your house and go on your own Pokemon adventure.  Utilizing your smartphone’s camera, the game’s AR allows you to hunt Pokemon in your own surroundings! The game’s immersion extends further as water Pokemon appear near large areas of water (such as ponds or pools), ground types when you are in sandy areas, grass types when you are in the woods…the list goes on! This game even uses your phone’s pedometer to count how many steps you take, as the poke-eggs in game require different numbers of steps to hatch into a surprise Pokemon.

The Future is Now!

AR comes in many forms, and with the rapidly evolving (Poke-pun intended) market it’s carved into our entertainment industry, we only have more to anticipate and look forward to! If you would like to share your experiences with any of these technologies please leave us a comment on the blog.




Accessibility Tools – 7 Useful Apps for Disabled Individuals

Apple iPhone has set the bar high for mobile accessibility tools. Apple has committed their development to provide a fully accessible user experience to individuals with disabilities. In addition to the great built in tools provided by Apple, it app store offers additional tools that can further improve the mobile accessibility experience.

Get more Access out of iOS

The following apps were selected from the iOS app store as some of the most interesting and useful accessibility tools we could find. Some apps focus on visual accessibility, while some focus on auditory accessibility, some are just generally useful to persons with disabilities. Overall, the advent of mobile phone technology has changes the lives of the disabled community forever. We will continue providing these lists to help spread the word on some of the coolest accessibility tools hitting the app store.

iOS mobile accessibility graphic.

The List – 7 Accessibility Apps

  1. Petralex Hearing Aid: This iOS app only requires a pair of headphones! It boasts an extremely user friendly interface where you can adjust your own personal profile to suit all of your hearing needs for your daily life.
  2. Magnifying Glass with Light: With this app you can swap through multiple modes such as Crystal Clear, High Contrast, and Image Stabilizer to help you zoom in on hard to read text.
  3. Patronus: Keep your friends and family up to date when you go out on adventures with this app that notifies them when you reach a destination safely. With interesting features such as On My Way, Request Help, and Instant Access you can easily send alerts if you need emergency assistance or a confirmation of arrival.
  4. Parking Mobility: This handy app searches for handicapped parking in your area via GPS; it also has the very handy feature of reporting handicap parking violations to the appropriate authorities.
  5. The ASL App: This is an instructional app which allows you to learn Sign Language through a very user friendly system incorporating not only the generic ABCs, but the basics and conversational ASL onward. This app also includes a very helpful save and review feature, further aiding you in your lessons!
  6. Subtitle Viewer: With this app you can watch your favorite television shows and movies in theater without having to worry about missing dialogue due to hearing or language impediments. This app allows you access to subtitles for tons of movies and shows in various languages.
  7. Convert Units: I personally found this app to be the most interesting (and useful) out of all previously mentioned, as it is not limited to only converting currency. It also converts area, computer data, fuel mileage, length, power, pressure, speed, temperature, time, volume, and weight! This app is extremely user friendly, and with over 155 world currencies updated daily this app is a very handy partner to have when traveling.

Send us your suggestions

If you think you know of an app that should make the list, let us know. We are always looking to host discussions and stir the pot of conversation. So don’t be shy, leave us a comment and let us know if this list helps you, or if you have ideas for the next list.




Local Opportunities – WIFV-DC Media Job Fair Recap

Growth is a good thing, until you look around one day and find you need more talented people to do all the extra work. Word Wizards recently attended the 2016 WIFV-DC Media Job Fair (WJF) to identify candidates for transcription, 508 compliance, and graphic design work. While online hiring and digital classifieds have become the standard way of finding professionals in today’s market, job fairs still provide a unique chance to meet applicants and evaluate their potential face-to-face, before a formal interview.

wifv logo

Golden Opportunity

The WJF was held on Saturday afternoon of April 2, 2016 at the eclectic Pepco Edison Place Gallery. Word Wizards shared the exhibit space with boutique production firms and large post houses alike. Each company present represented the DC area’s thriving media services industry, providing  world class media production and support to the private and public sector.  Lines formed at the major booths, as prospective newcomers, journeymen, and seasoned film and video professionals, cued up, hoping to make their pitch for employment. Attentive company representatives reviewed each applicant, and took stock of the best candidates.

Closing In on Talent

The goal for Word Wizards this year was to find candidates to help with our transcription, graphic design, and 508 compliance services. We quickly identified several people that fit our needs, and we are looking forward to formal interviews with the most talented applicants. The WJF provides a synergy between people looking for work, and businesses looking for trade specific qualifications. The event provided a chance to shake hands with potential applicants, and get a read on who might work out as a new team member. Sometimes you need to meet someone in person to get a read on their qualifications for a specific job, and the WJF provides a perfect chance to do just that.

PepcoGallery - logo

Community Spirit

In addition to interacting with potential employees and contractors, business leaders present had a chance to catch up with partners and friends in the industry. Word Wizards has been operating in this area for over 20 years, and we always enjoy sharing a personal moment with old friends and partners. There is a sense of community fostered by a job fair, it feels like we are all in this together.

Forward Momentum

We saw many businesses that struggled, like we did, to navigate the economic downturn of the previous decade. Not all businesses survived the financial crisis, or the impact of globalization on media services. Looking around at the WJF however, it is clear that companies, like Word Wizards, found a way to compete in the 21st century marketplace. Together, local businesses weathered the storm created by a rapidly changing economic landscape. At the WJF, we saw first hand that the industry in the DMV area isgrowing, and we look forward to what the future holds for us and our friends in the film and video community.




ADA and 508 Accessibility: Comparing Two Standards

Both Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (508) and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are made up of laws and guidelines requiring information to be made available to all members of the public, regardless of sensory disabilities. Closed Captioning (CC),  Audio Description (AD), and accessible digital publication technology (508 remediation), are the gold standard for providing media that is fully accessible and compliant with both these regulatory standards.

Section 508

 

508 compliance logo.

 

508 requires that accommodations be made for government employees and members of the public with disabilities who wish to access Government Information and Communications Technology (ICT), including Government websites and multimedia. 508 compliance is overseen by the U. S. Access Board, an independent agency under HHS, which promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards. During 2015 the Access Board has conducted requests for public comments related to the accessibility rules and guidelines in their efforts to institute a “508 refresh” or update to the 508 accessibility requirements. Word Wizards has submitted comments, including our revelations about new ways to achieve accessibility of ICT through the use of 508 Compliant Transcripts.

Read more about our comments here

The Americans with Disabilities Act

 

ADA 25 years logo

 

Signed into law 25 years ago by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA derives authority from the primary Federal civil rights law, the Commerce Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and as such is overseen by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The ADA is a broader application of accessibility standards to influence commercial and social practices related to persons with disabilities. Title III of the ADA requires that businesses, state and local governments and nonprofit services providers make accommodations for the disabled public to access the same services as patrons who are not disabled. Movie theaters, digital media, websites, and ICT are required to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Evolving standards

In one recent case (NAD v Netflix) the Western Mass. Circuit Court held that even though Netflix was based solely on the internet, they had to offer captioned movies for their “watch instantly” streaming service, because they were dominant in interstate commerce, with 60% of the available market. That case was settled out of court with Netflix agreeing to caption everything going forward. However another jurisdiction, the federal appeals court (9th Circuit), ruled in a class action suit that the ADA doesn’t apply to Netflix, since the online video provider is, “not connected to any actual, physical place.” Never-the-less, the trend is towards more accessibility in services offered to the public rather than less, including film and video.

 

Accesibility graphic, keyboard with blue "Access" key.

Comparing 508 and ADA

Ultimately, ADA protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities participating in interstate commerce; whereas Section 508 is a set of regulations related to access to Government ICT. 508 compliance provides accessibility for digitally published material within government agencies and entities. ADA standards apply broadly to society, commerce, and government as a whole. A comparison of 508 and ADA regulations reveals a trend of increasing complexity of accessible media technology. Word Wizards mission is to serve the needs of an evolving industry as the number of people with sensory disabilities in our society continues to grow.




Producer Resources – TED Talks for Media Pros

Word Wizards recently had the pleasure to do transcription work for a new batch of TED Talks (“TT”). TED is a non-profit group, whose primary mission is the spread knowledge globally through powerful online talks about a variety of subjects. TTs are free online lectures which are both short (eighteen minute or less), and informative on an almost unlimited array of topics of interest. TTs are presented by people who are recognized leaders in their respective fields, as well as by those who simply have something to contribute to TED’s global knowledge mission.

TED - Ideas worth sharing

 

TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design”, which were the three topics that were the primary focus of the first TED Conference held in Monterey California in 1984. Today the subjects covered by TTs include almost all areas of human endeavor. Thousands of talks are available for free for viewing on TED’s site.

The cost of producing TTs are paid for in part, from revenues generated by the cost of attending the annual TED Conference; and from independently organized local TEDx events. The annual TED Conferences occur somewhere on the West Coast. You actually have to apply in advance if you want to go. If you are accepted, the Conference cost thousands of dollars to attend.

Local TEDx events cost about $20 to attend (excluding bar fees.)

TED Talks For Producers

Just for fun we typed in the words “video production” into the free TED Talk search bar on their site . Almost 200 separate talks were identified that related to ‘video production.’ The following is a short list of some notable media related TED Talks we identified:

In our first example, you can see how the famous video illusionist, Rob Legato (Apollo 13, Titanic and Hugo), replicated the launch of a Saturn Five moon rocket using tin cans and fire extinguishers. These shots were so realistic, that a real life astronaut asked Legato where he got the previously unreleased stock footage! Defiantly watch the TT entitled, “The Art of Creating Awe” by Rob Legato if you are into visual fx that push the boundaries.

Houston, we have a problem.

 

If you ever wondered how Brad Pitt started out as an old man and then continued to get younger in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, you should see digital effect guru Ed Ulbrich’s TT entitled “How Benjamin Button Got His Head”. Here is a hint; in this case the movie magic had nothing to do with makeup.

Benjamin Button's head.

What if you had millions of dollars to make videos that would inspire social change? To find out, you might want to see the TT by Jeff Skoll, founder of E-Bay, who cashed in his dot.com fortune to start “Participant Productions” making movies intended to change the world for the better.

https://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_skoll_makes_movies_that_make_change .

Finally under the category of creating pure eye candy from the natural world, you might want to check out a few TTs by natural wild life videographer Louie Schwartzberg, which describe making film shorts which have gone viral with millions of viewings, including, “The Hidden Beauty of Pollination,” and, “Gratitude.”

Hummingbird photograph during pollination.

 

Schwartzberg says the following of his passion for creating gorgeous wild life films:
“I hope my films inspire and open people’s hearts. Beauty is nature’s tool for survival, you protect what you love.” These and related TTs by Schwartzberg will surely open your heart to the natural world.

Learn from the best, be the best

So if you are looking to tap into the global “TED Talks” brain trust, simply go on their site and do a search on “video production” or any subject that interest you. Microwave some popcorn and invite some colleagues over to critique some fascinating TT videos on subjects that are near and dear to your hearts. We wish you happy viewing from your friendly neighborhood Word Wizards.




508 Refresh – Public Comments Closed: Our Contribution

The time for public comments before the US Access Board regarding the 508 Refresh has passed. Word Wizards (WW) submitted our own comments in support of 508 accessible transcripts as a viable alternative to prerecorded material, in order to provide increased access for deaf and hard of hearing, as well as blind and low vision persons. You can find the full text of our public comments to US Access Board via this link.

Graphic for section 508 compliance

508 Transcript as Prerecorded Media Alternative

508 transcripts provide access for people with disabilities, at lower cost and with quicker turnaround time than traditional Closed Captioning (CC) and Audio Description (AD) in some instances. In those instances, they can be deemed as good, or better under the concept of equivalent facilitation, recognized by the existing 508 law and pending 2015 refresh. We intend that they be used by agencies and their video production departments, when the traditional alternatives of CC or AD are either too expensive, or are not feasible for technical reasons.

The Access Board has announced that current accepted international standards will be incorporated by reference into the updated 508 rules. These standards, referred to as WCAG 2.0, specifically mentions media alternatives for prerecorded material, which include 508 compliant transcripts, at section 1.2.3. Here are two case histories where 508 transcripts provided more access for less money than traditional CC or AD.

