Working with Adobe After Effects


About :

Adobe After Effects is a software program that allows its users to create animation and other special effects for graphic-related projects. Graphic designers use it to provide their projects with layer-based animation. After Effects is part of the Adobe family of software and is compatible with other Adobe software.

Index

1. Creating a New Composition and Importing Files

2. Building a Composition with Layers

3. Adding Animations, Effects, and Preset

4. Previewing and Rendering Your Composition 



1. Creating a New Composition and Importing Files



I. Make and set up a new composition. 

Projects in Adobe After Effects are called compositions, or comps. At the Welcome screen, locate and click on the “New Composition” button in the right column. If you already have the program open, you may either click on the “Composition” tab and select “New Composition” or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+N. Every time you create a new composition, a “Composition Settings” window will appear on your screen.

  1. Locate “Preset” and click on the drop-down menu. The menu is divided up into four sections, respectively: web settings, standard definition broadcast settings (NTSC and PAL), HD settings (the most commonly used), and film settings. Select the top HD preset: “HDV/HDTV 720 29.97.” This selection with automatically set the width, height, and frame rate.
  2. In the second row, locate “Start Timecode” and “Duration.” Leave the “Start Timecode” at 0. “Duration” refers to the total length of the project, from start to end. Set the “Duration” to the required length for your composition.
II. Save your composition. 

Before you begin to work on the composition, you should always name and save the project. Click on the “File” tab at the top of the screen. When you select “Save,” a “Save As” window will appear. 
At the top of the window, type in the name of your composition. Select a location to save this file to and click the “Save” button at the bottom of the screen. The saved composition will appear in the “Project” tab to the left of the screen.
While you may save this file in any location, it is recommended that you save your composition near your “Footage” file. This file is located within the “Exercise Files” folder.

III. Import files into Adobe After Effects. 

In order to create a composition, you need material to manipulate and animate. 
Select File>Import>File or double click on the “Project” tab. Select all of the files you wish to import and hit “Open.” The imported files will appear in the “Project” tab.
 Alternative methods include:

  • Double click anywhere on the “Project” tab.
  • Strike “Command + I.”
  • Drag images directly into the “Project” tab.



2. Building a Composition with Layers


I. Add files to your composition. 

A composition is a composite graphic, or a composite of layers. Each individual layer of your composition is made up of a file. All of the layers combined form a composite graphic. There are several ways to add a file to your composition.

You may drag and drop files from the “Project” tab into the “Timeline” tab (located at the bottom right of the window), the “Composition” window (located to the right of the “Project” tab), or the “Layer” tab (located directly below the “Project” tab.)

II. Organize and edit the layers. 



Once the files appear in the “Layer” tab, you may begin to manipulate the files. From this tab, you may alter the order of the files and edit the appearance of a file.
To adjust the hierarchy of the layers, drag a file up or down the list. The order of the files will alter the appearance of the composition (see the “Composition” window.) Files at the top of the layer list will appear over files at the bottom of the layer list.

To alter the appearance of a file, click on the sideways triangle next to the layer’s number. This will open up a “Transform” menu. From this menu, you may alter the following properties: anchor point, position, scale, rotation, and/or opacity.

III. Generate a timeline for your composite graphic. 



The “Timeline” function allows you to animate the graphic—it controls when each layer is or is not visible. The “Timeline” is located to the right of the “Layer” list. Each layer has it own life bar within the timeline, which you can trim, extend, or group with other layers as desired.

IV. Trim your layers.



Select a layer from the list. Move your cursor over the line dividing the list and the timeline so that a double arrow appears. Click and drag the double arrow across the timeline to produce a translucent grey box (this indicates that a clip is trimmed.) Stop once you reach the moment you would like the layer to appear.


The red line with the Blue tab indicates your current time known as play head. You can use this line to help you automatically trim layers. Select the layer you wish to trim. Drag the red line to your desired starting or ending point for the layer. Strike  ”
Command + [ ” to automatically trim a layer to the right of the red line, strike ” Command ] “.


V.Transform your 2D layers. 



When you work within the “Composition” window, you may manually position, or transform, the layers. Select a layer from the list. Move your cursor over the “Composition” window and zoom, or scroll, out. A set of handles will appear around the composition. This indicates the the layer may be transformed, or positioned.
  1. To shrink or expand the layer, click on the handle, press ⇧ Shift, and drag your cursor towards the inside or outside of the window.
  2. To rotate an element, press Ctrl+W. This will activate the rotation tool.
  3. To move a layer on a 2-D plane, click on the element you want to move and drag it to its new position.

VI. Create 3D layers. 




To create a 3D layer, return to the “Layer” tab. The column directly under this icon controls the 3D settings for each layer. To activate this feature, check the layer’s blank space in this column. Return to the “Composition” window—if you activated the 3D property, a Y, X, and Z handle will appear on the layer’s anchor.

VII. Transform your 3D layers. 




To move a 3D layer, press CTRL+W to activate the rotation tool. Hover your cursor over the X or the Y axis. Click on the axis and drag your cursor to the left and right or up and down. The Z axis should always remain at “0.”

