Tuesday, 6 September 2011


I've had a few wobbles in the last few days... At the weekend, I downloaded a sound effect from a free sound site and Flash would not open it. It played in QuickTime and iTunes, so I tried to open it in SoundBooth, but that wouldn't open it and a dialogue box popped up saying that it was corrupt.  The next thing... everything crashed!! Flash, Photoshop, SoundBooth and Firefox closed - and nothing would open I tried to open Flash CS3 (an older version I have on the MacBook), but nothing would open... I sat there speechless having an absolute panic.  I had the work backed up on my hard drive, but the only other copy of Flash I have is on my PC and it is an old version (FLash 8) and my file would not open it.  Momentarily I was thinking..... I can't do anymore work.... what am I going to do.... then I took stock and thought that I could download a trial version of FLash for now, and I took a deep breath and restarted the computer - dumped the sound file, (just in case it was the casue of the problem) - then wonderfully I could then re-open all the software and Firefox!! Panic over, but it shook me up for a while because sheer panic sets in and the mind goes into overdrive!!

I have been testing the project on people as often as I can and one comment I received (from a male: 25 years old), was that he thought the users should be given more background information and this has been mentioned before, so I thought it would be a good idea to add some more text in the sliding panel within the section after the intro.  I did not want to use the scrollbar from the components panel as I thought it would be better to create my own to fit in with the overall design. I did some research online and found a few tutorials for creating a custom scroller in Flash and decided to create one based around putting the text in a MovieClip and using masking with script.  The script was quite complex, but I thought it would be worth the effort to take the time to watch the video tutorial and have a go.  The guy was very detailed in his explanation of the script and it worked very well - so I decided to try it out.

I kept the scrollbar design simple and then gave the text MovieClip and scroller movieclip instance names, so they could be linked to by the script and was really disappointed when it didn't work - then I realised that I had a colon instead of a semi colon at the end of a line of script and a couple of tiny discrepencies and then tried again.... no, it still didn't work.  I checked the script thoroughly and it seemed fine.  So I then wondered if it was too embedded within the symbols, so copied the frames up into the main movieclip.... but it still didn't work :( ..... I did not anticipate that this would take up as much time and then not to work - it was not a great result.  I did not want to give up on this, but knew it was wiser to continue with the main aspects of completing the interactive scenes, so had to make the decision to come back to this when everything else was complete.

I continued to work with the scenes within one branch of the interactivity and generally was happy with most of the scenes.  My son was home for the weekend and fortunately for me lots of his friends were visiting throughout the weekend.  They were happy to test the scenes that had been completed so far and gave me user feedback.  The age ranges were between 22 - 28 and were male and female.  Comments were: 
  • Love the colour scheme of the animated intro
  • Affinity with the character in the intro, and wondered why she was sad
  • Liked the styling of the intro
  • Awesome...
  • want to know more about the character - Kara
  • I like the range of styles that change in each area
  • It draws me in, as I go through it
One of the males (aged 26) said the he really did not feel the need to know about 'Kara' and just enjoyed moving through the scenes and loved the way it drew him in as he went through it.  When he was on the first scene he didn't quite understand what it was about, but by the time he went through a few scenes, he was immersed and just enjoyed the experience.  It is interesting as this goes against what others have said - but this feedback has made me feel positive about the overall aims of the end product as I really want it to be immersive, simply for the fun of it.  Having the background story is just an addition which will be beneficial and interesting for some users.

I asked one of our visitors to test the intro and realised as it was finishing that part of the poem animation was missing.... another moment of panic and bemusement - I had to get a breather before I could face re-doing it.  I had a coffee and returned to it and realised that I must have deleted the MovieClip from the wrong library, but I had it in the library of the main movie.  I had to place it back in synch with the sound and tween it, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been!

I then had more ActionScript troubles, as I wanted one of the scenes to have a moving panoramic that moved across the screen on mouse movement or swipe, but although I was sure I was putting the right co-ordinates in, it would not slide appropriately within the Stage.  I then changed it slightly and then tested a larger constrained area that could be moved around by the user in order to select a door from within it.  This worked in a Flash file, so I brought the MovieClip into the project file, but if I made changes to the background it put it out of its constaints!?  I persevered and got this to work, only to find that it just did not work in the context of the scene, it was not visually appealing at all.... another disappointment, but I quickly went back to the sketchbook and planned another scene with doors in that are held by long armed characters and  this it seemed to fit better within the penultimate scene.

Another problem I had was with adding a background sound.  I sourced an interesting sound track from soundsnap and felt that it would enhance the interactive section as although there are lots of sound effects, it needed the addition of a soundtrack. I thought it would be as easy as adding the track to the timeline and selecting stream, but when I played the movie, the background track kept stuttering and was awful.  I then did some research on adding background sound and tried linking it through using a variable and 'linkage' and giving the sound an identifier, but whatever script I tried, this just would not work.  There was no background sound at all.  I read on an online forum that a constructer can take a MovieClip object as a parameter, so I tried this.... to no avail.  Then I thought, why don't I simply put the MovieClip with the sound in onto the main timeline and see if that works..... and eureka! It worked.  I have learnt so much about using, creating, editing sound with this project.  I have used new software, improved my Flash skills, researched and incorporated interactivity and utilised ActionScript.  The self learning has been quite steep, but I am glad that I pushed myself in a different direction, rather than creating a straightforward animation.  I have found the topic of interactivity very interesting and will continue with my newfound interest in digital narrative.  I have been inspired by Donna Leishman's early explorations in visual interactivity and love the simplicity of Ed Bain's The Devils Tramping Ground.  I am excited about the whole concept of visual narrative and will continue to delve into the topic.

As the module comes close to its end, on reflection I feel that this has been a more solitary journey than I would have liked, but unfortunately due to work not allocating time for me to attend Uni this year and ultimately, the workload in general - it was the only option.  It was frustrating to be called into work last week and to have my application for 2 days academic leave turned down by the Head of HE, due to the Prinicpal stating that all staff must be in for enrolments last week, even though my work colleague said he would cover for me. Very disappointing, especially as this week is induction week and the students are in until Wednesday.  The last few weeks of August until now have been quite intense, but I did finally manage to switch my brain off from work and get focused on the module - although this has the consequence of not me not being prepared for the start of the new academic year at work.

I am happy with the prototype that I have developed and feel this not the end, but just the beginning.  There is currently one functioning branch, but I would like to make this much larger, with branching links (aome are shown in the larger sketchbook).  I would also like to consider collaborating with other animators and incorporate their scenes.  Some scenes in 3D and stop motion would enrich the mixed media style.

I was inspired by the ustwo studio and their work and feel positive that my product has a niche to fit into and could be effectively used on the web and portable devices.

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