COMM 325: Digital Media II

Morgan Schwartz

FALL 2006

Section 01
Thursday, 2:30 - 5:20 pm

Nugent 556


Course Description

In this second semester of the multimedia course sequence, students will develop, design and produce their own advanced interactive projects. Media theorist Lev Manovich claims we are living in 'Generation Flash'. Low bandwidth Internet connections created a demand for lightweight vector graphics software spurring a new aesthetic sensibility. Flash is an authoring environment that allows artists to weave together traditional linear animation, user interactivity, object-oriented programming and multimedia (video, sound, etc) blurring the lines between art, design and computer programming. In this class we introduce the fundamental principles of Flash animation and basic Action Script. Prerequisite: COMM 225.

Learning Goals

  • You will be able to integrate many forms of digital media into cohesive multimedia projects using the Macromedia Flash authoring environment.
  • You will use basic principles of computer programming to add interactivity to your projects.
  • You will be able to present and articulate your creative ideas to others.
  • You will be able to take ideas through a complete design process from concept to production.

Textbooks and Materials

USB Flash Drive (256MB or bigger) - OR - portable Hard Drive - OR - ZIP Disks

required texts:
all required readings will be available online or handed out in class

Optional texts:
Macromedia Flash MX 2004: Visual QuickStart Guide by Katherine Ulrich
Macromedia Flash MX 2004 Hands-On Training by Rosanna Yeung
Adobe Illustrator CS Hands-On Training by Jeff VanWest
Illustrator CS: Visual QuickStart Guide by Elaine Weinmann, Peter Lourekas

Grade Weights

Participation: 25%

A large amount of class time will be dedicated to group critiques, team projects and class discussion. I encourage you to take an active role in contributing to make our class a fun and dynamic place to be.

Projects: 50%

You can't learn multimedia passively or wait until the end of the semester to cram for an exam. To learn this stuff you have to make things! Multimedia production involves a complex spectrum of techniques & software. If you do each project you will do well. If not, you will fall behind rapidly.

Final Project: 25%

This project will be self-initiated and should integrate many of the skills you will learn this semester. When the time comes I will help to suggest possible topics and approaches. You will have the option of working individually or collaborating with other students.


  • Plan ahead! Multimedia projects can be incredibly time consuming and occupy a lot of time outside of class. Don't leave things for the last minute.
  • Attendance is essential to succeed in this class. The skills and techniques taught are cumulative - they build upon previous ones. Missing just one week can make it very difficult to catch up. You will also note that class participation makes up a sizable percentage of your final grade - if you are absent you cannot participate and your grade will suffer.
  • Save different versions of your projects and save often. Make back-ups of your files.
  • Work in the lab with a friend - when learning new technology, 2 brains are usually better than one. You are welcome to work on your assignments at home but many students use the lab in room 556. Lab hours will be posted after the first week of classes. Students may not use the lab when another class is in session. If the lab is locked during you may get a key from the Security Desk.

Attendance Policy

Attendance will be taken in each class. You are allowed one unexcused (no questions asked) absence, after which your final grade will drop substantially with each absence. In the event that an extraordinary circumstance will require you to miss a class, please let me know in advance by email.


Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments for this course must either enroll in the Program for Academic Access or register with the Office of Student Support Services. For any accommodation, the instructor must be presented with either a letter from the Assistant Director of the Program for Academic Access or an Accommodations Card from the Office of Student Support Services during the first week of classes.

Academic Honesty Policy

MMC fosters an academic community where students and faculty work together to create a learning experience that imparts knowledge and forms character. To achieve this, the College requires all members of the community to adhere to the policy of Academic Honesty that can be found in the Student Handbook, the College Catalogue and on the College website.


Sep 07: 01 - introduction - Setting the Stage

  • tour of the Flash authoring environment
  • using text - static, broken, dynamic
  • the Stage - movie properties

- "Intro, Chapter 1" from No Logo by Naomi Klein

" t e x t " - Pick one word to use as your "raw material" - and create a short animation that incorporates broken text & static text. The animation should have a beginning, middle and an end.

Sep 14: 02 - drawing a Tween - Branding/Culture Jamming

  • The Timeline - layers, framerate, keyframes
  • Shapes - properties, grouping, ungrouping breaking apart
  • Tweens - shape, motion [position, scale, color, alpha]

- "Chapter 4: Time Frames" from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

"Little Black Boxes" - assignment description will be handed out in class

Sep 21: 03 - creating a Mask - Thinking about Time

  • importing artwork from illustrator/photoshop
  • creating masks
  • using motion paths and guides

- "Mythinformation" from The Whale and the Reactor by Langdon Winner

"Ad Banner": Think about the ad banners on websites as public spaces similar to billboards, posters, signs & other advertisements. Plan & design a 468x60 Ad Banner in flash that utilizes images and text. The file size of your banner (the swf file) should be 32k or less. The banner can advertise your love for something or someone, can express a political message, can be humorous - keep in mind that this is meant to be presented in a public place.

Sep 28: 04 - playing with Sound

  • Finding sounds online
  • Importing sound, recording sound in the classroom
  • Event sound, streaming sound

"Little Black Boxes Redux" - assignment description will be handed out in class

Oct 05: 05 - animation Tricks

  • Animation techniques: easing, blur, gravity
  • Working with MovieClips

- "Generation Flash" by Lev Manovich

"My Life" - Animate your life story in 30 seconds or less (bunnies optional). For next week have a storyboard and at least 10 seconds of animation. [Final piece due in 2 weeks]

Oct 12: 06 - the Loop - Generation Flash

  • nested MovieClips
  • making animated loops
  • programming loops

continue working on "My Life"

Oct 19: 07 - make it Interactive

  • Creating buttons
  • Using Behaviors

- "Diary: Audience 1966" by John Cage

"How To": Develop an interactive Flash movie that illustrates/teaches your audience how to do something. This could be anything from how to make a PB&J sandwich to how to knit to how to make a Flash movie. It must have at least 5 different scenes; at least 1 voiceover and it must utilize buttons for your audience to interact with. For next week have a sitemap and at least 2 of the 5 scenes. [Final piece due in 2 weeks]

Oct 26: 08 - make it even more Interactive

  • Approaches to navigation

Continue working on "How To"

Nov 02: 09 - podcast 101 - part two

  • Planning
  • Field recording sound for digital media

In class we will identify 1 city block, which will provide the source material for everyone's podcast project. This week you should spend some time at the block: talk with people, walk around, and take some pictures. Prepare a script for next week.

Nov 09: 10 - podcast 101 - part two

  • Enhancing sound quality
  • Digitizing and editing sound for digital media
  • Incorporating artwork/visuals into the podcast

Podcast: record all of the audio for your podcast assignment
Final: create a one page proposal and flowchart/sitemap for your final project

Nov 16: 11 - podcast 101 - part three

  • In-class editing of the final podcast (bring headphones)
  • Workshop final project ideas

Podcast: polish it, make it shine
Final: rough draft of final project

Nov 30: 11 - TBA

  • tba

Dec 07: 12 Open Lab

  • Work on your final project in class

Dec 14: 14 - Final Class

  • In class critique of final projects and wrap-up