991111.html | WebReference


Subject: WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER, Nov. 11, 1999 Date: Thursday, November 11, 1999 6:20 PM

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http://www.webreference.com http://www.webreference.com/new/ http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. EXPERTS WANTED: WebRef's Hiring! 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Web Animation - More Than Mere Software 3. NET NEWS: * New BubbleBoy E-mail Worm an Industry First * Apache Brings Open Source to XML * Microsoft, Sun Square off for On-Line Office Showdown * Hotmail uses controversial filter to fight spam * Java's Use Continues Steady Growth * Universal translators move into the real world

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Every Thursday the Update features a new article contributed by our readers through our Open Publishing Initiative. We encourage you to submit your own article ideas. Those that make the cut receive a free copy of HoTMetaL Pro 6 and a cool internet.com T-shirt!


This week, writer Christopher Grotke thinks the time in ripe for Web Animation to come of age, and tells you why in his article "Web Animation - More Than Mere Software."

Spread the word! Feel free to send a copy of this newsletter to your friends and colleagues, and while you're at it, snap a link to WebReference.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. EXPERTS WANTED: WebRef's Hiring!

It's a rare event, but WebReference.com is hiring. We're looking for expert columnists to cover Graphics, Design, and XML topics for semiweekly how-tos. These are paid contractual positions. Experts are paid on incentive, based on the traffic they generate. Only dependable, enthusiastic gurus need apply! A sense of humor is required, some Zen training would be helpful ;)

For more information, check out our writer's guidelines at: http://www.webreference.com/writers.html

E-mail us at update@webreference.com with example URLs of your work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Web Animation - More Than Software

If Walt Disney had made Snow White and the Seven Blinking, Fading, Rotating Circles, his empire wouldn't have gotten very far.

Animation, done well, draws visitors to your site. It can enhance the Web visit. It can provide humor. You can demonstrate a point, give a presentation, or tell a story. The animation can be interactive, and can be manipulated by site guests. Your site will benefit from attention, awards, and the added warmth that a character can provide. But, just as drawings don't draw themselves, animation doesn't simply occur. It has to be created.

Every Web developer knows that animation brings Web pages to life. And every developer has been annoyed by poor quality animation on the Web. I'm happy to report that those days may be over. There is no excuse for anything less than stunning animated pages. The tools have evolved, the technology has improved, and the Web is speeding up. The time for Web animation has come.

There are many tools out there to help you. The most important part of choosing an animation tool is understanding its limits, and designing your animation to work within them. A current favorite of mine is Flash (http://www.macromedia.com), which takes advantage of every trick in the book to make file sizes small while providing the maximum in functionality and crispness in the final results. Unfortunately, it is still in the process of gaining universal acceptance. I also like GIF Builder, a great little freeware Mac program for building animations out of pre-made images. GIF animations have some limitations, but are viewable in almost every browser without a plug-in.

The bottom line is that your choice of animation tool may have some technical impact on the animation you create. By the same token, if you need to create a universally viewable site, you may want to avoid Flash and other plug-in dependent formats.


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Unfortunately, no matter how good the tools, none of them will animate for you, nor will they make you an animator. To go beyond the tutorial-level animation that is so common, web developers need to develop (or outsource) animation skills like character development, timing, nuance, and style. These are skills learned primarily from keen observation and study of the world around us.

Professional animators are professional artists who understand the bone structure of animals and how things move. They understand aspects of theater, of costume design, and acting. They dive into reference materials and become what they are animating. And all of this goes into each line of each frame they produce. In short, animation is more than moving pictures.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your animation skills:

- Go to a natural history museum and look at animal skeletons. Notice that almost all skeletons have the same basic pieces, but that they vary in proportion. See which animals walk on their toes, where the legs meet the hips, how the ribs define the chest, and how their skull is attached to their spine.

- Go to a zoo, or watch some nature shows about animals. Observe the ways flesh and muscle interact with the bone structures you saw at the natural history museum and watch the way animals move. Watch the differences between, say, a hummingbird and a hippo, and think about their defining characteristics. Is weight important? You might also notice details that can help you define your character, like the fact that a dog will follow its sense of smell and lead actions with its nose. A human might be more inclined to look first, leading the action with the eyes.

