choose to use a MAC or a PC for multimedia productions, you must
have certain minimum requirements. Processor speed should be
a minimum of 300 MHz. I believe that if you are going to purchase
a new machine, you do not need to buy the fastest processor. In
fact, you are better off buying the "bottom of the line" and spend
the money you save on RAM and expansion cards. I do not recommend
the use of a laptop nor the "all in one" iMac; they are far too
limited in their ability to be upgraded and expanded. One of the
best and affordable machines is the Apple G4. Its best feature
its ease of access to the interior of the CPU without any tools.
the time of this writing, G4s are available for around $1300. "Bottom of
the line" G4s come with 3 PCI expansion slots, 2 USB ports, 2 FireWire
ports, and an ATI graphics accelerator. Here
are the complete G4 specs. If you are going to choose a PC (Windows),
you should look for similar features.
If you don't
like it when your computer crashes, buy as much RAM as you can afford.
As a rule of thumb, add up the minimum RAM requirements for all
the software you will be running simultaneously and double
it! The largest demand on RAM will be when you are constructing
Web pages because of all the different software you will need to
use at the same time. I use 320 MB at home--which is barely enough.
For those of you who use MAC, I absolutely DO NOT RECOMMEND THE
USE OF VIRTUAL MEMORY. Virtual Memory allows your computer to use
hard disk space as RAM; it is slow and is susceptible to crashing!
Make sure you bring the manual that came with your computer so that
you buy the correct chip. Look around for the best deal but the
good stuff (good warranty)! The same RAM can vary over $100 between
suppliers for the same chip! Also, INSTALL YOUR OWN RAM! You are
more qualified than any technician at a computer store is! See instructional
your eyesight and buy the biggest monitor you can afford (and
consider space on
your desk). YOU DO NOT NEED A FLAT SCREEN. Flat screens are nothing
more than hype. The minimum size monitor you should have for
is 19" diagonally measured screen. You can get by with smaller,
but it is a nightmare! You really need the space for seeing detail
plus all of the control windows for the software. Again, shop around
for a good deal from a reputable dealer. Do your homework and look
at reviews before you buy. You can get a good 19" graphics monitor
for around $350. I recommend ZDNet's
PC Magazine to check the reviews. Search for monitor.
and Video Cards
Most new PC
(Windows) machines have sound cards that enable you to hear sound
when you plug in headphones or external speakers. If you don't see
a speaker out port on the back of your machine, you don't have a
sound card. All MACs have built-in sound.
Video is much
more complicated. The video card is what processes your video signal;
it prepares a video signal for a monitor. Therefore, the type of
monitor you have and the type of video you wish to view will determine
your video card needs. All computers come with some sort of video
processing--otherwise you cannot plug in a monitor! New machines,
however, come with a variety of video accelerator cards. These cards
allow your computer to display more colors (32-bit for example)
at a fast refresh (many more frames per second). 8-bit color is
2 to the 8th power or 256 colors where 16-bit color is
2 to the 16th power or 17,772,221 colors.
also require special video processing. If you plan to add a DVD-ROM
drive to your computer, plan on a new video card as well. Shop around
for a good video card. You can find a single video card that can
handle DVD and AV. I highly recommend ATI: here
is their Website. Also, check out this comparison guide from
(PC) Hardware Guide--you may also wish to look around this site
for more info on video--very cool!
- VideoCD, SuperVCD and DVD Recordable Help!
importantly--for multimedia, you will need to a video card that
has AV ports. AV
ports are sound in/out (RCA), video in/out (RCA) and s-video ports.
This is how you "capture" sound and video onto your hard drive
from a camera or a VCR. You can also use it to record video with
VCR or to display video onto a TV monitor. It is not as fast as
FireWire, but it is far more versatile; very few devices
have FireWire--YET. Shop around for a good video card. You can find
a single video card that can handle DVD and AV. Once again, I highly
recommend ATI: here is the ATI Website.
IF you are a
gamer, then you should have the best your computer can afford. Generally,
you want to upgrade your graphics card if you need higher bit depth,
higher resolution, or a faster frame rate. Before you buy, find
out what type of expansion slot you have (look in your computer's
owner's manual): PCI, AGP 2X, or AGP 4X (slowest to fastest, respectively).
