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BOOK REVIEW

Author: Bryan WC Chung
Publisher: Packt
Purchase: Multimedia Programming with Pure Data

Multimedia Programming with Pure Data is essentially a reference text which describes in great detail how to use Pure Data for a variety of interactive multimedia applications that span across many different devices.

Pure Data is a free, open-source, and cross platform graphical programming environment. Users write programs by drawing visual objects on the screen and connect them together to form patches.

Chung - cover

In a nutshell, this book guides you step-by-step through building a variety of interactive multimedia projects. These projects range from creating a simple animation to working with the Microsoft Kinect camera for human skeleton tracking. Several of the projects found in this book make use of HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript, and Flash. But the star of the show for me was certainly the GEM library (Graphics Environment for Multimedia). By the end of the book, you will have seen the awesome power of this library and it will no doubt encourage you to explore it even further on your own.

Chung’s writing style is very lucid and to-the-point. Don’t go into this book expecting funny anecdotes or silly humor to help you understand concepts. If you do, prepare to be disappointed. However, the quality of the writing is extremely high, and what you do get is a technical comprehensive text that is wrapped up in cohesion and clarity.

The first chapter offers a brief introduction to Pure Data and walks you through the basics. You’ll learn the interface and some essential terms before creating several patches. Once you tackle the math and messages, the rest will come much easier. In the next two chapters, you’ll begin to use the GEM library for some graphical projects, including 2D and 3D shapes. Chung shows the powerful ways that you can manipulate images using a slew of effects including pix_metaimage, pix_add, and pix_invert. As the book progresses, projects become more and more engaging. You will even encounter temporal effects, stop motion, background removal, and the chroma key effect!

The second half of the book focuses on advanced applications that really dig deep into Pure Data. Projects in this section include:

  • Motion Detection/Webcam (using pix_blob)
  • Air Drum (yes, you’ll be waving your hands in the air and actually “playing” an air drum)
  • Particle Animation (via mouse movements)
  • Waveform Generation (audio programming)

Finally, the last few chapters deal with interfacing Pure Data with various hardware/devices. I found the section on OSC (Open Sound Control) very interesting. It filled in the gaps for me and now I’m able to connect my DAW to Pure Data to my Android phone for some serious multimedia power!

There is a section towards the end of the book that touches on Arduino and the Kinect camera, however I wasn’t able to really wrap my head around everything Chung discussed. I need to brush up on my Processing. But if you’re already experienced in Arduino applications, you shouldn’t have any problems keeping up.

If I had to choose something about this book that could be viewed as a negative, I’d say that I was slightly disappointed in the chapter on audio programming. I was hoping for a deeper look at what Pure Data can do regarding sound design and live electroacoustic composition. Even though the chapter was around 40 pages, I just felt like it didn’t explore deep enough into the audio realm of Pure Data. With that said, my favorite chapter in the book was definitely the fourth: Interactivity.

In my opinion, Multimedia Programming with Pure Data is not an ideal book for the absolute Pure Data beginner. Although I’m certain that there are some neophytes who could keep up, I believe this text is primarily aimed at those who have at least some working knowledge of Pure Data (or Max/MSP). If you have never used Pure Data before, this book may be confusing in some points, regardless of the fact that the author does a great job providing clear and concise instructions with every project.

Multimedia Programming with Pure Data is a fantastic resource for any visual artist or media designer. If you follow along step-by-step with each project, you will develop impressive multimedia applications without the need to write code.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to harness the power of Pure Data and bring their projects to the next level.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bryan WC Chung is an interactive media artist and design consultant based in Hong Kong. His interactive media artworks have been exhibited at the World Wide Video Festival, Multimedia Art Asia Pacific, Stuttgart Film Winter Festival, Microwave International New Media Arts Festival, and the China Media Art Festival. He has been developing software libraries for the open source programming language—Processing.

For more information on the author, please click here to visit his website.