- Practice drawing. Sign up for that figure drawing class you keep avoiding. Doodle during meetings. Chuck Jones (creator of Bugs Bunny) used to say that we all have a million bad drawings inside of us, and the sooner we get them out of the way, the better.

- Read books. "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston is the established bible for animators, and Chuck Jones' "Chuck Reducks" is a new close second.

- Watch cartoons. This seems like the easy one, but you are now watching with a critical eye. Notice the timing of actions, when characters move and when they rest, and the camera angles chosen to show the action. When are colors used to emphasize a mood? Which of these techniques can you incorporate into your animation projects?

Whether you choose to develop your animation skills or outsource animation projects, the Web sites you design can benefit from a well thought out approach to the animation used. Animation needs to support the theme of the site, and should help communicate the message you want to convey, not hinder it. Developing a character that can act as a host or guide is one way to accomplish this (Ask Jeeves is a prime candidate for an animated host, but alas, he's just a still image). Creating interactive animated content is another way (http://www.rockschool.com) to keep people engaged. And don't forget that sometimes people will visit your site just to be entertained (http://www.musearts.com/cartoons). One thing you can be sure of: animation done right will impress and engage your audience; bad animation will only annoy them.

Summary: The tools and the technology for creating animation on the Web are available right now, but it takes an animator to bring artwork to life.

Author Bio:

Christopher Grotke is an owner and founder of MuseArts, Inc., an award-winning digital design company specializing in interactivity, animation, and databases for the Web. He has written for industry magazines such as Exhibit Builder and Computer Pictures. His work has been featured in WIRED magazine, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and on such television programs as PBS's "The Creative Spirit," and "The 90's."

MuseArts is located near Boston in Somerville, Massachusetts, and can be found on the web at http://www.musearts.com. Christopher can be reached at: grotke@musearts.com.


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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: New BubbleBoy E-mail Worm an Industry First, Apache Brings Open Source to XML, Microsoft, Sun Square off for On-Line Office Showdown, Hotmail uses controversial filter to fight spam, Java's Use Continues Steady Growth, Universal translators move into the real world

>New BubbleBoy E-mail Worm an Industry First

For the first time an e-mail virus can be activated without the need to open an attachment from a message. VBS/BubbleBoy is a "proof-of-concept" e-mail worm that is spread via MS Outlook e-mail. Article includes links to security patches. http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,1087,3_236231,00.html InternetNews.com, 991110

>Apache Brings Open Source to XML

The Apache Software Foundation this week unveiled the Apache XML Project, an effort dedicated to developing a common set of open source Internet tools, and thus a set of common Internet standards, for XML. http://www.internetnews.com/wd-news/article/0,1087,10_236021,00.html Internetnews.com, 991110

>Microsoft, Sun Square off for On-Line Office Showdown

Microsoft announced that with the upcoming release of its Office 2000 software package, Microsoft Corp. will also make available the software online. The next day, Sun announced that the release of it's competing Web-based office software suite, StarOffice, would be delayed until the second half of 2000. http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2391167,00.html http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,1087,3_234871,00.html Internetnews.com, 991109 ZDNet, 991110

>Hotmail uses controversial filter to fight spam

A controversial antispam tool has acquired legitimacy with the addition of a new subscriber: Hotmail, the 800-pound gorilla of Web-based e-mail. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-1433577.html News.com, 991109

>Java's Use Continues Steady Growth

A study of software developers conducted in October points to an increasing acceptance of the Java programming language. http://www.internetnews.com/wd-news/article/0,1087,10_232961,00.html InternetNews.com, 991105

>Universal translators move into the real world

Slashdot tipped us off to one more example of Star Trek technology come to life: At Comdex next week, ViA will demonstrate its version of a universal translator. ViA's device is partially funded by the U.S. Navy and performs voice-to-voice translation with a wearable PC, head set, and speaker.

The device interprets seven languages, including Mandarin Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Users can talk into the microphone in one language and it will come out through a speaker in the second language. http://slashdot.org/articles/99/11/10/1859208.shtml http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStory.pl?991110.pivoice.htm Infoworld.com, 991110

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Eric Cook Assistant Editor, WebReference.com ecook@internet.com

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