Archive for October 12, 2007

Michelle Field – Useful Flash Features


I have found some useful resources and elements of Flash that may be good to incorporate into my own work:
1) 3D Flash – Creates a good visual impact an example is available at www.sebleedelisle.com/?page_id=6

2) Collision Detecting/Hit Testing – This is useful in the making of things such as games for example if you do not want your character to be able move through walls (e.g. maze boundaries). Another example would be if you wanted a life to be deducted when a baddie comes into contact with the main character.

3) Rotation – Again helpful to create visual interest a tutorial is available at www.adobe.com/devnet/flash/30_animation.html . This website is also useful for game development such as character movement (e.g. on keypress) loading of enemies and adding sound.

4) Video – Example available at www.jonnyballrevealsall.co.uk

5) Random Movement – Again this can be useful in games if for example you want the enemy to appear and move around the game area spontaneously, making it less predictable for players. Tutorials are available at www.kirupa.com/developer/actionscript/advanced.htm

6) Dragging and Dropping using drop targets – Same technique as dragging an object around the stage area (with the startDrag actionscript), however when users drop an object down on a specific location an event or response takes place

7) 360 Panoramas and Virtual Tours – Example available at www.flashmagazine.com/1158.htm

8) You can also incorporate other technologies into Flash such as PHP. PHP enables the building of dynamic, interactive web applications, incorporating information from a host of databases e.g. e-mail forms can be created in Flash using PHP and the information submitted by users can be stored for the host of the website. Flash alone cannot achieve this. 

Advertisements

Azeem Ahmad – Week 2 – What is RSS?

This week I have spent researching RSS for my final project. I decided, with some help from the lecturer, that doing something with RSS will make me more employable as a potential journalist. So without further ado, here is my understanding of what RSS is, how to use and understand it, and other topics which interested me whilst I researched it.

What is RSS?

  • Really Simple Syndication
  • Rich Site Summary

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows people to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites they are interested in, rather than users having to trawl through various sites and signing up to newsletters.

RSS also solves a multitude of problems that webmasters commonly face, such as increasing traffic, and gathering and distributing news. It can also be the basis for additional content distribution services.

The number of sites offering RSS feeds is growing rapidly and includes big names like Yahoo News, BBC, Sky Sports, Mirror.

Syndic8 offers a directory of the most popular RSS feeds of the internet.

How to use and understand RSSRSS defines an XML grammar (a set of HTML-like tags) for sharing news. Each RSS text file contains both static information about the site, plus dynamic information about the new stories, all surrounded by matching start and end tags.Each story is defined by an <item> tag, which contains a headline TITLE, URL, and DESCRIPTION. Here’s an example:

...
<item>
  <title>RSS Resources</title>
  <link>http://www.webreference.com/authoring/languages/xml/rss/</link>
  <description>Defined in XML, the Rich Site Summary (RSS) format has
  quietly become a dominant format for distributing headlines on the Web.
  Our list of links gives you the tools, tips and tutorials you need to get
  started using RSS. 0323</description>
</item>
...

Each RSS channel can contain up to 15 items and is easily parsed using Perl or other open source software. Perl is an open source scripting program that is faster than C. Coincidentally, Perl is written in C and both programs occupy a large amount of CPU time.

SyndicationPublishing an RSS feed is just the beginning. RSS, really a mini database containing headlines and descriptions of what’s new on your site, is a natural for layering on additional services. In addition to displaying the news on other sites and headline viewers, RSS data can flow into other products and services like PDA’s, mobile phones, and even voice updates. Email newsletters can easily be automated with RSS. In this Web-like way RSS encourages multiple points of entry to one primary article, rather than multiple copies of the same article (which introduces its own maintenance problems). As Google shows, the sites with the most back-links win, and those with the freshest content also win. RSS, therefore, creates a win-win situation. Once you have data in a standardized format, new forms of content distribution channels are only limited by your imagination, and scripting ability.

