Lately I’ve become quite a fan of factual noders and their impressive spirit to fill E2 with worthwhile content. I’m not saying that creative/humorous/journalistic write-ups are bad, but these fact warriors are made of something altogether badass. So in the spirit of higher learning (and also because the fact that my prose writing has been getting strained lately) and with the force enthused by the hardcore fact writing warrior Jedi knights before me, I’ll attempt to share what little sincere content I know.

Disclaimer: I don’t know much, but what I do know is good. I can’t help having a certain tunnel vision with life. Namely, I am only inspired by what truly moves me. This would be multimedia, technology, and the creative passion of an artist all melded into one (read: I’m a creepy antisocial digital artist). I’ve currently been a web designer for the last two years or so. This isn’t my final job, simply a detour on the bigger path of artistic endeavors thru design, creation, and technology. I’ve devoted my life to finding beauty thru technology, so hopefully these write-ups will hold some interest to any future designers or artists.

I apologize now if you’re a MAC user. All my hardware is PC, and that’s what I know. I suggest emailing me angry troll-mail if you were all jazzed and ready to go only to find out that these nodes aren’t MAC friendly.

Let’s begin.

Being a digital artist is defined as a person who finds passion through creativity infused with the wonders of cutting edge software/hardware/and the Internet. I’m sure you could come up with many other definitions for a digital artist, but we’ll use my gist of the title for the work at hand. Who are digital artists, then? Simple. Anyone who creates any form of visual expression through a computer interface is a d.artist. Don’t sell yourself short if you just play with Photoshop on the weekends. That’s how I started, and I’ve slowly graduated to more technical expertise and depth of maturity with the software and hardware I use. I’ll be tackling each specific topic in its own node (I believe it’s called metanoding? I could have that term wrong, though). This one will be concerned with the actual hardware necessary for the future work you’ll be doing.

Disclaimer: I said earlier that I’m not a web designer only; so many of the things I’ll describe as necessary won’t apply if you’re just interested in web design. I have a limitless hunger for expression in all genres of communication; so much of my rig is intended for a lot of open expansion as new media becomes accessible. In a nutshell, you should always build up your hardware in such a way that you can keep up with the ever changing standards of the field.

The computer. From my own personal endeavor, I’ve found that a 400-450 MHZ with 128 RAM and about 20 GIGS will suit you just fine for the first year or so. Most of the software applications you’ll be using or optimized for 333MHZ still (even Photoshop 6, a program you’ll be using a hella lot in the future), so you’re main concerns with the box is RAM and HARD DRIVE. As you’ll realize later and later through your career as a d.artist, programs may not need a faster MHZ per se, but the software will be getting more and more RAM intensive as you go along. I realized this with:

a)Web design, specifically in the vector graphic and Internet-based animation field.

b)CG modeling, specifically with RAM hungry programs like 3Dstudio Max, Lightwave, Maya, and Rhino3D.

c)cinematography endeavors, specifically image compositing, post production effects, and video capture from recording devices. This would include digital video, HI8, or 8MM, the family camcorder, etc…

d)multitasking between the 3 topics already mentioned. Many times, as you mature as a d.artist, you’ll realize the need to take certain facets of cinematography and use them within a Web design context, or maybe take something from your CG work and throw it into a movie you’re editing with your post production suite. If this is all weird sounding, don’t worry. I’m a freak about this shit. All the unusual terminology and technicality of these nodes will be fully defined in later nodes concerning multimedia.

A 20 gig hard drive will last you about a year or two. I say this in the presumption that you will sooner or later branch off into the fields of digital artistry concerning video/audio/ and or SFX. While a web designer may never truly need 20 GIGS, a DIGITAL ARTIST must allocate enough memory to accommodate such memory hungry files of recorded video footage, sound files being edited on, and graphics. You’ll be saving a lot of work as you go along in life, and those multimedia files accrue and end up taking up huge amounts of HARD DRIVE space. If you’re as inspired(or fanatical?) as I am, you’ll realize that in a little less than three years, you’ll be needing more storage space.

To a d.artist, a computer is only as good as its ability to redefine digitally the world around it. What does this translate into? Video capture cards, scanning and recording devices, and a good Graphics card.

