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ATPM 11.04
April 2005



How To



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How To

by Sylvester Roque,

Tips for Your Next Multimedia Project

Apple has spent a good deal of time and energy over the last few years marketing Macs as the hub of a still-developing digital lifestyle. Everyone seems to be focused on new ways to make home networks, stereos, computers, and other devices all work together. Thinking back to how easy my first Mac was to use and connect to other devices, I’d suggest that Apple has been at the forefront of this idea from the beginning.

I like the idea of digital convergence, but for Mac users this is only the beginning. For me, the really interesting things started happening when Mac technology met iApps. Powerful, easy to use technology meets powerful, easy to use multimedia applications, and in true Mac tradition the end result is up to the user.

The iApps make multimedia development much easier than it was when I was part of a large project several years ago. In spite of that, there are a number of things that need to be considered. In this article, I’m not going to focus on tips for specific applications but rather on some tips that should help with planning and executing any project.

Before You Start the Project

My normal mode of operation is to poke at a project until I get it working the way I want or I give up, whichever comes first. In the case of multimedia projects, though, I’m about to suggest something that I may never say again: do a little homework before you start the project. A little time and effort here can save you a lot of heartache later. Here are some things to think about before you shoot your first scene or build your first Web page.

Think about the final destination for your project. Photos that are the right size and format for a Web page might not work as well for a DVD. Even within the DVD format, some players are capable of playing back a wider variety of files than others. The final destination of a project could conceivably affect file sizes, types, and other parameters.

Consider the scope of your project. Whether it’s your first project or your tenth, large-scale projects can be exponentially more difficult to manage than smaller ones. For a first project, try something small. If you are going to tackle a large project, consider involving several people in a development team. Just make sure that everyone understands what they need to do and any special considerations such as the file types needed for specific files.

What tools do you need to complete the project? The iApps are great for many projects. Before you buy additional software, take the time to get to know the hardware and software you already own. Not only might you discover a variety of useful tips, you will have a better understanding of what your setup can accomplish.

Knowing the limitations of your hardware and software may not only make your project easier, but it can also save you some money. I’ve been working on a project for the last few months. I now have several pieces of software that perform similar tasks. Some of the software has been freeware and none of it has been too expensive, but a better understanding of each piece of software’s limitations might have meant using less software. This could potentially have saved me a few dollars and some hard drive space.

Make the final plans for your project. The format for your final plan is not as important as whether or not you can actually follow the plan.

As part of your project plan, be sure to include provisions for backing up and archiving important files. In my mind, there is an important distinction between backups and archives. Backups are performed frequently and involve copying files that are being modified regularly. An archive consists of files whose content is not being changed often but might be useful at a later date. Perhaps you shot some great video footage that you decide isn’t right for your current project, but it’s too good to throw away. This is the right time for an archived copy of the file rather than a backup.

During the Project

As you start working on your project there are a number of things to consider. These hints aren’t geared for specific applications but focus instead on topics that seem to be important for a variety of projects.

Work on the project in stages. As a general rule, you can’t do everything in one marathon editing session. Even with the best equipment and software, these projects take time. The larger the scope of the project, the more time it will consume.

Save your work often. No matter how stable your system and chosen applications are, there will be problems now and then. You don’t want to spend several hours editing a project only to have a power failure or other problem ruin all of your hard work. If your editing software has an auto-save setting, consider using it.

Speaking of saving files, I prefer saving files in uncompressed formats, such as AIFF for audio and TIFF for graphics, until I’ve finished final editing. I learned this the hard way several years ago. While using my poke-at-it-until-done method to correct the color of a scanned photo, I saved the photo several times as a JPEG. Over time, this produced digital artifacts that were not present in the initial photo. If there are unwanted elements in your files that were not there initially this might be the culprit.

If you must use compression, use as little as possible. Too much compression produces the same kind of digital artifacts I encountered with the photo I mentioned earlier. Before you compress the file, make one or more backup copies. You can use the copies to experiment with various settings to determine which settings give you the best compromise between sound or image quality and file size.