Case Study No. 1 – Fast and Affordable

In early 2014, a client asked us for help achieving 508 compliance for a video, with a rapid turnaround deadline and a low budget. The client had only two days and a minuscule budget to produce the video and provide access using AD. We suggested a 508 complaint transcript as an alternative. The end product was a fully compliant PDF document, with all nonverbal elements described in the body of the transcript. This PDF was remediated to make it compliant and accessible to screen readers for the Blind and Low Vision people. By including all visual material in the document, we were able to satisfy the requirement of WCAG 2.0 – Section 1.2.3 to convey all visual information.

Road runner cartoon.

 

The document was produced for half the cost of standard AD, because there is no need for a media specialist to record and mix audio content into the source video. In this case, budget and speed were the client’s priorities -and a 508 compliant transcript did the job twice as fast, at half of the cost.

Case Study No. 2 – Complex Visual Accessibility

In instances of highly complex video content, 508 transcripts provide a level of visual description otherwise impossible with conventional AD. In the summer of 2014, WW used a 508 transcript to assist a client who was working on a high-profile Federal investigation. During this sensitive inquiry, a video presentation was created to summarize the findings of the agency’s investigation. The video was long and visually elaborate, consisting of different camera feeds spliced together, views with multiple screens simultaneously, and an uninterrupted audio track blended from several sources.

classified material.

Given the intricacies of the mixed media, conventional AD was not feasible. The audio content had no pauses, thus making it impossible to place Audio Description content within the existing audio track. At the final stages of this investigation, a concerned family member, who was blind, insisted on receiving an accessible version of the video in order to fully understand what had happened in the case. We suggested a 508 compliant transcript to provide complete accessibility.

Conclusion

As the Access Board prepares to refresh the standards by which Section 508 compliance will be evaluated, we encouraged inclusion of 508 transcripts as a viable option in appropriate circumstances. When budgets are constrained, rapid turnaround is required, and/or visual information is highly complex, 508 transcripts fulfill real and significant needs.

Existing 508 regulations and the pending 2015 Refresh, recognizes the need to reduce undue burden on the agencies by permitting the use of media alternatives which are as good as, or better, than conventional means at achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. These comments were submitted in order to bring our actual experience to the attention of the accessibility and video production communities. As long as the international standards of WCAG 2.0 are incorporated by reference into the 2015 Refresh,  508 compliant transcripts will be included on the list of acceptable media alternatives (for prerecorded content).




Viral Videos – EnChroma and Valspar’s Color for All

Valspar, a paint company, recently collaborated with EnChroma to bring attention to the Cx Explorer – glasses specifically tailored to bring color to the colorblind. The Explorer looks just like regular aviator sunglasses. The key difference, however, is that the Explorer is capable of increasing a person’s perception of the saturation of colors.

The video from Valspar involves giving Explorer glasses to people with red-green color blindness, and then showing them different examples of full color. Some of these examples even involved kids’ drawings.

The video can be found on Valspar’s site: Color for All

How the EnChroma Cx Explorer Works

For red-green colorblindness, the cone cells in the retina that absorb red or green pigment absorb too much of their opposite. There’s nothing wrong with the health of the eye, or even the system processing the color. The cones are just mixing the information too much. So, the EnChroma works by essentially inserting a divider between the mixing information. This process allows a person to see colors in their unmixed state, resulting in vibrant variations that were not visible to them before. Unfortunately, the glasses cannot help if the lights overlap 100%, but the likelihood of someone having a 100% overlap is low.

You can read more information on how the Explorer works on EnChroma’s site.

EnChroma also offers a Color Blindness Test, which you can take here.

Getting Your Glasses

EnChroma Cx Explorer

The glasses can be purchased from EnChroma with eight different frames. The aviator-style Explorer is available in Matte Silver and Matte Black, with Medium of Large frames. The lenses are available as non-prescription or single-vision Polycarbonate Rx, and come in three different types. EnChroma has three categories for the lens type:

  • Cx-14, for outside use and works as sunglasses (EnChroma recommends this type for maximum color enhancement and effectiveness)
  • Cx-25, for low-light situations (e.g. cloudy days, bright interior lights, etc.). Recommended for people over 50, who may find the Cx-14 to dark too see properly
  • Cx-65, for indoor use and primarily with computers/electronic devices with light indicators. This lens is very light, and should not be used as sunglasses or at night driving.

The Explorer runs from $399.95 to $549.95, depending on the options you pick. It can be purchased from EnChroma’s site (or you can just click here!).

 




508 Refresh is Underway

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) is currently working to revise the standards for Section 508 accessibility. This revision is being called the 2015 Section 508 Refresh.

US Access Board Logo

 

Since the last revision (in 2000), technological advances have increased exponentially – going from voice-only devices to smartphones, for example. Therefore, the Access Board finds it appropriate to update the standards to achieve a higher level of accessibility with current technology, and prepare for advances in the future. Additionally, the Access Board plans to update the guidelines in conjunction with current international standards to increase the availability of accessible information.

Two hearings have already been held regarding the changes, on March 5 in San Diego, CA, and March 11 in Washington, DC.

New Rules for Accessibility Standards:

There are four expected changes for Section 508:

  • Would draw from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 in order to have a singular set of standards for websites, software, and digital documents (such as PDF).
  • Greater specificity for the scope of which federal documents are accessible (largely public-facing)
  • Greater specificity for how assistive technology interacts with current software, etc.
  • Include real-time text (gives each character as it’s being typed) whenever there is real-time vocal communication.

More information can be found in the 2015 Refresh Executive Summary.

Submission of comments for the Refresh:

The Access Board is currently accepting public comments on the refresh, which will be displayed on their site and may change some of the revisions. We intend to submit comments to share our findings for media alternatives for A/V content, and for best practices.

Comments can be submitted either through the post or electronically, and be in by May 28th. If you also have comments to share with the Access Board for the refresh, information on how to contact them can be found below:

  • Mail: Office of Technical and Information Services, Access Board, 1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004-1111.
  • Fax:  202-272-0081
  • Electronic submission: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
    • Enter the ID for this docket into the search bar: ATBCB-2015-0002.
    • Click “Comment Now!” next to the link titled: Information and Communication Technology Standards and Guidelines (or just click here!)
    • Enter any comments you want to make, attach them as a file, and enter any necessary information
    • Once complete, you’ll get a Comment Tracking Number for your comment
  • E-mail: [email protected]. Include docket number ATBCB-2015-0002 in the subject line of the message.



