|In May, Canada had its largest multimedia conference—New
Media ’98. I jetted out to Toronto (though the flight felt
like it took as long as my bicycle trip there a decade earlier).
I gave two papers: Multimedia
Production Basics—the Team, the Process and Building
Adaptable Templates for Large Projects—Rapid Prototyping. If you
came to my presentations, you would have caught glimpses of projects by
such local companies as: ADP, CKS Partners, Creative Media
Development, Intel, Level Seven Communications, New
Interactive, Microsoft, and the OMA. Check
In the spirit of leveraging work already completed, I used the same research from one of my New Media presentations, added specific information about Director and Authorware then wrote an article for the Macromedia Users Journal which appears in the July 1998 Issue.
Rodgers Instruments makes organs. Big Toccata & Fugue-type organs. But they also make top quality MIDI sequencers… so they need a demo disc and I can help with the Director portion, but they’re doing the rest.
As I’ve mentioned before, software companies need updates to their tutorials when the software (being taught) is updated. Such is the case with a project I worked on last year for the Intel® Create & Share™ Camera Pack… although this year, wouldn’t you know, they’re developing the web version concurrently with all the different language versions (it’s almost as if the web version is equivalent to another language).
Multnomah County Health Department is still on the list of open projects… one thing of interest is how they repurposed their glossary text into a game of concentration—a great case of reusing content.
Wieden & Kennedy is one of those clients whose expectation of great quality really makes you work. The results can be exceptional. For example, dithering graphics can torque skin-tones so before the images were displayed ("on beginSprite") we displayed tiny high-color graphics of the skin areas if the user’s machine could support it.
|Those who can do, and those who teach can show others how:
Portland Community College invited me to share what my job entails to programming students (I told them I don’t call myself a programmer—this way I have a unique job title and don’t need to compete with programmers).
More Authorware classes at Portland State University —some new courses around the corner too!
Prenttæknistofnun means "Printing Technology Organization" in Icelandic and although they have some truly well developed courses on computers, they wanted me to come out and teach a couple of Authorware classes in February and March… Iceland in Winter? (See story below.)
Side Effect is the code-name for Nathan Lucas’s thesis with which I’m helping… a great chance to work on a fun project with priorities unlike a typical profit-driven project.
To appear as though I was totally crazy with work the first part of this year… here are several clients with which I worked a few hours here or there:
Ozymandius (tied for best company name with "Elvis", below) had me uncover the meaning of Director. Easy as pie… speaking of "easy as", ABC Technologies had me direct them on the use of Director. (somebody stop me.) Elvis & Bonaparte Advertising had me troubleshoot why the Shockwave Audio appeared to have left the building. Biotronic (organs again, but not pipe organs) had an Authorware piece that I resuscitated. I finally got to work with Whitehorse Studios, albeit for a few hours, but here was a case of a company for which I knew I would work at some point… it just took a while until a job came up. Shultz had me learn about MPEG (with MpegXtra made in Brazil—seems to work well) to MPEG-asize a project originally using QuickTime.
|Flash Generator Beta (www.macromedia.com/software/generator/)
This is cool, but like most new software it looks cooler than it really is. Generator allows you to create Flash Templates which accept data from comma delimited text files you design (or generate on your website). Flash templates are created in Flash 3 with certain attributes of objects designated as dynamic –like the color of a graphic or the words in a text field. When a user, say clicks on your web page, the Flash template reads the text files, makes the adjustments to the dynamic attributes, and effectively does a "save as" Shockwave flash to send to the user. Everything is still hard-wired (sorry, there’s no Lingo in Flash to, say, make a slider bar—Macromedia’s answer to that request is the Flash Asset Xtra that comes with Director 6.5). The beta version seems to lack some of the things I know you’d want to do—like it’s ready-built to make one type of bar graph… but what if you want a slightly different graph? (Not yet.) The other thing to note is the newly created Shockwave Flash file is sent to the user in total (okay, Flash files are small, but I’m just pointing out the limits). Generator includes great help files in HTML.
Flash 3 (www.macromedia.com/software/flash/)
Director 6.5 (www.macromedia.com/software/director/)
|Debabelizer 3.0.1 (Mac) (www.equil.com)
What a disappointment! I was expecting a Mac version of the well designed Debabelizer Pro 4.5 (Windows). Not even close. Seriously, the best thing about this program is that you can use it to learn how not to design an application.
--Windows with similar purposes (like batch list and script) look and act slightly differently—there’s little consistency.
--Many operations don’t follow conventional Mac standards (like if you make a change to a script and close without saving, no "save changes?" confirmation appears—but it’s saved anyway).
--Cutesy simulated menus for the "watch me" function of the script window. They’re not real menus, they don’t act exactly like real menus, they don’t even feel like real menus—it’s like someone created them in Director by hand and didn’t bother making them function the way menus really function.
One nice thing about the product, however, is the support for conditional script statements—but why isn’t that supported in the Windows version?
Before I announce there are now, no longer any Macintosh applications
to save Apple…here’s some noteworthy shareware:
|Fingur mínir eru frosnir við lyklaborðið!
Quick, how many hours of daylight do you think Iceland gets in the dead
of Winter? That guess is too high (it’s 4). In the Summer,
though, it’s almost 24! When there’s nothing but darkness and a moonscape
environment outside what do you do? —go inside and learn software.