VIII. Apply the parent function to your layers. 



The parent function allows you to tie your layers together. One layer, the parent, will drive the actions of another layer, the child. The child layer, can still move independently of the parent.

  • Select the child layer (the layer that you want to apply the keyframes to)—this layer will become the child.
  • Locate the “Parent” category in the layer tab.
  • In the “Parent” column for this layer, locate the curly-q shaped icon in the child’s row. Click on the icon and draw a black line from the icon to the “Layer Name” section of parent. Through this process, the child will become tied to the parent.


3. Adding Animations, Effects, and Presets

I. Set up keyframes. 


Keyframes mark exact points in time when changes are to occur to a layer’s properties. This function, which is represented by a little stopwatch, allows you to animate your composite graphics.

  1. Move your red “Current Time Indicator” line to the moment at which you would like to activate a keyframe.
  2. Select a layer from the “List” tab.
  3. Expand the layer’s “Transform” or “Contents” tab.
  4. Click on the stopwatch icon next to the property you wish to alter. This will record a keyframe at the current time indicator. A yellow dot or a greater than/less than symbols will appear on the timeline to mark the keyframe.
  5. To see your keyframes on the timeline, lasso the layers you wish to view and press “U.”
  6. To move a keyframe, select a keyframe symbol on the timeline by lassoing it and then drag it to its new location. You may also copy and paste keyframes.

II. Animate keyframes. 



Keyframes allow you to animate your project. You may alter any of the properties listed under the “Transform” or “Contents” tab. There are two basic forms of animation: with ease or linear. If a layer in animated with ease, the layer will ease into and out of the motion. If a layer is linearly animated, the layer will start and stop moving abruptly and it will also move at the same rate the entire time. Altering a layer’s position is an example of linear animation.

  1. Click on the stopwatch next to “Position.”
  2. Move the red line to the point at which you would like the layer to be off the screen.
  3. Click on the layer’s anchor point.
  4. Hold down “Shift” as you drag the layer completely off of the screen. The motion path will appear as a purple dotted line and each related keyframe will appear as a purple square. To preview your animation, scrub the red line over the timeline.

III. Include effects and presets. 


Click on “Window” and “Effects and Presets.” You will see a list of various animations and effects that are available for application to your project. Simply drag and drop the effect or animation selection onto the layer to which you’d like to apply it. You should see the change immediately.

  • Effects include 3D, color correction, and various camera views.
  • Transition options include wipe, fade and checkerboard.
  • You may remove selections by dragging them off your projects.


4. Previewing and Rendering Your Composition


I. Preview your project. 

Select “Windows.” From here, click on “Time Controls.” A preview pane will pop up where you can select “Play” to see a rough draft of your project. If you wish to see a more finished version, click on “Ram Render Play.” If your project is especially long or requires a large amount of memory, adjust the resolution before you preview it. After clicking to play it, the video will run continually until you click on the screen to stop it.

II. Export your composition to Render Queue. 



If you need to produce and deliver a high-quality composition, export your project to the Render Queue. The Render Queue is built into Adobe After Effects.
Click on “File” at the top of the window. Select “Export” followed by “Add to Render Queue.” Instead of “File,” you may click on “Composition” and select “Add to Render Queue.”
In your Render Queue, locate “Output Module” and click on the linked text to the left of this section. A dialogue box will appear on your screen. From this screen, you can change the video and audio output settings. Click “Ok” when finished.

In your Render Queue, locate “Output To” and click on the linked text next to the left of this section. Another dialogue box will appear on your screen. The screen you prompt you to select a location to save your rendered composition. Click “Ok” when done.
Click on “Render” to export the composition.









III. Export your composition to Adobe Media Encoder. 


The Adobe Media Encoder will produce a compressed version of your composition. The Media Encoder will also export files that are compatible with specific web platforms. While your project is rendering in the Media Encoder, you may continue to work in Adobe After Effects.
Click on “File” at the top of the window. Select “Export” followed by “Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue.” You may also select “Composition” followed by “Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue” or drag the file directly into the “Adobe Media Encoder Queue” tab.
Locate the “Preset Browser.” Select the format for your composition. Drag this preset from the browser onto the file in the “Adobe Media Encoder Queue.”
In the queue, locate “Output To” and click on the linked text next to the left of this section. A dialogue box will appear on your screen and prompt you to select a location to save your rendered composition. Click “Ok” when done.
Click on the green play button to begin the export.

Want to learn Branding ? How to SEO, SEM ?

Irk a Politician This Holiday Season by Giving to These Progressive Causes

Republican leaders won’t thank you, but others in need will.

For some progressives looking for holiday gifts, there are guides to ethical and feminist products. Others prefer to donate to an organization or cause. This holiday season, let your gift-giving be inspired by celebrities and their charitable donations. Celebrities like Mila Kunis have been donating to Planned Parenthood in Vice President Mike Pence’s name—and others have followed suit.

Instead of donating to a charitable organization in the name of a loved one or friend, try gifting in the name of a politician who stoked the dumpster-fire of 2017 politics. Support the work of these important organizations and give a reminder that the resistance is stronger than ever.