You should also check that the games you play support the special
effects that the graphics card offers.
Here are some
Radeon PCI or AGP 2X from ATI,
and nVidia GeForce3
AGP 4X from Apple Computer.
Your new AV
card will have RCA (composite) and s-video inputs. Generally, if
the device you are using to capture images has both composite and
s-video connectors, use the s-video. Here's why:
different between the composite and s-video inputs? With composite,
the luminance and chrominance information of the video signal
are combined into one "composite" signal. It's up to the television
to then split the two back into their component form, commonly
using a comb filter (or a notch filter in some televisions).
The quality of the separation is dependent on the quality of
this comb filter (although none of them are perfect). S-video
keeps these two parts of the signal separate along the whole
path, preserving the integrity of both. Keep in mind that the
advantage of s-video only applies to non-composite video sources.
Laserdisc and VHS both store the signal as a composite one,
which means a comb filter somewhere in the chain is a requirement.
DSS, S-VHS, and (eventually) DVD store the components separately,
and thus are able to take full advantage of s-video inputs.
The PlayStation can also be considered a "component" source."
cable reviewed @ www.vidgames.com
to Worse for Video:
Component (RGB RCA Connectors)
Composite (yellow RCA connectors)
video is not really RGB. The first component, the luminance signal,
is brightness contained in the original RGB signal. It is labeled
"Y" and will be the green connector. The second and third
components are are "color
difference" signals which determine how much blue and red there
is compared to the luminance component. The blue connector is "B-Y
the red connector is "R-Y (PR/CR)."
and RCA (S/PDIF) Digital Audio
new audio receivers/amplifiers have digital audio inputs. S/PDIF
or "Sony/Philips Digital InterFace" inputs are coaxial
type connectors. TosLink or "Toshiba Link," and
Mini TosLink are fiber optic with special optical connectors.
All are designed
to carry a digital signal and are commonly found on surround
sound equipment. Sound cards and USB devices for both Mac and
Windows are available.
RAM Electronics Industries Inc
capture sound from a microphone, you must have a preamp to "boost" the
signal before it goes into your sound AV card. You will notice
are no microphone connectors (ports) on sound cards nor AV cards.
There are a variety of solutions to the preamp problem. The easiest
is the use of a MAC microphone--it has a built in preamp. To
a high quality microphone, you can take apart a MAC microphone
and solder a microphone connector to the wires where the small
(inside the MAC microphone) is attached. Finally, you can purchase
a preamp with sound out (RCA connector) and hook it up to your
card--this is the only solution if you want stereo microphones!
can already see why you need a computer with many PCI slots.
Besides an AV card.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a SCSI card. SCSI is an acronym for "small computer
system interface." It is VERY FAST. When you buy peripherals, you
often have a choice of the connector that it comes with to interface
with your computer: serial, USB, FireWire, and SCSI. SCSI interfaces
are fastest! I will discuss CD-ROM burners later: if you get one,
make it SCSI!
devices are those that connect to your computer through a SCSI
there are adapters that convert a SCSI cable to USB, DO NOT USE
IT! I guarantee trouble. Instead, if you can't afford SCSI, WAIT
UNTIL YOU CAN! SCSI devices are FAST and worth the money! Some
of devices that should be connected via SCSI are external hard
drives, external storage devices such as Zip, CD-ROM burners,
scanners. There are many more. The disadvantage of SCSI is that
you must CONNECT/DISCONNECT WHILE THE COMPUTER IS OFF! USB and
can be connected/disconnected "hot" (while the computer is on).
All serial cable must be connected/disconnected while the computer
is off--despite what you may have heard!
devices can be chained together. There is a limit to the number
you can have in one chain, and each must have a different "ID." Each
device has a way of setting its ID. Look at the instructions that
came with your device and it will tell you how to set it. If
you have two or more devices with the same ID, your computer may
not boot up (start) properly. Also, if the cables are too long,
your computer may not boot up. SCSI chains are tricky to get to
work correctly. It's a bit like art: you must try changing the
of devices in the chain as well as change the ID numbering until
you get a combination that works correctly--TRIAL AND ERROR is
only way to get them to work. SCSI IS WORTH THE TROUBLE. Don't
give up on a SCSI chain.
must be terminated at the end of the chain. Even if you only have
one device, it must be terminated. The instructions that come with
your device will tell you how to terminate the device. Every SCSI
device has two SCSI ports: one for the chain to enter, and the other
for the chain to exit and continue on to the next device. Generally,
you will need to buy a terminator and physically plug it in to the
last port in the chain. Keep in mind that some devices have internal
terminators (such as Zip drives) and you simply use a switch to
turn on termination.
