Authoring MultiMedia Productions
With the content planned and the media elements selected and prepared, the next step in the production process is actually to drop the text and media into a program that serves as a shell that comprises the final product. Although some programs work best in creating multimedia-enhanced presentations and others result in full nonlin- ear hypermedia programs, all share some basic properties that are important to un- derstand. The procedures outlined here are general, but are applicable to whatever software tools to which you will have access.
What we are capable of doing with technology is often difficult for us to compre- hend, so analogies to other things with which we are familiar are frequently used as a way of explanation. Multimedia programs are often built on basic units called cards or slides. The analogy to index cards or transparency slides is deliberate. You can write pieces of information or notes for a presentation on index cards and put all the cards together into a stack. These index cards can then be moved around, arranged in any order, and rearranged as needed to fit the purpose of the presentation and the mean- ingful flow of the content. So, too, can the electronic cards and slides be ordered and reordered within the electronic stack, thus providing a very editable presentation format.
Each card or slide has a background, which can be made to be a color or a design. Authoring and presentation programs offer a selection of premade backgrounds or you can use one of your own graphics. These backgrounds are generally designed to remain constant throughout the presentation, although the designer may choose to change the background color or graphic to fit the purpose of the content of each card. Any text that needs to be seen on every card or slide, such as the date or a school logo, can be placed on the background.
Onto each card or slide can be placed any number of objects. Objects can be text fields, graphics, or other media items in the form of buttons. Placing these objects on the cards or slides is like writing information on traditional index cards, except that the objects on these cards can be moved around easily to make for effortless layout editing. When the card or slide appears in the presentation, those objects appear su- perimposed on the background (see Figure 14.8).
Text Fields. In order to place text onto a card or slide, you must first create a text field. A text field is a rectangular tablet onto which text can be typed or imported from a word processing program and then edited as needed. The field can be moved anywhere on the card or slide and can be resized and reformatted. Text can be arranged within multiple text fields on each card or slide.
Graphics. Prepared graphic items, including clip art, scanned images, and digitally produced pictures, can be placed anywhere on a card or slide. They can be moved, resized, and overlapped.
Media Buttons. Other media items, such as audio, video, and animations, can be placed on any card or slide. These types of objects can be accessed during a presen- tation by clicking on an icon or button or can even be set to play automatically.
The way in which a user moves from one card or slide to another in a multimedia program is the defining difference between presentation slide programs and hyper- media programs, and is one reason why an author might choose one type of pro- duction software over the other. Presentation programs that are composed of a series of slides are typically intended for the sequential presentation of information. The presenter or user can view slides in ascending order by clicking the mouse button or can view the slides in order passively by using an automatic timed advance feature. A previous slide can be reviewed, and particular slides can be brought up by number from a navigational menu. You and your students may choose to use a slide program when designing an information product or a more traditional instructional lesson.
Hypermedia authoring programs capitalize on the concept of nonlinear move- ment among slides. Just as buttons can be added to a slide in order to utilize media elements, buttons can also be used to offer the user options for movement to other information. The project author adds a button to a card and assigns an action to the button. Some actions define media usage and others function as transitions to other specific cards. Rather than require a user to know a specific slide number in order to go directly to that slide, the author can make the button a direct avenue to any card in the stack. Depending on the complexity of the authoring program and the so- phistication of the author, these buttons can be chosen from a selection of predefined actions or can be customized with special scripting languages. Hypermedia authoring programs offer unlimited interactive design for any type of research project, story, or portfolio. Table 14.1 lists several popular presentation and hypermedia programs.