Rich Media Studiolab: Video and Sound in Flash / Edition 1

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Overview

With its low bandwidth and tiny file sizes, it is often wrongly assumed that sound and video can never achieve a really high level of sophistication in Flash animations. With competitive motion graphics techniques rapidly evolving, there is a constantly growing demand for the next stage in sophisticated design—video and sound.

This book will do exactly what they said wasn't possible by illustrating how video and sound can be integrated into your Flash presentations, placing you at the extreme edge of creative web design. The application of such tools as AfterEffects, QuickTime, SoundForge and Wildform test the boundaries of Flash and suggest ways to take sound and video beyond Flash and into the realm of Shockwave. Showing you how to break your site down and incorporate video and sound, the techniques covered in this book capitalise on the capabilities of Flash, whilst tackling its limitations head-on. It will then look at how to take web video and sound a step further with Shockwave presentations.

What you’ll learnWho this book is for

All Flash designers who appreciate the need to use sound and video in order to stay ahead in the motion web graphics sector.

Readers of other friends of ED Flash Studio titles who want to take the next step towards becoming "New Masters".

Showing you how to break your site down and incorporate video and sound, the techniques covered in this book capitalise on the capabilities of Flash whilst tackling its limitations head-on. It will then look at how to take web ideo and sound a step further with Shockwave presentations.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781903450642
  • Publisher: Apress
  • Publication date: 9/1/2001
  • Edition description: BK&CD-ROM
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 7.52 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristian Besley has worked with multimedia for three years, but has been creative with computers for much longer. He currently develops Flash-based material within an educational environment. This material includes interactive presentations to illustrate how scientific things work, as well as graphical user interfaces and tools allowing web-based content creation with basic computer skills. He was a contributing author on the seminal Flash Math Creativity, and many other friends of ED books. In 2002, he launched the world's first bi-annual HTML markup-based TableArt competition. The competition was an unbelievable success.

Sham Bhangal has worked on books in new media for five years, during which time he has authored and co-authored numerous friends of ED books, including critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling titles like Foundation Flash, New Masters of Flash, Flash MX Upgrade Essentials, Flash MX Most Wanted, and the Flash MX Designer's ActionScript Reference. He has considerable working experience with Macromedia and Adobe products, as well as other general web design technologies (such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.). In addition to speaking appearances at FlashForward, the biggest Macromedia Flash developer conference, Sham has also been a beta tester for Macromedia and Discreet products for a number of years.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from

Revolution and Evolution: the Rich Media lanscape

Put down this book for a moment and have a look at your surroundings. Now pick the book up again. More than likely, you have a few technological devices lying about the room or on your person. We're talking about the kind of things you can't imagine living without. It might be a TV, a PC, a PDA, a cell phone, or an MP3 player.

As we are discovering more and more every day, it's pretty hard to get away from these things. In theory, these devices are here to make your life easier. But is that really the case? At times it seems as if the more technology we gain, the more complex and confusing our world becomes. The positive side is that as new advances are made, our gadgets are becoming multifunctional. One day soon you will probably have just one or two devices to.do the work previously done by six.

So, what's the big deal about that?

Well, those devices you care so much about are all part of the ever shrinking, ever converging world. All of this stuff is growing closer together as the demand for new and better technology gets louder. Everything, it seems, will simply connect to everything else. Your media outlets, entertainment resources, and even your beloved Internet are constantly on a collision course that will eventually fuse them all into a shared future.

Divo

Look at the recent history of the Internet. Less than fifteen years ago the Internet was an odd little place that programmers used as a communications tool. But then those programmers opened the window that would make the Internet so much more than just a way to send your "ALGOL 60" top ten lists to engineers on the other coast. Little changed for a while, but with the introduction of browsers and the web, the Internet experienced a revolution. Suddenly, the Internet had become a broader tool for a broader audience. In actuality it was both a revolution and an evolution.

There will be more revolution in the future for these technologies as we, the consumers, continue to demand it. This is due to the never-ending cycle of the consumer. The more power consumers have, the more they want to push the mediums on to bigger and better things. "Why can't my phone be more like my TV?" "Why can't my camera play music?" As seemingly random as those demands sound, they are the questions that drive convergence. The desire for things to be the way that we'd like them will eventually lead to things becoming easier for us.

