Saturday, 24 September 2011


I finally received the Autumn edition of Imagine magazine - I was going to ring them up today to ask when it will be posted; so was very pleased when it came through the door :).  I have been reading an article in the magazine about crowdfunding.  People who have trouble with getting funding for their animations and even app building are using crowdfunding sites due to finding it very difficult to get funding for their ideas.  The crowdfunding sites cut out the middle man and instead you can appeal to the masses via social media.  IndieGoGo is one of these sites.  It was launched in 2008 and has been successful in helping people to pitch and raise funds for their animations.  There is also a games apps website called Appbackr that suggests that it is 'the first crowdfunding marketplace for mobile apps'.  This site helps app developers to find funders (called backrs) who can help with funding and to drive sales.  It is an interesting concept.  I have seen it being applied on animators own website, (Nina Paley gives the viewer the opportunity to make a donation to her, although her animation - Sita Sings the Blues is free to distribute using the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License), but these are dedicated sites for people to pay towards the production and as a reward (depending on how much they pay) they get attributed in the credits/get a free DVD of the film etc. You have to be able to commit the time to produce something pretty good, when these people are helping to fund it, and this could put more pressure on the creators!

It feels strange to be post-MA, but I am still anxiously waiting to find out my results.... will soon know whether to celebrate or if I'll need people to commiserate!?.....

On a more lighthearted note.... I liked this daft animation by The Brothers McLeod:

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The final curtain!

This is it... the final module submission date is here.  I have just got in from work and I am now going to drop my submission to Herts.

I had a nightmare again last night with some technical problems. I finished the practical work and only had to link the files as I had worked in two seperate Flash files in order to keep the file sizes down.  I was going to use the loader component but I located some loader script online and decided to use that instead and I was really happy that it linked all the files appropriately with what I initially thought was no problems; but then as I tested it, one of the links would not work.  Suffice to say, I spent a few hours trying to find what was wrong. I worked out that it must be because I was loading a .swf into the timeline of the Fla file, it was getting confused with the script because I had it embedded into a MovieClip - I tried linking it directly to the .swf, but it kept linking back on itself. After a long slog of problem solving, I tried to copy the frames from the .Fla file and put it into a MovieClip, but this caused a multitude of problems with frames being where they shouldn't be etc., so then, even though it was by then around 4.15am, I applied simplified logic and took the tweens and masks out of the MovieClip and just used straightforward script within the main timeline... and hallelujah it worked! 

I feel that my folder will seem light due to writing all my reflections, evaluations, discussing current debates and key figures within animation and interactivity digitally within this blog, I hope this is taken into consideration. This is it now though, so I will take my weary bones to the Uni and come home and sleep!

I am happy with the end product, although it really is a longer term project that I will continue to develop. I will create a wide array of links, from within the linear track and sideways within these. I am excited about this project and am looking forward to continuing with it, as there are so many more scenarios that I have planned and also improvement and development of what has been created so far. There are a few adjustments that I have made to the intro animation (due to feedback from testers). I added another tear to emphasise Kara's dispondency and I tweaked the CatBot smile to appear a little later during his movement across the room, and added a low 'drone' sound to the glide movement of the CatBot.

The user should traverse around the scenes thoroughly as there are many invisible interactions.  I have left some pages more simpler in order to get to the more complex pages quicker and to change the pace.  I have added a subtle click to some of the buttons that move the user onto the next scene, but I left some without this to provide a little aporia, to make the user momentarily doubt where to go next, but on other occasions I made it very obvious - this was all done to create a less rythmic journey and to encourage them to dwell on some of the scenes.

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.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Final module progress

I sorted the problem out with the sound trapped within the flv file (staticTV).  I converted it to QuickTime in Premiere and exported it.  I then converted it to an flv within the Adobe Media Encoder and it finally worked without the sound.... eureka!  I had a few problems with the picture quality from Premiere, but I finally sorted the export settings and I was much happier.  I then added the sound file that I had stripped from the movie earlier and toned the static sound right down.

One of the biggest learning curves that I have encountered during this module is with using and editing sound in Adobe SoundBooth and using Adobe Premiere effectively to achieve what I need for the module.  I have also used some sounds from  The website classifies itself as The Freesound Project and is a collaborative database of Creative Commons licensed sounds.  I have now joined the Freesounds Project and also have some sounds that I have created that I can upload for others to use.

I created a telescopic character that slides up out of the ground for one of the scenes and I wanted a swishing sound as it came up and went back down.  I searched high and low on freesound, soundjay, partnresinrhyme and also soundsnap (where I am also a member), but I couldn't quite find the sound I wanted - so I resorted to recording myself in SoundBooth and by adding some effects - 'ethereal' and 'canyon echo', I achieved what I wanted.  The great thing is that I only use the built in microphone in my Mac!

The swish track in SoundBooth
Telescopic character

I have also learned to use Illustrator, which I have never used before - but ended up reverting back to using Flash, due to some surprising incompatibilities, particularly in the use of alpha masking - but in order to achieve a similar technique as Illustrator drawing, I have been using the pencil tool, which I have found much better than the brush because I did not want the variations in the outline.

I have incorporated a wide range of techniques that I have used throughout the course - masking to blend the 2D into photographic images, the use of mixed media and I have also used a wider range of animation techniques.  The majority of the animation is limited animation and I have used symbols to create separate body parts - but I have also used frame by frame techniques a lot more within some scenes.  Chris Georgenes calls this 'tradigital' which is a great phrase that epitomises the blend of traditional and digital techniques.  I have created some little pop up animations like a door that grows from the ground and then reverses back and a flying bird/bat type creature using the tradigital techniques (onion skinning, frame by frame and reverse sequence).

I also feel more confident in the use of ActionScript because of this module.  I could have just created an animation (which originally was the plan - based around a poem), but felt that this would not push me as hard.  I am interested in visual narratives and wanted to create something that people could interact with rather than simply view.  I do not profess to be expert in ActionScript, but I feel more proficient now and have been able to utilise the script to create the interaction required.  I used a lovely script to zoom in and reverse out on a newspaper lying on the ground so that the user can read it.  I also intend to use this within the 'Magic City' scene, where I have used the 3D tool in Flash to create a 'Truck in' style camera movement.

Cityscape zoom, using 3D position and View in Flash
I found using the 3D position and View to move the images along the z axis rather cumbersome initially, because I am not used to using the z axis - but I think it was worth the effort of persevering to get the effect.

Must crack on, need to complete the Magic City scene.  Nimium efficio , in aliquantulus vicis.