The Five: Programs of Content Creation


Hello! Maddy here with another segment of "The Five!" This week, I wanted to talk about five programs that I use religiously when it comes to creating content in all types of media. Most of these are Freeware or Legacyware, so they should be easy enough to acquire. That said, if you need something more powerful, you'll want to go for premium versions. Alright, here we go!

Graphics Editing: Adobe Photoshop 7.0 (And Elements, Creative Suite Series, etc.)
For more than a decade, Photoshop has been an industry standard. Layers and selections have always worked flawlessly (which can not be said for competitors like Corel Paint Shop); the number of filters, effects and adjustments surpass any other program out there; and most importantly, the user interface has remained largely identical across every version of the program.

There are a few in the art community who might recommend freeware software like GIMP, but I personally steer people away from that program for a variety of reasons. The controls and tool layouts are completely inverted, the program is not bounded by any passive window, making everything feel like a free-floating mess, and each movement is a lot less precise than what you'd get from using a Photoshop client.

The downside is that Photoshop is a program you must pay for. That said, you can easily get by with older versions. The one I use (7.0) predates the Creative Suite series and works flawlessly on Windows 7, as it did on Vista and XP. I've had it for years and I swear by it. Photoshop Elements is also rather cheap and quite usable.

Audio Editing: Audacity
Despite being freeware, Audacity is an industry standard for audio editing. The amount of support and features embedded into the program over time are truly staggering, and it will perform well alongside paid programs like Sony Sound Forge.

With it, you can adjust most parameters related to a sound file, save to almost any audio format, record within the program, apply filters, remove vocals or noise, and so on. The only real criticism I have of it is that it's not a very precise program. When you're trying to make edits down to the milisecond, you find yourself making tons of mistakes and CTRL + Z quickly becomes your best friend. Other freeware programs like EXPStudio are better in that regard, but have their own problems. Audacity still holds the top spot.

Video Editing: NCH VideoPad (ver. 2.30)
NCH makes some pretty powerful software: WavePad for audio editing, and VideoPad for video editing. Both have a premium version which must be paid for, or a free version which strips major features, limits filetypes you can save to, etc.

That said, the program is very good if you need to quickly edit video clips, add audio, and so on. There are also effects palettes built into the program which you can use to your heart's content. Now, as far as versions go, the newest version (2.57) has more free features but a more confusing user interface. I stick with the 2.30 version because it just feels better to use. It's your call which one you want to use.

3D Models: Trimble SketchUp

Originally produced by Google, the GPS company Trimble acquired SketchUp a few years ago and proceeded to completely overhaul the program. It is a very powerful 3D renderer which uses points, lines and planes to make simple or complex 3D shapes. You can also download models other people have made, and use said models in your own works. It's so easy that a child can use it, but some of the greatest skills require years to master.

Simple Photo Retouching: Microsoft Office Picture Manager
This program came bundled with Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. It is a graphic organizer with the ability to apply effects to pictures. Photoshop is a powerful program, but can take time to load up or save a file. If you need to make small edits quickly, this will quickly become your friend.

The program opens in seconds, and gives you the ability to adjust color, brightness, contrast, size, aspect ratio, orientation, or remove red eye. You can navigate through and alter dozens of photos within the span of a few minutes, and to be honest, it's a toss up whether I use this program more than Photoshop or not.

(Thank you for reading this segment of "The Five!" If you liked this piece, feel free to check out my other works over at WLIA: Where Life Imitates Art, a blog where I discuss various elements of fictional media and how they connect to and influence real life.)

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