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Most anyone and can describe,in general terms, what it is a nurse, fireman, postal worker, or carpenter, does for a living. But if asked what a multimedia specialist does they'll probably reply with a blank stare.
The term multimedia became popular in the 1960's when it referred to the design and development of multi-projector slide and sound media. This multi-image format was extensively used in business and industry for training, motivational presentations, and large exhibition shows. It remained popular through the 1980's as used in museums exhibits, world fairs, and performance events. Many production houses had staff of trained photographers, graphic artists and others who worked on these products.
Multimedia projects ranged from 2 projector slides shows to large presentations of up to 40 or more projectors controlled first with punched paper tape and later electronic signals on analogue audio tape. College courses in multimedia design were offered and the Association for Multi-Image was formed along with annual festivals, conferences, and events.
As technology changed, the term multimedia became more frequently associated with computer based media. A multimedia specialist today has expertise in digital audio and visual media and is able to bring words, sound, photos, animation, video, and graphics all together in a multimedia digital presentation.
Most specialist have knowledge, as needed, of software and computer programming. Some are quite specialized such as those who work in the animation and game design industry.
There are some developers who have expertise in the areas of information or instructional design, and media communication theory.Such individuals work on the development of educational projects.
The multimedia product today may be delivered over the Internet, on a CD-ROM, video, DVD disc, or some other mediated form. The content is most often instructional, informational, commercial, entertainment or game based.
A multimedia specialist is a skilled individual who has expertise in many of the following areas:
- Conceptual design: One is able to visualize the big picture. A conceptual designer is responsible for providing the overall plan of a game, web site, or multimedia project
- Graphic design: The designer is able to apply the basic concepts and practices involved in the design of graphic solutions to visual problems.
- Computer Graphics: Most positions today require one be able to artisitcally use software applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash
- Audio design, recording and editing: The visual is only half of the product and being able to effectively record and edit sound files and sound tracks for media productions is key to being a multimedia producer.
- Video recording and editing: Multimedia means using motion graphics and video footage. This requires expertise in using programs such as Final Cut Pro, Premier, and Avid
- Writing: The word is always with us and being able to effectively write scripts, convey ideas, and deliver information in a clear and logical way is a critical skill.
- Interactive media and interface design: Most multimedia requires user participation. Designers need to know how to program interaction through a carefully designed interface
- Web page design and editing. The web has become a standard medium for educational and business purposes. A multimedia producer needs to know how to use applications such as using Dreamweaver and Front Page to design web site material..
- Programming: There are times when design problems require an understanding of how to program solutions. A rudimentry level of skill helps in many situations.
- Instructional design: Many web sites and multimedia products are designed that require an understanding of how people learn from well organized material. Producers of educational materials must have some level of expertise in the area of instructional design and technology
- Database design and maintenance: How does a shopping cart work? One of the more serious questions a web designer today must answer and be able to implement. Many sites require database design and maintenance knowledge and skill.
- Project management: Everyone needs to know how to manage a project. If you are a lead designer your management and organizational knowledge and skills become critical to the successfull completion of a project on time.
Many multimedia specialists work as a member of a design team in a firm that specializes in media production. These include both small and large production houses that may need individuals with a variety of expertise. Projects often include the development of DVD, CD-ROM, web, and video material. Production houses usually have a core staff supplemented by contracted designers who have skills related to a specific project.
Some individuals are self employed and work on a contract bases with a variety of clients ranging from non-profits to business and government.
The growing game design industry has need of qualified multimedia specialists Those who have expertise with programming, 3D design, and animation are especially sought after by this industry.
Some individuals work for a business, government, or agency as a web designer. Their principle responsibility is the design, development, and maintenance of online services. These are often contracted assignments although some firms hire in-house staff for Internet material.
Television stations, printers, Internet service providers, graphic art services, and other media outlets will employ individuals with multimedia design skills.
Educational media services from local school districts through college and university hire individuals with training and knowledge of multimedia design and development.
Specialized production agencies that design special effects and other computer generated graphics for film and television hire those who skills unique to that industry.
There are many opportunities by which to gain needed skills and training. There are two and four year community college and university that offer degree programs in multimedia design. One can also take special courses and workshops offered by organizations specializing in training but which are not degree oriented.
The field will constantly grow and change as it is influenced by new developments in technology and audio-visual delivery systems.