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February 10 2012


Why motion graphics can make for animated explainers

"But little things — like easing in a motion or making an object bounce — can make a difference in how dynamic your animation can be or in how realistic a motion seems. The stylistic devices presented by the authors of the book are not crucial to making your story clear and lucid; your reporting, story and script are. But they can help you polish your work, the way a broad vocabulary and varied sentence structure can keep a reader interested in an article. "

February 14 2011


First try at using Xtranormal for news at TBD

In an experiment, I tried Xtranormal's animation tools to build a cartoon re-enactment of an FBI indictment transcript for TBD. [...]

May 04 2010


Looking at jQuery for visual journalism

With all this talk about the so-called death of Adobe Flash, the future of HTML5, etc., I thought I should take a closer look at jQuery. This post is intended to give you an overview and help you decide whether you too should take a closer look.

My first thought is that if you have weak skills in CSS (or no CSS skills at all), you can’t even think about using jQuery. You would need to improve your CSS skills before you tackled jQuery.

With that out of the way (sorry if that ruined your day), let’s note that:

  • jQuery is JavaScript.
  • jQuery is free and not a commercial product.
  • The home and source of jQuery is jQuery.com. You can download it there.

As an introduction, I really liked this: jQuery Tutorials for Designers. It shows you what jQuery makes possible on today’s Web pages, and even if you don’t want to look at the code, you can open each of the 10 examples and click and see what it does. So in about 15 minutes, you will have a better idea about jQuery’s usefulness.

This example is my favorite: Image Replacement. It’s simple, and it’s really easy to apply this to all kinds of visual journalism situations that an online designer might encounter.

Many of the other examples are things I wouldn’t bother to do on Web pages, even though they look cool. I was reminded of how a lot of people are saying Flash is unnecessary because you can do all the menu effects and flyovers with JavaScript instead. These examples prove that. Of course, my view of Flash is not to use it for eye candy (like most of these jQuery examples), but instead to use it for complex explanatory journalism, like this.

For a very nice slideshow built with jQuery, see this tutorial: Create a Slick and Accessible Slideshow Using jQuery.

There’s also a nifty jQuery plug-in for making a slideshow: Coda-Slider (thanks to Lauren Rabaino for that link!).

Here’s another good tutorial for a slideshow: Automatic Image Slider w/ CSS & jQuery.

For the geeks among you, read why you should link to Google’s copy of jQuery instead of using a version on your own Web host.

And finally, the ever-helpful Chrys Wu (@MacDivaONA) recommended these free video tutorials for learning jQuery.

January 20 2010


Updating Flash Journalism (Part 2)

The other day I received an e-mail from someone with a programming background who’s interested in learning how to build journalism packages in Flash. He asked how to get started and whether I was planning to release a new edition of my 2005 book Flash Journalism: How to Create Multimedia News Packages.

First I directed him to my December 2009 post about why I will not be updating my book.

I am recommending Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book. It’s not directed specifically at journalists or news graphics reporters, but it’s easy to follow for the most part.

Then I gave him this outline of what he needs to learn:

  1. Button scripting (for navigation through the package): Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 6; see also AS3 Buttons Tutorial
  2. Loading external content dynamically: Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 9
  3. How to optimize images in Flash (Bitmap Properties):  Imported Bitmaps
  4. How to load and control external MP3s: Using Sound in ActionScript 3
  5. How to load and control video: Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 7 (starting on page 252)
  6. ActionScript 3 and XML loading/controls (XML works awesomely well with AS3): I have built a tutorial for this that is meant to be used in conjunction with the files and the exercise in Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 8 (download the files; 234 KB). Please note that the exercise will not make sense without the book!

Now, after you’ve got all that under your belt, you will need to spend some time learning how to use the Bandwidth Profiler (Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 10) to make sure no one can accuse you of building heavy (overly large) Flash files. Heavy Flash files are NOT an indicator that Flash is bad; they simply show that the person who built the files didn’t know how to do it right!

If someone tells you that Flash graphics do not show up in Google or Yahoo! searches — that is incorrect.

If someone tells you that SWF is a proprietary file format, or that SWFs can be created only with Adobe software applications, that is also incorrect.

You should also learn how to use SWFObject to embed your Flash files (SWFs) in regular Web pages.

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