Monthly Archives: February 2007

Flash 1: Image Slider

Posted by PH on February 16, 2007
Photography / No Comments

Here’s a nice little Flash effect derived originally from Brendan Dawes‘ influential Flash Actionscript For Designers: Drag Slide Fade book. Over the years I’ve used this “image slider” quite a lot both on personal projects and in the classroom: the way the images swish across screen, decelerate, and slide into exactly the right position is highly organic and very satisfying. To try it, click here or on the image below: it will appear in a new window.

Dawes’ book dates from 2001 and all the lovely projects are written in Actionscript 1.0 – I believe he must have been using Flash 4. The version included here has been fully updated to be Actionscript 2.0 compliant and is written in my very best Flash ‘good practice’ style. You can get the .fla (2.5Mb) here in Flash MX 2004 format.

The photographs I’ve used were taken a few weeks ago by 1st year BA (Hons) Interactive Digital Media students – Alyn Spiller, Matthew Aldred, Sam East, and Rob Chalmers – from Swansea Metropolitan University.

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Web 2.0

Posted by PH on February 11, 2007
Web Design / 1 Comment

Let’s start with a question: what is Web 2.0?

We could do worse than begin with Wikipedia’s definition.

Done that? Then let’s watch a video:

This second video was posted as a “response” to the first:

Enough? In that case let’s end with an answer: that process you’ve just been through, this blog, is Web 2.0.

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John Hardy

Posted by PH on February 09, 2007
Music & Technology / No Comments

John Hardy is a BAFTA-winning composer with a pretty impressive portfolio of work that includes commissions for the BBC, Channel 5, The Discovery Channel, S4C, etc.. This week he delivered a talk on the Role of Music in Animation and Film at the amperSAND digital media forum (held at the lovely National Waterfront Museum in Swansea).

Anyway, I was sitting there thinking a) how interesting it all was, and b) why wasn’t anyone videoing the event? Surely everyone videos these things nowadays, don’t they? Cue trusty Nokia N70:

I certainly didn’t catch anywhere near all of it – he must have been ‘performing’ for a good two hours – but these clips give a good indication of the event. I was impressed with John’s attitude: realistic, enthusiastic, and seemingly unspoiled by a cut-throat industry. Technologically aware, and yet not a slave to it. Business-like, but still knowing where his artistic integrity is located. He’s grounded. Refreshing!

I particularly like his advice to film-makers trying to source music, and to those attempting to break into the industry. Anyone, anywhere, trying to ‘make it’ in any discipline would do well to ponder these wise words.

Nice one.

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McLuhan 1: An Introduction

Posted by PH on February 04, 2007
Marshall McLuhan / 1 Comment

What can I say? I’m a BIG fan of Marshall McLuhan. I first came across him sometime around 1992 and I’d just completed my Post-Graduate Diploma in Music Information Technology. Just as I was finishing my dissertation (on synthesizer interface design) my research somehow led me to Understanding Media and it completely blew me away. Since then I’ve read most of his major works, his published letters, a biography, and several other books about him and his work. I’m the very proud owner of a First Edition of The Mechanical Bride.

His writing remains unique, especially for an academic. Most obviously, he deliberately and self-consciously avoids the expositional logico-scientific structures of the academic paper, preferring instead a kind of mosaic – or what he would probably call a ‘field’ – of fragments, references, allusions, metaphors, puns, and killer one-liners. These spiral around the subject under discussion like a swarm of determined and very clever bees.

For example: chapter 2 in Understanding Media is entitled ‘Media Hot and Cold’. The second paragraph begins with some basic definitions and is quite easy to read and understand:

There is a basic principle that distinguishes a hot medium like radio from a cool one like the telephone, or a hot medium like the movie from a cool one like TV. A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in “high definition.” High definition is the state of being well filled with data. A photograph is, visually, “high definition.” A cartoon is “low definition,” simply because very little visual information is provided.

Straightforward enough, no? But then over the next 10 pages he develops this simple idea, taking in along the way hieroglyphic vs ideogrammic writing, ballet, Freud, steel axes and the Australian Aborigine, Newton, Blake, Frank Lloyd Wright, anxiety, boredom, jazz, Margaret Mead, W.H. Auden and Shakespeare, a rationale for the great period in Athenian culture, Calvin Coolidge, traffic calming, Glenn Gould and Stravinsky, dark glasses, James Joyce, Constance Rourke, and Dr. Johnson. Phew!

Like all intertextuality, understanding and evaluation is only possible if you know the sources, and his range of references is extremely broad. It can make for exhausting reading, but at the end of the day there is no-one like him. No matter whether you love him or loathe him, agree or disagree, his work is challenging and visionary and more relevant now than it was when he wrote it (Understanding Media came out in 1964). He reminds me a bit of Freud, in the sense that – although many of his ideas may have been misguided, off target, or just plain wrong – his work has completely changed the way we think about the world (and ourselves).

Here’s a little snippet of him in action. It’s short, but it really does give the true flavour of his dense, aphoristic style:

As you can probably tell from the giveaway title for this post, I plan to write more on McLuhan. I hope that over time these might mount up to something substantial. But to round off today’s introductory sermon, I thought I’d end with one of my favourite quotes of his – McLuhan’s definition of politics:

Yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems.

Totally. Ciao!

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