I like to blog about every other day or so. Been out of town a lot recently, so posting has been light to say the least. We’re busy busy busy at work, with a video shoot done last week that had a big ole’ crew and ended up with about 12 hours + of footage shoot from 120 pages of scripts. These shots are all getting cut up, keyed and cue pointed into about 200 Flash videos for a site we are producing.
So, not much to write about right now other than rendering video is not something I want to get involved with. I give thanks to the people on the video team for this project, as they are going through hell right now trying keep up with the demand… computer progress bars just don’t go quick enough. Even with terabytes of disk space, quad cores Mac Pros and dual core Macbook Pros and even a new eight way Mac Pro in the office… keying and outputting that many shoots is tough. Dave, Dave, Matt, Caryn, Chris and everyone else involved… keep it up! Almost done.
One question for any other Adobe users out there… Why doesn’t After Effects FLV renderer have a multipass VBR option? Seems ridiculous.
And I might be having second thoughts on it… I mean with no real 3rd party apps and not being 3G, I just wonder how “i” this iPhone is (‘i’ is for Internet, right?) Additionally, with Cingular having BlackJack for $75 and the Nokia E62 for $30, BlackBerry Pearls for under $100, etc… I just wonder if spending $600 is worth it…
Who am I kidding, right? I have bought 6 macs, 4 iPods, an Airport Basestation, and I subscribe to .Mac. I suppose I’m pretty much addicted.
When you work collaboratively, it’s important to have a bit of a system to help organize files and keep everyone on the same page. I have tried so many different little systems and techniques, and while I may not have the perfect system, I certainly know some things that I find that work and some things that don’t work. Here are some things I like….
Pick a plain english-y (or whatever language you use to speak) couple of descriptive strings whenever possible to form the base file name (eg. main.fla, loader.fla, etc). – A file name like a_4_3.fla only makes sense to the developer who wrote the array crawling code that makes a file name like that valuable. If you as a developer feel that file names like that are necessary to make your development easier, possibly consider a lookup table, associative array or some other form of developer key document that you use to cross-reference against the human friendly names. – Your designer friends will like you better.
Use a post base file naming suffix that offers a logical versioning system to people that look for the file. Of course if you are using something like Version Cue or Subversion, etc. this is less important, but for those not using such a system, a convention like “main_v1.psd, main_v2.psd” is preferable to “main_mock.psd, main_revision.psd, main_final.psd”.
Don’t mix up the idea of versions of files and version of interface mockups… (i.e . mockup_v1.psd, mockup_v2.psd are iterative version of the same style, not completely different designs.)
Create folders for major revision cycles – mockup, revision, beta, final candidate, etc.
Using color labeling on Mac OSX is totally acceptable ‚Äì if everyone involved knows what those colors mean, and everyone on the team is actually using Macs.
Here are some things that I don’t like.
Dates in file names are pretty much irrelevant and unnecessary… Most of the time you are using the date in the name to remember when you made the file, right? Well, that information is stored in the file already. Get properties on it, see? Additionally, you can store that stuff in the spotlight comments if you want.
I wonder if it’ll come packaged with the iPhone or iPod software… seems like an easy way to get marketshare.
My students 4 semesters ago in a multimedia class at Bradley created some mockups of what could be possible in a wirelessly connected community. These mockups and the style of future viewing were inspired by Sun’s Starfire. The iPhone now can handle pretty much all of the features highlighted in the video for a tidy little monthly fee and a $500 entry price tag. A student of mine from that class noticed that and emailed me today. I was struck by some of the similarities in the visualization. Here is the one we created back in the Spring of 2006:
Here is the Apple ad featuring some of the same functionality in our video:
Not too far off, eh? It features slick design and easy connectivity. Ours were created as SWF files, (They did indeed connect to data sources, be it external services or XML files created by us) that were then captured using Camtasia, and then composited into the video we shot using After Effects. The Apple one is obviously a real device. One of the things that strikes me about both of the interfaces in these pieces is that they seem to adhere firmly to a belief that I have in interface design best written in this research paper at Sun. From the paper by Bay-Wei Chang and David Ungar from March 1995:
User interfaces are often based on static presentations, a model ill suited for conveying change. Consequently, events on the screen frequently startle and confuse users. Cartoon animation, in contrast, is exceedingly successful at engaging its audience; even the most bizarre events are easily comprehended.
