By Bill Graham, Graphics Editor, See staff list for e-mail address
Like many people who do multimedia for a living, I've had to migrate to another platform for much of my work. One long-time Amiga program that has been successfully ported to Windows is Scala. If you have a windoze box, you can download the working demo from http://www.scala.com/. It actually makes your windoze box seem like an Amiga. It performs this magic by completely shutting Windows down.
But the fact is, no matter how much RAM you have and no matter how fast a Pentium you have, performance with a PC lags behind an Amiga, at least as far as live presentations are concerned. There are bells and whistles that go along with some of the newer PC animation codecs that are fun to have. But the Amiga's TV-compatible output and more manageable file formats really shine with a live presentation.
So if you have an Amiga, and you have Scala, and you are comfortable enough with DPaint, Brilliance, and/or ImageFX, then you are ready to make, or try to make, a presentation of sorts. You've gone through all the tutorials, and you have enough familiarity with all the software that you're ready to give it a shot. Perhaps you're an educator, or a sales manager, or a person in charge of training in your company. You are ready to rock. You fire up your Amiga, fingers poised over the keyboard, and....nothing.
You have an affliction far worse than any writer's block. You have multimedia block! I have travelled down this same trail. And what follows are a few pointers for would-be presentation makers that would like to show what Scala and the Amiga can do.
The very first thing you should do is take a writing pad and pencil in hand, and go away from your computer, and try to find a quiet place where you can arrange your thoughts. You need to make an outline of what you want to get across. You can make a rough outline, with just three or four main points. But leave room to scratch in the filler material.
I use the outline method I was taught in high school, back when dinosaurs walked the Earth, wore white Levis, and could play "Wipe Out" with their pencils on their desks. In that method, the main points are numbered with Roman numerals, the sub-points are enumerated with upper case letters, the sub-sub points with Arabic numerals, the sub-sub-sub points with lower case letters, and so on. You should get the idea. I've found that this method translates very nicely to the Storyboard, which is the next step.
Storyboards are merely representations of screens, in this case Scala screens, in sequential order. I use a legal pad, and draw four squares on each pad. This leaves enough room to write in whatever text I want to show on a screen, and also leaves enough room in the margins for changes and notes. During the translation from Outline to Storyboard, it is entirely possible that one of my Roman numeral points can take three or more screens, depending on how much info I need to get across graphically. Also, these same storyboard squares I've drawn can represent animations. While I'm determining which screens will represent which outline points, I also make a list of the graphics I have or am going to need.
These can be screen grabs made with a VLab or other video digitizer, scanned images, bar charts done with a paint program, clip art, and so on. Scala also comes with a sizeable library of themed backgrounds. Making the Storyboard can be the most time-consuming part of creating a presentation, but when I'm done, I have a detailed plan of how to put together a Scala show.
While I'm thinking about assembling graphics, I also make a list of sounds that I want to use, such as MOD's and digitized sound.
I usually make several roughs of a storyboard before I have one I'm satisfied with. The final Storyboard usually has a detailed list on a screen-by-screen basis of every graphic, brush, sound, and text that will be associated with it. For instance, I may have to use the same backround three times due to the amount of text or number of brushes involved, and I represent this as three screens on my storyboards.
After the Storyboard is complete, I set out to acquire the various images, brushes, etc. that I'll need, image processing them to the correct resolution/palette combination that will work best. If I use the included Scala screens, the images are already optimally processed for me. Once that is done, it is simple to put together a Scala script following the detailed Storyboard that I created earlier. I usually need to run the script and polish it as I go along, in order to check the "timing."
If the presentation includes live speech timed to the different screens, some rehearsal is usually in order. Using children, spouses, or pets as captive audiences is perfectly acceptable here. Do not hesitate to use the poor man's teleprompter, known as index cards.
After a few dry runs, you'll be amazing yourself. Remember, preparation is the key, and most of the work is done before you ever start up Scala.
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