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Über dieses Buch

Open source software, also known as free software, now offers a creative platform with world-class programs. Just ask the people who have completed high-quality projects or developed popular web 2.0 sites using open source desktop applications. This phenomenon is no longer underground or restricted to techies—there have been more than 61 million downloads of the Audacity audio editor and more than 60 million downloads of the GIMP for Windows photographic tool from alone.

Crafting Digital Media is your foundation course in photographic manipulation, illustration, animation, 3D modelling, publishing, recording audio and making music, DJ’ing, mixing and mastering audio CDs, video editing and web content delivery. Every technique described in the book can be achieved on GNU/Linux, but many of the applications covered run on Windows and Mac OS X as well. New to GNU/Linux and a little daunted? Don’t worry—there’s a step-by-step tutorial on Ubuntu for either temporary use or permanent installation.

If you are a creative type who wants to get started with open source software or an existing GNU/Linux user looking to explore this category of programs, this is the book for you! Realize your own personal projects and creative ambitions with the tools this book will place at your fingertips.





Chapter 1. Working with Free Software

When you saw the words Free Software on the back cover of this book, you may have thought, “Great, I can save some money!” Or perhaps you thought that when it comes to software, quality costs—and programs that can be downloaded for free can’t be any good. If the latter is the case, I don’t blame you for being skeptical, because Free! is a much-abused word.
Daniel James

Chapter 2. Getting Started

Before you can begin using creative Free Software applications, the first thing you need to decide is whether to install a GNU/Linux operating system on your computer. This step isn’t essential, because many of the applications I’ll cover are also available for Windows or the Mac. If you’re nervous about potentially deleting the wrong thing from your computer and screwing it up, it may be best to try these creative applications on your existing operating system first.
Daniel James



Chapter 3. Photography

If you’re working with a digital still camera, it almost certainly has a USB socket. Using the USB cable supplied with the camera is often the quickest and simplest way to get your photos on to your computer. Although programs like F-Spot (GNU/Linux), included with Ubuntu by default, can help you manage your photo collection, it isn’t strictly necessary to use them. This is because GNU/Linux can access the memory card inside a USB-equipped camera as if it were any other storage device.
Daniel James

Chapter 4. Illustration and Font Design

When you’re drawing or painting in the GIMP, you’re working with bitmap files, which for color images are more correctly termed pixmaps (an abbreviation of pixel maps). As you have seen when editing photos, these pixmap files are just numerous rows and columns of identical size pixels in different colors and shades, like the tiles in a mosaic. This is a perfectly good way to represent typical photographic images, as long as you have enough pixels (resolution) for the job you’re doing. A pixmap is sometimes referred to as a raster image, in reference to the way cathode ray tubes in older computer displays and TV sets drew images on the screen.
Daniel James

Chapter 5. Animation

Hollywood studios make extensive use of the GNU/Linux platform for both animation and visual effects work. However, many of the applications that the studio artists rely on are created for exclusive in-house use and are treated as trade secrets. No wonder, because this application software forms part of a studio’s competitive advantage over its box-office rivals. This kind of program is a classic example of software written to order, which you read about in Chapter 1. Some other animation applications used in the movie industry can be purchased from specialist proprietary software vendors, but the price tag often puts them out of reach of the average computer user.
Daniel James

Chapter 6. 3D Modeling

Blender (GNU/Linux, Windows, Mac) is a Free Software 3D graphics program with animation, video compositing, and game creation features. This program is also available on two UNIX platforms: SGI Irix, which was popular for high-end graphics work before the GNU/Linux desktop came along, and Sun Solaris. On Ubuntu, you can install Blender using the Add/Remove Applications tool. Other GNU/Linux distributions are likely to include ready-made Blender packages, and you can download versions for Windows or the Mac direct from
Daniel James

Chapter 7. Publishing

Although personal computers quickly replaced the humble typewriter, the art of typesetting and laying out high-quality printed documents took a little longer to go digital. True desktop publishing software is usually known by its acronym, DTP. This kind of program differs from word processors and home or small-office publishing packages in the precise level of control over the document that it enables. Designed for high-speed use by an experienced operator, a true DTP program doesn’t try to suggest where a picture should be located on the page or correct your grammar. Its output format is designed for extremely accurate results when the document is transferred to the print shop.
Daniel James

Chapter 8. Making Music

A DJ isn’t a human jukebox—skill is required to play the right records in the right order and to be creative with the mix. Ask any DJ about the industry-standard tools of the trade, and they’re still a pair of the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company’s high-end hi-fi turntables from the early 70s, repurposed as club decks in the disco era and known as the Technics SL-1200s, or 1210s (see Figure 8-1).
Daniel James

Chapter 9. Recording Audio

Since Victorian inventors first recorded sound onto cylinders and discs, many competing technologies have been used to capture audio and play it back. Disc cutters and wire recorders gave way to magnetic tape as the primary medium after an American serviceman, Jack Mullin, “liberated” two Magnetophon recorders from a Nazi radio station in the final months of World War II. Returning to the USA, Mullin demonstrated the recorders to Bing Crosby in Hollywood. Crosby saw the potential for prerecording his own radio shows and invested in the Ampex company in order that the machines could be produced commercially (see Figure 92-1). (If you don’t know who Bing Crosby was, ask your grandmother.) Analog recordings on tape dominated the music industry for decades, ranging in size from gigantic Studer twoinch tape machines down to miniature Nagra eighth-inch machines, used in any spy movie of the period.
Daniel James

Chapter 10. Mixing and Mastering

In Chapter 9, you looked at recording your first Ardour session, with drum, bass, synthesizer, and guitar tracks exported to a stereo WAV file. If you burned your exported file to an audio CD and tried it on your stereo, then unless you’re a naturally talented sound engineer, you probably found that it sounded quiet and, in subjective terms, lacked clarity and punch. This is most likely because you’re comparing it to the commercial releases you’re used to hearing on the radio, on TV, or on the Internet, which have gone through a lot of sonic mangling to make them sound that way. Since the 1950s, popular music producers have used ever-greater amounts of analog (and now digital) processing to make their recordings stand out from the rest.
Daniel James

Chapter 11. Video Editing

With video-sharing web sites like YouTube and its clones firmly embedded in the mainstream consciousness, and the Firefox browser now having built-in support for the Free Software Ogg Theora video format, it’s arguable that the Internet has outgrown its text-only origins. Whatever you think of the late Marshall McLuhan’s theories on print versus TV, making videos and sharing them is just plain fun.
Daniel James

Chapter 12. Web Content

This final chapter brings together all the skills you’ve acquired so far to put your creative projects on the Internet. Although you’ve read about creating physical media—printing, and burning CDs, for instance—most of the skills involved can be applied directly to creating web content. Indeed, some Internet media is intended to be printed out or burned to disc by the recipient; only the means and location of production have changed.
Daniel James


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