This trend is easy to see in the Mac OSX Dock, The Vista 3-D Aero Windows Animations, and the Microsoft Surface computing demo videos. It’s great that we finally have the CPUs and the tools to develop the software to make what was once a Knight Rider episode, or a major budget Hollywood blockbuster ala Minority Report and make it a device most all can purchase. Now if only the muni-wireless efforts could escape the bureaucracy and make it reality for even those who don’t have the ability to pay exorbitant monthly data fees or purchase a new Vista machine… oh well, it seems as if that wish might still be far in the future.
So we’re working on a pretty big project (anyone who knows me knows this already, sorry for the duplication of stories), this project consists of nearly 200 video files strung together via a number of interactions and user paths.
These clips have to have cue points (between 2-10 cue points per video). Some of these cue points are needed to be jump points to move the playhead, and some of them trigger events onscreen… Flash Video accepts a couple different types of video cue points, “Navigation” and “Events”…
Event cue points are used to trigger ActionScript methods when the cue point is reached, and let you synchronize the video playback to other events within the Flash presentation.
Navigation cue points are used for navigation and seeking, and to trigger ActionScript methods when the cue point is reached. Embedding a navigation cue point inserts a keyframe at that point in the video clip to enable viewers to seek to that place in the video.
Adding additional keyframes can lower the overall quality of a video clip. For this reason, navigation cue points should only be used when users will need to seek to a particular place within the video. For more information on keyframes, and their effect on video playback, see Keyframes.
So, yeah, we know what they are and what they do, my main question is, beyond the metatdata aspect of being able to have some cue points be tagged as “navigation” and some as “events” are there any reasons to not simply just use navigation event types? You can successuly use “navigation” cue points to trigger actions, plus they also insert an additional cue point to allow for better cue point jumping… so what’s the downside? As long as you wouldn’t have a cue point every other frame or something, what’s the real downside to just using “navigation” type cue points in this case?
I’m happy to blog here, that the company I work at is looking for a talented developer. Of course, I’m biased, but we’re a great place to work… you should check it out if you are looking for something new. You can learn more here. From the description:
The Iona Group, Inc., a growing interactive communications company, is seeking a Senior Multimedia Developer to define, design and develop interactive media solutions for our clients.
As the primary developer on web, intranet and interactive solutions, the ideal candidate will play a key role in designing client solutions and programming the resulting applications by applying industry standards and best practices using leading tools, skills and technologies. Qualifications
‚Ä¢ Strong knowledge of interactive media technology, design and development processes
‚Ä¢ Detail oriented with strong organizational skills
‚Ä¢ Creative problem solving skills
‚Ä¢ Excellent time management
‚Ä¢ Experience estimating effort required to produce the work
‚Ä¢ Excellent communication skills
‚Ä¢ Experience developing both experience sites and applications/RIAs
‚Ä¢ 2-3 Years of demonstrated experience in developing multimedia solutions and working in a client service environment.
‚Ä¢ Strong skills in Flash Actionscript 2.0
‚Ä¢ Experience developing Flash Video based solutions
‚Ä¢ Relational Database design and SQL
‚Ä¢ Experience with Server Side development languages (ASP.Net, Java, PHP)
‚Ä¢ Experience with XML and webservices
‚Ä¢ Flex Builder and Flash Lite Development experience a plus
‚Ä¢ Design, develop and deliver innovative, high quality multimedia solutions
‚Ä¢ Manage workload and meet project parameters of scope, schedule and budget
‚Ä¢ Identify potential problems and opportunities and develop creative solutions for addressing
‚Ä¢ Review project deliverables for accuracy
A friend of mine came up with a pretty cool new original site… Dude. Let’s argue! is a site dedicated to all those treasured opinions and rants we each hold inside. Each week, late on Sunday night, a statement is chosen at random from the pile of statements submitted by members. During the week, users choose to either agree or disagree with the statement. The Web 2.0 version of the Wii Everyone Votes channel!