In most households there are four major pieces of technological equipment that absorb our time and our attention: the television, the PC, the telephone, and the stereo. As the world converges, the consumer will experience what appears to be a seamless transition of these devices. You can have some pretty amazing stereo music produced by your computer at the moment. Although your PC and TV have never been brought together really successfully, they have recently created offspring in the form of fully interactive TV, offered by TiVo and UltimateTV. As more of these hybrid devices come about, the distinctions between technologies begin to blur.

At present, digital set top boxes make it possible to have limited Internet access, movies on demand, and e-mail via our TV. The hotel room TV goes one better; it allows you to get phone messages. Somewhat useless at this point in time, but someday the standard TV in your hotel room and at home will be capable of so much more, from bookmarking your favorite TV show to acting as a telephone.

For now there are just too many platforms for life to be simple. The immediate future will be about connecting all of these mediums and devices. The focus will lie in a simple and consumer friendly bridge. One of the problems making the connection difficult is the fact that so many of our devices are trying to be too many things at once. A PC can be everything all at once and that's the problem. It creates complexity rather than order. Alternatively, the BlackBerry - a handheld device offering wireless e-mail - puts us on the right path to convergence; it does one thing and it does it well.

Rich Content

It would seem that AOL has a really good grasp on this "converged future" business. CEO Steve Case described the possible future as "embedding the convenience and simplicity of the interactive experience into people's daily lives". People like Case can see a day when things are easier because the technology has taken us there. And companies like AOL are banking on it because, while this future relies heavily on the technology, it is nothing without the content.

Any Internet conference panelist will tell you over and over again that "content is king". Content is what will separate the good from the bad, the useful from the useless. A few years back when the web was still a novelty to many of us, there were so many sites and they were all great because everything was still shiny and new. As time wore on and you figured out what you liked and what you didn't like, your browsing became more focused. These days there's no room for mediocre sites that add nothing to the user experience. The most successful sites will be those that can seamlessly adapt to new technology and provide rich content. So, if this is all coming in the very near future, how are we supposed to prepare for it?

Specifically, what does it mean for designers? This brave new converged world will be very different to the traditional world of design we know today. As the mediums and platforms meet, designers will have to contend with many more elements. Blending video, photography, copy, music, and interactivity will just be the tip of the iceberg. It will not just be about picking the right type treatment anymore, it will be all about the device and the content. The designer's role will be to bridge the two.

As well as creating links between platforms and devices, this new designer will be asked to create k bridges between the online and offline worlds as well. At present there is still a very clear distinction to be found, so now is the perfect time to experiment in all areas. The designer of the future should try to become a converged entity him or herself. Maybe your next design job will be for some TV work, or maybe it will be a web site. The designers who occupy the area between the two worlds will be well prepared for the converged future where the distinction between online and offline is diminished.

One company that really understands bridging platforms and mediums is MTV. For years MTV has been unique in terms of its branding and marketing efforts. Their logo is ever changing and fits into every medium in which they exist. They have always understood the importance of being cross platform and cross medium, and now they have chosen to increase expansion in these areas. Shortly, MTV will be leveraging the converging world by creating a program called "MTV 360", which will cross-link all of their media outlets.

"360 degrees of MTV" could work something like this: You are watching MTV and they are showing a documentary about The Back Street Boys, you might see a message on the screen telling you that there is a new video by the band on MTV2. Once you are on MTV2 you might see a message telling you to download their latest single from MTVcom. You are experiencing 360 degrees of content from the provider, thereby heightening the audience experience. By creating a bridge between MTV, MTV2, MTVcom and all of their content the company has created added value for their viewers.

Web-based ATM

A much smaller but more evolutionary example of converged design is something that, as we write, will soon be made public and perhaps change our everyday lives. Fleet Bank in Boston is about to unveil a web-based ATM that will change the customer's experience as we know it. This ATM adds value to the customer's bill paying responsibilities and introduces new functionality without spoiling the traditional role of the ATM. This new development takes the kind of home banking done on a PC and brings it to a greater audience at the ATM.

