how can I learn to create multimedia?
August 27, 2009 7:28 AM   Subscribe

How can I best learn multimedia? Recommended programs or ways to learn? Best examples of multimedia that you have seen on the web?

I am currently a medical writer, but have been enamored by the idea of being able to create my own graphic animations to demonstrate how a drug works on a molecular level, etc (I know the material could be even more accessible and interesting i.f such animations were used). From time to time, a potential client reaches out to me and inquires as to whether I could offer both medical writing and multimedia services.

I’ve also thought it would/could be fun to try science writing on the side, with games, animations…either looking for potential markets (eg, education for university students, book supplemental, CDs) or writing on my own and seeing if it goes anywhere.

Because this interests me, I thought I would query the hive mind as to ideas as to how best learn multimedia, and suggestions for best programs/practices, etc.

My questions include:

1. Best program or programs? What tends to be used for webpages, ppt, or CDs? The best “wow”/CD animations that can be created, either for a webpage, ppt, or CD.

I am going to be honest and say that I don’t have much of a background in programming. I’d be willing to invest time, but not thousands of hours of time. I’m not sure what skills I even need to learn or if I learn how to use program X, could that be used to create a webpage and/or CD, too.

2. Best examples of multimedia that you have seen on the web (to tell a story, to teach a concept – it is related to #1, that would be great).

3. Would anyone know the market rate for something like this? There are tasks I am motivated to learn just for myself, but if this is only going to pay $50/hour or less for medical writing plus multimedia… it isn’t worth my time as a business investment (maybe as a fun/side project, but I won't want to invest 300 hours time plus a $1000 program). So if anyone knows rates and is willing to share ...(feel free to memail me if you don’t want to share that info in a public forum).

4. Would it be better to collaborate with multimedia people vs trying to acquire this skill on my own? Or do a hybrid of this? Perhaps by learning to create a basic animation and letting someone with more art skills enhance it.

5. Because I don't really understand the skill sets I am trying to acquire - is this the same skill or several skills? For example, if I wanted to create a phenomal webpage or a great animation for a PowerPoint - one program or several programs?
posted by Wolfster to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is a really broad question, with 300 possible directions... but the shortest path to do most of what you want in a single program and in learning only a single language would be to learn Adobe Flash, and ignore everything else. Flash could be used to make interactive web elements, CD software, browser-based web games, and kickass presentations.

But it is a steep learning curve, so be prepared to spend many, many hours just trying to get your first red circle to bounce up and down.

My day job is finding and assembling teams of people to do what you are proposing to do all but yourself. For a single auteur, $150-200/hr would be reasonable all the writing, producing and illustrating and animating of content. It's pretty rare that the same person does all of that, other than for works of personal passion.

(Which are, of course, unpaid and priceless.)
posted by rokusan at 7:37 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding Flash. Especially if you want to put the things you make on the web. It's the best balance between the versatility you describe and easiness to learn.

It's not unfeasible that you could learn basic animation in Flash in a day. However, if you want to do anything more interactive than a button you'll need to learn Flash's ActionScript. The learning curve for that is quite a bit steeper.

Also, a good starting point before learning animation might be learning Photoshop. You'll be amazed at what you can do with a blank canvas and the basic tools.
posted by cirrostratus at 9:28 AM on August 27, 2009

Best answer: I make multimedia, and I started out like you: A technical writer wanting to create animated diagrams to better show what I was writing about, and to put it all together on a disk with other stuff, like text, still graphics, audio, video, plus lots of cool interactivity and non-linear navigation, etc.

I discovered that creating "my own graphic animations to demonstrate [e.g.] how a drug works on a molecular level, etc." was a completely separate and different challenge than creating all the other aspects of what I was thinking of as multimedia.

The tools, training, TIME and skills required to make animated technical diagrams of complex 3-D processes go way beyond what you'll need to learn to design, make and assemble complex, rich presentations using all the other kinds of media you might want. (I do that these days using the video editing and simple vector animation tools in Final Cut Studio, and the page-layout, still-graphics, and rich-media pdf-building tools in the Adobe Creative Suite. See this MeFi thread for more on that.)

But after much effort and a lot of money, I eventually gave up on the animation part, because I learned that for what I'd imagined (i.e., processes described by showing forms transforming and interacting in 3-D space), 3-D animation software was the only way to go, and that is a NON-trivial pursuit, to put it mildly, easily requiring as much commitment on its own as I've had to put into learning all the other programs I just mentioned combined. Good 3-D animations also require a solid grounding in basic art skills, and well-designed process diagrams of any kind, animated or otherwise, are themselves the result of a rich skill set, as I'm sure you're aware. Even if you have those skills, buy the software, and have an art background, I think you'll find that the time required to make animated diagrams is rarely justifiable when so many quicker paths to making the same points exist.

I'm not trying to scare you off, just to point out what I found: That rich, engaging multimedia was very possible without the fancy animations I'd originally dreamt of, and came together quite nicely as a doable career path, once I dropped the animation part. OTOH, if I'd been willing/able to get the animation skills together up front and had been more personally committed to that specific goal, adding the other skills required to create a "multimedia" setting for cool animations wouldn't be that hard.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:06 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's something you'll enjoy.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:18 AM on August 27, 2009

Response by poster: I wanted to say thank you to all the responders for their replies, I found all the answers very helpful.

DPCoffin, your answer barely touches on this, but your linked discussion and the links within that question there provide lots and lots of exampes as to how to integrate multimedia now. Very impressive, and I may follow up with a metamail later.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by Wolfster at 5:14 AM on August 31, 2009

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