Once upon a time making movies was the exclusive right of the big Hollywood film studios. Well no more. With the right software, a little know-how, and the help of YouTube, anyone can become cinema’s next big thing. And that’s not all. From Grammy winning albums to fine art and photography, new technology means that anyone can create a masterpiece – no previous experience required.
With the rise of digital cameras (which seem to be getting cheaper with each passing minute), photography is back in fashion, and the new generation of point-and-shoot digital cameras allow even absolute novices to get great results with relatively little effort.
If you are an absolute beginner however, you may still want to get a few words of advice from the experts. www.photography.com is a good spot to get general advice about taking photos. Not technical by any means, www.photography. com has pointers on everything from black and white photography to fashion photography to photographing children.
If you’re looking for a site that focuses a little more on the nuts-and-bolts aspects of taking great shots, try www.photographytips.com It’s a great site that shows you how to get the most out of your camera and teaches professional techniques in easy-to-understand terms.
Of course these days there’s much more to photography than simply pointing and clicking. After you’ve caught that great snap there are ways to turn it into something truly spectacular after that initial click. The first stop for professionals is, of course, Photoshop (www.photoshop.com). When it comes to editing your photographs, if you can imagine it, it’s possible with Photoshop. Whether it’s easy is another matter however, and Photoshop can be pretty intimidating to the absolute beginner. But once you’ve got a handle on the basics, the world is your oyster. Visit tinyurl. com/phtshptips for how-to guides on getting the most out this truly powerful software.
If you don’t need all the bells of whistles of Photoshop, and honestly, most of us don’t, there are plenty of free alternatives. Try Gimp (as mentioned above), Google’s Picasa (picasa.google. co.nz) or an online editor such as Picnik (tinyurl. com/getblender). Both Picasa and Picnik offer easy editing options, such as cropping, exposure controls and sharpening, meaning you can get great results from an imperfect snap without having to spend hours figuring out complicated functions.
Then there’s Flickr (www.flickr.com), a massive online image hosting site that allows you to display your pictures, create a user profile and participate in a vibrant online community. If you’re looking for inspiration, Flickr is second to none.
From Norman Rockwell to Frank Miller, illustration has always been considered the granddaddy of the fine arts. Technology has come a long way since Rockwell started putting brush to canvas, however. The digital revolution has transformed the way people think about the visual arts, and allows artists to create images never thought possible previously. When it comes to illustration, Adobe is hands down the leader in the field. Boasting two of the industry’s most recognised pieces of software, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, Adobe is generally considered the artist’s first choice when it comes to creating art and manipulating images. And it’s little wonder either; both Illustrator and Photoshop are very powerful pieces of software. If you can’t do it with one of these two programs, chances are it can’t be done. www.adobe.com/products
For those going into business as professional artists it’s hard to go past the Adobe line, although the average user might baulk at the price. There are alternatives, however. For vector-based art-work, try the free vector program, Inkscape. It supports many advanced features, such as clones and alpha blending, all within a stripped-down interface. There’s also a great site offering Inkscape specific tutorials: inkscapetutorials.wordpress.com inkscape.org/download
One of the better known Photoshop alternatives is Gimp (www.gimp.org). While not having the endless options of Photoshop, Gimp still offers a lot of power (and a similar learning curve), although it’s hardly the only option. For plenty of other options visit Osalt.com, a site specialising in open source alternatives to Photoshop, as well as many other handy downloads.
And why stop at two dimensions? Google now offers 3D modelling, allowing you to create 3D objects. See sketchup. google.com, and if the Google version isn’t to your liking, try the Blender, available at tinyurl.com/getblender If you’re looking to make technical diagrams, the days of cartridge pencils and protractors is long gone. You can visit live.gnome.org/Dia/Download to download software that will allow you to create structured diagrams on your PC. Once you’ve created your masterpiece, get it online. Sites like www.deviantart.com allow you to exhibit your work to a worldwide audience, create a profile and even sell prints.
When it comes to video, YouTube is your gateway to the world. If it’s online video, chances are it’s hosted on YouTube, and if you’re looking for views it’s got to be your first stop. It’s got an extremely easy-to-use interface and a worldwide audience is able to watch your clip within minutes of it being uploaded.
But just how do you go about capturing the Spielbergian movie masterpiece? These days if you own a digital camera, chances are it can capture video. While older cameras may be limited in their frame rate, resolution and memory capabilities, most new-model cameras provide more than enough power for the amateur auteur. Many cameras boast pretty comprehensive editing capabilities as well. In some instances however, editing on-device can be awkward and confusing, but don’t worry. Windows Movie Maker is a free program that allows you to do all the basics, such as trimming and joining video, adding text, fade-ins and fade-outs and special effects, and it’s so simple to use, you’ll be up and running in moments. There are different versions available and you’ll want to choose the one compatible with your computer. If you’re running Windows XP, try visiting tinyurl.com/movmakerxp for your edition, or if you’re running Vista, Windows 7 or the Windows Server 2008 operating system, try tinyurl.com/movmakernew
All too complicated? YouTube to the rescue again – you can now perform simple video edits such as joining and trimming, and it even allows you to add new audio from the AudioSwap library. For all the details go to tinyurl.com/yteditor.
If you’ve got a song in your heart but don’t know how to get to the rest of the world, here’s how. What you choose depends on what you want to achieve, your level of experience, and of course, your budget.
Few would disagree that the ultimate digital recording software is ProTools. Countless hit records have been cut using ProTools and if you can imagine it, ProTools can make it happen. (Check out our review of ProTools Essentials this issue on page 28).
If you’re inexperienced in making music, but still want to start cutting tracks as soon as possible, you’d perhaps be better off with a program that offers less options, but guides you through the music –making process step by step. Try something like Magix Music Maker 16, a relatively cheap system that offers plenty of samples and loops to help you build your song from the ground up (see our review in the June 2010 issue).
If budget is your only concern, don’t despair. Try Audacity. It’s completely free, and while it may not have the same control offered by more expensive software, classic songs have been composed on a lot less: audacity.sourceforge.net For great advice on the home recording process, and for lots more digital recording options, visit homerecording.com/digital.html for a rundown of what’s available.
Once you’ve recorded the next Bohemian Rhapsody, you’ll want to share it with friends, family and record executives. Upload it to an mp3 hosting site such as www.mp3-upload.net or www.filefactory.com, then sit back and wait for the phone to ring.