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RC Car fund update

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Thanks to a couple of philanthropic locals, the Buy-John-A-Couple-Of-Cool-Small-RC-Cars-A-Thon fund has ballooned to SEVEN DOLLARS!

Frankly, I'm thinking the locals are being philanthropic because they know I'll have to let 'em play with the cars once I have 'em in-hand, but I digress.

I have found one significant advantage of the Flash environment over Director/Shockwave. I discovered that it is what causes Flash's abysmal compile-times, but I think it's worth it.

In Director, things stay in the format that you pull them in. If you pull a BMP into your project, it's stored as a BMP in the compiled project. If you pull in a JPG, it's stored as a JPG in the compiled project, etc.

In Flash, things are stored in the format that you specify, and to the level of quality you want. For example, if you import a BMP, you can tell the compiler to keep it as a BMP, or to convert it to a JPG (along with the level of quality) at compile-time. When you specify the compile-time quality of the result, you get a nice preview-dialog that shows how your image or sound will appear in the compiled movie.

This comes to big advantage with sounds. For example, the main theme-music for Olive Wars Deluxe was about 2 meg, as it was a CD-quality stereo MP3 file. That would've made my movie downright enormous, but I told Flash to convert the music to a low-bitrate mono MP3 at compile time. The resulting theme-music didn't sound as nice as the original, but the reduction in size (2 meg down to 70k) made it worth doing. The project still stores the MP3 in the original format, so if I my theme music got too creepy, I could just tweak the settings for a little better rate and re-compile.

If I wanted to do that with Director, I would have to convert the MP3 manually in the project, and I'd have to keep the original MP3 around in case I wanted to convert it back. Director does have good support for external editors (and ships with Sound Forge and Macromedia Fireworks to help), but it's not as nice in Flash. In Flash, you can import all of your pictures and sounds in very high-quality lossless formats, and they'll be stored that way in your project. When you finally get around to compiling, however, Flash will downsample and lossy-compress your images as you specify for your final movie. You can then play "what if" with your settings, tweaking and re-compiling until your movie is the best comprimise between size and quality. Doing that in Director is a significantly greater hassle.

Supposedly there's a new Director MX coming out next year. It'll be interesting to see if that feature creeps in, because it's certainly handy.
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