1. If the Alabama special election had you on the edge of your seat and the thought of child-molester Roy Moore (who has still not accepted the election results) makes you want to punch a wall while throwing up…

Photo Credit: Emily C. Bell / YouTube

…then donate to organizations and campaigns working to support voting rights and black candidates. When pollsters examined the special election voter demographics, Doug Jones was victorious because of black voters, specifically black women (96 and 98 percent voted for Jones, respectively). In response, The Cut released a list of organizations and campaigns working toward voting access and political empowerment of black women. Check out Woke Vote and Higher Heights, and give Roy Moore a reminder of the power of local organizing.

2. If you despite head of the EPA Scott Pruitt for refusing to recognize human contributions to climate change and for subsequently leading the government in throwing the planet under the bus in 2017, and you’re appalled by the plethora of climate change deniers, not just in the White House but also in Congress…

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/WikiCommons

…then support those who are standing up to them, like the youth activists who protested at the UN climate summit. You can also donate to organizations educating and raising awareness about climate change, including Earthjustice and 350.org.

3. If you oppose politicians like Representative Steve King for his support of the DACA repeal and for saying Dreamers can “live in the shadows”… 

Photo Credit: WikiCommons

…donate to organizations like United We Dream, which is calling for a clean #DreamActNow and organized a national call day on Thursday.

You can also support organizations like Movimiento Cosecha and the Immigrant Defense Project that are fighting back on Trump-administration policies, protesting the actions of ICE and advocating for the rights of immigrants.

4. If you’re outraged over Donald Trump ignoring the crisis in Puerto Rico…

Photo Credit: Shealah Craighead/ WikiCommons

…and his childish behavior when he visited:

…donate to organizations that are providing services on the ground in Puerto Rico and working on rebuilding efforts due to the destruction of Hurricane Maria. A list of reputable organizations includes Friends of Puerto Rico and Light and Hope for Puerto Rico: A Citizen Campaign, which is raising money to purchase and deliver specific supplies: solar lights, phone chargers and washing machines that don’t require electricity.

5. If you hate that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and GOP lawmakers are reducing access to birth control, something Price clearly has no knowledge of…

…and the GOP tax bill, which is an overall travesty for poor people, because of health care provisions that will remove the individual mandate and hurt access to birth control…

Donate to organizations concerned with access to birth control and reproductive healthcare, like the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood, and feel inspired by their recent activism to stand up to the Trump administration for the birth control rollback:

 

 

 

 

Related Stories

  • In Alabama, Black Women Saved America From Itself—as They’ve Always Tried to Do
  • The Alt-Right Is Melting Down in the Wake of Roy Moore’s Stunning Defeat
  • Whitefish Energy Fleeced Puerto Rico During Recovery Efforts: Report

How Data Science Has Changed Everyday Life for the Better

data science


Data science is the study of where information comes from, what it represents and how it can be turned into a valuable resource in the creation of business and IT strategies. Mining large amounts of structured and unstructured data to identify patterns can help an organization rein in costs, increase efficiencies, recognize new market opportunities and increase the organization’s competitive advantage. Some companies are hiring data scientists to help them turn raw data into information.
Data scientists must possess a combination of analytic, machine learning, data mining and statistical skills as well as experience with algorithms and coding.

Application of Data Science

Here’s how Data Science comes to our rescue in our everyday routine.

Recommender Systems

recommendation systems


Who can forget the suggestions about similar products on Amazon? They not only help you find relevant products from billions of products available with them, but also adds a lot to the user experience. The recommendations are made based on previous search results for a user.

Internet Search

internet search

Search engines make use of data science algorithms to provide the best search result for searched query in fraction of seconds. Considering the fact that, Google processes more than 20 petabytes of data everyday. Had there been no data science, Google wouldn’t have been the ‘Google’ we know today.

Healthcare

Today fitness trackers and apps already help people lead a life that is more active, eat healthier and control their weight – and this is only the beginning. Already such devices monitor heart rate, sleep patterns and other vital signs that can be interpreted to serve other healthcare purposes and provide a diagnosis. The best cure is prevention, and with big data science, everyone will be able to keep their health in check.

Logistics

Logistic companies like DHL, FedEx, UPS, Kuhne+Nagel have used data science to improve their operational efficiency. Using data science, these companies have discovered the best routes to ship, the best suited time to deliver, the best mode of transport to choose thus leading to cost efficiency, and many more to mention. Further more, the data that these companies generate using the GPS installed, provides them a lots of possibilities to explore using data science.
Airlines schedule flights, predict delays based on precise weather forecasts and estimate the number of seats they are going to need for each direction based on seasonal fluctuations, competitors’ actions, latest social trends or political events. There are also mechanisms that allow them to decide on the class of planes they will need to purchase in the future.

Image Recognition

Today face recognition is not that big a deal. It offers you to tag your friends on social media photos; it enables goofy masks in Snapchat, Instagram and webcam programs. Lots of fun and nothing substantially useful. However, this can be a powerful tool of law enforcement in the future. Already this feature is making its way into security systems – in flagship models of modern smartphone, you may choose face recognition to unlock your device. In future, it can be used to identify suspects and find missing persons.

