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Creating interactive multimedia is, technically speaking , not complicated, but it is time consuming.  If you are a trainer and have instructional design skills, you will have much of the talent required.  On the other hand, if you are to produce interesting material which grabs the attention of the user, rather than subjecting them to the equivalent of "death by Powerpoint", you also need to draw on skills in a number of areas.

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You need to be able to produce:
  • graphics
  • video and/or photography
  • audio production
  • scriptwriting
  • multimedia authoring

This may mean setting up an in-house production team or contracting out elements of the work.  Enlightenment Interactive are very happy to collaborate with in-house teams and to take on overflow work.

Courses in multimedia production are available, either at local colleges or from software suppliers.


Deciding Factors

Two major considerations are how you plan to deliver the material and what software you are going to use.

Delivery will depend largely on the hardware and network resources that your IT department can let you have.  The prevalence of "slim client" set-ups, where the computer on the desktop is not a PC but just a terminal on a network, can restrict the use of "media-rich" applications with video, audio, Flash animations and large graphic files.  Similarly, if the user's PC has no CD-ROM or DVD drive and no sound card, your ambitions have to be limited.  More about these issues on the Using Multimedia page.

The software used to create multimedia is known as "authoring" software.  This comes in two types.  The most common is page-based, in other words you design one page at a time and insert "assets" such as images or video files and interactions, such as buttons that take you to another page or display the answer.  This is the normal way to create intranet material and much CD-ROM material.  Very often these pages are structured and linked using a flow-chart mechanism.

m0fi23h6.gif (49422 bytes)Screen from a page-based multimedia.  Note the buttons to trigger video clips

Click on thumbnails to display larger images.

mut2qnbn.gif (8835 bytes) Authoring using a flow plan based tool, in this case Dazzler

For more fluid, elegant presentations, timeline based software can be used. With this, a number of overlapping visual and audible events can be programmed, very much in the way that a film or video is edited, complete with effects, music, etc.  Producing training material in these authoring languages can be more of a challenge.

timeline authoring


Authoring Software

  • Authorware (from Macromedia, page and flowchart based) 
  • Dazzler (from Dazzlersoft, a very similar concept, competitively priced)
  • Opus (from Digital Workshop, page based, exceptional value, will also publish as Flash for the internet) 
  • Director (from Macromedia, timeline based, requires Lingo for training interactions)
  • Frontpage (from Microsoft, mainly for web pages, but adding ASP pages can make it useful for training material production for the intranet)
  • Dreamweaver (another web design package, from Macromedia, the Course Builder plug-in makes it suitable for producing training material)
  • Trainersoft (from Trainersoft)
  • Toolbook (from Asymetrix)

Pictures

Obviously pictures can be acquired, either shot a digital camera or by scanning prints from a traditional camera.  Where images are to be delivered over the intranet, the file size of the image should be as small as possible, either GIF or JPEG.  This is less of an issue when creating a CD-ROM, although most people compress pictures as JPEGs rather than leaving them as bitmaps (BMP).  A full screen bitmap is over 1MB in size.

Popular software for editing, manipulating and sizing images:

  • Photoshop (the favourite of graphic artists, now available in a "light" version)
  • PaintShop Pro from Digital Workshop
  • Micrografx Picture Publisher
  • Fireworks from Macromedia

Sound

If you are using a professional narrator, the studio (or sometimes the narrators themselves) will have the ability to provide the material in the form of .WAV files, which are the most used in multimedia.  If you use Windows, you will find you have a very simple WAV editing tool called "Sound Recorder" (look in Programs/Accessories/Entertainment).  Otherwise there are numerous sound editing/recording and music composition tools, some of which are available as shareware.


Video

MPEG1 is the preferred format for video files for delivery on CD-ROM (AVI are larger and less satisfactory).  MPEG2 is used for DVD.  MPEG4 files are designed for video streaming over the internet, although video is only practical where your intranet is up to broadband standards, otherwise the user will spend more time waiting while the video is buffered than actually watching the clip.  Some digital cameras have MPEG output, but, by and large, the usual practice is to get your video supplier to encode the material for you, once it is edited.  You can get around 30 minutes of video on a CD-ROM, along with graphics, etc. DVD will carry 90+ minutes; this will be better quality but interactivity on a DVD is more limited.

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