this if you will: a trusting young couple have used their new mini-DV
camcorder to capture precious moments of their child's first birthday
party. The happy father spends hours editing the video in Apple's
amazing iMovie program which takes an hour to learn and a lifetime
to master. The proud mother supposedly uploads the movie to the family
web site and instantly emails all the relatives to take a look-see.
are the things that are supposed to happen. But an ignorance shared
by both parents has plunged them into an uncharted and twisting stream.
When the emails start coming back, something is terribly, terribly
wrong. They have just plunged into the darkest nightmare
Enter avuncular Karl Malden: "FlashMX: don't leave home movies without it!"
you are about to read will forever change your understanding of video
on the Internet. First, some facts. There is a war raging
in cyberspace for global domination of multimedia web sites.
That was a lot of numbers and from my experience trying to explain
this to folks beginning the day after Flash MX came out in March,
2002, you are all:
OK, ok: not true. But it was fun to pretend.
Here's the FlashMX interface:
Timeline frames, red Playhead, Scene number, Stage work area
empty squares in the Timeline represent frame placeholders for
a movie's scene with every 5th
being black. In the image above, the red Playhead is on Frame One. We are currently
inside Scene 1. The box surrounding the screen shot of the multilang.swf file
is called the Stage and is where you can use the draw tools to create your
animation. Or you can import a drawing created in another program
and animate it inside
Backing up a bit before we demonstrate this RIA deal, we need to explain Symbols. No, not corny literary symbolism that strives to prove the all too obvious profundity: "Life is better than death!" In the Flash environment, a Symbol is a re-usable object. In it's simplest form, it is a drawing which you can resize, rotate, etc., as part of the animation process. And the best program for creating Symbols and therefore the place you will now begin web site design . . .. Old-fashioned HTML hand coders, just stay with me a moment. This program is included in the StudioMX suite: FreehandMX. Adobe Illustrator is based on this program.
FreehandMX: where web page design now begins,
creating re-usable Symbols for FlashMX
Video clips embedded into a FlashMX document are also elements which can be dragged onto the Stage, re-used and modified for size, shape, rotation, location and even used as motion tweens. If placed inside a movie-clip symbol, a video clip's color, transparency, etc., can also be manipulated. To edit the video clip directly, return to your non-linear video editor (iMovie, etc.), edit, then update it in FlashMX.
This gets even better, folks. Does good old Adobe Photoshop drive you nuts when you use it to manipulate images for the web? Enter the next application in StudioMX: FireworksMX. Sound hot? It is: compresses better than Photoshop and is ten times easier to use for web graphics.
FireworksMX bests Photoshop for web compression & work flow
OK, Jim: we're with you so far. But how do you put it all together? Welp, thar's two answers to that thar question. FlashMX or DreamweaverMX. Actually, you can use these two applications separately or together. DreamweaverMX is to FlashMX as a page layout program is to an image you might put on a particular page. Now: you just found out what all those little moving images are on web pages, especially if they are more complicated than the few frames you might create with Adobe ImageReady.
DreamweaverMX split-screen: see HTML code being generated
Back to the main deal, RIAs. This approach to web design is so new that all the books on it have been written this year. Here's the thing: studies show that people like to click but they hate to scroll. How do you avoid scrolling?
Instead of using Dreamweaver to generate an HTML version of your web site, design the entire web site with FlashMX action-script code. Best practice? Have both an HTML-driven and a FlashMX-driven version of your web site, just in case one of the 16% refuses to upgrade to the FlashMX media player. This can all be auto-detected, giving the user the option to upgrade or just go directly to the HTML-driven version of your web site.
With a Flash-driven web site, there is just one screen that fills your browser window with the Stage. Drop down menus save you screen real estate. You click buttons to load not just pages but entire animations, videos, games, forms linked to databases, etc.
You guessed it: StudioMX even has its own database solution, ColdFusionMX Server (only Windows, Linux, Sun and HP versions so far but can be authored on Mac) that supports the standard relational database management systems. But to review all the server options provided by this bleeding-edge company would be another article unto itself.
Write server code tags with a simple mouse click inside DreamweaverMX for
ColdFusionMX dynamic database calls
What it all comes down to is a more intuitive navigation system for web sites that helps prevent the "gone down a rabbit hole" syndrome where you get easily lost on poorly designed HTML web sites. You load fewer web pages faster and more comprehensively.
For more information on RIAs and a brief overview, you can watch this 14 minute presentation which will require a broadband connection, plus you may need to take a minute and upgrade to the Flash MX 6 player.
The business impact of Rich Internet Applications:
"So, basically it's about how 5 cents worth of coffee beans
turns into a $4 latte,"
There is only one possible conclusion:
"The experience matters!"
1) If an upgrade is necessary, you will see instructive text and a link to click so you can now join the privileged 84%!
2) If an upgrade is not necessary, you will just see the word "Loading" as the 2MB RIA downloads. Then, you will see a screen instructing you to:
"View Presentation"Click those words and the presentation will begin.
Cost for Studio MX built for Mac OS X: $899 with upgrade options between $499-699, Education price: $199. Such is the cost of global domination!
1) Factor in cost of third party instruction books and CDs as the 4 volume set that came with Web Studio (Flash 5, Dreamweaver 4, etc.) has been replaced by a thin 380 page text that reads like it came from the publicity department. You can almost teach yourself Dreamweaver but FlashMX will be a 6 month study of action-script, even with the most helpful addition of context-sensitive code-hints. I recommend:
a) for beginners: Katherine Ulrich's Macromedia Flash MX for Windows & Macintosh Visual Quick Start Guide, Peachpit Press, 2002.
And for good work flow practices and optimization of file size: MD Dundon's Macromedia Flash MX Production Techniques, Macromedia Press, 2003. Click here for MD's comments on my review.
b) for advanced: Coin Moock's ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition, O'Reilly Press, 2002.
2) FlashMX comes with Sorenson Spark for compressing imported video. But for higher quality compression, consider buying Sorenson Squeeze 3.1 for Macromedia FlashMX at $119; the upgrade from earlier versions is $49.
FlashMX tour: http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/
Authoring requirements: Mac OS 9.1 and higher, or OS X 10.1 and higher
· 64 MB of free available system RAM (128 MB recommended)
· 85 MB of available disk space
· 1024 x 768, 16-bit (thousands of colors) color display or better
· CD-ROM drive
Jim Richardson has been designing multimedia web pages since 1997
He has used non-linear video editors like iMovie and Adobe Premiere for years. In April, Jim began the Professional Videographers of the North Bay's Final Cut Pro SIG: http://www.jimrichardson.com/fcp/index.html