Data science and Python

Why Python is usful for Data Science? Python is a powerful, flexible, open source language that is easy to learn, easy to use, and has powerful libraries for data manipulation and analysis. Its simple syntax is very accessible to programming novices, and will look familiar to anyone with experience in Matlab, C/C++, Java, or Visual Basic. Python has a unique combination of being both a capable general-purpose programming language as well as being easy to use for analytical and quantitative computing.
python and data science
Python is easy for analysts to learn and use, but powerful enough to tackle even the most difficult problems in virtually any domain. It integrates well with existing IT infrastructure, and is very platform independent. Among modern languages, its agility and the productivity of Python-based solutions is legendary. Companies of all sizes and in all areas — from the biggest investment banks to the smallest social/mobile web app startups — are using Python to run their business and manage their data.

Because of growing importance and scope of data science, many are opting for business analytics and data science certification courses. Data Science is changing the world, and if you are passionate about this fascinating discipline, then this is the time to enroll yourself in a data science course.

Want to learn Python Programming? 

Advanced Excel Charts: Sooo Muuch Data – Analysis Needed !

Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format.

Today, we see data visualization being embraced like never before. Organizations that know and understand it, love its very existence. Since Big Data is a popular lingo in the tech world today across industries ranging from finance to communications, the need to drive better business decisions is the need of the hour. As a result, organizations are looking for better data visualization tools, to turn their essential load of data into something that is more comprehensible.
Excel charts are an efficient means to visualize the data to convey the results. In addition to the chart types that are available in Excel, some application charts are popular and widely used.
The importance of advanced charts
  • They provide consolidated information in a single chart that makes it easier to compare more than one data set and make decisions quickly
  • They allow us to customize the look and feel of the charts
Lets see some important Advanced Charts in Excel:

1. Band Chart

A Band chart is a Line chart with added shaded areas to display the upper and lower boundaries of the defined data ranges.
Band charts provide by far more context to your visualization and more insight into your data. Especially if you have to explore unknown data sets.

Why is a band chart more efficient than a line chart? Because it provides more context. Unlike a single line chart displaying only the development of the selected data series over time, a band chart provides a variety of additional information at a glance.

2. Waffle Chart:

A Waffle chart is a square divided by 10×10 cells. The value is displayed as percentage, so you can clearly see the difference down to 1%.
Pie charts are often criticized because while at the outset they do seem to convey the information, people still have a hard time comparing the angles and sizes of each element.
Making pie healthier resulted in the Waffle chart! A Waffle chart is essentially a squarified pie. Since it does not involve angles, it’s easier for the reader to compare accurately as well as evoke emotional comparisons.
You can use it with just one measure…
or with a category.


3.Heat Map

A Heat Map is a visual representation of data in a Table to highlight the data points of significance.
For example, in the dataset below, I can easily spot which are the months when the sales were low (highlighted in red) as compared with other months.
In the above dataset, the colors are assigned based on the value in the cell. The color scale is Green to Yellow to Red with high values getting the green color and low values getting the red color.

4.Waterfall Chart:

A Waterfall chart is a form of data visualization that helps in understanding the cumulative effect of sequentially introduced positive or negative values.
The columns are color coded so you can quickly tell positive from negative numbers. The initial and the final value columns often start on the horizontal axis, while the intermediate values are floating columns. Because of this “look”, waterfall charts are also called bridge charts.

5.Pareto Chart:

Pareto chart is widely used in Statistical Analysis for decision-making.It represents the Pareto principle, also called 80/20 Rule, which states that 80% of the results are due to 20% of the causes.
A Pareto or sorted histogram chart contains both columns sorted in descending order and a line representing the cumulative total percentage. Pareto charts highlight the biggest factors in a data set, and are considered one of the seven basic tools of quality control as it’s easy to see the most common problems or issues.

Want to learn Data Analytics?

Gardmore Abbey 5E rerun – Session 2

On the second session of my 5E rerun of Madness at Gardmore Abbey, the group (still just 3 players because of the same 2 absences) further explored the extra-dimensional watchtower. While that struck them with some minor madness effects, they did arrive at the top of the tower and encountered the beholder. Just like the previous group they negotiated a truce with the beholder and helped him (and them) to escape from the tower. While that is a somewhat selfish act to let loose this force of chaotic evil on the world, this second group had a better excuse: In 4E the beholder on top of the tower is designed to be tough but beatable. In 5E it is a standard beholder from the Monster Manual, with a challenge rating of 13, and thus near impossible for 3 level 5 players to beat.

With the beholder were a group of dazed zombies, one of them an elf zombie. They recognized that one as the lost father of Berrian Velfarren, and could thus finish a quest. Another quest done was scouting the layout of the abbey and number of orcs from the top of the watchtower. So they first passed by the elves, and then from there went back to Winterhaven, to hand in their quest and recover from the madness effects.

