COMM 325: Digital Media 2

Morgan Schwartz

office: Nugent 560, Room A
tel: 1-212-774-4865
email: mschwartz AT mmm DOT edu


Section 01 Thursday, 10:00 am - 12:50 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

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

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 digital media passively or wait until the end of the semester to cram for an exam. To learn this stuff you have to make things! Digital media 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! Digital media 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.


Week 1: February 4 - introduction - Setting the Stage

  • introduction, syllabus, etc
  • tour of the Flash authoring environment, vector graphics
  • using text - static, broken, dynamic
  • the Stage - movie properties
  • frame-by-frame animation

Week 2: February 11 -

  • drawing tools, shapes, strokes, fills, grouping
  • shape tweens and shape hints

* Singing Horses

- "Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics" from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

"t e x t" - choose a word and illustrate either its mood or tone or meaning in a frame-by-frame animation. You may only use the one word - no other words are allowed. You may use other shapes. Your animation should be sized to 550x400, 12 frames per second and EXACTLY 60 frames in duration.

Week 3: February 18 - drawing a Tween - remix culture

  • The Timeline - layers, framerate, keyframes
  • Motion Tweens - shape, motion [position, scale, color, alpha]
  • Using Symbols

"morph-olution" - Create an animation that explores the notion of evolution in at least 5 stages. The project should incorporate at least 2 shape tweens that utilize shape hints. The final result should be a "perfect loop" - it should end exactly where it began. Your animation should be sized to 550x400, 24 frames per second and 10 seconds in duration.

Week 4: February 25 - creating a Mask - Thinking about Time

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


"crowded" - Create an animation of a walking crowd of people. Your animation should use MovieClips and MotionTweens.

Week 5: March 4 - incorporating Sound

"Banner Ad Jam" Think about the ad banners on websites as public spaces similar to billboards, posters, signs & other advertisements. Plan & design a 468x60 (24 fps) Ad Banner in flash that utilizes images and text and incorporates a corporate logo. 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 places. You should be able to make the argument that your piece is an example of Culture jamming.

Week 6: March 11- animation Tricks

  • Animation techniques: easing, blur, gravity
  • Working with MovieClips - nesting and animated loops

"My Life" - Animate your life story in 30 seconds or less (bunnies optional). Your flash movie should be 640x480 at 24 fps. - 1st draft should include your soundtrack/voice over and approximately 10 seconds of completed animation (This will be graded)

Week 7: March 18 - the Loop - Generation Flash

  • Creating buttons
  • Using Behaviors
  • Using ActionScript

"My Life" - final draft of My Life.

Week 8: March 25 - make it Interactive

  • ActionScript - data types and variables
  • Functions and events
  • Input/dynamic text

DUE: How-To script/storyboard
Have a sitemap and at least 2 of the 5 scenes.

April 1 - NO CLASS - Spring Break

Week 9: April 8 - make it even more Interactive

  • Approaches to navigation
  • ActionScript - reusable functions


DUE: How-To first draft

Week 10: April 15 - incorporating video

  • encoding flash video files
  • controlling video with behaviors.
  • Introduce final project


"How To": With a partner, 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.

April 22 - NO CLASS - Advising

Week 11: April 29 - Individual Meetings

  • ActionScript lesson
  • Work on final project

Final project proposal:
* project description (include any relevant background info)
* discuss your intended audience
* discuss your visual/aesthetic strategy
* discuss at least 3 URLs of other projects/websites relevant to your project
* Sitemap or Storyboard as appropriate

Week 12: May 6 - Individual Meetings

  • ActionScript lesson
  • Work on final project

Week 13: May 13 - Open Lab

  • Work on Final Projects

Week 14: May 20 - Final Class

  • In class critique of final projects and wrap-up