Title Region in Excel: Defining for JAWS 16

Since software is constantly updating and evolving, we have to keep up with changes to make the most accessible documents as possible. With that in mind, issues can sometimes arise with the new versions of our most commonly used software, such as JAWS. What works in an older version may not translate well into the newest update.

This post will cover the process of defining the title region in Excel worksheets. In JAWS 13, it was straightforward to set the title region. Users of JAWS 16 will have to take a different approach, however, as what worked in the old version no longer applies.

Issue Defining the Title Region

Excel Icon

With Excel worksheets, JAWS 13 was able to read a defined title region by announcing the row and/or column header. Unfortunately, this convenient function does not apply automatically to JAWS 16.  The newer version will read out either the heading row or the column. It won’t read both. The header it chooses is determined by whether the row or column is selected first (while holding down the CTRL key).

However, we have found that it is still possible to get JAWS 16 to define a title region in Excel worksheets. The only issue is that Excel has a setting that prevents it from doing so. All you have to do is switch that setting!

The Fix

Within Excel is a JAWS verbosity setting that will prevent the software from using the old JAWS 13 manner for defining a title region. The following steps will allow you to define a title region in JAWS 16:

  1. Go into the settings by pressing JAWS Key-V from an Excel window
  2. Type ‘name’ into the search box
  3. Change the override name setting (which should be the only search result) to ‘off.’

Now you should be able to define the title region, giving you a more accessible Excel worksheet!

 




Section 508 Compliance – Expert Advice

This post is the start of a new series concerning Section 508 compliance remediation. Our expert 508 compliance team has encountered several workflow errors while using Acrobat for 508 remediation.  These errors cause some serious headaches for both users and clients. As such, we felt it would be useful to cover some of these issues here, along with advice on how to overcome them.

Experience with Section 508 Compliance

Graphic for section 508 compliance

Being compliant with Section 508 does not necessarily mean that the document is completely accessible. Our team has been working to achieve both compliance and accessibility for over five years. We boast 100% USA citizen employment for guaranteed quality, and do not outsource our labor. The issues that we will be discussing in further posts are ones that have come up while working, and which we have been able to resolve.

PDF Experts

XI-Standard in Box

The Word Wizards team has been working with Acrobat for our Section 508 compliance since version 8. When an issue with Acrobat arises, we have worked directly with Adobe in order to solve it. As such, we’ve developed a reputation for being able to resolve some of the most difficult problems with PDF documents. If you come across a problem of your own that we haven’t covered, let us know in the comments! We will be more than happy to answer your questions.




Happy New Year: Best of 2014

Champagne toast to a good 2015.

 

Wishing you a happy new year from your friends at Word Wizards. 2015 is here and we are planning big things for our company.  Transcription, compliance, and graphic services are hot, and our company is growing faster than ever before. Our blog took a pause in the fall as we restructured our media team, and now we are back online and looking forward to another great year.

Lets recap our top 5 posts from this year:

#5: TIVA President Passes the Torch

A new era begins at TIVA-DC.

#4: DC Independent Film Festival

The fresh faces in DC film.

#3: On The Red Carpet in NYC

Word Wizards attends premier of the new movie, #stuck.

#2: Drones with Cameras

Flying cameras and the laws that govern our skys.

#1: Word Wizards HQ Moves

Our new home in downtown in Silver Spring!

 




Using Social Media to Promote Your Projects and Business

By Scott L. Gordon, Word Wizards, Inc. CEO.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn logos

Like many people in the modern era, I am fascinated by social media as a tool to increase networking and promote my business.  That’s why I was drawn to WIFV’s Wednesday One meeting at Interface Media Group, featuring two powerhouse women who specialize in social media.   I was delighted by what I learned and will try to relate some of it to you.

Shana Glickfield

As a Partner at Beekeeper Group (http://www.beekeepergroup.com/), Shana Glickfield helps a wide array of clients with their communications and advocacy strategies, focusing on social media and online community building. She is also the founder of renowned local blog, “The DC Concierge,” which she authored from 2006 – 2010.*  The name of her company, Beekeeper Group, refers to online community building or building a thriving “hive” of supporters empowered to create buzz for your issues and agenda. She is the very energetic Queen Bee of Social Media.

She urges producers as well as entrepreneurs to try to build publicity campaigns around issues of interest to others through social media. A big breakthrough in the ability to reach out to others on the web and get your company or production noticed was the ability for regular non-technical people to do a blog.  It is a simple Word document so it doesn’t require you to be a web master or proficient in HTML in order to post your views and expertise far and wide.

Next, with the arrival of Twitter, the individual could in effect do a batch of “Micro Blogs” by doing several tweets per day.  Since search engines look for the most active websites, daily activity on your site will cause you to attract attention from Google and the others.  Using a tool called “Talk Walker” (http://www.talkwalker.com/en/social-media-analytics-search/) allows you to harness a powerful analytics tool for your brand.  She encouraged us to check out that tool.

Shana stressed that many users of your products and services populate Twitter, so you have to look sharp.  Be sure to update your head shot and use the same picture across social media platforms. Branding means the ability to set yourself apart from others, so use your own brand, logo, or photo on your LinkedIn or other social media homepage, and don’t forget to provide a link to your web site.

Your social media profile is your invitation to connect, so make it as attractive and elaborate as possible. Include awards, references, and major accomplishments.  Even including some personal information such as hobbies is OK in order to give you a human face.   People want to do business with people that they trust; interesting outside activities make you seem trustworthy.  Connecting through LinkedIn before you actually go to meet someone in person is like a virtual handshake before you meet face to face.   Shana says that social media is free like a puppy from the pound is free: “take it home for nothing, but it takes a lot of care and feeding.”

Amanda Miller Littlejohn

Amanda Miller Littlejohn is a top nationally recognized expert on personal branding. A former full-time print journalist and a writer first by training and passion, Amanda uses her unique storytelling lens and reporting skills to help her clients uncover and subsequently share better brand stories. Amanda is a motivating business coach for entrepreneurs and experts who are seeking brand clarity and fresh ideas on how to emerge as experts in their chosen fields.*

Amanda says to think of social media networking as an opportunity rather than a chore.  You can be very smart, but social media is a way to let other people know it.  In order to brand yourself on social media think of “peak moments and gratitudes”.  Tell others about peak moments which were times that you were operating at the peak of your effectiveness.  Gratitudes are the special services and situations that your clients are consistently grateful for.  Talk about these items on social media and others will be attracted to you.