SCSI is up to 320 MB/second! FireWire has a maximum of 400 Mbps
throughput. FireWire does not have the problems of termination,
cable length, and ID that you will encounter with SCSI. You can
also "hot-swap" FireWire devices (plug in/out while the computer
is on). Unfortunately, FireWire is not as fast as SCSI and the
of FireWire devices available is limited. You can learn more about
FireWire from Apple Computer.
on SCSI (MAC and PC)
Field's SCSI Info Central / SCSI FAQ Page
Trade Association: great tutorial on SCSI termination and connector
USB Cable Guide
Serial Cable (note similarity to MAC SCSI!)
Serial Cable (note similarity to VGA!)
USB is certainly
replacing serial ports on all Macs and PCs. It has more bandwidth
(throughput) than serial and it is hot-swappable. Some of the devices
that use serial or USB are digital cameras, printers, scanners,
modems, and Zip drives. The Serial ports are quite different between
MAC and PC, and both are NOT HOT-SWAPABLE. USB connectors are the
same on both PC and MAC!!! The thing to remember about USB for multimedia
is that USB IS S-L-O-W. USB is not a substitute for SCSI!!!
- USB product news and information: includes a nice cable guide.
and DVD look similar, they are quite different. CD stands for compact
disc (notice the C: disc, not disk). CD is an invention of Sony
and is trademarked. CDs are read by CD-ROM drives and can be used
to store anything that a hard drive stores with a limit of around
650 MB. DVD, also invented by Sony stands for digital video disc
and is used to store large video files such as movies. DVD uses
a system of video compression (making large files smaller) in order
to fit whole movies on a single disk. DVD requires a special reader
(DVD-ROM drive) and a special video card in order to work on your
computer. You cannot play DVD movies on a CD-ROM drive. Today, there
are DVD-ROM burners that have a much larger capacity for storing
files much like your hard drive but they are very costly. If you
don't want to watch movies on your computer then you don't need
a DVD-ROM drive in order to do multimedia. For more info, you can
visit Sony Digital Technologies (http://sdm.sony.com/media/index.html).
Burners vs. Removable Drives
If you do not
yet have a Zip (removable drive), I recommend that you opt for a
CD-ROM burner instead. The only advantage of a Zip, over a CD burner,
is that a Zip acts more like another hard drive with a capacity
of 100 or 250 MB, while CD-ROM burner make CDs that are ROMs (read
ONLY memory) but hold around 650 MB. Unfortunately, not everyone
has a Zip drive. Additionally, you may not be willing to hand over
a $15 Zip disk to exchange files. Lending disks are like lending
books--you may never see them again! CD-ROMs, on the other hand,
cost less than $1 each--AND EVERYONE HAS A CD-ROM DRIVE! I highly
recommend a SCSI (or FireWire) CD-ROM burner
DO NOT GET A
USB BURNER! They are much too slow. USB burners can only burn at
x2 speeds (some claim x4 but I doubt it). SCSI will burn at x8 or
x12. So if you wish to make a 60-minute music CD, it will take 30
minutes to burn with USB and a maximum of 7.5 minutes with a SCSI
or FireWire connection. THE CHEAPER PRICE FOR USB IS NOT WORTH IT!
