back when, approximately 600 years BW (Before Web), interactivity was
something that you added into CD-ROMs. Click here and bring up a movie,
or play back a belch - ah, this was the heady life of "Multimedia." Thankfully,
the Web has helped us move past that dark time, with interactivity that
isn't limited by the bounds of a CD-ROM. Yet there are times that it would
be nice to add a bit more control over your digital video clips that just
can't be worked within standard HTML tools - that's where Electrifier
Inc.'s Electrifier Pro comes in.
Pro is a $395 program that builds interactivity into QuickTime Movies
and QuickTime VR Panoramas using simple click and drag commands. While
Electrifier Pro works primarily with QuickTime, you can also output animated
GIFs - however there are other less expensive programs that are better
suited to that task. If you want to use interactivity to make your QuickTime
content more compelling, then Electrifier Pro is a solid tool for you.
How it works
Once of Electrifier
Pro greatest strengths is that you can use it to add sprites and interactivity
to QuickTime movies without scripting or programming. The QuickTime architecture
supports interactive sprites, which remain separate from the video information
in the QuickTime movie (whether video or QuickTimeVR panoramas). By attaching
events and commands to these sprites, your QuickTime movies become interactive,
which gives the end user greater control over the rich media experience.
if your video shows tennis star Michael Chang's power serve, you can easily
add a sprite that - with a click - opens a URL to a special offer for
a Michael Chang signature tennis racquet from Prince. You could build
links that play a specific set of frames in this same movie, or play frames
from an entirely different movie.Because
sprites can be vector graphics, you can add interactivity to QuickTime
files without significantly increasing file size. The other good news:
the QuickTime Player directly supports sprites, so no additional plug-in
(other than QuickTime) is required.
add interactivity by dragging Actions from the Action palette to either
the Layout or Structure views. Here the Pause and Play graphic files
with Play/Stop Movie actions attached.
image for view
Pro includes a number of powerful Actions. Note the Action palette
includes tools required for building interactive panoramas.
image to view
the graphic elements are the background image of the iMac, the play
button, the pause button and the compressed QuickTime Movie (the black
rectangle). While you can use a grid to build your layout, it was
disappointing that the arrow keys did not move the elements.
Installing Electrifier Pro is simple and flawless, a positive sign for
a 1.0 version of the software. Once you understand the interface is well
within the skill range of intermediate users. If you can handle PageMaker,
Xpress, or PhotoShop you can master Electrifier Pro. I was able to build
and save interactive movies within an hour after installing the program.
For the first version of the software, the program is relatively solid.
I did experience a couple of crashes while running several different Extensions
and Control Panels. However, with just Electrifier Pro open I had no problems.
The first negative
point in the program is in the documentation, which in general is weak
and needs to be improved. I found the tutorials sloppy- - there isn't
a single tutorial that focuses on actually controlling a QuickTime movie.
In addition, there is no sample code on the CD-ROM, and the sample code
that you can download from the Web site does not provide much help for
advanced interactivity. The documentation also needs to be updated to
support QuickTime 4 and to discuss new CODECS.The
good news is that once you understand the basic operation of the program
you'll have little use for the manual.
Working with the
Pro's interface has three main sections for building the components of
the movie: Layout, Preview and Structure. There are also four palettes,
one for selecting Effects and Actions, a separate Inspector palette, a
separate tool palette
and a palette for tools to modify vector graphics and paths.
You build interactivity
into your QuickTime Movies using Electrifier Pro's built-in tools and
standard Macintosh drag-and-drop. Building Electrifier Pro interactive
movies is easy. First, drag the media from the Finder onto the Layout
view and position the elements on the screen. This simple drag-and-drop
interface is quick, easy and familiar to every Mac user.
files that you use retain their native compression. If you compress an
image so that you can read the type it stays that way when you bring it
into Electrifier Pro, which will import virtually every type of graphic
supported by QuickTime. Another nice feature is the "no bandwidth effect"
filters built into the QuickTime architecture. You can directly apply
Fire, Ripple and Cloud effect filters to the movie using Electrifiers
Tool palette. Using image masks you can build some eye-catching effects
with very low bandwidth. You can add text directly to your movie using
the Toolbar text tool. However, editing text created in Electrifier Pro
is not intuitive-you need to go to select Content>Modify to make changes
rather than just selecting the text.
Electrifier Pro includes
a number of powerful Actions. Note the Action palette includes tools required
for building interactive panoramas. The Effects palette controls the presentation
of graphic elements. All of these effects have multiple options controlled
through the inspector palette. You apply each of these Effects by dragging
the icon from the effect palette to the Layout or Structure views, and
then using the Inspector palette to select the Effect-specific options.
One thing you will
like in Electrifier Pro is there is no delay to preview your work. This
makes for quick and easy experimentation. You select "Play" or "Stop"
for the movie action by first selecting the Play/Stop Movie icon in the
Structure view and then making the appropriate choice in the Inspector
palette - Simple and neat. All of Electrifier Pro's Effects and Actions
are controlled in the same way. Once you have the process down for one
action, all of the Actions are easily mastered. I was surprised that Electrifier
Pro lacks support for standard time code. The program is accurate to thousandths
of a second, but many "Pro" users think in terms of frames and standard
time code. This should clearly be an option.
The Best (Only) Game in Town
If you are working with QuickTime and need to build interactivity into
you media, Electrifier Pro does the job and is easy to use. The documentation
makes the learning curve unnecessarily steep, but with some experimentation
you should be able to learn the basics of the program within an hour or
so. The big question you need to ask yourself is how much interactivity
do you need - or want - to add to your QuickTime movies. With basic programs
such as the QuickTime Movie Player or more powerful tools like Media Cleaner
Pro, you can add simple interactivity like the ability to embed a URL
at the end of the movie. However, if you want to go beyond this to even
more complexity, the you should definitely check out Electrifier. You
can download a 30-day trial version of the program from www.electrifier.com.
The product retails for $395 includes a license for QuickTime Pro. The
bottom line: this is a solid product that should be part of every QuickTime
Jerry Monti is an interactive producer and long time mac user. His
romance with the Mac started when he developed the first Desktop Publishing
Service Bureau in Seattle, Washington and over the years the Mac has lead
him into everything from creating award-winning CD-ROM's for Better Homes
and Gardens to creating new learning communities on-line. You can reach
him at email@example.com.
2605 Meridian Parkway, Suite 205
Durham, NC 27713 U.S.A.
Minimum System Requirements for Electrifier Pro
the image above to see a 1.9MB QuickTime file
that was created using Electrifier Pro