LinkedIn Groups are a great way to position yourself online as an expert on something.  List your specialties in clear and concise messages.  Support your expertise with evidence of good work—in other words, case studies of previous accomplishments. Back up your case studies with social proof, i.e. recommendations.  Include written evidence of problem solving, such as blogs, reports, and books that you have written.

Amanda ended her discussion by showing her famous “Branding Box,” a beautifully designed toolkit and resource that combines her best brand lessons, tactics, tools, and inspiration to help you quickly build your brand. It covers business development, pitching the media, social media strategy, and more. If you are looking to build your brand, pursue your passions, and package your genius for profit, this is the resource that ties it all together.  (See http://www.amandamillerlittlejohn.com/box/.)

Al Kalman

The meeting was moderated by Al Kalman, Director of Digital Engagement Strategy at Interface Media Group (IMG).  Al has nearly 20 years of experience in online and mobile social media, gaming, interactive television, and marketing.* He handles all sorts of social media and interactive issues for IMG, including digital strategy and digital interactive production.

 

*Bios and photos of speakers provided by WIFV.




Unmanned Aircraft in Filmmaking

One of the most exciting new tends in filmmaking today is the use of camera-equipped drones. These inexpensive Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, are more budget conscious than helicopters for capturing the overhead excitement of a vehicle chase or other outdoor scenes. Using a versatile GoPro camera on a UAV, filmmakers can easily record awe-inspiring aerial footage at a safe distance. But there are legal questions about the winged wonders: where can you fly drones and do you need a pilot’s license? At a recent WIFV panel discussion at Interface Media Group, Jim Williams, head of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office, and Lauren Reamy, representative of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) before Congress and federal agencies, answered audience questions.

Rules and Regulations

Federal Aviation Administration logo
Taken from Wikipedia.com

Jim opened the panel discussion by describing how his office is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a division of the Department of Transportation (DoT), to finalize a new set of rules dealing with the commercial use of drones. The new rules are scheduled for release later in the year, around November 4th. The FAA will also promote a safe, efficient, and timely integration with the UAS Integration Office. Jim also revealed additional regulations called Section 333, which address dangerous jobs like flare stack inspections on oil rigs. Flares are potentially dangerous for manned craft, but not for unmanned drones.

Using Drones to Capture Movie Magic

photo of drone in flight
Taken from suasnews.com

Lauren Reamy spoke about some amazing video footage—now gone viral—taken on the 4th of July by a drone flying through the fireworks and showing how effective drones can be when compared to manned craft. Unlike manned aircraft, drones do not create a wind effect, do not need a large support crew, and do not use gasoline. Some films using drones are Skyfall, Transformers, and The Smurfs 2. The MPAA supports the use of drones in American productions and hopes the new rules from FAA will help with scripted film and TV; reality shows are not included.

Audience Q&A

The panel then opened up to questions from the audience. The first inquiry came from a hobbyist who wondered if she could sell footage taken by a drone. Answer:  Yes, she could sell her footage once or twice, but after that it crosses into the commercial realm, which is prohibited. Another question: Is there a general fee for obtaining your license and registering your drone? Answer: To register is about $5, but the cost for a private pilot’s license or certification is regulated by the FAA. Before launching a drone, always assess the surroundings, and plan to fly your craft a minimum of five miles from an airport. (At Ronald Reagan National Airport, you need to be at least 15 miles away). If pilots fly within these boundaries, they may expect a visit from the local authorities, who may confiscate the footage and maybe even the drone. Pilots should always have a line of sight of their craft.
Establishing the rules for usage is key to assuring drones or unmanned aircraft are used responsibly and do not endanger manned aircraft or act as peeping toms. To read the rules and make comments, log onto www.regulation.gov. Even though regulations fluctuate around the world, a small contingent of the UN are working on global rules. Jim closed the panel discussion by saying he is hopeful that within about two years, most professionals will be able to sell videos taken with drones commercially.




Keying and Rotoscoping: An Editor’s Toolbox

 

Working in the post-production phase of video production, Word Wizards often receives projects with major editing problems and no budget or time for a reshoot. In a recent TIVA meeting held at RHED Pixel, Rich Harrington presented a first-hand look at two essentials of the video production industry, keying and rotoscoping, which can be huge boon to any video project.

Rhed Pixel Logo - A visual Communications Company

Keying

Keying in video editing visual.
Image from CG Arena

Keying is the special-effects technique of combining or blending two or more images or video streams together into a collage. This often involves actors performing in front of a green screen, or the less complicated, cleaner white screen. Rich pointed out that it is important in pre-production to light the backdrop and actor separately, and to avoid shooting interlaced since it can result in soft tearing edges on the video; instead, shoot progressive and add interlaced later.

While most editing software is not known for great keying, Adobe Premiere does an impressive job. Keying, or Ultra Key as the function is known in Premiere, allows on-camera personalities to be placed in front of many different backgrounds. One keying tool that Rich likes a lot is Keylight, which is a keying plugin for Final Cut Pro 7 ($165) and has been used in a number of major Hollywood films like Sweeney Todd and Sherlock Holmes. Rich then wrapped up the keying segment by mentioning light wrapping which is an effect that can be applied to keyed items. This effect makes the edge or alpha channel of the keyed item include some of the pixels from the background element, so that it starts to look as if the two items really belong together.

Rotoscoping

Woman Rotoscope Example
Image from Ceasefire Magazine

Rich also explored some details of rotoscoping, the animation technique in which an animator traces footage frame-by-frame from one film to be used in another film, either live-action or animated. With the greatly-improved rotobrush tool in After Effects, you are able to drop actors into a variety of backgrounds without using green screen. Rich told the story of a shoot where the director needed a close-up of an Ethernet cord being plugged in as lights began blinking. But the lights did not work. Instead of reshooting, the editor used the rotobrush to take blinking lights from another piece of footage and overlay them onto the video. A major headache avoided!

Final Thoughts

If you would like to more know about these subjects, Rich has a number of online videos that go into greater detail. Some of the videos can be found on YouTube or his personal webpage.