The introduction of a web-based ATM brings banking much deeper into the Internet world. It transforms the user's experience from something that is static and common to something that is more dynamic and engaging. By introducing sound design, full motion video, and richer design, the ATM is able to better interact with the customer and provide a better service as a whole.

Many banks have made the choice to continue using text-based ATMs. These banks are quick to point out that their brand is about speed and functionality, and text will provide the quickest experience to the user. What these banks are failing to see is that the convergence of mediums can positively affect the user experience.

Forward thinking organizations like Fleet have realized that the value of the experience is what is important. They saw that the ATM needed to communicate with the user. It needed to give them an experience. Fleet knew that they could take advantage of the changing technologies to create this new ATM. They wanted something that was an evolution of the old ATM, not something radically new 3 and unfamiliar. Too much change would have angered users and years of knowledge would have gone to waste. All they really needed to do was to bring the experience up to today's standards.

Fleet asked us to create an interface for this new ATM that would be more reflective of their brand. We were not asked to reinvent the wheel, just to further develop it. We needed to advance . a pretty old idea and to transform it from a fairly dull experience to one with real personality.

In the past there have been attempts to revolutionize things on the web that have been very hard on the consumer. We wanted to make sure we did not repeat that. With the ATM project we could create a fresh and modern experience that could be reflective of a high tech environment. And we could do this without sacrificing simplicity. The most important detail of the project was to make the interface feel a certain way: subtlety of movement; the reaction of the buttons; the way the type looks; and the way the colors appear. This all contributes to the brand Fleet is trying to convey.

We knew that a rich media solution would help us create the kind of experience that Fleet was looking for. In order to achieve our aims, we relied on three major elements: full motion video, sound design, and Flash. Video was used mainly for the "attractor" screen. It acts as a way to introduce the user to a dynamic ATM experience. The use of sound design played heavily in this project. At present ATMs use one common sound for everything. "BEEP" is the same sound for yes, no, exit, withdrawal, deposit, and whatever else you might need to do. "Beep" is not unique and it is certainly not helpful. We wanted to use the ATM as an opportunity to improve the conception of the "beep".

We deferred to our sound designer, who provided us with some unique sound solutions. The sounds needed to reflect the Fleet brand as well as inform and guide people. If you cancel a transaction it should sound like a cancellation is supposed to sound. If you have successfully completed a transaction you should hear a successful sound. Easier said than done. But once the sound designer was finished we had some sounds that really connected the user with the experience they were seeing on the screen.

Flash was key to the creation of the more promotional aspect of the ATM. Flash is perfect for creating the onscreen messaging and promotional interstitials. We were able to replicate the rich look of video from the intro sections with Flash. Since these promos come up in the midst of transactions, they needed to be light from a file size and a messaging standpoint. Flash allowed things to keep moving and never let the screen lag.

As we mentioned before, one of the goals in the near future will be to make things simpler. And that was the case for the Fleet ATM. There was a need to take regular and somewhat complex banking tasks and make them easy. The ATM needed to appeal to an extremely diverse audience, so Fleet opted to use six different languages instead of the usual two. We also had to consider the fact that not all people are the same height and have the same abilities. The ATM had to be just as usable for someone who is 6'10 as it is to someone using a wheelchair.

It was clear that the bank wanted to bridge out to the broadest audience possible, but they also needed to figure out the technical specifications for pulling off such large task. Fleet understood the parameters. They knew the limitations. In addition to the brand new machines they would be bringing out, they also had to contend with some older, slightly slower machines. This meant that not only the different machines had to be considered, but different screen sizes had to be looked at as well. The new ATM was an exercise in overcoming these limitations and transforming a brand to a task and service oriented device...