Berrian gave them another quest to explore the wizard’s tower. Lord Padraig had another quest to negotiate peace with the elves. And in Winterhaven they encountered a paladin of Bahamut called Sir Oakley, who asked them to accompany him to the temple on top of the abbey to purify it from evil. With thus lots of options they decided to pass by the elves for the peace negotiations, which were easy with them having already done so many quests for the elves. From there they went up to Dragon’s Roost and entered the temple. In the temple were two very strange angel-like creatures, which turned out to be harpies gone mad. Unlike the beholder before the harpies stats were changed to adjust the difficulty of the fight to make it interesting, as standard harpies are only challenge rating 1. With modified abilities causing some nasty effects in a zone around them through singing the fight was quite interesting.

Besides the card they started with, in this session they received 3 cards from the beholder, and 1 card from the harpies. They still haven’t really found out how to control the magical effects from the cards, but then there was only one real combat this session.

Planning a new D&D campaign

As I mentioned before, I am somewhat disappointed by official Dungeons & Dragons adventures these days. The one that comes in a box, the Starter Kit, is great and easy to run. The others, which come as hardcover books, are more problematic. It took me a while to realize that some of those campaign books aren’t in fact adventure modules like the ones from previous editions. Rather they are campaign settings with the odd encounter or dungeon thrown in. They are background and starting point for a campaign, but with much of the actual campaign and story line incomplete.

The intention is probably to get to a more sandbox style of role-playing. However I find that this causes a problem for preparation: I find that D&D sessions where the DM is well prepared run a lot smoother. If the sandbox style is too open and the DM *can’t* prepare and has to improvise everything, the game session becomes a lot more laborious. That is especially true if the DM uses visual aids, like I do: Battle maps, 3D printed miniatures, handouts, etc. all require preparation.

The advantages of full sandbox mode of infinite freedom are also somewhat illusionary. Most of the time players act on little or limited information. The freedom to go north or south isn’t worth much if the decision isn’t meaningful because you have no idea what happens if you go north or if you go south. But of course full sandbox or strictly linear gameplay aren’t the only two options, there are compromises in between the two. And that is what I will be going for in my campaigns in 2018. Basically I will present the players options, but with sufficient information to make each option meaningful. Instead of telling them that they can go in any compass direction they want (which isn’t how humans tend to travel anyway), I present them with a fork in the road with road signs to two different places, and some knowledge (e.g. with history checks or from passing travelers) what is going on in those two places. A meaningful choice between 2 locations is better than full freedom to go anywhere, just to face the same random encounter tables because otherwise there isn’t anything there.

For my Princes of the Apocalypse campaign this is already working well enough. I gave the players some information about the evil elemental cults, including an idea of relative strength. They usually know about at least 2 different locations where they could go next, and what cult is likely to be there. Which means I can prepare both places and be prepared for either choice. But I did use magical portals to block off the deeper dungeons, which not only I would be not prepared for, but which would also be not much fun, being much higher in level than the players.

Next year I’ll try to start a new campaign with new players at my local role-playing club, using the Out of the Abyss campaign setting. So over the holidays I have time to read the book front to cover, and fill out the blanks with the missing story line and alternative options. As I recently wrote, I learned from a good DM / group on YouTube that I shouldn’t worry too much about the story line, but rather make sure that there is enough opportunity for players to contribute to the story with their own ideas. Which means presenting situations in a way that make it clear that players can do other things than just roll initiative and attack. I still believe good tactical combat encounters are important and they are usually fun to play for the players, but they aren’t all there is to Dungeons & Dragons.

Best gifts for gamers

A lot of people who own smartphones and tablets use them for more than surfing the internet, texting, and socializing. They also use them a lot to play games. In a recent survey from Statista, 56 percent, or over half of the entire population of the US, are currently playing mobile games. That amount is expected to expand to 63.7 percent by 2020. But what sort of gifts are the right kind for hardcore gamers?

In this feature, we offer our picks for the best smartphones and tablets that are currently on the market for gaming, along with suggestions for a few accessories that could be great gifts for gamers. Finally, we don’t want to ignore the game consoles that you hook up to your big screen TV; we will offer our recommendation on which of the three current generation game consoles you should buy, and the answer may actually surprise you.

A jack of all trades — ZTE Axon M

Today’s smartphones make great portable gaming devices, while tablets are great for those times when we need a bit more screen real estate from our mobile gaming experience. But what about a wild card of a device that can serve as both your phone and your tablet? The ZTE Axon M is a unique device that is perfect for those that want to take their  gaming to the next level. 

The ZTE Axon M uses two 5.2-inch IPS Full HD panels that are connected to a hinge that, when it is folded out, it essentially turns the device into a 6.75-inch tablet. This is great for running two apps side by side, extending apps and games across both displays, and much more. In addition to the potential for gaming and media, the Axon M also makes for one heck of a multi-tasking device.

As you can imagine, this phone also stands out in a crowd, perfect for those who like to rock phones that are different from the endless sea of Samsung and iPhone devices.Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique phones you can buy right now. You can get it via AT&T for $724.99 without a contract, or for $24.17 a month for 24 months. 