The bottom line
is that NOTHING beats a CD-ROM burner for file exchanging and backing
up you files.
and Flatbed Scanners
you may need a flatbed scanner. Its best use is for OCR, but you
may need to occasionally scan photographs. I will discuss scanning
resolution later. As a rule, scan at 72 ppi (pixels per inch) for
Web graphics and a resolution that is twice the lpi of your printer's
resolution for printing (up to a scan resolution of 1200 ppi). If
you don't do much scanning, you can get by with a cheap ($100) scanner,
but it will be SLOW.
and a 35 mm camera are far superior to any digital camera. If you
need detail, go with a slide scanner. If detail is not that important--and
speed is--you should go with a digital camera and forget a slide
scanner. The cheapest slide scanner is around $750. Plus, you need
a camera ($300-$1000+), film and developing. Slide scanners are
people overlook the use of an inexpensive "Web-cam" type camera for multimedia.
Many of these new cameras are USB and will work quite well if you
do not need a full screen. Another video camera that can be used
is any "closed circuit" type camera fitted with RCA connectors.
Most of these cameras come with coax (cable) connectors, but can
be adapted with RCA connectors. Radio shack carries many such adapters.
They are inexpensive and work quite well provided that you have
an AV card. Both of these cameras I have described need the computer
to record (they are not self contained).
cameras use CCD (charge couple device) technology to capture
have come down in price so much that they are practically indispensable
for Web page and multimedia work. Most can be doubled as a digital
video camera (with an AV card). Digital cameras are "classed" by
their resolution. If you purchase a camera that has a maximum
of 640 x 480, then you have purchased a camera that has a 307,200
pixel CCD (you multiply the resolution dimensions for exact number
of pixels). A camera with 1600 x 1200 maximum resolution has
CCD (this is a 2 megapixel class camera). If you are going to buy
a new digital camera, get the best you can afford. Cheap digital
cameras (640x480) tend to make poor photographs. I would recommend
a minimum of 3 megapixels. The other thing to consider is zoom
other features such as CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and USB connectivity.
Like any other technology that is rapidly changing (and so the
do your homework by reading online reviews. Again, I recommend ZDNet's
PC Magazine and Welcome
to the Digital Camera Resource Page for a price and feature
comparison. Get as much zoom as you can afford.
between these two types of memory storage for digital cameras is
size and price. Although SmartMedia is small and very easy to insert
into your camera, it is more expensive. In addition, SmartMedia
does not have as much memory as CompactFlash. The problem with CompactFlash
is that it can be difficult to insert in the camera with all of
its tiny pins. I much prefer SmartMedia. And, I'm not sure, but
I believe that battery life is longer with SmartMedia systems.
It is possible
to upload your photographs stored on SmartMedia or CompactFlash
via USB even if the camera does not have a USB interface for your
computer. You can get a USB card reader to do the job in a fraction
of the time it will take if the camera has only a serial interface.
Make sure that the CompactFlash or SmartMedia itself is USB compatible.
can use either SmartMedia or CompactFlash. Also, many PDAs can use
the same storage system that can allow you to share the pictures
you have taken immediately. Do your homework and read the reviews!
video cameras differ from "cam-corders" in that digital video cameras
record a digital signal on a magnetic tape cassette and "camcorders" record
an analog signal on a magnetic tape cassette. Digital
signals do not degrade whereas analog signals are very "noisy." If
you can afford a digital video camera, buy it! Get as much zoom
as you can afford. Again, do your homework and read the reviews.
Of course, make sure it has a FireWire connection for your computer.
you plan to take photographs or video indoors, you will need
to light your
subject. Keep in mind, however, that the built-in lighting on cameras
and video recorders will make your subjects appear "flat." You
can buy inexpensive lighting systems that allow the subject to
giving more detail. Most good digital cameras have a hot-shoe to
connect a remote flash. Regular incandescent and fluorescent
can look bad if you do not compensate for it. Look for features
that allow for color correction under indoor lighting if you
not going to use remote lighting.
are an excellent way to present your multimedia projects if they
are not interactive. You can connect a VCR to the video out (RCA
or s-video) on your AV card and record movies or instructional video
that you have made onto a video cassette.
Mirror vs. Projectors
to present your multimedia projects is direct projection from your
computer to a TV monitor or on a big screen with a LCD projector.
There are several systems on the market for TV mirroring (using
a TV monitor). All but one requires a VGA port on your computer.