RSS Aggregators (from webreference)There are a number of RSS news aggregators out there that automatically suck up RSS files from content providers and present the news in a variety of ways (my.netscape.com, my.userland.com, xmltree.com, moreover.com). Many make it easy to drop an RSS feed into your site. In fact, O’Reilly’s new Meerkat Open News Wire service, is an example of what can be done with RSS and some clever code. Meerkat aggregates the currently available technical RSS feeds, and filters new stories by time, topic, keywords, and even regular expression. Narrowing the new stories down to your interests is a breeze, all entirely automated.O’Reilly Network’s President and CEO Dale Dougherty: “What interests me about RSS is the ability to begin to monitor the flow of new information on the net. We all know what sites exist; what we really want to know is how often sites generate new information. As a writer and editor, I thought Meerkat would be valuable to watch what was happening in different technical communities. What I especially like about RSS and looking at feeds from hundreds of sites is that you can see the Web work at a grassroots level. I thought that Meerkat is the kind of tool I’d want to keep track of what is going on. We realized that this wasn’t just useful to editors but to anyone who wants to be able to respond to new information. I’m not sure where Meerkat will take us, but it feels like it’s opening up a remarkable new view of the Web. We’d really like to see more and more sites become RSS-enabled. RSS can do for them what Yahoo did for them in 1994, which is drive traffic by letting others know what you are doing. The difference is now we can notify others not just of a new site, but of new stories — new activity on our site.”The Future of RSSThanks to the efforts of the likes of Jonathan Eisenzopf (webreference.com), Dave Winer and Netscape, future versions of RSS will incorporate popular additional fields like news category, time stamps, and more. With thousands of sites now RSS-enabled and more on the way, RSS has become perhaps the most visible XML success story to date. RSS improves news distribution by making everyone a potential news provider. It utilises the Web’s most valuable asset – content – and makes displaying high-quality relevant news on a website easy.

What this means for my project

After all of that background knowledge of RSS and the possibilities of it, I think for my project i’m going to ‘mash-up’ around four popular RSS feeds and combine them into one. There is a CMS online that allows people to do this in a very basic way – www.rssmix.com, but it is very basic, and i would prefer to learn how its done rather than letting a machine or software do it for me. It will make me more employable as a journalist and add to my skills base so potential employers will rub their hands with glee when they see me applying for a job!

Sources

My apologies for not listing the sources earlier – my main source of information was from here. I did also browse and read a few other websites about RSS, but not in enough detail to include it into this post, or to reference it.

Building games in flash

http://www.actionscript.org/resources/articles/52/1/Building-games-in-flash/Page1.html

The Flash 8 Game Developing Handbook [Melnikov; S]  http://www.greymatter.com/145353

other resources:

http://www.computerarts.co.uk/

Tutorials

Forums

General Game Development

Other

Jess Garland

Prior to this project I created an interactive portfolio to be used on A CD business card using Flash, so have some experience using the programme. I would like to develop these skills further.I encountered some problems with my last project so would need to concentrate on areas I had difficulty with. One of the main faults with my last project was usability/ accessibility which I have researched this week in great detail. I can see that I need to be far more conscious of the design- not just the aesthetics but the way everything works..As a photography specialist, these skills will be extremely handy when I enter the media industry as I will be able to update my own promotional material. It will also make me more employable as I will have a wider range of skills under my belt.

I have decided against the idea of creating an interactive game portfolio; primarily because after taking a step back and thinking about my industry, I realised that my users will not have time to play a game to see my work. I want to interest them but provide a quick way for them to see my images and gain their interest.

I have researched what is new in the Flash World and realise that audio slideshows are becoming more important. A game could be too interactive, a slideshow allows the viewer to be entertained. People are often interested in the thinking behind the images, Creating a slideshow would allow me to add audio sections to demonstrate this.

This will also give me an important skill which I can continue to utilise to update my site. Therefore I can keep it fresh and interesting so that people revisit it to view new photographs I add and allow them to understand how/why I took them.

I have done a little research into using Audio in Flash, it is fairly straight forward to import audio into the programme and control when it is played. Action movie control will allow me to control when the sound stops and starts in relation to the images.

Flash support several formats of file, I would probably use mp3 as it is the smallest size, and therefore quickest to load. Flash would also allow me to add a sliding control for the volume so that viewers can adjust this to suit them. As far as Usability/Accessibility is concerned, I would need to make sure my audio had the transcript attached to the file as not to discriminate against the deaf, or people without speakers.