The graphics card. It’s important to not get caught up with graphics cards and the gaming industry. A good card for QuakeIII or something doesn’t necessarily translate into the best card for your career as a digital artist. This is true because more times than not, the extra oomph gaming cards have in the technical specs of OPENGL and refresh rates will never come into play for a d.artist. Our graphics needs are altogether different. To seriously work in a comfortable environment, you’ll need a graphics card with the ability to accommodate TWO monitors. Get a MATROX DUAL HEAD graphics card. Reasons are:

a)SPACE. Especially when working with 2D image software (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc…), you’ll need a screen entirely devoted to your image with all pertaining task bars relegated to the other monitor. It’s like keeping a clean office. If you have two monitors, things go along tidy and unobtrusively. One monitor won’t do, trust me.

b)Professionalism. Matrox cards allow you to output to a television and/or VCR. This allows you to output something called a demo reel all on your own. Demo reels will be approached in another node, but generally these are VHS tapes with your digital portfolio on it. This may be websites you’ve created put to a music soundtrack or small CG movies you’ve done, etc… Demo reels are the true resume` of a d.artist (read: It’s what gets you hired).

c)Technical specs: Matrox cards WILL survive the war of OPENGL. This may or may not mean something to you right now, but it will. As you start to embark on the path of computer graphics a video card with good OPENGL will become important. Voodoo, Nvidia cards ARE better, but the advantage of the two monitor option greatly outweighs the aspects of better OPENGL through Voodoo or Nvidia. Also, Matrox cards leave a lot of room for different ways of importing visual content into your editing rig to later use with multimedia projects.

Video Capture cards. This card is important with having the ability to import video footage. Having a good working knowledge with video will open up many doors of work and creative maturity as a d.artist. I’ve always come to believe that traits of a web designer/computer graphics tech/filmmaker/ and classical artist can meld into some awesome force of super alpha artist. When I started incorporating the use of footage in my web-design and overall multimedia bag of tricks, it was like seeing the Internet (and life, kinda) in a new light. A good bare bones video card will have the following:

a)Video input

b)Video output

c)S-Video IN/OUT (not as important as the first two options)

Many times you’ll see capture cards with extras, such as the ability to tune into television or listen to the radio through it. While nice incentives, it’s not really needed.

The Sound Card. Usually, whatever card came with your computer is fine. As long as it has an Audio IN, we’re cool. Being able to record Audio off a television or stereo system is a good option to have, especially when your skills in developing sound tracks for your web sites and any video work increases.

Good speakers. Speakers are important for the level of professionalism you want to achieve as a d.artist. If you’ve ever noticed the digital labs of Disney, Digital Domain, or whatever, you’ll see that the room is equipped with High-definition sound sources. Of course, if I had the $5000 to bust out on speakers, I’d be cool like them too. But I don’t {sigh}, and you probably won’t either. I’ve found that a cheap way for good sound is too simply wire your audio out into your stereo system. Simply pick up whatever necessary extension adapters you might need from The WIZ or Radio Shack to run your rig’s audio into the AUDIO IN of your stereo. You don’t need to buy those ‘special’ speakers for computers. It’s just a lot of hype, really.

Scanning/Recording devices: While not integral to your first setup, having a not-pathetic scanner and not-pathetic digital camera will help you out greatly. Most of the time , you can get around not purchasing this stuff by digitizing any photographic or otherwise paper mediums at your local Genovese or related convenience all-in-one shopping store. Look into scoring these items as a third or year investment for your digital artist career. With a digital camera, I’ve been able to capture the movements of humanity at a moments’ whim and easily import it into my editing rig for manipulation into web design and/or other multimedia. Again, it’s all about leaving yourself with options. The more options you have as a d.artist, the better you’ll do. I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t use a scanner a whole lot. I suppose I’ll find a use for it as I tackle my layout/magazine design skills more earnestly in the future. I do use my digital camera a lot, and I’ve found that anything that can output 8.5 X 11 color photo quality images when printed will suit ya just fine.

Camcorder. If you have at one point ever owned ANY type of camcorder, it’ll help you out in the long run. Digital art just ain’t Photoshop! Being comfortable with recording the world around you in video will enthuse your ‘artistic eye’ with a really dynamic sense of observation skills and emotion. Basically, you’re becoming a bit of a film maker. You’d be surprised about how movies and web design go hand in hand with certain similar mentalities and practices. I’ll talk about that in another node, though. Footage taped with any kind of recorder is easily imported with the before-mentioned capture card.

Monitors. A 19 inch and a 15 inch are recommended. Of course, that’s just me. Having a fairly big viewing screen (which would later become your ‘main’ screen) is important with the idea of SPACE. It’s just better to have more room to accommodate the huge amount of windows certain applications work in. A smaller monitor for whatever ‘secondary’ clutter is fine.

In my next node, I’ll approach the basic software applications you’ll need for your first year or two of straight up digital artist mastery. Again, these nodes are always trying to answer general guidelines to being a multimedia artist. I apologize if you thought this was going to be a web design-specific node. I will tackle important issues with specific underlying careers that are generally grouped under the term ‘multimedia’, but those deserve their own node. Primarily I hope to simply pencil out the general advantages to having a certain setup with your editing rig. Specifics to everything discusses will of course, follow in time.

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