COMM 325: Themes in Interactive Media

Morgan Schwartz

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


Section 01 Tuesday, 2:30 pm - 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 (4-8 GB) - OR - portable Hard Drive

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

Grade Weights


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.


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 and participation are essential for success in this course. Remember that if you miss one class, you miss an entire week’s worth of material. You are allowed one unexcused absence (for the entire course) without penalty. You are responsible for the material (including exercises and projects) you missed during your absence. Additional unexcused absences will result in a penalty to your final grade in the course: your second absence means your final grade drops one notch (e.g. B+ to B); your third absence drops your grade an additional two notches. Your fourth absence results in a failing grade for the course.

Lateness is also damaging to the class dynamic and chronic lateness will adversely affect your final grade. Three late arrivals to class (or early departures) during the course of the 14 week sessions results in a loss of a full letter grade of your final grade in the course. A lateness is arrival to the classroom 10 minutes past the starting time or departure more than 10 minutes before class ends.

Any late assignments, written or media based, will result in a deduction of points from the grade for the assignment.


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 1 - 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 8 - T E X T

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


DUE today: "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 15 - drawing a Tween - remix culture

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

DUE today: "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 22 - creating a Mask - Thinking about Time

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

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

Week 5: March 1 - incorporating Sound

DUE today: "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 8 - animation Tricks

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

DUE today: "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 15 - the Loop - Generation Flash

  • Creating buttons
  • Using Behaviors
  • Using ActionScript

DUE today: "My Life" - final draft of My Life.

Week 8: March 22 - make it Interactive

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

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

Week 9: April 5 - make it even more Interactive

  • Approaches to navigation
  • ActionScript - reusable functions


DUE today: How-To first draft

No Class April 12 - Advising Day

Week 10: April 19 - incorporating video

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


DUE today: "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.

Week 11: April 26 - Individual Meetings

  • ActionScript lesson
  • Work on final project

DUE today: 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 3 - Individual Meetings

  • ActionScript lesson
  • Work on final project

Week 13: May 10 - Open Lab

  • Work on Final Projects

Week 14: May 17 - Final Class

  • In class critique of final projects and wrap-up