Having worked with Drupal for two years, I have reached the point where I need expert advice in order to continue to grow. Drupal is a bit like a forest with many paths running through it. You could spend all year trying each one and learning from experience, or you could get an experienced hand to point you in the right direction, especially if you cannot devote all your time to learning Drupal.
Aaron Winborn is experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful, if his writing at all reflects the man. The creator of the Embedded Media Field module, his has recognized expertise in configuring Drupal to handle multimedia content. In Drupal Multimedia, Winborn describes the state of Drupal multimedia support with one eye toward Drupal history and the other exploring the future. Context helps achieve deeper understanding.
For most of the book explains how to include images, video, and audio in Drupal sites. In these chapters, I found answers to questions I had been asking for a while. What felt right about the Image module (e.g., image galleries), and what needed fine-tuning to work better (e.g., WYSIWYG integration)? Winborn takes the reader from Image to Image Assist, Image Attach, and finally the TinyMCE DrupalImage button, the last of which had escaped me in my previous forays into online documentation and support forum discussions. I was only disappointed not to find an answer to another longstanding want: easy bulk image upload for end-users.
Winborn does not always take a single path through the forest. Often, he points out two or three different paths that might work well for your needs, while omitting mention of those that (I assume) he feels might not. After the comprehensive introduction to Image, Winborn changes approach. He describes how to use ImageField and ImageCache in conjunction with one’s own custom content type. Comparing the two approaches not only helped me better understand how to structure my own approach but also provided an important insight into the Drupal ecosystem.
Winborn takes care not to blow his own horn too loudly. His creation, Embedded Media Field, plays third string behind other image solutions. The explanation is critical to integration with third-party media hosts such as Flickr and YouTube.
Winborn introduces the book as a “beginner to intermediate” Drupal resource while acknowleding the advanced nature of some examples. I thought this description was right on. A Drupal beginner would likely not be comfortable implementing some of the solutions provided, for example adding a preprocess hook to display the appropriate media player for an attached video. On the other hand, I found the emphasis on Node Reference essential for me to understand how to keep media items in their own nodes yet allow web pages to display them in the proper player.
Later in the book, Winborn takes a couple of thoughtful turns. He treats video before audio, upsetting the conventional order between them yet explicitly acknowledging the dominance of video these days. He also presents the embedded video field before addressing how to upload “local” video files. That also makes good sense to me, as I have quickly discovered how even a low-volume site benefits from hosting video at a specialized provider, such as Blip.tv.
Your perspective on the book may depend on your definition of “beginner” and “intermediate.” I benefitted from both the high-level view and the relatively complex explanations. The book provided something to seek me teeth into and room for growth, which I imagine every Drupal developer needs. True beginners may quickly lose themselves in the details. Advanced users may not find the text sufficiently challenging.
Drupal Multimedia will remain an essential resource for me, due to its vertical treatment of key techniques. Yet, I also find myself wanting more almost immediately. Will DrupalImage reach production site quality for Drupal 6? How should I provide bulk image upload capability to end users? What will support and maintenance of these techniques look like a year from now? While I am glad to have added this book to my knowledge base, I have quickly followed up the read with more tinkering on a test site and surfing the discussion forums.