Review: Drupal Multimedia

Drupal Multimedia

Drupal Multimedia offers an in-depth look at how to integrate images, videos and audio into a Drupal site. The intended audience is beginners and intermediate developers who want to learn how to better control and display media on their sites. Dealing with multimedia with Drupal often feels much more complicated than it should be, but this book definitely helps to make it more comprehensible.

Getting the learning curve right in the first chapter of an intermediate Drupal book can be tricky. I think ‘Drupal Multimedia’ does well here – assuming a bit of knowledge of Drupal, reviewing the basic building blocks of the system briefly, then diving right into installing the CCK and Views modules. Examples of using these are worked through, before moving on to discuss theming and overrides – again with simple examples. A lot is covered in the first forty pages, but without overwhelming the reader.

The second chapter begins to look at dealing with images, with good introductions to using the Image module and its related Image Gallery to easily create a simple gallery. There’s also a discussion of embedding images in articles with Drupal, which looks at how this can be done by enabling editors to use full HTML or, more usefully in many cases, how to use Image Assist to allow images to be added to posts more easily. Installing TinyMCE as a WYSIWYG editor which works with Image Assist is also covered. This chapter will be very useful to new users of Drupal, for whom the lack of a built-in editor and basic image-adding functionality is likely to be something they miss straight away. The next two chapters go into more detail about using images – looking at more complicated development and theming issues. There’s examples here of using the ImageField and ImageCache modules and coverage of how to customise your image output.

Video is covered in two chapters which look at dealing with both third-party and local video. Using the Embedded Media Field module for third-party video is covered, followed by a look at using the FileField and jQuery Media modules for serving local video. A chapter on file asset management covers options for managing media files, looking primarily at the Node Reference, Asset and Media Mover modules. Audio is covered in three chapters looking at audio nodes, audio fields and theming audio. These discuss the Audio module and also revisit the FileField, jQuery Media and Embedded Media Field modules.

The final chapter is an interesting preview of the future of Drupal multimedia. This offers a tantalizing glimpse into an easier future for handling multimedia with Drupal 7. For me, two of the biggest drawbacks of using Drupal for building and maintaining sites are the hoops you have to jump through to deal with simple file handling and the hideous complexity of the administration menus. A lot of the administration options are frankly unintuitive and difficult to remember if you’re not using them constantly. It’s good to learn from this chapter that the Drupal development community is actively working to improve things in these areas.

I got a lot out of this book overall – especially from the detailed recommendations for the use of particular modules. The author puts across complicated concepts very accessibly with well-chosen examples which build up satisfyingly to help you understand the big picture.

Drupal Multimedia by Aaron Winborn is published by Packt Publishing.

Related posts

I’ve looked at other books on Drupal in previous posts on Learning Drupal and Drupal 6 Themes.

Free images for web projects

zoom lens of camera

Alternatively you could take the pictures yourself ...

Finding the right picture for a particular project can be a pain when you have a limited budget available. Luckily, there are plenty of places on the web to find images which are available for free use. Most “free” images still have some sort of conditions attached to usage, so always check the terms associated with an individual picture before you publish it. Below is a list I’ve compiled of useful free image sites with some brief comments on each, so that you can get an idea of what they cover.

Easy Stock Photos
Public domain pictures in loads of categories. Subjects you may not find elsewhere include Attractions, Education, Events, Music and Tools & Machinery. Not as many pictures under each category as elsewhere, but generally good quality.
Search engine for stock photos over multiple collections. Registration is required and photos found will have individual licenses for use which you need to ensure you comply with. The “featured searches” section on the front page gives you a good idea of the search index’s depth.

Finally Creative
Public domain image gallery. Large number of nature pictures.
Good general selection, especially strong on UK-specific images.

Free Pictures
Extensive collection of animal pictures.
Nice selection of topics covered, especially strong on animals and travel.
The usual section types, plus specialities including useful Christmas and Halloween sections, images of gemstones and hearts and a whole section on Bruges!
Wide range of nicely categorised images. Good selection of backdrop images. Home, office, sports, seasonal, technology & transport, objects and nature are among the categories, with good numbers of images in each. Requires registration to see all pictures.
‘Repository for free public domain photos’. Decent variety on offer. The selection of background images could be particularly useful.

Gimp Savvy
Lots of nature and space pictures.

“Large online free photo collection”. Great for textures, as well as including a full range of other topics.

“Public image reference archive” which “contains free high resolution digital stock photography for either corporate or public use”. Great selection, well organised into sections.

Some nice photos with UK locations and transport well covered and a good range of objects, abstract & concept images and backgrounds & textures. Registration required to download images.
Good selection, especially strong on USA location travel photos.
Royalty-free stock photos on a full range of categories. The “light effects” category has some nice ideas.

Large site – includes good balance of nature and industrial images & selections of textures and 3D renders.

Huge gallery of images. Requires registration.

Uncle Sam’s Photos
“A directory of the U.S. government’s free stock photo sites.” Lots of useful stuff on the environment, science, transportation, health and people. American history too.

Free image gallery with some striking photos.

Wikimedia has a fantastic directory which has to be the list of free image resources currently available. Its designed to help people avoid naughtily posting copyrighted images on Wikipedia but is enormously helpful whatever your need for free pictures is. Another useful resource hosted on the Wikimedia toolserver is FIST – the Free Image Search Tool. Wikimedia Commons also has an enormous collection of freely usable media files.

Finally, you can search on Google or Flickr for free images. In Google, use advanced search and look for creative commons pictures by selecting “free to use, share or modify, even commercially” under Usage Rights. Flickr has a special section for pictures with a Creative Commons license.