Get it at AT&T

Best gaming phone — Razer Phone

If you want to get a smartphone that’s dedicated to offering the best mobile gaming experience, it’s really impossible to beat the Razer Phone at the moment. This is the first smartphone from Razer, who has been highly successful in releasing PC accessories for hardcore gamers, and more recently has launched critically acclaimed Windows-based gaming laptops. For their first, but likely not last, entry in the smartphone industry, Razer put in a bunch of high-end hardware, including a couple of features that are not in any other smartphone.

Editor’s Pick

The biggest feature for gamers is the Razer Phone’s big IGZO 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440p display, which can run at up to 120 Hz. The higher refresh rate, compared to the normal 60 Hz on other smartphones, should allow games, especially high-end titles with advanced graphics, to play and look smoother on the Razer Phone. The display also uses what Razer calls Ultra Motion technology, which is similar to NVIDIA’s G-Sync tech that is supported by many PC desktop monitors. Ultra Motion allows the Razer Phone’s display refresh rate to sync up to the output of its GPU. This is supposed to get rid of any screen tearing and, again, make games played on the phone look and run better compared to other handsets.

In addition to the high-end visuals, the Razer Phone has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor inside, which, at the moment, is the fastest chip you can get on a phone. It also has 8 GB of LPDRR4 RAM, which again should help graphically intensive games perform better. There’s 64 GB of onboard storage, and you can add more with its microSD card slot. In terms of audio, Razer claims it has the loudest phone on the market, with two front-facing speakers with Dolby Atmos technology. There’s no 3.5 mm headphone jack in the Razer Phone, but it does include a dongle for its USB-C port that includes support for 24-bit DAC audio that is THX-certified. Finally, it has a large 4,000 mAh battery that Razer says should allow for up to 8 hours of gaming on one charge, which should be plenty if you are on a long trip.

Simply put, mobile gamers won’t be able to get a phone quite as good as the Razer Phone for a while, and it’s actually a great first effort from a company that has never launched a smartphone before. The price is also right at $699.99 unlocked, which is very reasonable when you consider the high-end hardware inside. If you can ignore its non-gaming issues, the Razer Phone is one of the best gifts for gamers you can buy.

Get it at Razerzone

Alternate gaming phone — Samsung Galaxy Note 8 

 
Bigger is definitely better when it comes to mobile gaming. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8, with its 6.3-inch Super AMOLED 2,960 x 1,440 display in an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, offers up the biggest and best screen you can get in the US on an Android smartphone. It helps that the phone also comes with a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 6 GB of RAM. You even get an old-fashioned headphone jack with the Note 8. While it doesn’t have a 120 Hz screen refresh rate or the advanced sound features that the Razer phone does, gamers should get a lot out of its huge screen combined with a fast processor. It’s not cheap, but at least you can pay for the Galaxy Note 8 over time if you get it from a wireless carrier.
 
Get it at Amazon

Best gaming tablet — Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

 
Samsung’s recent high-end Android tablet is the best among gifts for gamers. It has a 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, with support for high dynamic range (HDR) features that should allow games to look and play well. While the Tab S3 doesn’t have as much in the RAM and processor department as some smartphones, it uses the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip and 4 GB of RAM. However, the well-designed display, combined with four speakers, makes the Tab S3 the best, at least for now, for Android gaming, although perhaps not as good of an overall choice compared to many high-end Android phones.
 
Editor’s Pick
 
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 was launched earlier this year at $599, but you can snap it up now on Amazon and save over $100, at $498.
Get it at Amazon

Alternate — Amazon Fire HD 10 

 
If you are looking for a solid but inexpensive gaming tablet, you really should look no further than the Amazon Fire HD 10. The 10.1 inch 1080p (1,920 x 1,200) display can handle any game, and it has a decent 1.8 GHz quad-core processor and 2 GB RAM. While it’s not as powerful as the Galaxy Tab S3, those folks looking to save some money will still get a good gaming experience with Amazon’s highest-end tablet. You can get it for as low as $149.99 (with 32 GB and with “special offers” on its lock screen).
 
Get it at Amazon

Gamer accessory gifts 

Chromecast Ultra
 
 
Want to play thousands of Android games on your big 4K TV? You can. if you connect the Chromecast Ultra HDMI dongle to one of your spare HDMI ports. Just cast your games onto the screen with this $69 accessory, and play like you would on a game console.
 
Get it at Google

POWER A MOGA Hero Power Game Controller

 

No matter how powerful your gaming smartphone may be, it can still be hard to control games with its touchscreen, especially for games like racing and shooter titles. The POWER A MOGA Hero Power Game Controller allows you to connect your smartphone to a Bluetooth-based console gamepad, and you can even attach any smartphone up to 6-inches to the controller, letting you play for hours without having to worry about holding your phone on its own. It also comes with its own rechargeable 1,800 mAh battery. If you want a portable console experience for your smartphone, this controller will fit the bill nicely.

Get it at Amazon

Samsung Gear VR — 2017 edition

The current 2017 version of the Samsung Gear VR mobile headset (co-developed by Oculus) lets you play VR games, many of which are exclusive to the Gear VR. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, along with the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, and even the Galaxy Note 5 can all use the headset, which comes with its own controller. If you happen to own one of these phones, it’s perhaps the best way to experience high-end VR gaming.