 




New Address

Attention! Word Wizards HQ has moved. Our new address is 8609 2nd Avenue. Unit 406B. Silver Spring, MD. 20910.




Women in Film and Video Kicks Off A Revolutionary New Year

WIFV Kicks Off a Revolutionary New Year

WIFV Party

Picture taken from WIFV Website

A Truly Grand Start to 2014

The DC chapter of Women in Film and Video kicked off their 35th year in style with a holiday party at the offices of the nonprofit organization 1776. Located at 1133 15th Street, Farragut North, 1776’s workplace—and party rental space—features bright, open areas, comfortable furniture and festive ceiling lights, and was the perfect backdrop for WIFV’s gathering. Included in the merriment were video professionals, the WIFV board and past presidents including Ginny Durrin. Guests dined on a delicious buffet and an extensive selection of drinks featuring beer, wine and champagne. Also in attendance were Brian Wilbur Grundstrom, the new president of TIVA (Television Internet Video Association), Tim Lorenz from IMG and John Summer from AFI Silver. Among the festivities, raffle prizes included wine classes, tickets to the WIFV anniversary dinner, as well as tickets to National Geographic’s Women of Vision exhibit.

WIFV Holiday Party

 Photo taken from WIFV Website

WIFV president Erin Essenmacher welcomed the guests and presenters who recognized exceptional members including: Hillary DePuy and Faith DeVeaux, awarded The President’s Award for service to WIFV. And Karen Kasmauskki, awarded the Randy Goldman Career Development Scholarship. WIFV also debuted its first episode of Lunatic Fringe, a new web series produced by the organization. Lunatic Fringe centers on a beauty salon rife with intrigue, comedy and larger-than-life personalities.

WIFV Background

Women in Film & Video, Washington DC

Picture taken from WIFV website

For 35 years, Women in Film and Video has been helping women advance in the fields of film, television and multimedia through networking opportunities and an exchange of ideas and career experiences. The organization got its start when 11 women meet and realized that they wanted the opportunity to network and change experiences with other professional women.  Begun with 35 members, WIFV now boasts a membership of over 1,000 in Greater Washington. In addition to networking events, the organization sponsors workshops on a range of topics from Improving the Sound of Your Production to Budgeting for Your Documentary. WIFV also hosts an annual job fair, panel discussions, and Women of Vision Awards.

Location, Location, Location

1776, Where Revolutions Begin

Picture taken from 1776 website

Where Revolutions Begin

The WIFV party venue is the home of the nonprofit 1776. Founders of 1776, entrepreneurs—Evan Burfield and Donna Harris—established an incubator for global startups to tackle major challenges in government, healthcare, education and energy. After passing the rigorous selection process, these new entities now have access to government and corporate leaders, venture investments, politics, business and social enterprises. Their office space known as the penthouse at 1133 15th offers amenities like a fully-stocked kitchen, configurable work spaces, conference rooms with LED TVs and projectors, and access to corporate partners.




Napa Valley Film Festival – The Highlights

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo Projection
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Film Tasting

Napa Valley known as wine country once again magically transformed into movie country with a touch of “Hollywood.” The third annual Napa Valley Film Festival—November 13-17th 2013—showcased 125 independent films to enthusiastic audiences. A gathering of 300 varied filmmakers attracted high-profile celebs like Colin Farrell, original Batman Adam West, Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio, Alan Cumming, filmmaker John Lee Hancock and Glee’s Dianna Agron. Check out the sizzle reel in the middle of the article to see them as well as other great festival moments. Producers and supportive filmmakers alike believe the success of the festival enhances the economic diversity and cultural landscape the Napa Valley Region and could influence the quality of film nationally, even internationally.

The Festival

Inside a building at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

The festival took place in four nearby towns in the Napa Valley Region: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Along with the hundred plus films, other events included a veteran’s day program with veteran-themed films, a studio sneak peek at big studio films before distribution, as well as a gala, awards ceremony and wrap party.

Grapes (flavor image)                                                                                          Grapes (flavor image)

Festival attendees not only experienced great cinema but also sampled scrumptious cuisine prepared by the region’s leading chefs and showcased at the Dacor culinary stage. The Zesty Contest encouraged patrons to identify movie-inspired dishes and tag them on social media while wine flowed in area pavilions located in each town.VIP filmmakers and celebrities were treated to delightful winemaker dinners with participating vineyards  including: Beaulieu Vineyards, Cardinale Winery, Hall Wines and Jessup Cellars.

Attendees on the front porch at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

For relaxation, the festival sponsored luxury lounges, while other spaces called gathering porches encouraged attendees to mingle with filmmakers. This year the festival opened yet another social venue that mixed food, tech and media. At the Sony Digital Lounge located in the Napa Lifestyle Pavilion patrons experienced the Sony 4K TV.

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo

Check out some of the amazing festival moments captured on film in the sizzle reel. http://vimeo.com/81543047

And the Winner Is…

Giving out awards at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Winners included:

–Best Feature Documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth directed by Pratibha Pramer follows the story of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, author and activist.

–Best Narrative Feature Hank and Asha directed by James E. Duff offers a new approach to love-letter correspondence.

–Best Animated Short Sleight of Hand directed by Michael Cusack uses stop-motion to reveal illusions.

— Best Short Documentary Sky Burial  directed by Tad Fettig uncovers a Mongolian tribe’s view of death.

For a complete list of jury winners and audience awards, check out the festival’s results page. You may also purchase tickets and passes for next year’s festival which is proving to be even bigger.

Education and Outreach

Speaking about filmmaking at a school basketball court
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

A Goal: Inspiring the next generation is a leading goal of the Napa Valley Film Festival. During the week of the festival, 1,500 middle and high school student attended documentary screenings and immersed themselves in the world of cinema. They also participated in exciting discussions with the stars and filmmakers. Through the education and outreach programs, the festival offered socially-conscious films to local schools and encouraged the next generation to create a critical audience for independent cinema.

Demonstrations of filmmaking before an audience of students
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Past Achievements: The Napa Valley Film Festival has sponsored educational programs including: film screenings to more the 2,400 students in 11 different schools; a contest for student to create and produce their own short films and showcase them in the Student Works Program that premiered at the festival; an internship program to give students hands-on experience dealing with festival production and the programming staff, and to help turn these interns into working students throughout the year.

