Look, Can We Talk About the $200 DVD?

The READ Design Studio Starter Pack has perplexed me for years. More than that, I occasionally get asked if I have a copy of it and can I lend it to a branch or send it to a librarian so they can do something with it? It’s easy to use right? Just install and hook up a camera or something?

Well, no.

READ_starter_300x200The READ Design Studio s one of the greatest jokes ever perpetrated by the ALA upon an unwitting population.  Everyone thinks it’s something that it’s not, which is to say they think it’s software you install on a computer, hook up a digital camera, start taking pictures, and then you can use those pictures to make READ posters right?

Not. Even. Close.

Let’s look at the description right off the ALA store:

Mac or PC; 256MB of RAM / recommended 512MB; DVD/CD-ROM drive. The more RAM you have, the faster you will be able to work with the large .psd files. All READ Design Studio discs are functional with desktop publishing software. You must have Adobe(R) Photoshop(R), Photoshop Elements, GIMP, or other compatible photo-editing software to use layered files. We provide customer support tailored to the use of Adobe Photoshop Elements (not included with DVDs).

Translation: You must have a computer made within the last 15 years and the more RAM the better. Actually that computer would need to have enough RAM to run a modern photo-editing suite so you’ll probably want, oh, 4 GB of RAM now that we think about it. 8GB would be better and 16 GB would be primo, man. Also the specs for a modern photo-editing suite dictate you should probably have something in the mid-high to high end range, so actually, just go get a MacBook Pro. If you’re using a computer with 512 MB of RAM, you need professional help. Speaking of photo-editing software, you’ll need a $240 photo-editing suite (called Adobe Photoshop CC) or it’s slightly stupid younger sibling who ate too much paste in kindergarten (Photoshop Elements, a steal at only $70.) Or you could use GIMP, you know, if you’re into pain and nihilism.

Instructions for use: Mount a halfway decent digital camera to a leveled tripod. You’d want a digital SLR or micro 4/3 with a direct connection to the computer so you don’t have to worry about space concerns or popping a SD card out of the camera all the time to load images on the computer. Set up your blue or green screen and make sure it’s lit from the sides and bottom, and don’t forget a fill light to minimize shadow. Try not to use a flash or, if you do, offset and soften it with umbrellas so you don’t cast shadows on the green screen. Make sure the photographer is also not shading the screen. Take the picture and import it into the highly expensive photo-editing software and chroma-key your green screen so you can add it into one of perhaps 10 .psd files prepared for your image. What do you mean you don’t have a green screen, floor and high lighting with umbrella flashes hooked to a digital SLR or micro 4/3 camera?

The READ Design Studio s one of the greatest jokes ever perpetrated by the ALA upon an unwitting population.

All of this $199 per CD from the ALA… but they have bulk discounts.

And one other thing. It is 2014. Most of my computers don’t even have optical drives.  They list this thing in their downloadables section, but… you can’t actually download it. It’s still an optical disc — in 2014. How quaint.

Look, I’ve made READ-style posters for librarians  by skipping all of that and just using Photoshop. The ALA may want you to believe they’ve trademarked the word READ, but they’ve actually copyrighted the posters and the design. You can do that with anything. In fact, I’ve copyrighted this blog post. Please contact me for licensing requests.

If you want to make your own, you can and you don’t need to pay an extra $200 to do it. You’ll need Photoshop, Photoshop Elements (to be honest, no one ever actually needs Elements), or GIMP (perfect for the budget conscious psychotic who needs an editor that almost does what they want). If you have access to a Mac, I cannot recommend Pixelmator highly enough. It does everything a sane individual would want to do, it has probably 80% of the functionality of Photoshop…

It costs thirty bucks, but you can sometimes catch it on sale. I use it all the time. See the featured image at the top of this post? Edited in Pixelmator.

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