Get it at Amazon

 Anker PowerCore Speed 10,000 mAh Battery Charger

The simple fact is that even if you have a big batter on your smartphone, like the 4,000 mAh battery on the Razer Phone, it will still run out in less than a day if you play on it constantly. That’s why it’s great to have an external battery charger like the Anker PowerCore Speed 10,000 mAh model. It can charge up your Razer Phone twice on its own, giving you more time to play on your high end handset. It’s also available for just $29 at Amazon.

Get it at Amazon

Best Game Console – Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is perhaps the best game console you can buy for a gamer on the go. Simply put, the Switch can turn quickly from a high-end game console that you hook up to your TV over to a portable handheld console, where you can play for up to six hours on its own battery. You can play it with two of the console’s Joy-Con controllers, one on each side, or you and a friend can play games on the portable screen, each with a Joy-Con in your hands. You can even put a pair of these new controllers in a Joy-Con grip accessory, if you want a more old-fashioned console experience.

Plus there’s the fact that the Nintendo Switch is the exclusive way to play some of the most acclaimed games of 2017, including Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and many more. Finally, it’s likely that the hardcore gamer that you want to spend your money on already has a PlayStation 4/4 Pro, or an Xbox One S/X. He or she might think that the Nintendo Switch is for kids or families, but the purchase of Nintendo’s latest — and possibly best — game console in years might convert them into fans.

Get it at Amazon
 
Those are just some of the best gifts you can get for gamers. We want to hear from you about which gifts for gamers you would pick out for fans. Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!
Disclosure: E-Commerce Content is independent of editorial content and we may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Elemental Evil: Sessions 13 & 14

I just noticed that I am behind on my reporting on the Elemental Evil campaign. In the previous reported session the group had reached level 5 and was about to head for the Sacred Stone Monastery. Sessions 13 and 14 were about the adventures of the group in that monastery. However once again it has to be remarked that this particular group is mainly interested in the combat aspects of D&D, and less interested in the role-playing aspects. And the campaign has been chosen with this preference in mind, containing a lot of dungeon crawls. Nevertheless even in that campaign the group still managed to avoid most opportunities to find out more about the story, and spent those two sessions mostly in combat encounters.

The group entered the Sacred Stone Monastery via the garden and from there into the main hall. However that was exactly what the bad guys had planned for invaders, as the main hall contains a trap that drops the group down into the dungeon and into a cage with an Umber Hulk. Having beaten the Umber Hulk and then some orog and ogre guards, the group liberated a group of slaves used for mining work. That included members of the Mirabar delegation, which in the book is the official story hook. However the group showed absolutely no interest in asking them about what had happened to the delegation, and allowed the slaves to leave unescorted.

Next the group entered a part of the dungeon in which a Lich lives. A Lich is a challenge rating 21 monster and obviously not meant as a combat encounter for level 5 characters. But in spite of the Lich just being a bit grumpy and not immediately attacking, the group decided against getting information from him, and just fled. Having otherwise cleaned out the basement, the group found another staircase up, and found themselves in the middle of the monk’s quarters, where a big fight ensued. That included the boss of the place, a blind female monk with the name of Hellenrae. Just like in the previous two elemental keeps, the group killed the boss, looted the magical key part the bosses are carrying, and then legged it.

Then they returned to Red Larch to rest and recuperate. But the next morning at breakfast in the inn, they were attacked by four hell hounds. That was a bit annoying for the sorceress, who mainly had fire-based spells like scorching ray and fireball, to which the monsters were immune. But although they took heavy damage from fire breaths, the group prevailed and sent the dogs packing. They (correctly) concluded that the hell hounds had been sent by the one cult they hadn’t visited yet, the fire cult. As they had previously heard about druids planning a fire ritual at a location which corresponded to the location of the fourth elemental keep on their ancient map, they plan to go there in the next session.

ZTE confirms Axon 7 will be updated to Android 8.0 Oreo

  • ZTE has confirmed that Android 8.0 Oreo will come to the Axon 7
  • The announcement came via a forum post from a ZTE spokesperson
  • According to the statement, the update is “just around the corner”

If you’re still feeling glum about the sad revelation that the Axon 7 has been axed from ZTE’s production slate, then hopefully today’s news direct from the Chinese company’s mouth will help soften the blow.

In a surprising turn, ZTE has confirmed that its beloved mid-range phone will be updated to Android 8.0 Oreo in the near future. In a post on the unofficial ZTE community forums, Z-Union, a ZTE spokesperson said:

“We are announcing now that we are already developing Android 8 for the Axon 7, your positive feedback has been inspiring us a lot and made us very happy and because of this we try to get it customer ready as soon as possible for the best customers in the world, and I ask for your understanding because we still need some time to perfect it.”

While there’s no confirmed timeframe – the thread is titled “Android 8 is just around the corner” – the news that the Axon 7 will enjoy all of the myriad benefits of Oreo is enough reason for celebration.

Editor’s Pick

The Axon 7 originally launched in mid-2016 rocking Android Marshmallow out of the box with ZTE’s MiFavor UI over the top. The flagship killer was later upgraded to Android Nougat, which some may have assumed would be the end of the line for major OS updates.