——————————-

Photograph of festival founders Marc & Brenda Lhormer
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

About the Founders: Festival founders Marc Lhormer a veteran event planner and his wife expert marketer Brenda Lhormer, run a small production company Zin Haze Productions that brings independent films to life. One of their best known films, Bottle Shock, looks at the early days of California wine making. Other past accomplishments include Brenda handling public relations for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, as well as seminar marketing programs at Oracle and Microsoft while Marc wrote the business plan for Bain Capitol’s original start up venture. Along with his dedication to the film festival, Marc’s passion for helping students and schools succeed led him to sponsor the City Year Program (a nonprofit organization to engage students in a full-year of service) in Seattle.

 

 

 




Transcription Tips – Transcriptionist Best Practices

Hello out there in cyber space! On this wonderful Friday at the end of September, I want to share some tips that will help you be a more professional and trusted transcriber, whether you’re working for a company, or you’re a freelancer. Business, government agencies, private institutions and everyday citizens rely on transcriptionists to get the job done with minimal hassles. By following a few simple guidelines, you can make yourself a more valuable asset to your transcription clients.

Be Realistic

My first word of advice is to never accept more work than you think you can handle comfortably and within the deadline specified by the client. People will usually understand if you can’t take a high volume of work, but they will be very upset if you DO take work, and then you fail to complete it up to snub or on time.

In addition to the needs of the clients, you have to consider the long term implications of how much work you take in over time. Pace yourself! Many transcribers burn about because they start by taking as much work as possible and get in way over their heads. For a while you might manage to get it all done but remember, you’re in it for the long haul.

Be Honest

Honesty is always the best policy. Stick to the truth and the facts and people will begin to trust you. Never inflate your page count or labor metrics in any way. Sure, you might be tempted sneak a few dollars extra here and there, but people notice, and they do NOT like it. Like I said earlier, your in this game for the long haul. The best asset you have is your reputation, and honesty get you a long way to trust, once you can be trusted by a client they will be much more willing to send you their work.

Another point about honesty, if you happen to make a mistake, fess up to it right away! Be honest and genuine and fix the transcript errors without complaint or additional charge. Everyone makes mistakes, were only human after all, but if you make them, own them, and show your merit as an ethical person and learn from your mistakes.

Get the Details and Get It Right

Make sure to ask for every specific detail about the job BEFORE you receive the transcription work. Prepare yourself by reviewing the exact requirements of the project and you will spend more time typing and less time fixing problems at the end. You only get paid for the work performed, not for figuring out how everything should look once its all done. With that in consideration, make sure you and the client are on the same page (pun intended) on all the specifics before the typing starts so that you don’t ever have to go back and fix things that could have been avoided.

Here are a few things to hash out with the client before starting a new transcription project:

  • Transcript template
  • Formatting
  • Font and style of text
  • Margins
  • Time code requirements and formats
  • Headers and file names

There are many more things to consider, once you build a relationship with the client they will appreciate you knowing exactly what they want and how they want it.

Do Your Best Every Time

Always do your best work, its simple. I think were about done for this article, but if your interested in receiving more articles like this via e-mail, please sign up for our mailing list (below or on the right hand side bar.) We provide tips on transcription like this, industry updates, technology spotlights, and much more.

Keep your fingers nimble and you shoulders loose, oh yea and if possible, use an ergonomic keyboard (click to read an article about the benefits of ergonomic keyboards).




5 Websites With Amazing Graphics

Word Wizards has provided graphic design services for over 20 years. The following is a list of some sites with amazing graphics that we want to share with you. These days graphic designers have better tools and technology than ever before. Thus, we present to our loyal bloggers and readers some amazing examples of graphic design on the cutting edge.

Amazing Tron Inspired Artwork by Graffiti Technica

Graphic Design Blog .Org

I first stumbled on to this blog because of an article they posted, Conceptual Digital Artwork by Top 5 Digital Artists. Some of these graphics really blew me away. GDB.org is a great place to catch some great examples of the cutting edge of graphic design, and hear from experts who want to showcase their graphic arts capabilities.

The Art Of Sam Farrand

Wow this graphic artist is inspirational to say the least. Specializing in sacred geometry and the power of digital fractal art, Sam is truly on the cutting edge of the graphic design spectrum. His website is not completely finished, which is why I have pointed you to his Facebook page, but Sam is most defiantly worth a look if your into some wild digital mastery.

Webitect – 40 Breathtaking Examples of Graphic Design Examples

It may only be one post on a much broader blog, but the graphics are stunning to say the least. This post explores several different categories of graphic design in the digital age including, Vector graphics, photo manipulations, and more!

Fotolia – Graphics, Stock Photos, and More

Looking for that perfect piece of clip art, photograph, or simple graphic? Look no further! Fotolia is one of our favorite resources for professional graphics and graphical elements. Check out their amazing library and enjoy!

Grafitti Technica

Wow, wow, wow, this site has some amazing examples of how talented and inspirational digital graphics can be. Attention, no buildings were vandalized in the making of this website, 100% digital, 100% legal.

A Word of Possibilities

Word Wizards is happy to share these examples of some far out graphic design work. We usually stay in the more practical realms with our graphic design services, but we take inspiration from all of these incredible, and free resources. Thanks to all the artists and designers who allow free browsing of their material on the web. Remember, always support your artists in any way you can, share their work with your network and make sure to support their art!




Transcription Gear: The Ergonomic Keyboard

Typing hours and hours, day after day can be heavy on the hands. At Word Wizards, we value or speed typists for their high level of education, rapid typing speed, and their overall ability to transcribe in context from any media format with very few mistakes. Here at Word Wizards, the talented hands of our dedicated typists are a vital business asset. Thus it is our duty and responsibility to protect these dexterous digits and joints at all costs! Enter the ergonomic keyboard!

This is a photo of Microsoft's Standard Ergonomic Keyboard
Curves for comfort, safety, and productivity

If your not used to using an ergonomic keyboard, it takes a little getting used to. However, the benefits for our transcribers far outweigh the costs of learning how to use one. Work related carpal tunnel syndrome is not only painful, it can reduce productivity by 100% (i.e. if someone who types for a living can’t type, they face a huge problem). Word Wizards has long insisted that our employees use an ergonomic keyboard during all transcription or speed typing activities.

