"multimedia programming with pure data" by Bryan WC Chung


book review by sergey kasich


This book covers the subject of learning PD for beginner. It is not the first one, but definitely one of the most comprehensive. The book takes you step by step from the easiest and traditional “Hello World!” to the most trendy extensions in interactive world like cv, Kinect, Arduino, smartphones.. At the same time it is not very deep and tech-minded in explanations and just gives you all the needed to do your thing, if you’re a beginner in PD.

The most surprising thing, I guess every PD-enthusiast will admit - is that the book gives not much attention to the audio programming. From the nine chapters only one is dedicated to the topic. And we all know that Pure Data is, first of all, a music instrument. To be more precise one of the most powerful and brilliant computer music instruments nowadays. This fact can lead the newbie into confusion, but as we can see in the title of the book it is about “programming multimedia”. And yes this is the topic. Also the author himself – Mr. Bryan WC Chung seems to be a professional and experienced specialist in the sphere of interactive design, but not sound. This maybe is compensated in a way by the involvement of the reviewers. Two of them (Mr. Cedric Buron and Mr.Guy John) are said to be professionally working with electronic music. Anyway, what we can conclude is that initial music instrument is being taught as a multimedia instrument in the first place, and to my mind it is not bad. It just shows the existing trend in the most innovative sphere of arts – technologic ones – the trend of erasing the boarders between old separations regarding perceptive modalities. Yes, you can do visuals in PD and sound in Processing, or both in VVVV or SuperCollider etc. Even cSound has opcodes to render computer graphics today. The difference is in quality and speed. I still haven’t seen any graphic projects, made in GEM, impressive from visual point of view. It is obvious, that such environments as VVVV or Processing will always be more versatile in this field, by generic reasons. But anyway, for the purpose of learning the principals of interactive multimedia PD\GEM is good enough. And it is community-based, that is why it is more appropriate in ethic terms, then MAX\Jitter. The latter is more friendly in interface and object references, but still is the proprietary product of commercial company.

Mr. Bryan WC Chung is also definitely experienced professor, because the book is very well structured as a study-book. But again what I can’t understand is why there’s no any good reference for all the PD objects? Even the legendary FLOSSmanual has the outdated one. You still can find some objects in PD-extended, which are not described anywhere, and have no help-files. You still have to use good old verbal communications in send-list to get to know some very basic tips and tricks, which are simply bugs, and needed to be described in official documentation (the help-files and reference on a web-site). So if PD is a language, this book doesn’t provide very basic thing for every language study-book. The alphabet. No reference of the objects and libraries.

In general, the book would be useful for PD newbies. Especially, for those, who have no music or computer music background and want to know something about the modern ways of doing interactive multimedia arts. I already recommended it to some of my friends and would recommend it to students.

The book is available in Packt Publishing.