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Revolution and Evolution: the Rich Media landscape
Chapter 2: Thinking through your Rich Media project
Chapter 3: After Effects
Chapter 4: Badcop: Low Bandwidth, High Impact
Chapter 5: QuickTime and Animation
Chapter 6: Loading Video into Flash
Chapter 7: Using Flix
Chapter 8: Flash Turbine
Chapter 9: Creating a Flash Video Jukebox
Chapter 10: Flash, Video, and HTML
Chapter 11: A QuickTime Flash Player
Chapter 12: RealPlayer and Flash
Chapter 13: Creating Sound
Chapter 14: Optimizing Sound
Chapter 15: Using Sound Dynamically in Flash
Chapter 16: Commercial Flash Video Content
Appendix A: Digital Sound Theory
Appendix B: MIDI
Appendix C: The Cubase Interface
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Introduction

Introduction

Think of the ten most impressive web sites that you've seen over the past week. What do they have in common? Very little, if they're any good. Except that they're probably designed in Flash and they almost certainly feature some rich media content. This book brings both elements together in one place for possibly the first time. Edward Bellamy, writer of the quotation on the back cover, correctly forecast the ubiquity of broadcast media in the year 2000 from his vantage point of late nineteenth century America, but still yearned towards a more immersive process. While the rest of the world has bought the reliable Hollywood version of rich media as huge video screens beamed into our houses, real rich media content has begun to seep in at the corners of our web experience. True rich media content is as yet in infancy, but it is axiomatic that creativity flourishes when presented with strict barriers. Think back to the golden ages of film, of popular music. What happens with today's rich media content could have a greater impact than the Beatles managed with four-track recording. These are lofty claims, yet a simple browse through the source files on the accompanying CD should provide plenty of evidence. The journey begins here.

Where To Go

The job of this introduction is to welcome you aboard, make sure that you're aware of the conventions that we've used and that you know where to find some assistance when you start talking back to your computer out of sheer frustration. For one version of what path the future of rich media will take, stop at Murat Bodur and Doug McDermott's first chapter. For a comprehensive overview of the options available when considering Flash and rich media content, and where to find that information in this book, look /no further than the "Thinking through your Rich Media project" chapter. We believe that we've covered every credible option for using rich media and Flash together, and that these pages include enough mindfood for even the most voracious of questing intellects.

Layout Conventions

We've tried to keep this book as clear and easy to follow as possible, so we've only used a few layout styles to avoid confusion. Here they are...
  • Practical exercises will appear under headings in this style... ...and where we think it helps the discussion, they'll have numbered steps like this:
    1. Do this first
    2. Do this second
    3. Do this third, etc...
  • When we're showing ActionScript code blocks that should be typed into the Actions window, we'll use this style:
    Mover.startDrag (true);
    Mouse.hide ();
    stop () ;
  • Where a line of ActionScript is too wide to fit on the page, we'll indicate that it runs over two lines by using an arrow-like 'continuation' symbol:
    if (letters [i] .x_pos == letters [i] . x &&
    > letters [i] .y_pos == letters [i] . y) {

Lines like this should all be typed as a single continuous statement.

  • When we discuss ActionScript in the body of the text, we'll put statements such as stop in a code-like style too.
  • When we add new code to an existing block, we'll highlight it like this:
    Mover.startDrag (true);
    variablel = 35;
    Mouse.hide ();
    stop () ;
  • Pseudo-code will appear in this style:
    If (the sky is blue) the sun is out
    Else (it's cloudy)
  • In the text, symbol names will use this emphasized style: symbol1
  • Interesting or important points will be highlighted like this:
  • file names will look like this
  • Web addresses will be in this form: www.friendsofED.com
  • New or significant phrases will appear in this important words style

The CD

All the source files for this book - the video footage, the sound and the FLAB, all 550mb of them - are to be found on the CD at the back of the book. See below for details on how to get in touch with ED in case of any problems, feedback or general thoughts.

Support

If you have any questions about the book, or about friends of ED, check out our web site: there are a range of contact e-mail addresses there, or you can use feedback@friendsofed. com. There are also a host of other features up on the site: interviews with acclaimed designers, samples from our other books; and a message board where you can post your own questions, discussions and answers, or just take a back seat and look at what other designers are talking about. So, if you have any comments or problems, write to us. It's what we're here for and we'd love to hear from you.
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