With a little break before summer teaching and other work, I’ve been able to make headway on Stoning Field, a short story that I’m repurposing in Flash MX (not 2004, which I have yet to work with, although I’ve been practicing the new strong typing of ActionScript 2.0).
Anyway, what’s going on with the project?
First off a little background. I started planning the project in Storyspace, a decision that’s really payed off. Storyspace provided first iteration beyond the textual story and also set up the structure of the hypertext later to be mimed in scriptlinks. Next came further thinking about the bottom up creation in Flash, which can be problematic. Why? Because of the involvement of video. Originally, I had considered using very small video clips in certain areas of the work to act as motif and as a means of playing with time. The video clips represent memory as visualized instances and as a representation of “present time” action in the story. While the text of the story may involve a struggle to get somewhere in the “present,” video may represent a mental state or recollection hinted at in some other, earlier area of the story. Okay so far. But I had to crank up the quality of the video clips just a tad because of the optional sizing issues in Flash mcs, and because I can’t really know when the urge might come to say, “Hm, I need something a little bigger here.” A clip can be nested (contained) in a mc then resized on the stage. If it is decided later that a clip should cover say 400 by 400 pixels, the video has to be of sufficient quality to compensate. This, of course, means that the Flash files are going to get larger and larger and you change your mind later then you really can’t get the space back.
I had originally thought that I’d contain every cell of the story in one file and aggregate it in scenes. Quickly, it became apparent that 21 scenes with who knows how much video to come would be too big for Flash to handle with confidence, and I hadn’t reaaly envisioned a lot of multimedia in the first place. By scene 7, the fla was already climbing into the 30Mb range and I was having a difficult time saving for safety onto CD. This issue started to nag at me so much that concentrating on the “real” work became difficult. Luckily, copy/pasting frames and libraries into new swfs and having them “act” like scenes is simple enough. Director is the workhorse, however, for these bigger self-contained projects.
I had already taken the time to consider stage-size, button-size, palette, environment UI, degrees of interactivity, and instance names so the only real pain was the video itself.
Anyway, I revised the project by converting to this new structure: Multiple flas that load into level 0s. This gave me the opportunity to fine tune the embedded video and treat it with a little more respect. In addition to the Flash changes, I went back into Storyspace and retitled and reworked the text spaces to reflect the changes in Flash because Storyspace helps to maintain continuity. While I work, I have Storyspace, a notebook, and Flash open at the same time.
Now I’ve come to the fun part. It’s time to sculpt the later flas to suit the story and to add what needs to be added: animations, photograph and video manipulation, and hopefully the funof scripting.
In Stoning Field there are two base paths. One dictates the “present tense” (PathA) the other a memorial counterpoint (PathB). Here are two examples:
In the desert beyond the stoning field, dust devils ride the sand. They disappear, reappear, impossible to forecast, invoked out of the elements that generate clouds and other fog and wind forms, blurring the distances, scrubbing the horizon in their circumambulations under the sun. The children see them as they leave the street and enter the field. They feel accompanied.
At twelve years, I broke my wrist playing tetherball. The big yellow ball spun above me in quickly decreasing ellipses around the pole. I made a hard fist and leapt for the ball and struck the metal loop linking ball to rope. I remember hearing the metalic ring of a bell behind the crack of the bone. I don’t recall pain, but I do remember the sound and the infexibility of steel.
And I wonder if the authorities banned that loop. Did they put it on trial?
The idea here is to let the paths go but to also “tether” them together. Tethering, play, and odd forces are all ideas that keep coming up in the text; I didn’t have to think about “making sure” things fit together this way. It happened that the “tethers” exist. In the path B example above, it makes sense to “tie” a little yellow ball to _xmouse, _ymouse using a few variables that simulate inertia, flex, or acceleration to give a little push and pull to the interaction with the current frame.