Test your project often to make sure everything is working properly. If possible, test on the same type of equipment that will be used to playback the project. I’ve worked on projects that played fine on our home computers but didn’t play on the target systems due to minor configuration differences. You may waste a few CDs or DVDs, but it’s probably worth it. I can’t think of too many things more frustrating than putting significant amounts of time into a project only to discover that something you did the first day doesn’t work properly.

If you encounter problems, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are that other users have experienced similar problems. Sometimes the answer is so simple it’s easy to miss. I once worked on some video clips that refused to play back on the target PCs. After several false starts and consulting several books, I switched from an AVI file to QuickTime. The problem went away immediately.

After the Project

Once your project is over, take time to enjoy the kudos from your audience. Don’t be too upset if you think of several things you would like to have tried that didn’t occur to you initially. One of the more frustrating things about many creative endeavors is that when the project is complete you can always think of something you would have done differently.

Now that the project is complete, it’s a good time to make note of any interesting things you have learned while completing this project. Don’t think of the notes as taking the fun out of a project; they may save you a lot of time in the future.

Final Thoughts

These tips don’t cover every problem that you might encounter, but hopefully they will stimulate some thought. Many of the things I learned initially about multimedia development have changed significantly, but these tips seem to remain important even today.

• • •

I don’t know what’s coming up next month, but I’ll think of something. I’m sure there are lots of problems waiting to be resolved or projects that haven’t been tackled.

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Reader Comments (3)

Marvin Hylton · June 29, 2008 - 23:57 EST #1
this is very interesting to me since i have a very important project to complete in the months to come maybe you can render me some assistance it's a photo journalism project working with kinds from ages 8 11, yes you herd write the demand is high and they have to display their work after they have completed them. well keep up your good work. God bless.
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · July 2, 2008 - 10:41 EST #2
Thank you for the positive comments. What an interesting idea for students that age. I have very limited experience with photography so I don't know how much help I will be there.

One thing I would suggest is taking the time to take the best possible photo right from the start. With the advent of programs like Photoshop many people expect to be able to take a mediocre picture and make it great. This rarely happens.

This is a very intriguing idea-particularly for students of that age. Please keep us posted on your progress. Perhaps you would consider writing a future article for us about your experiences.
Marvin HYlton · July 10, 2008 - 04:24 EST #3
Sorry that for not replying sooner it seems I'm so busy since of lately I can't find the time to check my mail. In regards to the project I will try and keep you posted and also it would be an honor to write an article about my project for ATPM. Replying to your comments about mediocre photographs I have made it mandatory to make sure that the students understand that a "photo is just as good as its subject” so they are always reminded to take memorable subjects that often are enigmatic or suggestive as a form of art in there own range of reasoning.

The use of photo editing software in my class is limited for one reason I don’t want the students to pull away from the natural appeal of real life situations and coloration often we try to evoke pictures to be bright and vivid and loose the natural essence of what is to be seen, just as you have suggested a few alterations here and there wont hurt but overhauling of photos is not acceptable.. Also for the age group of the students in my class this would be problematic in teaching them how to refine photos it takes time and the procedure is technical and time is limited.

The projected problems are as follows:

1. In the project the students are required o go into there communities and take pictures of subject matter that relates to poverty, community development and violence just about anything that impinge on there day to day lives.

The problem, safe guarding the students while they are in the field taking sensitive photos Also planning these filed trips making sure all students get a fair chance of making a lasting impression on there projects.

2. completing the projects on time
Final cut and editing, which will mostly be done by me, bare in mind that the project also includes a video journalism section which I plan on incorporating into the original project.

3. Also the students will be given the chance to debut there work to there community

The photojournalism project must conclude by August 15, 2008, yes you herd right, there isn’t much time. Putting together a memorable piece takes some time and patience. I am trying my best however to complete on time and to make due with what I have, we have all the necessary software needed and hardware well there is a little problem with the computers they are lacking in memory so slugging and seizing up is one hurdle.

There is a lot in store I will keep you posted and all that is going on and when my project is complete yes you herd right again it will be completed I’m proud to say I’m a optimist I will send or post a copy on ATMP. Have a good day God bless thanks again

Marvin Hylton
Multimedia and IT educator
Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey

i tried to reply to your email bu the address cannot be froward to.

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