Book Review: Crafting Digital Media by Daniel James

Daniel James is the director of the Studio 64 GNU/Linux distribution, which serves as a basis for professional music studio mixing installations, as well as an experienced writer and editor. Thus it is not surprising that he should create an excellent book on music mixing. What did surprise me was how well he covered visual arts as well -- photography, drawing, animation, and video production.

Crafting Digital Media

The book covers a wide variety of digital media production tools, including tools for: photography, graphics, typography, animation, 3D modelling and rendering, desktop publishing, music synthesis, sound recording and mixing, video production, and website publishing.

The range of packages covered is staggering!

#The contents

The first couple of chapters introduce the ideas behind free software and provide brief instructions on how to get Ubuntu GNU/Linux installed on your system. After that, each chapter covers a basic category of production; identifies specific tools; and provides a brief tutorial for the most popular packages.

The range of packages covered is staggering, including: F-Spot, Gimp, Inkscape, FontForge, KToon, Synfig, Blender, Scribus, Mixxx, Hydrogen, Seq24, AlsaModularSynth, Audacity, Ardour, JACK, JAMin, Gnome CD Master, Avidemux, Kino, Open Movie Editor, Drupal, and Icecast. Some of these packages have very little prior documentation, making this book an invaluable resource.

Most of these programs are extremely complex and capable applications in their own rights, so you won't by any means learn them thoroughly through this book. What you will learn is a rough approximation of what the applications can do and how to find your way around their graphical interfaces (which in some cases are notoriously daunting to new users). In other words, the tutorials provided are just enough to get you started on learning each application.

The included CD is an Ubuntu distribution.

#Who’s this book for?

This book is excellent for anyone who is thinking about doing creative artistic or musical work on a free software platform. If you are presently an artist stuck with proprietary tools (or find yourself stripped of them) and need to find free tools to replace them with, then this book will help you identify what you need. Likewise, if you're a free software user itching for some creative digital expression but don't know how to get started, this book is for you. I don't think it matters much whether you are an amateur or a professional -- both kinds of users will find excellent information in this book.

#Relevance to free software

I know from private conversations with James that this book was originally titled "Free Software for Creative People", and I'm not sure why the name was changed, because it would've fit well: every single application described in this book is free software, and it covers most of the category favorites of each type.

Every single application described in this book is free software, and it covers most of the category favorites of each type


Provides an excellent introduction into free software creative authoring software, over an impressive range of tools. Some of the tools (such as KToon) are underused precisely because there isn't enough clear English-language documentation, and this book helps to close those gaps.

The tutorials are clear and easy to follow. Attention is paid to the kinds of details that trip up beginners, and the scope of each is just enough to get you familiar with the programs' capabilities, without bogging you down in too much detail.


As you might expect from my rating, I didn't find much wrong with this book. It does focus on Gnome rather than KDE applications, for the most part. The chapter on setting up a web server for webcasting feels a little grafted-on, since there are already so many good books about doing that that cover it better, but these are trifles. The only other caveat to be aware of is the synoptic nature of the book -- don't expect to learn any of the packages thoroughly.

In short...
Title Crafting Digital Media
Author Daniel James
Publisher Apress
ISBN 978-1-4302-1887-6
Year 2009
Pages 428
CD included Yes
FS Oriented 10/10
Over all score 10/10


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