That’s where I come in… with my traveling Authorware show. I had
the incredible opportunity to teach Authorware in Iceland at the end of
A few interesting facts: Iceland has only 270,000 people. They have one of the longest life-expectancies in the world. Maybe that’s because their environment is free of any nasty energy sources (like nuclear, coal, or oil ). Almost everything is powered and heated by geothermal energy—sometimes piped 50 miles for a whole city’s heating needs (okay, Reykjavik is the largest city at 170,000).
One might expect with an economy based on fishing, Iceland wouldn’t be too hot on multimedia—but one would be wrong. The students in my classes were more able than average and quite in-tune with the current technology. Class was held every day and they did homework (something I rarely see in the weekly classes I teach here).
|It’s interesting, too, how well educated the population is generally.
Many of my students received degrees in the U.S.—then came back to Iceland.
They all understood my English fine, and most spoke it very well too.
They’ve all learned English from school and TV (no shows are dubbed,
only subtitled) and for computers and the internet. It appears
that Icelandic is in no threat of extinction… though there are so few who
speak it. Maybe some xenophobic countries can learn something from
I had a nice visit with a multimedia company called "Gagarin". They were surprised I didn’t recognize the historic relevance of their name (not that I thought it was that comedian who smashes watermelons), I blamed my ignorance on an American history book censorship plot. Anyway, they do really great work! (www.gagarin.is) They also liked the samples I brought from local (Portland) companies.
By the way, Iceland is really neat—possibly more interesting geologically than Oregon (geysers, volcanoes, lava flows, glaciers covering volcanoes, black sand, and islands that appear out of nothing—well, from volcanoes). Conditions were clear and cold most of the time, but without many trees I was Snjó blinda (snow blind) the rest of the time.
|NewMedia ‘98’s trade show was huge… I noticed a lot of schools were
promoting multimedia programs. The conference sessions were slanted
to the print industry… but with Darrel
Plant and me, Portland’s multimedia community was well represented.
Funny thing about hanging out with Darrel (famous author that he is) you have to deal with all his groupies. Things like…"will you sign my book?" …."I tell people there’s two Flash books, but only one good one…yours" and "I like your boots" … ad nauseam!
|Toronto is a great place… warm clear weather in May… a big sunroof
on the stadium when it is sunny (the SkyDome). Caught the show RENT—which
made up for missing Bring in da Noise... here in Portland.
Also drove down to Rochester and visited my alma mater (RIT). The photography school looked familiar even though there were many more computers around.
|It was really refreshing for a company like Macromedia to invite representatives of the world’s Macromedia User Groups for a "summit" in March. I was expecting some big oval United Nations-type tables… nope… and not quite two days of wining and dining either (though they did bury us with T-shirts).||Anyway, it was great… they listened, they showed their respect, and they shared where they were headed. We got to see some new stuff, provide our feedback, and generally, the ground work was set for support of the Portland group (which, incidentally meets monthly at Hot Pepper Studios—contact our leader: Brad Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>).|
|For almost a year now, I’ve been part of a really fun organization—Toastmasters
International. Don’t mistake this for the "Grand Poobahs" or other
such group… it’s really fun.
Every week a few people prepare formal speeches (about 5-7 minutes each) and everyone else participates by taking a role in the meeting (someone times each speech, someone counts the "ah’s" and "um’s"). Then we all write a few comments to the speakers and vote. Each speaker is provided a verbal evaluation (and we even vote on how well the evaluators perform). Finally, there’s a portion of extemporaneous speaking where everyone else can participate in a short (1-2 minutes) ad lib speech.
| It may sound like a formality but it’s all conducted as relaxed
as possible—and talk about a supportive group! You can get up there
and really choke, but everyone will remain patient and supportive.
The thing is, we usually get some really interesting speeches.
The group to which I belong happens to be particularly interesting… but there are so many chapters, there’s bound to be one that meets at a convenient time and place for you—there’s more than 60 just in the Portland area! Give me a call and I’ll invite you next time I give a speech. Visitors are always welcome.
(check out: www.toastmasters.org)
Xtras are great, but with Authorware 4 if your project even approaches "multimedia" you’ll always need to include an Xtras folder! The hassle involves determining which Xtras are necessary. You can simply include every Xtra ever made, but then your Xtras folder will approach 10 megabytes! To determine what’s absolutely necessary, and what’s usually necessary don’t bother checking the manuals (it’s not there). Instead, check out my exhaustive list at www.teleport.com/~phillip/newsletter/ or download the Macromedia tech notes: 6098 (for images) and 6099 (for sounds).
Director 6.5: The new version of Director gives you the ability to create custom cursors—but with a simple "cursor 4" we all know you can make a "watch". The manuals and help section share a few more with us… but did you know there are more than 20 other cursor numbers built into Lingo? Everything from the eye dropper to the do not drop here symbol. Is this part of a conspiracy? I don’t know, but if you want to see the list, check out: www.teleport.com/~phillip/newsletter/ or better yet www.a3w.de/lingo/ (the site where I got the list).
Subscriptions are available for the asking. Also, if you’d prefer an email version tell me.
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Last update: 25 September 1998