As the folks over at Phandroid note, the confirmation comes via a European forum, although it seems likely that the Oreo update will eventually roll out to other regions, including the US.

In addition, it’s worth remembering that Axon M users are still waiting on Google’s latest update to arrive and ZTE will no doubt prioritize its unique dual-screen phone. It’s also unclear whether or not ZTE will stop at 8.0 or continue on to version 8.1 that recently rolled out for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

Although it’s not quite the Axon 8 announcement some fans are hoping for, today’s news could mark a nice final hurrah for a phone that remains a firm favorite here at Android Authority.

How E-commerce Sites can Increase Sales with Pinterest?

Pinterest is basically a platform for users to visually share and discover exciting new interests by posting, or “pinning”, as it’s popularly called, videos or images to their own boards or that of others.

If you’re looking to drive more traffic and sales to your e-commerce site, Pinterest is one of the social networks you must add to your marketing arsenal.

People like to pin products on Pinterest and plan purchases. If used properly, your e-commerce site should be able to generate a high revenue with Pinterest.

Let’s see some of the best ways to harness the full potential of this social media platform:

1. Pick Your Pins Carefully

Quality over quantity – that’s one rule every business owner is aware of. And if you’re planning to boost your e-commerce sales using Pinterest, this rule applies even more to you.
Of course, volume is important but only to keep things consistent. Pin all your new items, engage users regularly, and keep things fresh. But, as Pinterest is an entirely visual medium, you need to be aware of which images attract the attention of the users the most.
There are two kinds of people you will come across on Pinterest, those who are ready to purchase from you right away and those who need some time.
You need to pin content that both these sets of audience will want to interact with.
As per the Yotpo guide to sell on Pinterest, brand images without faces receive 23% more sales than those with faces. So, your knowledge of product photography is definitely going to pay off here.
Other things that add to the effectiveness of yours pins include:
  • Color plays a key role, with a rich color scheme paying off more dividends than a single color pin. People also seem to prefer red images to blue ones.
  • Always consult analytics, like Pinterest business tools. This will help you figure out what works best for your target audience.
  • Your product pictures should have a minimum width of 600 pixels, with the ideal size being 736 pixels wide. Images that are taller will get Repinned more often.

2.Enable rich pins:

When you enable rich pins on your e-commerce website, some extra information like the real-time price and description of the product will appear on the pin. This can increase traffic and sales. So ensure you enable rich pins on your website.
You can also try using buyable pins. This will display the price of the product on Pinterest. People will also be able to directly buy the product on Pinterest like in this pin.

3. Create a Pinterest-Friendly Ambience on Your Website

Simplify the process of pinning images and articles from your business site. You can do so by adding a button to your website so that the process becomes faster. Because the higher the number of pins you get, the greater will be the exposure to your business.
It would be even better if you have another person pinning your product or web page as it raises your credibility factor even more than if it were you endorsing them by yourself.

4. Concentrate your efforts on promoting your brand lifestyle

Pinterest deals with more than just the sale of products; you can use the platform to influence your customer base and make them see how your brand integrates with their world.
Instead of creating boards consisting of your own products, it is a good idea to establish boards around brand values and lifestyle themes. A themed board should not be limited to your own goods; try to include other pins as well.
You need to understand that your buyers are coming to Pinterest for information and inspiration, rather than just buying stuff. Achieve the first objective, and the second one will follow on its own. And nothing works better in this regard than staying true to your brand.
If your company manufactures a unique sort of product, integrate your original pins with related pins. Basically, you will be weaving a story for your customers, with the moral being that your products are unique and something they need in their lives.

5. Use popular trends to your advantage

Being unique is good, but sometimes you just need to go with the flow. In the case of Pinterest, this means following the popular trends.
For example, seasonal content carries as much weight online as it does in traditional shops. Any pin that corresponds to major seasons, holidays, and events is bound to draw a crowd. All you need to do is understand your audience, and stay true to their interests.

6. Host contests to increase engagement

Raising engagement is always easier when you host a contest on Pinterest. However, you need to study the advertising guidelines for the platform carefully and never engage in spammy actions or any sort of content that is frowned upon.

7. Never underestimate the power of influencers:

Work with bloggers and influencers on Pinterest to improve the popularity of your products on the platform. When a Guest Pinner creates a board on your account, it draws a huge crowd. However, make sure you work with Pinterest users who cater to the same client as your business.

8. Draw the attention of the community

Bigger is better – at least when it comes the crowd size you involve to help raise engagement levels.
Make sure anybody can participate in the process. Ask customers to share pictures of themselves with your items. This is a great way to find accessible images of your photos worn by actual people.

9. Learn when to draw the line

Never pin too much on the same day. It’s understandable that you want your boards to be completely developed, but bombarding your customers with a barrage of pins is not the solution. After all, who wants to scroll through large numbers of your pins showcasing what is basically the same product in a different color.
Follow the points given above to create a professional level Pinterest strategy that excels at generating traffic, driving engagement, and above all, boosting your online sales.

Want to Learn Digital Marketing?