Multimedia: January 2009 Archives

Zooming in on Elegance: A Classy Flash App

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I just wanted to share an example of a partcularly effective museum Flash viewer from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). The exhibition is on European Decorative Arts focusing on the 17th-18th centuries.

If you're familiar with furniture from that era, you'll know that the pieces were very detailed. You really need to get in close to appreciate the artistry - which would require a fairly high resolution image (which would then take up a lot of downloading time and screen real estate). However the MFA uses a nifty Flash viewer to get around the bandwidth and screen problem.

If you click on the Tour button, the Flash viewer opens and it has the standard thumbnails of items to view at the bottom. Click on one to see a closeup. Unlike other museum Flash viewers, this one has two levels of zoom, and you really need them both. Another nice feature is that the thumbnail remains in place but has a red rectangle which you can use to pan to different areas of the close up.

I've seen similar viewers before but this one is particularly well executed. The zooms are really high quality so you can see a lot of detail (check out either the clock or cabinet), and I was amazed at how much detail I could really see. Plus I loved being able to zoom anywhere on the object. Most zooms seem more restricted.

In order to save on bandwidth, I notice that the images pixelate while you're zooming around much like Second Life. I think this really speeds up the movement process so that it's in real time. I feel so totally in control. Sometimes it is the small details that make a difference.

Need a Free Green Flash Sun Photo ?

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I recently did the copyright & free graphic session of the Winterfest Digital Media Day, with accompanying handout (FindingImages.pdf). I have to confess that images hold a special place in my heart pedagogy wise. As much as I love text, there are times when nothing can replace a visual.

Like text, still images can also be "cheaper" than video or animation especially in terms of the amount of memory needed. But images can be expensive in terms of production especially if you are wanting an image of a relatively rare phenomenon (e.g. a green flash when the sun appears green just at dusk or dawn). It's often cheaper to borrow if you can.

Sun at horizon appearing green
Seriously enlarged image of a green sun on the horizon. Original courtesy of Kai Schreiber. Licensed under Creative Commons

Fortunately, the Web 2.0 world has given us more options than ever for finding legal images. For instance the Wikipedia page on the Green Flash includes a lovely photo donated by Mila Zinkova who licenses under a GNU Free License documentation. Wikipedia is great for finding both donated images and images from the U.S. government which are otherwise buried in opaque search interfaces.

Flickr is another great source. As Stevie Rocco explained in an earlier copyright seminar, the advanced search option in Flickr includes a checkbox for Creative Commons licensed items. Again, you can often good results like this image from Mike Baird.

I can attest to the power of both tools because I had to find an astonishing arrays of photos for thermodynamics including:

I'm really glad we didn't have to send a photographer to all of these locations.