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An Introduction to Digital Multimedia  
By T. M. Savage and K.E. Vogel
Illustrated. 344 pp.
Jones & Bartlett Publishers. US$84.95
ISBN-13: 9780763750527 | ISBN-10: 0763750522

Digital Multimedia is a vast and ever-increasing field of media, one that changes daily as the latest phenomena explode onto the scene. In An Introduction to Digital Multimedia, authors T. M. Savage and K.E. Vogel attempt to present the broad spectrum of digital multimedia for both beginners and knowledgeable readers. Liberally sprinkled with photographs, charts and computer screen shots, Savage and Vogel manage to touch on most of the relevant digital media in today’s world.

An Introduction to Digital Multimedia begins with an overview of multimedia and distinguishes the characteristics and advantages of digital data. The distinction between analog and digital media is a bit short and arcane, but the description of digital data methodology is clear and thorough. Savage and Vogel also include a brief history of the computer that focuses on its visionaries, including Alan Turing, Ted Nelson, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee.

An Introduction to Digital Multimedia then explores both computer hardware and software. It gives a good overview of the components of a modern PC and how they work. It then describes the functions of Operating Systems, while avoiding any specific comparisons between Windows, Mac and Linux.

A good example of the depth and breadth of this book can be found in the discussion of programming languages. Savage and Vogel begin with a discussion of machine code, the binary language used by all computers, and its evolution to assembly language. Then they examine high-level languages such as BASIC and COBOL, and how compilers are used to translate them into machine code. Finally, they discuss the newest languages such as object-oriented programming and visual programming. The authors describe the differences and features in a manner that is clear and concise.

In the fifth chapter, "Text," An Introduction to Digital Multimedia builds on the foundations laid in the first chapters by delving into digital media. Text is the most basic of these and would hardly seem worthy of an entire chapter, but Savage and Vogel detail the importance of text and its proper usage in digital multimedia. The chapter begins with a historical overview of text printing and concludes with a helpful list of guidelines for the use of text.

Next, the book delves into graphics with a brief overview of traditional printing. Then it dives into the complex world of computer graphics, first with a focus on photographs and two-dimensional media, then with an overview of three-dimensional computer generated graphics. There are 28 color plates included which show several screen shots from Photoshop and iMovie, and also provide examples of several computer generated 3-D effects. The plates are high-quality prints which provide excellent examples of the different multimedia described in this book.

Much of the last part of the book is devoted to digital audio and video, with detailed discussions of formats, file compression, and shot composition. There are many screen shots from different audio and video computer programs such as Flash, Audacity and GarageBand. There is a thorough discussion of standard video compared to HD video and the different versions of HD. There is also an engrossing chapter on digital animation.

The final chapters include a discussion of future multimedia development, including an overview of copyright laws and conflicts, as well as Digital Rights Management. While predicting the future is always a risky business, An Introduction to Digital Multimedia avoids preposterous speculation in favor of conservative supposition. The book omits any discussion of social networking though, which appears to be one of the fastest growing areas of multimedia.

An Introduction to Digital Multimedia is a thorough and engrossing overview of a broad topic, well designed for the serious student of this ever-changing arena.

Will Mahoney-Watson, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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