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Hardware & Software for Art & Design

Graham Davies

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I sent a couple of messages to the ICT section of this Forum in a discussion centred on the pros and cons of Macs vis-a-vis PCs. I have appended them here in a slightly modified form as they may be relevant to Art & Design.

Message 1:

I doubt that my daughter Siân would have ended up in such an enjoyable and profitable line of work if she had not received good ICT training at school and at art college. She graduated from art college in 1991 - the year is a good indication of how forward-thinking her art college was at the time. The college was well-equipped with different kinds of computers, both PCs and Macs. Most of my daughter's friends from that era have done very well in professional life. Have a look at my daughter's website: http://www.mdmcreative.com

I think the "Alien Resurrection" advertising material they produced for Electronic Arts is probably their best work: under Gallery/Advertising.

I know of several schools in the UK that have art departments well-equipped with computers and that train their students to use packages such as Photoshop and Illustrator as well as more traditional art materials. I am currently a member of a team based at Kingston University: MELTEC http://www.meltec.org.uk

The team includes art teachers who offer training in such packages. We also cover sound, video and other aspects of multimedia.

Message 2:

The key packages used by art teachers, e.g. Illustrator and Photoshop (which are more or less industry-standard) work in much the same way on a PC as on a Mac. In fact, although my daughter is mainly Mac-trained, we have run joint multimedia training workshops for teachers using PCs. Photoshop Elements is a package that we recommend to schools - it is a cut-down version of Photoshop, but it includes the essential features: http://www.adobe.co.uk/products/photoshopel/

Regarding video, there is a useful device marketed in the UK by Tag Learning: the Digital Blue Digital Movie Creator. It records up to 4 minutes of video and/or a number of still pictures (I can't remember how many) and includes editing software. Stop-frame animation is another feature - i.e. you can produce stop-frame movies along the lines of Nick Park's "Wallis and Grommit”. It’s very easy to use and ideal as an introduction to digital video both for teachers and students. It connects to the USB port and works on PCs and Macs. Price: around 120 euros.

A companion product is Digital Blue’s microphone with a built-in storage facility, i.e. you can make a recording on the move and then upload it to a PC via the USB port at a later time. The software accompanying it includes a number of animation facilities. It's known as the Sound Morpher (aka as the Animation Station). You can record up to 4 minutes of sound away from the computer. This does not sound like a great deal, but in practice you will find that it is more than adequate for capturing dialogues, and of course they can be pieced together and edited in other ways using the Sound Morpher's own software or software such as AudioSurgeon. Price: around 55 euros.

See http://www.taglearning.com/ (search under "D" for "Digital Blue")

Both products form the backbone of the multimedia training courses offered by MELTEC (Kingston University): http://www.meltec.org.uk

Teachers in the pilot schools following the MELTEC courses have produced some impressive projects using the above products. I’ve written a few notes that I use in connection with the MELTEC courses at:


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