Software, Discovery and Creativity

The content for the Creative Software Reviews edition of Cosmic Stomper came from a 2009 “build a website” school project.  This website is organized into “Magazine Sections” …

The REVIEW section covers Anime Studio, Processing, Persistence of Vision Ray Tracing, ACID® Music Studio, Photoshop and Dreamweaver.

Each review does an assessment and makes a recommendation.  The software reviews are oftentimes accompanied by book reviews, examples, code and website links.

VISUAL ART is a collection of the images and animations created with the reviewed software.

The HOW-TO section, demonstrates using all the software packages to create the same project.

MUSIC groups all the music examples from the software reviews.

CODE contains the coding examples.

The REFERENCE section, lists the links referenced is the reviews.

KEYWORD SEARCH has the keywords used to index all the content as well as a search by Content Type.

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The SEARCH ICON opens up a search window for a text search of the website.

I hope this issue helps you discover new software and assists you in your creativity.

Enjoy!   Mike

 


ACID® is a registered trademark of Sony Creative Software Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and other countries.  All other trademarks or registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners in the United States and other countries.

Anime Studio – Smith Micro

Description

Anime Studio Debut 5.5  is an inexpensive program that does animation.  Note:  As of June 2015, Version 11 is the most current release.

Assessment/Opinion/Experience

My experience with this product is a couple of weeks of study and prototyping. The tutorials are helpful but are confusing as it describes features that are included in a more expensive PRO version.

This product will require dedicated study.

A strong feature is the ability to turn fonts into vector fonts that can be manipulated and animated.

Another feature is to synchronize the animation with a sound file.

See the “Amazon.com Ad Contest” entry for an example of syncing sound to animation.  This is a very rough prototype and represents about 80 hours of learning a new product and creating the contest entry.

Recommendation

You will invest a lot of time learning this product and should have a background in animation. Most likely you will want to invest in the PRO version of the product. If your time and budget are limited, your investment might be better utilized by learning Adobe Flash.

Computers Supported

Macintosh
Windows

Examples

Amazon Ad Contest entry

Rhythm Collection – Animation

Reference/Links

Anime Studio – Links

Processing

Description

Processing is designed to be a programming language for Graphic Designers and Visual Artists. It was created by Casey Reas and Ben Fry. The program creators feel that it is a rare combination to have programming skills and visual design skills.

The programming language is a subset of Java and is converted to Java to execute.

Assessment/Opinion/Experience

I have about three months of experince with this program. I learned about it from the Graphic Design Basics book and I read the Processing Handbook (see book review below).

The design of the programming environment encourages “sketching” of ideas/programs.

Recommendation

There is no cost to this program and it is worth the investment of your time to learn.

Suggested Donation – $$$$/$$$$$

Donating to software is a personal decision.  I think this is useful software that is well supported and continues to be developed.  I value the software at $$$$/$$$$$ (click to see the donation table).  Also see the “Processing – Links”  below to see information about the  “Processing Foundation”.

Computers Supported

Macintosh
Windows
Linux

Books

Processing – A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists by Casey Reas and Ben Fry – © 2007 – 710 pages.

One of the most organized and clear books about programming that I have ever read.

Using a “visual arts” perspective gives you motivation to learn how to program (i.e. you can see the results).  Towards the end of the book are “Extensions” which are more complex and may be better suited to upper level college students.

The book has extensive apendixes and references.

Rating: ★★★★★

Note: The 2nd Edition was released in December 2014.

processingbook
graphicdesignluptonphillips
GRAPHIC DESIGN THE NEW BASICS – by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips – © 2008 – 247 pages.

Covers the fundamentals of Graphic Design. Good reading and can be used as a quick reference. The discussion of the Processing software lead me to it’s discovery.

Rating: ★★★★★

diylupton
D.I.Y. Design it Yourself – edited by Ellen Lupton – © 2006 – 196 pages.

Does not have anything to do with Processing, but one thing leads to another. I read this book first, then “Graphic Design – The New Basics” and then the book on “Processing”.  In the spirit of the “Make it Yourself” movement.

Rating: ★★★★—

Examples

Reference/Links

Processing – Links

Sample Code for the “Rhythm” Picture

Sample Processing Code for the “Rhythm” picture

Persistence of Vision Ray Tracing

Description

Persistence of Vision (POV) is a programming language that does Ray Tracing.  You create objects and the program calculates how light interacts with those objects and creates an image.

Assessment/Opinion/Experience

I have been using this program since the early 1990’s.  It is widely used and has an active community.  While the core product uses text to program, there are visual modelling tools that will generate code.

Most of the literature is out of print, but is available through Used Book stores.

Recommendation

There is no cost to this program and it is worth the investment of your time to learn.

Computers Supported

Macintosh*
Windows
Linux

* Note:  There is a bug that causes POV not to work with Intel based Macintosh’s. The workaround is to use Mega-POV as the code editor.

Books

raytracingcreations
Ray Tracing Creations – Second Edition by Chris Young and Drew Wells – © 1994 – 571 pages.

Even though this book is dated, it is a good overview. Used copies can be found for a reasonable price.  The online documentation for POV is about 450 pages and would be expensive to print.

