Multimedia Madness

by Alan Zisman (c) 1993. First published in Our Computer Player, July 16, 1993

Multimedia Madness!
by Ron Wodaski
Sams Publishing
$56.95 CDN

Recently, I reviewed Kris Jamsa's book, "Instand Multimedia for Windows 3.1". To be brief, I was disappointed. I found the book too basic. It tried to show multimedia, but assumed that users had no sound card, no CD-ROM player, and as a result, couldn't do much of anything.

As a result, I approached Ron Wodaski's book, "Multimedia Madness", very tentatively. Was I going to strike out again? (And I've been paying cash for these books!)

But it included a CD-ROM disk... the first book I've seen with a CD bundled. With 500 meg or so of software included, there's got to be something worthwhile, right?

Well, I don't want to keep you in suspense. I liked this book a lot more. While it is listed as 'Beginner/Intermediate', it doesn't have the 'Dick and Jane' feel of the Jamsa book, while covering much of the same material.

Wodaski is clearly a multimedia evangelist... he claims that it's "the next logical step" for personal computing. He takes you from sound to still pictures, to video, to putting it all together. At every step of the way, he takes a look at current (late 1992) software and hardware, with a focus on Windows, and shows you how to use it.

He steps through MIDI, sound cards, and CD-ROM, and looks at a range of applications. He even looks at the programming side of things, including some Visual Basic and C+++ sample code. (No, you don't need to know ProgrammerSpeak for this book to make sense. It's easy for the rest of us to just skip those couple of pages).

There's even a Shopper's Guide section, where Wodaski helps us through the sometimes daunting task of getting a 'Multimedia PC'. He's prepared to give his opinions, on sound and video cards, video capture boards, MIDI instruments and sound modules, and software. There's a knowledgeable section on music software, as well as the more widely discussed authoring and video software.

This book leaves the user well informed to begin to work with the current generation of multimedia hardware and software. (Of course this means that it will be horribly dated in a year or two!)

But it's not just a book... it's a multimedia experience.

Even without a CD-ROM player, the floppy disk that's enclosed will help you get a taste of the multimedia experience. You get the Windows PC Speaker driver, enabling you to play sounds through your built-in speaker (only recommended for the poor or tone deaf!)

Using that, you can use the shareware WHOOP IT UP to attach sounds to Windows events. Or YAKKITY, the talking clock. WAVEEDIT lets you edit wave sounds, while MAKIN'WAVES lets you convert other sound files to Windows-standard WAV format. WINJAMMER is a shareware sequencer (for recording and editing MIDI song files). GRAPHICS WORKSHOP lets you view graphics files, convert between formats, or apply special effects to your bitmapped clipart. (Remember, you still need to register the shareware if you keep on using it... buying the book doesn't make you a registered user of these shareware programs).

The new MEDIA PLAYER, also from Microsoft, lets you play Video for Windows movie clips. CD AUDIO gives you the ability to play music CDs on your computer CD-ROM drive.

Because you really want to have a CD-ROM player. You've got the CD that's included with the book tempting you... you MUST go and buy a CD-ROM player. You MUST go and buy a CD-ROM player. You MUST...

The CD disk is a special edition of NAUTILUS, a CD-based multimedia magazine. It installs a small directory of software (and subscription information) on your hard drive, giving you a graphical, Windows front-end for this CD (and other issues, if you choose to subscribe).

I can't even begin to give you a comprehensive listing of the 500 megs on this disk...
You get an introduction by Bill Gates... it's a Video for Windows movie clip. You get all of Chapter 2 of the book ("Sound Advice"), this time as a multimedia experience. One day, all books will be like this.

You get a photo section, with nature and travel pics... repeated in GIF, 8-bit bitmap, and 24-bit full-colour TIF versions.

You get working models and demos of lots of multimedia software. CakeWalk Pro sequencer. Band-in-a-Box music accompanist. Autodesk 3-D Studio animations. Microsoft Bookshelf. Tempra Pro and Tempra Show. Animation programs from Presidio Software. A chapter from Microsoft's CD-ROM on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

The Multimedia Toolbook runtime includes a sample program on the exploration of space, a theme that's repeated with Video for Windows movies of the space shuttle. There's even a music video from Windham Hill records.

A bunch of sounds, Windows wallpaper utilities, a number of antivirus programs, a couple of games... well, you get the picture... you can do a lot with 500 meg or so to fill.

If you've got a CD-ROM player, and run Windows, but really haven't felt like much of what you've heard about multimedia meant much, check this book out. While it will seem dated pretty quickly, for now, it's your best way to get a sense of what can be accomplished on a PC, under the name of Multimedia.

It's a lot of fun, too.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan