Content Creator Tools

Apps and tools and resources for artists and creators (2019)

Formats

File Formats

File formats are not glamourous. But knowing the one to use and when is essential for digital production. Below are the main filetypes you encounter a lot.

JPEG Format

JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. The JPEG is lossy compression for digital images (it discards data to save in file size). JPG are particularly good for compessing images produced by digital photography. Most commonly saved as .jpg it also be saved with a .jpeg extension. lossy compression for digital images, particularly for those images produced by digital photography. the .jpg is the bread and butter image format for the web.

In Use:  Export using JPEG for website images. Be sure to set the quality as low as you can while maintaining visual quality. Lean and mean is the name of the game for the web and jpegs are your best tool.

GIF Format

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. A .gif is a bitmap image format that supports 265 colours and animation (frames). GIFs are less suitable for reproducing colour photographs. GIFS are the second most common image format used on the World Wide Web. They are widely used online for short animations. GIFs are a lossless compression format.

In Use:  Export using GIFs for animation. You can create these in Photoshop. Or a GIF app. But remember, GIFS only support 256 colours. Vector artwork will handle this, but photos will show visual banding and artefacts.

PNG Format

PNG stands for Portable Network Graphic. A .png is a lossless image format that supports full colour and transparency. PNG's are widely used on the web. Although they are very large in file size compared to JPG. So use them wisely. They are great for logos. And for images where transparency is needed.

In Use:  Export using PNG for images where transparency is required. You can also use the PNG format for uploading perfect quality images to Facebook and Instagram (these platforms compress the images anyway). PNG also supports transparency so the PNG is great for exporting files with transparency to other programs.

EPS Format

EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript. the .eps format is a graphics file format used in vector-based images like Adobe Illustrator. A EPS file may contain 2D vector graphics, bitmap images, and text.

In Use:  The EPS is a vector file format. You'll often receive logos and vector artwork in .eps. You can open these files in Illustrator or Photoshop.

TIF Format

TIF or TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format. TIF files are widely used for distributing raster graphics images. A .tif file will be larger in size to .png or .jpg. A .tif file will be larger in size to .png or ,jpg. A .tif file  ensures the image stored in this format  maintains quality for future use.

In Use:  The TIF format is great when you want to send files at full quality. Like flattened Photoshop files. It's also a great way to send files with transparency to other programs, for various applications.

PSD Format

If there was a mother format for digital, it would the .psd file format. The PSD format is the native Photoshop layered source file format. The artwork in a Adobe Photoshop file is structured on separate layers. A .psd is also infinitely useful for bouncing documents between programs while retaining edit-ability.

PDF Format

A PDF stands for Portable Document Format. A PDF is an Adobe file format used to present documents that include text formatting and images. It will open on all systems. Acrobat is the Adobe app that can be used to make and edit PDF files. They are in wide use today to distribute rich media documents on the web.

clipboard images

Clipboard images are so handy. You can paste these right into Photoshop from the web and other apps. Jusy copy a image from anywhere and then paste to a destination app like photoshop. An alternative to copy/paste is the screen shot. Screen shots are an useful technique to use for media production.

What's Next

Learning about file formats might seem a bit dull. But a solid grasp of the formats you'll use every day liberates your self expression through modern digital tools.

To move files around in digital production you need to know which format to use. And the web requires fast images that look sharp to avoid being penalised by the Google Search Algorithm.

Imaging

Digital Cameras

Cameras come in all shapes and sizes. The adage is the best camera is the one you have wth you.

While that's true, the best camera is the one that suits the work you love making.

I am waiting for the Zeiss ZX1 Digital camera. In the mean time I shoot with an iPhone and a DJI Mavic 2 Pro Drone.

Smart Phone Cameras

Not much to be said here. We all have camera phones.

I currently shoot with a iPhoneX. It is buggy at times. But the battery lasts. And it produces a decent image. And I always have it on me.

The thing about camera phones is the access you have in public. You can shoot and film in places you could only dream of accessing with larger cameras.

With the iPhone 11 Pro, you have a camera I once dreamed of in your pocket.

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless Cameras are lightweight and compact. They do not not use a mechanical mirror. The light passing through the lens ends up hitting the imaging sensor.

Because there is no mirror, they rely on electronic viewfinders (EVF) and LCDs to project what the imaging sensor sees. This is not to everyones preference.

But without the need of an internal mirror they can be smaller and slimmer than the mechanical mirror counterpart.

Video SLR Cameras

Modern video digital single lens reflex cameras (VDSLRs) shoot images and 4K video.

New VDSLR cameras shoot 4K video in UHD (3840 x 2160 or true 4K (4196 x 2160). HD video (1920 x 1080) is no longer the standard.  

Curiously, most of us stream HD video now. Even so, the march for ever higher video resolution continues. 8K is now thing and high end cinema cameras shoot in this astonishing clarity.

Rangefinder Cameras

When you think of range finder cameras you think of Leica Camera. I have personally owned a M9, and matched with Leica lenses, it produced fabulous images.

Range-finding focusing mechanisms allow the photographer to measure the subject distance and take photographs that are in sharp focus.

A rangefinder's viewfinder is an entirely separate visual system mounted as close as possible to the lens. It shows two overlapping images of the subject.

Focusing with a rangefinder is an art in and of itself.

35mm full-frame Cameras

Camera sensors used in most current digital cameras, are described relative to a 35mm format. So full frame sensors are sensors the same size as 35 mm format (36 mm × 24 mm) film.

The advantage to full-frame sensors are broader dynamic range and better low light/high ISO performance.Also lenses designed for full-frame 35 mm retain that same wide angle of view where a 50m lens provides an actual 50mm angle of view.

You can read more about full frame sensors.

Medium Format Cameras

Medium format cameras are much bigger than 35mm full-frame sensors. They produce extremely high-quality images and delivering near-perfect accuracy when it comes to colour reproduction. They also produce a signature “look”.

If you want to produce large prints and can afford the higher cost, medium format is an option. I have owned and worked with the Leica S2. And I can tell you the image quality is breathtaking. But they are very heavy and bulky.

Camera Drones

Camera drones are widely in use today. Chinese DJI dominates the market and sets the standard for quality and innovation.

DJI Drones are the worlds best drones. This is a fact.  Their world leading drone hardware is matched with superior imaging (stills and video). With their latest Mavic 2 pro they have partnered with Hasselblad, a lead in lens and sensors. This makes DJI unbeatable.

Drones offer you the opportunity to place your camera anywhere. They also offer additional imaging options like hyper-lapse, which is time-lapse sequence than moves though space.

Drones can do a lot more than shoot 2D video and images. They can be used for photogrammetry (3D mapping / modelling) and a wide array of other applications.

Camera Stablisers

Camera gimbals or camera stabilisers use a 3-axis gimbal to effectively reduce shaky footage. Also known as steady cams. DJI produce a Osmo Mobile 3 which delivers a super-smooth, stabilised image using your iPhone.

DJI also produce the Ronin-SC — a 3-axis stabilizer for mirrorless cameras for smooth, cinematic shots.

Digital Still and Motion Cameras

RED Digital Cinema appear to have coined the term Digital Still and Motion Cameras or DSMC.

The DSMC concept is one camera that shoots high end motion pictures, and high resolution still images. You can either 'pull frames' from the video or shoot dedicated stills and maximum image resolution.

Digital Cinema Cameras

The worlds best cinema camera mantle would have to go to ARRI. They are the leading designer and manufacturer of camera and lighting systems for the film and broadcast industry.

Prices start at around $30,000USD. Not exactly cheap for the budding artist.

For budget digital cinema cameras, look to Black Magic. Their new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is high dynamic range, great low light performance and shoots in Blackmagic RAW for flexible post production.

In-Depth Camera Reviews

The-Digital-Picture.com is one of the largest, most-trusted, and most-long-established DSLR and mirrorless camera, lens, and photography accessory review sites. It's excellent.

Digital Photography Review is another fantastic site when you're on the research hunt for new cameras. They review digital cameras, lenses, accessories, and phones.

Imaging

Digital Imaging Tools

Digital imaging is an umbrella term for capturing or creating digital images. Adobe is the most widely used digital imaging software. But there are a myriad of imaging apps and tools available today.

Shooting RAW

A RAW file format for storing image data recorded by a camera sensor. There are several widely used RAW formats, most common being the digital negative (DNG). RAW files do not compress image data like a JPEG does, enabling higher quality source images and flexible post production. With RAW files you can correct problem images that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Creative Cloud is Adobes suite of desktop and mobile apps. A Creative Cloud subscription is a quick way to establish a studio. Generally the 'All Apps' plan gives you access to the apps for creative production. Alternatively you can subscribe to just one app, which would probably be Photoshop.

Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC

Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC is the desktop version of Lightroom. They also have a cloud based mobile version Lightroom CC. But who edits photographs on iPads?

The nutshell of Lightroom is importing/saving, viewing, organising, tagging, editing, and publishing a catalog of digital images. Lightroom is non-destructive. The edits are stored as a 'sidecar files', also known as buddy files that store data (often metadata) not supported by the format of a source file.

Photoshop CC

Photoshop is the worlds primary image editing program. It's everyone's favourite tool for creating, developing and editing images. With Photoshop you edit photographs, create digital graphics and composite images. You can design and produce app user interfaces. It's your swiss-army knife for digital. You can create anything you need for television, print, desktops and mobile screens. It's always been at the heart of any digital studio. 

Video

Digital Video Apps

You can shoot video using phones, HDSLR's, drones or Digital Cinema Cameras now. Then you edit, grade and render the final video. Here are a collection of tools I've used ad nauseam to shoot, edit, and grade digital video.

After Effects CC

After Effects is a digital visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing app. Think of it like the video version of Photoshop, but it's so much more. If you love producing moving images you'll love After Effects.

Animation Composer

Animation Composer is a free and paid plug-in for Adobe After Effects. It makes keyframe animation very easy. It's great for creating video ads which is what I have been using this for. It's plain good.

Premiere Pro CC

Premiere Pro is Adobe's timeline-based video editing app. You get Premiere in the all apps Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Premiere has been around for ever, and pretty good. Kinda buggy though. Easy enough to master.

Final Cut X

Final Cut X is Apple's long running non-linear video editing application. Everyone loved Final Cut Pro. Then they ruined it with the X version. Purely opinion of course. But after they shifted to the new version I never touched it again. But now as apple rolls out the all-new Mac Pro we have a serious hardware/software powerhouse.

Media Composer

Media Composer is a video editing and finishing tool. Made by Avid who produces ProTools, it's a serious offering designed to integrate with Avids hardware and software apps. Available now as a monthly subscription.

hand Brake

Hand Brake is an open source video transcoder. You can convert video from one format to another. HandBrake is popular with pros because it's fast, free and simple. This tool has saved the day for me over and over again.

Audio

Audio Apps

You can shoot video using phones, HDSLR's, drones or Digital Cinema Cameras now. Then you edit, grade and render the final video. Here are a collection of tools I've used ad nauseam to shoot, edit, and grade digital video.

Audacity

Audacity is an audio editor for multi-track recording and editing. It comes with audio effects, supports VST plugins and offers advanced audio editing. It's also free and open source, cross-platform.

Ableton Live

Ableton Live is a suite of music sequencer and digital audio workstation tools. They also produce a hardware instrument / interface called push. Live ships with effects, instruments, and sounds. Live was conceived to be more than a classic sequencer like Cubase or Logic. It works as a traditional linear sequencer, as well as improvising without the constraints of a timelines. Live really is world class.

Reason

Reason is a 'studio in a box' as we called it when it launched way back when. it emulates a hardware studio and allows you to wire up instruments the way you want. Ships with synths, instruments, effects and sounds and is incredibly versatile. Plays very well with other apps. We used to work with Reason and Live together using ReWire. An incredible app.

Output

Output is a new set of 'software for musicians, composers, producers & sound designers across all genres'. A big call. But I tried the demo and it's pretty interesting take on music production software. Worth examining further if you are the curious type.

garage band

Logic Pro ships with OSX. It's Apples free music creation studio inside your Mac. It is pretty capable — shipping with a Sound Library including instruments, presets for guitar and voice, and as Apple states an incredible selection of session drummers and percussionists. I would opt for one of the other apps like Live or Reason for more inspiring music production, and a subscription to Sounds.

Logic Pro X

Logic Pro is pro music software from Apple. It's the professional version of Garage Band, if you like. Logic is a digital audio workstation and MIDI sequencer. it is only available for the macOS platform.

Cubase

Cubase is one of the oldest digital audio workstations out there. It has been at the forefront of music sequencing and production for decades.

Fruity Loops

FL Studio was once called Fruity Loops. It's another software music production environment otherwise known as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). With so many pro apps to choose from it will come to personal preference and budget. FL Studio allows you to compose, arrange, record, edit, mix and master professional quality music.

ProTools

ProTools is the mother of digital audio workstation tools. Any commercial studio will run ProTools for sound recording and sound production purposes. They have a free version, Pro Tools First.

Facebook Sound Collection

Facebook Sound Collection is a free audio library of sound effects and royalty free music. This can be useful. You can download tracks and use them in your commercial projects. Good to tuck away if you have to quickly add music/sound to something.

Sounds

Sounds is a paid audio library of more than a million loops and samples from today's top producers. Available by monthly subscription. Sounds is the most impressive collection of samples I've ever seen.

Further Reading on Everything Audio

Sound on Sound is probably the worlds best site for pro musicians. We used to all love their magazine back in the day.

Imaging

Digital Design Apps

Graphic Designers use Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign. They produce work for  pre-print production, typography, logos design, brochures, posters and images used in web design. Design can also embody 3D modelling or 2D animation.

Photoshop

Photoshop is the worlds primary image editing program. It's everyone's favourite tool for creating, developing and editing images. With Photoshop you edit photographs, create digital graphics and composite images. You can design and produce app user interfaces. It's your swiss-army knife for digital. You can create anything you need for television, print, desktops and mobile screens. It's always been at the heart of any digital studio. 

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is thw worlds leading vector design app. Once upon a time there  was a competitor, Macromedia Freehand, but Adobe gobbled them up long ago. Illustrators main game is logos, icons, drawings, typography and illustrations for print, web, video and mobile. It's powerful however the learning curve is steep.

Adobe In-Design

In-Design is publishing and typesetting software (design layout). All of Adobe design apps will integrate with In-Design. Its purpose is posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, presentations, books and ebooks.

Imaging

Wacom Pen Tablets

Save your arm and hand by training yourself into using a pen tablet as a mouse.

Using a mouse all day every day is not natural. A pen is a better alternative.

Don't think drawing. It's more about adopting the most human like way to interact with your computer.

Wacom rules the roost in pen tablet technology. The Intuos Pro is their flagship. The medium tablet size is arguably the ideal size. While not exactly cheap, you are worth it.

Wacom Intous Pro Tablet

The medium tablet size is arguably the ideal size.

Writing

Writing Apps and Tools

Writing is at the heart of everything I do now. And these are the best writing and text based tools I've used.

I currently use Notion and Hemmingway (and Webflow to publish) to write and publish online.

Notion

Notion is the best note taking tool in the world right now. As they say you can write, plan, collaborate, and get organised — in one tool.

Grammarly

Grammarly is writing-enhancement platform. It checks your online grammar across the apps and tools you use to write with.

Scrivener

Scrivener is a word-processing program. It's for authors, novelists, screenwriters, non-fiction writers, students, academics, lawyers, journalists, translators.

Evernote

Evernote is an app designed for note taking, organising, tasks lists, and archiving. I used to use this app a lot. You can relax knowing  your notes are safe. I prefer Notion but Evernote is still fabulous.

Freemind

Freemind is the worlds best mind-mapping software. And it's free.  A fantastic way to map out your mind.

Hemingway

Hemingway is more than a spellchecker. It grades you on Readability. That leaves you with a focus on your message, not prose. I purchased and use Hemingway Editor 3.0 every day now. It's fabulous.

Researching

Content Marketing Research Apps

Good research today is more valuable than ever. Particularly if you find yourself performing content marketing for clients. The web is chock full of shallow surface level content. Don't do that. So roll up your sleeves, do the research and produce something valuable.

Answer the Public

Answer the Public is a tool that aggregates questions around a topics people are asking. it's my go to tool for determining content ideas. Very useful for content marketing.

Uber Suggest

Uber Suggest is a keyword marketing tool. It's fabulous for identifying keyword search volume. it's also great for finding world class content you can best (if content marketing is you thing. It's free, and always improving. A great tool for content marketing.

Google Trends

Google Trends is gives you trending searches around keywords. More of marketing tool but it's still plain great as a research tool.

Web

Apps for Online Bookmarking

I read a ton of articles online and use apps to manage my feeds, and to store the best finds. I have yet to find apps superior to these for the job.

Get Pocket

Get Pocket, is my all time favourite book marking app. Pocket lets you manage your reading list of articles from the Internet.

Feedly

Feedly lets you digest blogs in an easy quick way. It's a news aggregator application. It runs on web browsers and mobile devices running iOS and Android. It's also available as a cloud-based service. It you read a lot of blogs, you'll love it.

Web

Apps for managing Online Files

These apps below are great for having with your files available on the move. All them have free and paid versions, but with some management you can get by on the free versions.

Dropbox

Dropbox synchronises a folder on your PC to the cloud. You can then access this folder from any connected device. Or share the folder with others. Super useful app.

Google Drive

Google Drive is free with every Gmail account. It gives you 15GB of storage and a suite or office apps. I hate Microsoft Office and Pages, so I love that Drive exists.

Amazon Cloud Storage

Amazon AWS Free Tier is a free version of Amazon's ultra reliable web services. They have a range of cloud storage options available for free.

Amazon S3 Glacier is a secure, durable, and low-cost cloud storage service. It's for data archiving and long-term backup. Amazon S3 Glacier is their lowest cost AWS object storage class. It  allows you to archive large amounts of data at a very low cost.

Amazon Drive has a range of options for storing photo and video files. This is their consumer grade service. I tend to opt for the pro versions of apps, as they are plain better and provide superior features.

Web

Web Design Apps and Tools

Here is a quick overview of web design and development apps I recommend. Like very app and tool listed on this site, I have battle tested each tool here. I also have a age with far more detail about web development.

Lease a Domain and have it Hosted

The basic process is this: you lease a domain name from a domain name registrar. Then, you sign up for hosting for that domain name.

Once you've leased a domain, you login to the site you leased the domain name from and administer the domain. You need to set the DNS settings to point it to a host.

Now you sign up for hosting. Your hosting account will give you the DNS settings you need to plug in for the domain name you just leased. it takes a little time to 'propogate' across the internet. Then voila, your domain name is hosted.

Now you sign up for hosting. Your hosting account will give you the DNS settings you need to plug in for the domain name you just leased. it takes a little time to 'propogate' across the internet. Then voila, your domain name is hosted.

NameCheckr

NameCheckr lets you check domain & social username availability across multiple networks. A super handy tool.

Name Cheap

Name Cheap is ICANN-accredited registrar, which provides services on domain name registration, and offers for sale domain names that are registered to third parties.

Webflow

WebFlow is a visual development app for websites. It's all done online. WebFlow lets you host, design, and build responsive websites. You get full design control to build sites in the browser using their editor (a drag, drop and edit interface).

The new language around visual web development is the 'no-code movement'. Or no-code and low-code tools.

I have used a lot of the the big tools for visual web development. Shopify, SquareSpace, etc. WebFlow is superior in every way. it also teaches you the tenets of web design. I can

WebFlows basic hosting plan is $15USD per month which includes most features. The CMS hosting plan ups the cost to $20USD per month. An account plan is free with limitations, but from 16USD you get 10 projects, client billing, code export, and a suite of other goodies.

Chrome DevTools

Chrome DevTools are a set of web developer tools built directly into the Google Chrome browser. You can edit pages on-the-fly to diagnose problems. And
simulate mobile devices and test responsive and device-specific viewports.

Avoid GoDaddy like the Plaque

GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons shoots elephants. So I will never, ever use or recommend his domain name services. Elephants are magical creatures. Why you would want to shoot one for sport is beyond me (and 99% of the world).

Web

Web Browsers

Deciding on the best web browsers comes down to speed and security. You want a browser that's very fast, light on system resources and strong on privacy. Our choices are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Edge (meant to replace Internet Explorer). Tor Browser is a dog of a browser to use, but it's the only one that protects your privacy.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome is a fast, simple and secure web browser. it's also the most popular browser in the world.

With Chrome you can login to access your bookmarks and saved data across browsers. I will create a prodile for each project or client. This keeps everything air gapped and I can always access the logins and apps for each one. This is very handy.

Chrome also has great developer tools. These let you simulate your site on devices like iPhones and tablets. Note WebFlow does this also but Chrome is still useful for this in other ways. As you wade into web design and development you also want to to be able to rummage under the hood of sites, and Chrome's developer tools lets you do this.

Tor Browser

The Tor Browser lets you browse the Internet privately. It bounces your communications around a distributed network of relays. It's run by volunteers all around the world.

Hard disk Storage

Hard Drives

RAID drives are the best way to store and archiving the data you generate. You could also use multiple drives to protect your data but that's harder. I have tested the drives below over years. They haven't let me down, and are very well reviewed (which is how I arrived at using them).

SSD Vs HDD vs RAID Drives

SSD drives are flash storage with no moving parts and much faster than its HDD drives. HDD drives are the old style, made using magnetic tape and mechanical parts. HDD drives are also larger than SSDs and much slower to read and write.
RAID drives are redundant array of independent disks. You have multiple hard drives together in one housing.  How you configure RAID drives determines performance and/or reliability of data storage.

The Best RAID Drives

My OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID is awesome and has been flawless for years. Very well reviewed RAID drives. OWC offers great specs, price and features. Plenty of configuration options also.

Other World Computing is an American computer hardware company. They produce drives, Mac upgrades and accessories.

Here is a great guide on RAID drives.

OWC RAID Drive

You can 'daisy' chain RAID drives together using Thunderbolt

OWC RAID Drive

OWC ThunderBay 6 RAID is my go to.

Art

Artist Inspiration

I've travelled some rough roads these past few years. I came close to  letting art go. But my art practice is enriching to me. Art has kept me flowing. Keep your artistic fire burning. Even when things go south.

Artsy

Artsy’s mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Sedition Art

Sedition Art is an online platform for limited edition artworks. You buy and view works with their app or a web browser. They have some of world's leading contemporary artists.