Rating: ★★★★—

raytracingworlds
Ray Tracing Worlds with POV-RAY by Alexander Enzmann, Lutz Kretzschmar and Chris Young – © 1994 – 430 pages.

Discussion of a visual modelling tool called MORAY which is now available for no cost.

Rating: ★★★★—

Examples

Reference/Links

POV-Ray – Links

Sample Code for the “Rhythm” Picture

Sample POV-Ray Code for the “Rhythm” Picture

ACID® Music Studio – Sony

Description

Acid Music is primarily a program to create music from loops. Loops are snippets of music that repeat. Acid does a good job of adjusting these loops so that the pitch can changed. The loops can be assembled to create a song.

Most loops are purchased on a Royalty Free basis so that you can sell the music or use them in multimedia projects without fear of violating a copyright.

As Acid Music has upgraded over the years it has evolved into a DAW (Digital Audio Workbench). It serves as a multi-track recorder of Audio, MIDI (Musical Insturment Digital Interface), Loops and Video.

Assessment/Opinion/Experience

I have been using ACID Music for more than 15 years. I have dabbled with other music programs and gave up on them in frustration. This is a program that I have kept using.

Support, DVD training is excellent and reasonably priced.

Recommendation

ACID® Music comes in three versions:

  • ACID Xpress 7
  • ACID Music Studio 10
  • ACID Pro 7

Xpress is the free version, Music Studio is the home version and Pro is for professionals.

Xpress is quite powerful.  Sony Creative software supports a website called AcidPlanet. Free sets of loops called 8Packs are available each week as well a many contests.

Start with Xpress and upgrade if you find the program worthwhile.

Computers Supported

Windows

Books

acid3dot0
Sams Teach Yourself Acid 3.0 in 24 Hours by Gary Rebholz and Michael Bryant – © 2002 – 421 pages.

I would anticipate that a newer edition is available.  The book provides good coverage, but I am not fond of “lesson plan” format books.

Rating: ★★★??

acidpower
ACID Power! by David E. Franks – © 2001 – 308 pages.

This book is outstanding. Especially appreciated the chapter on song composition. My copy is for Acid 3.0, I would expect more recent editions are availble.

Rating: ★★★★+

Examples

Click on the link to listen…
Pink Floyd-esque
Jazz2
Houston We Have A Problem

Reference/Links

ACID® Music Studio – Links

Downloads
My First 3 Songs

This download contains the first 3 songs I have created.

  1. Pink Floyd-esque
  2. Jazz2
  3. Houston We Have A Problem

The ZIP file consists of a readme file and three MP3 files.


ACID® is a registered trademark of Sony Creative Software Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and other countries.  All other trademarks or registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners in the United States and other countries.

Photoshop – Adobe

Description

A digital photography program. Can be used to correct flaws, retouching, manipulation and augmenting. Target audience is professionals.

Assessment/Opinion/Experience

My experience with this product is limited to a few months. Prior experience with Microsoft Draw and Photoshop Elements.

Recommendation

Use Photoshop is you have a serious need. It integrates with other Adobe products for Web development and Print development. The design of the Photoshop is to increase your efficiency so that you can create an end product quicker.

Microsoft Photodraw (which has been discontinued) is simple and quick to learn and helps complete simple projects.

Adobe Photoshop Elements is more sophisticated than Microsoft Photodraw. Photoshop Elements introduces the concept of layers. Layers is analogous to laying transparent pieces of plastic on top of each other.

As digital photographs keep on getting larger, they use up a lot of processing power on your computer. Keep this in mind if you have an older computer.

Computer Supported

Windows
Macintosh

Books

psclassroominabook

Adobe® Photoshop® CS4 Classroom in a Book – © 2009 – 451 pages.

While I am not fond of “lesson plan” type of books, I liked this one.  I was fortunate to have professional instruction which makes it more effective. The times to take each lesson are realistic. The book includes a CD with sample files and you would be successful if you took the self-study approach.

Rating: ★★★★—

Examples

Reference/Links

Adobe – Links

Dreamweaver – Adobe

Description

Program to build websites.

Assessment/Opinion/Experience

My experience with this product is limited to a few months. Prior experience with simple websites with Microsoft Frontpage (superseded with Microsoft Expressions). Also used Namo Webeditor 2006.

Dreamweaver seems to be more of a development environment than the other products.

Recommendation

I do not have enough experience yet to make a recommendation. My experience with Dreamweaver has been very positive. Nice built-in templates. Nice ability to support Cascading Style sheets. All three web editor programs that I have used are functionally very similar.

Computers Supported

Windows
Macintosh

dreamweaver

New Perspectives on Adobe® Dreamweaver® CS4-Comprehensive by Kelly Hart and Mitch Geller – © 2010 – 505+ pages.

Very thorough coverage of Dreamweaver.  Guides you through the creation of a website with a lot of support files.  I was fortunate to have professional instruction along with this book. I would not recommend this book if you took the self-study approach.

Rating: ★★★——

Examples

Creative Software Reviews created with Dreamweaver

Reference/Links

Adobe – Links

Ideas for Space Cadets