Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flash: Disabling Accessibility (disable tabbing)

By default, viewers can tab through a Flash movie. This is so that those with hearing disabilities, photo epilepsy, motor disabilities, cognitive disabilities, blindness or low vision can navigate a Flash site by using the tab key on their keyboard. For many applications this is good, especially Flash applications that include forms. Problems arise when one has scrolling clickable buttons off the screen.

Do we want users to able to click buttons that off the screen? This could break many Flash movies.

The way to stop users from tabbing a particular button is by setting the movieclips property, "tabEnabled" to false. Well, that's a pain to do for every movieclip in an entire application. To disable tabbing through all clickable buttons, add the following line of Actionscript to the main timeline of your movie.

MovieClip.prototype.tabEnabled = false;

This will cause all movieclips created by Flash to disable tabbing.

--Stephen M. James

Monday, May 22, 2006

Portfolio ideas: Flash and HTML layered

I'm considering creating a new portfolio that will allow a Flash presentation of thumbnails of my work along with the actual HTML of the work within the same browser window (no popup, that is). The idea is to show the interactivity of my work without opening a new window. Most sites that I visit that showcase interactive Flash websites, open new windows to display each entry. Well, it's a slight pain to close them. This idea would eliminate that.

But does it matter? Am I just wasting my time creating something I've never seen before just to be creating something I've never seen before? Is that worth it? Do creative directors really care if the idea is new (as far as I know), especially if they are graphic designers and not programmers of any sort.

My last portfolio took more than 150 hours, since it was all dynamic and is controlled by a text file of XML. Have I changed the text file since I started working full-time at my current job?


It did display over 50 items that would have taken many tedious (and boring!) hours to create if I hadn't dynamically created the current site at, but viewers don't know this. Only painters know how hard it is to paint. At the current site, my goal was to have minmal navigation on the screen, yet, be able to navigate almost instantly to the over 50 pieces. I achieved that, but some people said it was confusing, since I hid the navigation.

--Stephen M. James

Friday, May 05, 2006

Flash: Parallax (multi-plane) scrolling with ActionScript

*NOTE: This explanation of parallax scrolling differs from the current (June '06) MB2 site. I will be posting a new version that is proportional scrolling (proportional to the size of the site, that is if the user's mouse is to the far right the scrolling is to the far right). See new post.

I finally got the parallax scrolling in Flash working on the MB2 site.

Parallax (or multi-plane) scrolling simulates a 3D camera moving. Objects far from the eye (backgrounds like sky or mountains) appear to move slower than objects close to the eye (foregrounds like the moving road below you when you are driving).

There are two ways to create parallax scrolling. One is to have three objects. One in the foreground, middleground, and background. If the camera is moving to the left, the foreground and the middle ground moves to the right (opposite direction), while the background move to the left (same direction). All three move at different speeds with the background moving the slowest and the foreground moving the fastest. The closer an object is to the viewer the faster an object appears to move. Here is an example of this at the Macromedia Website. (If this link doesn't work, you can view this snapshot.

The desk moves the fastest, the wall moves slower, and the buildings through the window do not move at all.

Here is a published movie that should explain the previous text.

Here is the source file (in flash 7) for paralax scrolling. I will clean it up and add explanations as time allows.

--Stephen M. James

Monday, May 01, 2006

Illustrator CS2: Color shift to gray in gradient

If you open up an Illustrator 10 file in Illustrator CS2, some gradients might be gray (de-saturated), but the colors on the ends of the gradient look fine.

Illustrator CS2 will not let you gradient a Pantone (Spot Color). This makes since in the printing world, but if you are using Illustrator to layout a webpage, it is annoying. The answer is to change the Pantone swatch that is used in the gradient to a process color within the Swatch palette.

--Stephen M. James