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Vic Costello authors book about multimedia concepts and design

Multimedia Foundations: Core Concepts for Digital Design helps students aspiring to become multimedia storytellers and producers.


Nine years ago, the School of Communications first launched a course called Digital Media Convergence, then and now a staple of the program’s undergraduate curriculum. The required class was designed to give students a broad introduction to multimedia design and production across multiple content areas. Faculty were available to teach it. But no suitable textbook existed, according to associate professor Vic Costello.

And it was in that moment in 2003 that Costello’s idea for a book was hatched. Now nine years later, he’s filled the void with his first book, Multimedia Foundations: Core Concepts for Digital Design. The book won’t necessarily be required reading for all sections of Digital Media Convergence, but Costello thinks it can help enhance the course because of the key concepts it illustrates for students.

“I had this idea in my head for how a book for this class should flow,” Costello says. “It’s designed to meet that need for a broad-based technology survey course that covers a lot of breadth but not a lot of depth.”

Indeed, DMC, as the class is referred to by students and instructors alike, has to cram a lot of information into what often feels like a short 15-week semester. Students must learn the basics of visual theory, graphic design, photography, video production, still photo and time-based editing (for pictures and video), and web design.

Costello’s book is written and organized to meet the needs of students aspiring to become multimedia storytellers and producers. The text is divided into four distinct sections:

  1. Multimedia Foundations, which provides a foundational look at the use of computers in digital design and professional standards for planning, organizing, and executing multimedia projects.
  2. Multimedia Design, which includes chapters that discuss visual communication, page design, graphic design, and web design. “It provides the basic rules and conventions about what is good visual communication and what is professional,” Costello says. “It’s about how to communicate through visual arts.” It’s rooted in Gestalt theory and the elementary principles of design, he added.
  3. Static Media, which comprises units on graphics, text and digital photography.
  4. Time-Based Media, which teaches the basics of how to capture, edit, and transcode audio and video.

“The focus of the book is to give students the basic concepts involved in digital design and production,” Costello says. “There is a common set of concepts, skills and ideas that need to be communicated to every student of media arts. It doesn’t matter if the end goal is to be a journalist, filmmaker, recording engineer, graphic artist, photographer or web designer. Everybody needs the same foundation.”

Vic Costello

Costello says he’s been interested in the study of multimedia tools and processes for the last decade, since the initial shift from analog to digital technologies first began. He realized then it would be important for him to remain on the cusp of an almost ever-changing media landscape, so he began to acquire new skill sets.

“Like a lot of people my age, I found the world of media production changing drastically,” he says. “So much had changed that I found myself having to relearn almost everything I had done for the first 20 years of my career. My workflows and methods were quickly becoming out of date.”

But Costello thinks the technology now has become “somewhat stable.” And because his book isn’t centered on tutorials of software and equipment, he says it won’t become outdated as soon as it’s published.

“The book offers transcendent concepts and skills, things that will not change drastically over time,” he says.

Still, he plans to update parts of it every two or three years, wherever tweaking may be needed. The biggest challenge, of course, isn’t in the updating. It was in writing a book that could effectively reach students who are studying the basics of multimedia production and successfully complement an instructor’s digital media course.

“The book was an opportunity to take a passion for storytelling, a passion for communication,” Costello says, “and put all that together in a structure or form that will help the next generation to have a better foundation.”

“Multimedia Foundations” is published by Focal Press. It debuted in April at the 2012 Broadcast Education Association convention in Las Vegas. Communications assistant professor Qian Xu wrote a chapter for the book titled “Interface Design and Usability.” Susan Youngblood and Norman (Ed) Youngblood from Auburn University edited portions of the book and co-authored a chapter on web design.

Costello came to Elon in 2001 after working for 15 years as a technical director and creative consultant for corporate meetings and awards shows. He also worked for several years in broadcast television and corporate media management.

In a professional capacity since arriving at Elon, Costello has served as both the producer and chair of the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts. He teaches or has taught courses such as Digital Media Convergence, Corporate Video, Audio for Sound and Visual Media, and Television Production in the School of Communications. He also chairs the School’s technology committee, which most recently championed the transition to high definition television and tapeless production.

He earned his B.A from Western Carolina University, his M.A. from Regent University and his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee.

Colin Donohue,
5/23/2012 10:41 AM