I think this idea is very promising and look forward to it developing as I continue to research.

INTERVIEW WITH A FLASH PROFESSIONAL

I emailed a bunch of people, a man called Drew Trujillo, who specialises in Flash got back to me, here are his responses to my questions:-

What do you feel is important in Flash and the New Media today?


capturing, analyzing, visualizing and sharing data. in my case, i’m in love with color so i tend to focus on the colors of paintings and photography. using flash along with php and mysql – although it could have been any middleware and database – is a huge benefit because we’re beginning to see the CS3 apps evolve in functionality, allowing us to extend the original purpose of online flash experiences like In The Mod: Color Analytics (ITM). 


adobe illustrator cs3 is probably the best example in the new creative suite that allows us to create – within AI – a swfPanel, which basically is a floating window with a swf that is imported either from your hard drive or a server. so now i can create a custom swf that communicates to the same php scripts that i have already developed for the web site and have the web site basically exist within AI. the advantage being that if you want to use one of the color palettes from the ITM website (without using the swfPanel), you have to go through multiple steps to download, unzip and import the palette into the Swatches Panel of AI. with the ITM swfPanel, after finding the palette you like, it’s as simple as clicking a single button to populate your Swatches Panel. magic! here’s a video of it here


in addition, swfPanels within AI can actually control Bridge, Photoshop and After Effects in the background and this is of great importance because you can actually create your own custom über-applications now. this not only improves your workflow, but from a creative perspective we can now create experiences in print, video and online that we would not be able to do by hand. 


What do you like about flash?

it’s ubiquitous. it’s a single format. the content can be layered. 


i wasted a lot of time in the early years of the internet focused on design and technology issues like how to make images and design elements look nice when i had to slice-n-dice them around copy. font issues. compatibility issues like dhtml on one platform/browser versus another. no thank you – i’d rather create. 


for the longest time, we’ve chased this concept of create it once and publish it anywhere. with the new CS3 apps and the ability to integrate swfs into the mix, i think this concept is finally becoming a reality. 




What inspires you creatively?

colors. paintings. photographs. architecture. life. natural systems like how ants forage for food – with the idea of emulating that behavior in order to define brushstrokes. 


one of the main things i like to do is go out into the world and really soak in the art, flowers or environment i’m in. there are tons of inspiring moments floating around us all of the time… it’s just a question of whether or not we’re open to them. 


i remember standing in front of a van gogh painting at the getty museum in LA in 1993 and simply being blown away by the illusion of movement he created from the colors he choose and his brushstrokes. a seed was planted and it took 12 years for that to come to fruition as In The Mod. 


Do you have any suggestions for creating an interactive Photography Portfolio using Flash?

make sure it’s easy to update and to navigate. eg., on DrWoohoo.com, i simply upload a new image to the directory online and it adds it to the cue. with that said, even though it has a VCR panel to control playback of the images, it really needs the ability to reveal a thumbnail panel so the user can easily jump around non-linearly. 

His comments have been very useful and I will take his views into consideration when I am planning my project. Thanks Drew 🙂

A brief introduction to- Flash.

Flash addresses a complete range of multimedia solutions, these include video, audio, rich interaction through Actionscript (its programming language) Flash has the tools needed to build complex and intelligent games, websites, simple animations, slideshows and much much more.

Flash works mainly around a timeline utilising layers to organise separate aspects of a design.

Through flash a creator can make engaging vector graphics, produce small files (SWF) that users can smoothly download, and flash has a playback device that can interpret the downloaded movies through flash plugin, nearly 99% of users have this plug-in.

These types of files can be downloaded on demand within flash movies-

  1. Sound: MP3, AU and AUFaudio files can be downloaded into a flash movie through actionscript.
  2. Video: Shock video and DAT video can be loaded directly into flash.
  3. JPEG Gragpics
  4. CodeYou csn break up your code and re-use it/have it reused over and over again as files that can be downloaded off your website. Splitting your code up into external files is the basis of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) which is an efficient way to re-use code.

After interviewing Drew and researching into the Flash programme a little i relise how important Flash is becoming in the industry. Drew has pointed out how he works and what he looks for in a prospective employee. The guidelines he has given me are extremely useful indeed and my brief outline of flays underlines the programmes possibilities.