Multimedia programs like Soundslides, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Audition, InDesign, Photoshop, etc. all involve working with a project file. In that project file, you work with content, make changes, and save everything. Your project file (inside of your project folder, of course) is also what most instructors need to see when you’ve finished an assignment. Similarly, you’ll probably want your project file on hand when your editor tells you to go with a different sound bite, a client demands a new font for a flyer, or you suddenly need to add a cropped version of an image to Flickr. Your project file, however, is not something you can upload to SoundCloud, import into another program or send off to the print shop. So, to create something you can put online, play in iTunes, or hand over to Clark Graphics, you’ll need to Export, Save As, Mixdown or Render a Finished Product.
In an effort to make sense of some of the more popular Finished Product formats out there, I’ve comprised a list of those that are currently most applicable to JAMS students. Enjoy.
Still the go-to standard for online audio, an MP3 is a compressed but nevertheless decent-sounding audio file (for the two people in the world who didn’t already know that.) This means it’s the best audio format to use when you’re hosting the audio on your own website or turning it over to someone who will be hosting it for you (Urban Milwaukee, Media Milwaukee, etc.)
Also, you’ll need to create an MP3 if you’re bringing audio into a Soundslides project.
Currently the highest-quality audio format used in JAMS classes, WAV files are often associated with “CD-quality” sound. If you plan on uploading your audio to a site like SoundCloud or PRX, you should Mixdown your project as a WAV file. Why? Well, most sites that do the hosting for you also do the compression for you. So if you upload an MP3 and then that gets compressed into another MP3, you basically have the audio equivalent of a photocopy of a photocopy. Bottom line: if you can upload a WAV file to a website that does the audio hosting for you, you probably should.
When you’re working in InDesign and you know your project will ultimately wind up on paper (as a poster, flyer, resume, brochure, etc.), your Finished Product should probably be a PDF. It will be of the utmost importance, however, to create the right type of PDF. If your project is destined for print, go to File and then select Export. In the Format drop-down box, be sure Adobe PDF (Print) is selected before clicking Save. Only select Adobe PDF (Interactive) if your PDF is actually interactive.
Occasionally, I’ll hear students say, “I hit the Export button in Soundslides and then this weird publish_to_web folder popped up.” That’s actually a good thing. The Finished Product in this case is the whole folder (and everything in it.) Without getting into a bunch of nerdy website talk, the publish_to_web folder is what you need in order to put your finished Soundslides project online. When you hit the Export button in Soundslides and that publish_to_web folder pops up, just close the folder and then follow the instructions for putting your project online.
When rendering an MP4 video, the key is knowing when to create a very compressed low bitrate video and when to create a very large high resolution video. If you’re hosting the video on your own site (or turning it over to a site like Patch), you’ll want to be sure to render a video that can be played over the Internet (so, for you nerds out there, an overall bitrate of 300 kbps or less.) If, on the other hand, you’ll be uploading your MP4 to a site that will be the doing hosting for you (like YouTube), you’ll want to render the largest (and highest quality) video you can upload without exceeding the site’s maximum size limit.
Viewable in every browser and almost universally regarded as the go-to image file by everyone, a JPEG is the perfect Finished Product for anything resembling what people used to call “a photograph.”
In programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, when you do a Save As and choose JPEG, you’re prompted with a compression dialog box. For the most part, you should bump the slider all the way up to Maximum (unless you’re aware of some KB size limit that you’ll need to take into consideration.)
As a side note, always make sure all of your pictures are JPEG files before bringing them into Soundslides.
Often, PNGs are regarded as the ideal Finished Product for things like logos. While some consider the PNG’s stellar text handling attributes to be the reason for this, the ability to include transparency is probably equally important.
To create a PNG with transparency in Photoshop or Illustrator, go to File on the menu bar and then choose Save for Web. Choose PNG-24 (PNG-8 won’t work) and make sure the Transparency checkbox has a check in it. Click Save. Very nice. You now have a logo with transparent background.
Once in a blue moon, you might need to give someone a high quality TIFF file so they can edit it, tweak it, Photoshop it, etc.
Realistically, you’re more likely to encounter TIFF as an option while scanning something. If you’re scanning photographs or sketches and you know you’ll be editing them in Photoshop or Illustrator, always choose Scan to TIFF (or something like that) if the option to do so appears in your scanner software. This will create a rather large file, but it’s always best to perform edits and tweaks using the highest quality format available.
If you’re working with an image in Photoshop and you know it will ultimately be going into an InDesign project, there’s actually no need to save it as anything other than a PSD. I know. Earlier I said a project file is never the same thing as a Finished Product. Sorry. The truth is, in InDesign, you can Place a PSD just like any other image. Also, using the InDesign Links panel, you can ensure that any changes made to your Photoshop file will be reflected in your InDesign file.
Like a PSD file, an AI file can double as a Finished Product if it’s going into another Adobe program. Just choose File and then Place your AI project like you would a JPEG, PNG, TIFF or whatever. If you’re so inclined, you can use the Links panel to reflect any changes you make in Illustrator. It is worth noting that your AI image might not look so great when it’s in another Adobe program (like InDesign.) Don’t worry. In the interest of giving your computer a little bit of a break, the program is showing you a low-res version of your actual AI file. After you create a Finished Product from whatever Adobe program you’re using, the AI image will look just fine.