More ergonomics

Ergonomic keyboards come in various shapes and the price can range form $20 – $80 depending on the features your looking for. The primary benefit comes from a slight break in the middle section of the keyboard. When someone types using a conventional keyboard, their wrist breaks at almost a 45 degree angle. Over long periods of time, this slight break in hand to wrist position can cause all sorts of nasty problems and horrible pain. The ergonomic keyboard allows the hands and wrist not to break and to type while resting in a straight and natural position. In addition, many ergonomic keyboards sit with a slightly negative incline, reducing the impact of the fingers on keys.

Our advise for all of you transcription professionals out there, get an ergonomic keyboard and protect your most important asset!




Web Design: There’s No I in Team

Web design in its various forms has become big business around the world. From the most basic amateur pages to complex multilevel corporate projects, producing a website always depends on the resources, requirements, and time constraints of the individual. The lower end web design projects are moving increasingly towards automatic content management systems; where users can pick a template, customize and in a very short time create a functional website. At Word Wizards we focus more on custom solutions for our clients, nothing we do here is “cookie cutter” and each project we take on results in a professional quality, fully integrated, web solution.

Sounds cool, right?… But what does it take to design and implement a professional grade website? It takes a team effort, and specifically, it requires a team of unique individuals, each with their own expertise in various aspects of web design. We have noticed that there are usually three “gurus” required to make a web design project effective. These three flavors of design experts each focus on a different critical aspect of the web design process, and work together to ensure that the three top priorities of website development are handled with expert care.

The three main things to manage when creating a new website are, functionality, appearance, and implementation. Functionality is responsible for making sure that the structural design effectively satisfies the intended function of the website and creates an effective, non-confusing user experience. Appearance takes structure and functional organization and translates it into a graphic design that is visually appealing to the users and consistent with the brand and intended purpose of the client. Implementation is the back-end guts of the website; which includes all the coding, hosting, domain support, CMS workflow, and database support.

The Functional Expert

Generally, this is a person who really understands the way individuals use the internet for different purposes. This individual is responsible for creating a structure that provides easy access to all the important information. In addition, this web expert must understand and manage the constraints of SEO and weave them into the fabric of the page from the beginning. Possibly the most important role of the functional web designer is the creation of a user friendly workflow, providing a user experience that works for the intended purpose of the website and doesn’t confuse any less than savvy internet users.

The Appearance Expert

To transform conceptual structure and theoretical workflow into visual form takes the expertise of a master graphic designer. This expert must know how to utilize advanced graphic design software and create visual components from scratch that will be used to create the physical appearance of a web page. It is the responsibility of this person to come up with an exciting and effective visual experience for the users, making sure that everything is in plain sight, and being creative with the way everything will look, while still maintaining functional integrity.

The Implementation Expert

Sometimes known as the “webmaster” or, in our office, “the code warrior!” This individual is gifted with an intimate knowledge of the ever evolving world of programming languages. The functional and visual elements of a website are mute if you can not host it, integrate it, and keep it working smoothly. When designing a new website, this person holds the reigns, because all of the work your team produces will reflect their level of talent and proficiency. It is this person’s responsibility to put your plans into action, keep the web page updated, and hard code any interactive or data driven elements into a functional machine known as a web page.

Thus, we have created a trifecta of experts, but there is still one person missing from the team…

The beloved SUPERVISOR. Yes, its is the supervisor that truly brings it all together. This person doesn’t need to be an expert at any one function, but the they must have a working knowledge of all of components of the website and coordinate between the various members of the design team. This person is responsible for organization, cross coordination, and managing the needs of the client as reflected by the design and capabilities of the team.

So now you know what it takes, and if you don’t think you can squeeze it all by yourself, the Word Wizards Web Design Team is here to give you a helping hand!




Word Wizards Publishing: I Have a Story to Tell by Pat Troy

Pat Troy is a man who has lived an amazing life. From rags to riches, his story is one of the great successes of the American Dream. Now, Pat has teamed up with Word Wizards Publishing to bring his story to the world like never before. The new book, I Have a Story to Tell chronicles the fantastic adventures of an Irish born American Immigrant; from humble beginnings, to distinguished Irish castles, presidential encounters, and the creation of a community of beloved friends and family.

I Have a Story to Tell by Pat Troy

 

Word Wizards, Inc. Press proudly edited, proofed, organized, designed, and printed this wonderful account of a gentleman who built a community around his loving and supportive personality. In November, Pat, also know as “The Living Legend”, will be hosting a group of his closest peers for a launch of his new book. In early 2012 Pat Troy will be returning to Ireland for a spectacular tour of the country of his birth, culminating in a official international release party hosted at the Coat of Arms Hotel in Birr, Ireland. The book will be launched by the Earl and Countess of Rosse and Mr. Brian Cowen former Prime Minister of Ireland. We tip our hat to Mr. Troy for his lifetime of success and accomplishment, and for giving our organization the opportunity to work on such a meaningful project.

Pat Troy, “The Living Legend”

Erin Go Bragh!

(Traditional Galec phrase meaning Ireland Forever!)




Word Wizards Now On GSA

 





After 2 years of applications, tests, reviews, and countless hours, Word Wizards Inc. is proud to announce our acceptance to the highly revered GSA (U.S. General Services Administration) schedule network. Getting approved for the GSA is no small task, and we are extremely grateful to the kind people at GSA that assisted us during the process. Now that we have been awarded GSA status, we are poised and ready to reach out to potential new clients and continue to grow our business. Visit our GSA page for details about our schedule, SIN #s, and anything else related to GSA projects.

 




Word Wizards Moves to Silver Spring

In March of 2011, Word Wizards Inc. finalized the move to a new Headquarters location on 16th street in Silver Spring, Maryland. The new office is bigger, better, and more efficient, utilizing the most advanced technology to maximize the effectiveness of our workspace.

Our new office building in Silver Spring, MD

When the business first opened in Bethesda, Maryland, we were located at 7900 Wisconsin Avenue. Originally, Word Wizards shared office space with another business in the same building. Within a short time, the organization grew to occupy an entire suite of our own.

Our former office building in Bethesda, Maryland

Word Wizards has continued to grow over the years and made the decision to move into a bigger office in the winter of 2010. As anyone who has moved an office knows, it was a big investment in time and energy. Now our staff has settled in, and we have begun a new phase of growth, development, and innovation here in our new home.