Focus TView products are excellent and include software to enhance
the fonts on your computer for TV monitors. AVerMedia is the only
source for a TV mirror system that works through the USB port. If
your laptop (iBook) does not have a VGA port, this is your only
and RCA Output (USB In)
is good for graphics presentations and video but is unacceptable
for computer fonts. If you are presenting anything that has to be
read (such as software presentations) you must have a LCD projector--or
very large computer monitor! Focus also makes LCD projectors. TV
mirroring systems cost in the $100-$300 range while LCD projectors
will cost $3,000 for an inexpensive model! I recommend--again--that
you do your homework and compare features and prices--PAY ATTENTION
TO BULB LIFE AND REPLACEMENT COST. I use the Proxima projectors--they
are a good value.
Choosing a printer
is like any of the other devices I have discussed so far. You really
need to read comparison reviews to make an educated choice. I will
mention that if you need to print photographs then you need a printer
with the highest resolution you can afford. I do not recommend laser
printers for personal use: they are for high volume printing. Instead
get a high-resolution inkjet. The high-end Epson printers are USB
and make photograph quality prints in short order. You must use
glossy paper (I recommend Kodak inkjet paper). When doing your comparisons,
look at print speed, resolution, ink consumption rate and replacement
costs for cartridges.
Here is a summary
of the most common storage media:
or external hard drive: excellent but costly. Hard to transfer
files between computers. Great for playing video.
hard drive: excellent but costly. OK to transfer files between
computers as long as drive is compatible. Great for playing video.
- Tape drive:
Poor choice for multimedia. Although it is inexpensive and can
back up an entire hard drive, it is far too slow and difficult
to transfer files between computers.
- Zip and Jazz
drive: good but moderately expensive. Easy to transfer files between
computers but not all computers have a Zip or Jazz. Not so great
for playing video (may appear jerky).
excellent but costly. Hard to transfer files unless computers
have DVD drives. Great for video. This is the future of multimedia
when the cost drops.
- CD-ROM: Good
and inexpensive. Excellent for transferring files. Not so great
for playing video (may appear jerky).
In the very
near future, computers will replace TV and the telephone. This is
a fact. The technology already exists, but the bandwidth (throughput
of digital information) lags behind much the way battery technology
is lagging in the field of electronics. If you are going to deliver
your multimedia via DVD or CD-ROM, bandwidth is generally not that
big of a problem. However, if you plan to deliver your multimedia
via the Internet, you must realize that not everyone has a T1 connection.
In fact, most of us use a 56k modem and will continue to do so for
quite some time. With this in mind, you must plan your multimedia
accordingly. Always keep your audience in mind and what type of
equipment they will be using. Try to save every kilobyte of memory
when making graphics. Think of memory as you would a limited amount
of water on a desert island! Keep video short and compressed, use
8-bit color whenever possible, and use vector graphics instead of
bitmaps as often as you can.
nothing more than desktop computers much like the one you are using
now. What makes them a server is the software that is on them. We
will take a tour of the server room for the College of education
so you can see them first-hand. Some of the most popular servers
(software) are OSX Server (MAC), Windows NT, and Novell (PC). There
are as many different types of servers as there are uses.
will briefly talk about proxy servers (firewalls) because it
is relevant to multimedia.
Firewalls are nothing more than "filtering" software to censor
information from the Internet or to keep unwanted visitors from
When configuring your browser or ftp software to be used with a
firewall (in a school setting), you must contact the network administrator
to get the correct proxy server settings; otherwise, your software
will not work properly.
Audio and Video Servers
video is achieved by a special "streaming server" that allows
the viewer to begin to view video or hear audio without waiting
for the entire
clip to download. It is really outside the scope of this class
but you need to be aware of it. Here is a description of a streaming
server from Apple. You can learn more by following the link.
two different streaming methods HTTP streaming and RTP/RTSP
streaming. HTTP download works by downloading an entire movie
to your viewers hard disk and requires a Web server. QuickTime
Streaming Server supports RTSP (real-time streaming protocol)
which keeps your viewers computer in constant touch with
the server running the movie. Digital data is transferred and
displayed then discarded once your viewers have watched
it. RTSP streaming requires a streaming server. The difference?
HTTP streaming is great for short movies and anything else
for repeat playback. RTSP streaming, on the other hand, is
ideal for full-length movies and live events."