Web 2.0: Best free data sharing tools for effective collaboration

Anyone working with video, audio, high-end graphics or animation projects will inevitably face the need to move and share hefty volumes of data. Outside of bringing your client or collaborator into your studio, or running an account with a courier company, there are many more time and financially economical ways to send works in progress for approval. Unlike FTP transfers (and these are still great when there’s a tech-head on each end of the deal) the solutions this post focusses on don’t require technical savvy on the recipient’s end. Emma Sterling and I rely on these tools heavily when we are collaborating with other professionals locally and internationally, and if you manage your workflow around their limitations, you won’t have to shell out a cent.

Best free tools for moving data

For files under 100Mb, we still use the longstanding favourite, YouSendit. With a free account on YouSendit, you can send files, along with a short description to multiple email recipients. Rather than gumming up their email inboxes, YouSendit stores the data on their server, and simply sends a nice, friendly email with a download link to your selected recipients. The file resides there for a limited time (a number of days) which is generally ample for the short-term exchanging of content. We also recommend you download the helper application to enjoy added drag-n-drop convenience from your desktop and improved transfer speeds. If you value the service, you can also pay for membership, express delivery and a range of other options.

When 100Mb of Yousendit free transfer love aren’t enough, it’s Sendspace to the rescue. Sendspace’s transfer rates tend to lag behind Yousendit’s a little in our experience, but we’re yet to find a better free way to move such sizeable hunks of data. We mostly use Sendspace to deliver previews of videos we’re editing. By using Adobe Media Encoder to export our footage from Adobe Premiere, we are able to compress our work to sit snuggly under their 300Mb limit (Media Encoder calculates the file sizes before the compressing begins) allowing us to move any project’s low-res preview, regardless of its duration. Another way of working with the file size limitation is to use 7Zip or a similar compressor, and break your compressed file into 300 Mb chunks. Sendspace also offers a free downloadable application called Sendspace Wizard, which resembles an FTP interface, and again offers improved uploading times and flexibility. Once you’ve uploaded a file, your recipient gets a simple email with a download link and you’re in business.

Dropbox is the file-mover that I’ve discovered most recently, and is one we tend to favour specifically for internal use. Dropbox creates a web-drive, which conveniently appears just as any other folder would on your desktop. When you move or copy a file to it, any other computers (or mobile devices) with Dropbox installed (provided they are also logged into the same account) will automatically update their contents locally. We find this most useful when moving data between our home and Tomorrow Studio offices, and also use our Dropbox to keep templates and frequent use documents ever-ready. You could also easily create multiple accounts, for instance, project specific ones that could facilitate a cost-effective collaborative server… quite enticing since the ceiling for free accounts is initially set at 2 Gb but is expandable to 5 Gb, provided you share the love, and spread the word about Dropbox!

Dan Monceaux


Art: danimations launches debut photographic wall calendar

I’ve been a fan of custom culture for the best part of my life- since churning out personal designs on my 9-pin dot matrix printer back in the ‘eighties. Lucky for us (the makers and the consumers) the days of home-made Print Shop calendars and greeting cards are mostly behind us now, and an exciting and (relatively) new trend is taking hold. I’m talking about custom merchandise, made to order from uploaded designs, delivered direct to customers through the wonder of the internet. A few years ago, a friend tipped me off to the existence of one such site called Cafepress, and then in 2007 I discovered its more evolved counterpart, Zazzle. A string of mugs, shirts, shoes and miscellaneous purchases (and sales) later, Emma Sterling and I have finally made some of our internationally crafted photographic works available as a premium quality Redbubble calendar.

The calendar features images taken by Emma Sterling and myself, over our last few years of artistic globe-trotting. The USA, Canada, Mexico, Singapore and Australia are all featured, with subjects including landscapes, scenics, architecture and the occasional detail. I hope you enjoy the images as they flick past in the RedBubble slide show below- and please check out the link above if you’d like to take a closer look at our very first deluxe photo calendar. As fondly as I recall those days of brashly printing out black and white greeting cards on sprocketed computer paper, these are pretty amazing times we’re living in. Surely there’s never been a better time to be an in independent artist, with tools like these at our disposal?

Oh, and if you make a purchase, be sure to take a photo of your item once it’s on the wall, and we’ll happily post it in our flickr gallery. We’ll also mail you a little surprise follow-up gift… it is nearly Christmas after all!

Dan Monceaux


Web 2.0: Best widgets for embedding photo galleries and videos

Emma Sterling and I are in the throes of designing a new website for our business, danimations, in order to better explain our range of digital media products and services. Along with the expected text-based explanations of our work, we also want to embed illustrative video clips and photo galleries throughout the site, with specific clips and galleries matched to various departments of our multimedia lives.

One of the main considerations (and where we went wayward with our old Flash website) is to make the new site easily adaptable, as the nature and scope of our business will inevitably change over time. Content will need updating, and the less fuss the task is, the more likely we are to keep our promotional materials to-the-minute current. This means developing a streamlined system for the management of photos, designs, illustrations, videos and text. Ideally, we want to be able to add and remove images from galleries, and swap video clips, without having to bone up on the latest CSS and .html coding memes.

I was delighted tonight to discover this modest little Flash-based photo gallery widget. Called PictoBrowser, it’s a free application, and the kicker for me is that it can turn a set, tag or whole Flickr profile into a custom gallery you can embed just about anywhere. It also works with Picasa portfolios, for those of you favouring that photo-sharing site. The simplicity of the code makes it obvious how to manipulate the dimensions of the embedded gallery, and that’s about all anyone would need to do before dropping it straight into their website. Another reason to stick with hosting images on Flickr is the way the sites content polls so well in Google searches. Don’t forget to think about how you title, tag and geo-tag your images, people!

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

On a similar front, we’ve been considering our options for the hosting and embedding of video on the new site. Our searching to date has lead us to using Viddler for our embeds 9at least for the time being). A site that tends to raise more eye-brows than rooves in Australian circles, user-uploaded content on Viddler can be embedded with a custom watermark (GIF or PNG file 150 x 100 pixels) uploaded by you. This replaces the glaring platform advertisement so indelibly printed on their competitors’ embeds, and can be changed at any time. It is superimposed over, rather than burned into the video data itself. The player’s button bar can also be customised and coloured to taste, making it a good choice for seamless embedding on sites of any nature or scale. You can see the Viddler player in action in our video widget, embedded in the top-right corner of our blog.

If you think you can top these tools with other great free or economical methods for displaying photos or video on your site without becoming a billboard for a 3rd party advertiser, please let us know… we’d love to hear from you. Oh, and if you’re a mad flickr user, and are looking for some extra tools to play with, take a look at The Great Flickr Tools Collection.