Flash Code: Tweener

Adobe Flash LogoAs you all already know, Adobe’s Flash platform can be a pretty useful technology for the digital signage world. Light-weight “movies”…check. Ability to integrate dynamic data…check. Ability to create interactive experiences…check. Large and easy to find pool of talent to design/program it…check. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its drawbacks (e.g. its inefficient and CPU-heavy, especially at today’s higher resolutions) but the list of benefits is long.

For those that animate with Actionscript (the proprietary Flash programming language) instead of the timeline, our programmers found a useful class package that make animating “tweens” a breeze. The Tweener code pack’s main goals are simplicity, flexibility and modularity. The syntax allows you to tween any numeric property of any object of any class, not just specific properties of Flash’s built-in Classes. Ever want to animate a blur or glow filter? Tweener makes filter properties as easy to tween as the x-position or width of a movie clip.

Happy coding!

Free (or almost) Tools for Digital Signage

Digital signage takes a certain level of work and care so that everything goes off without a hitch. A number of the tools used to construct and maintain a digital signage network can be a little pricey, but we’ve found quite a few software tools & services out there that are free (or relatively inexpensive) that can benefit digital signage operators, big and small.

Slowly but surely, we’ll be publishing reviews on our favorite inexpensive tools. Here’s our initial list of tools, which we’ll be adding to as we encounter more:

  • GIMP: Image manipulation and compositing for PC, Mac & Linux
  • Inkscape: Software Vector Graphics creator and editor
  • DrawBerry: Mac OSX vector editor
  • Pixelmator: Mac OsX image editor
  • Audacity: Sound editor/recorder
  • Aviary: A full suite of creative RIA’s, including image manipulation and vector editing
    • Phoenix: Image Editor
    • Raven: Vector Editor
    • Peacock: Visual Laboratory…a modular image FSUpper
    • Toucan: Color Palette Editor
  • Xara: Low cost graphics software
  • Blender: Open source 3D application
  • Swift 3D:¬† Make 3D SWF’s
  • PhotoShop Express: Stripped down Photoshop RIA
  • VirtualDub: Simple video (AVI) editing
  • Toufee: RIA for creating Flash
  • Sumopaint: RIA image editor
  • Splashup!: Another RIA image editor
  • LogMeIn Free: Remote control
  • AVS: Video converter
  • Yammer: A Twitter clone but more “closed”, targeted to companies that want to modernize their corporate communications…why not use the feed in your digital signage?
  • Bluff Titler DX9: An inexpensive Windows app that uses DirectX to generate preset 3D text effects, backgrounds and other 3D animation.
  • Pixlr: Yet another online image editing program…so many of these! Who will win the war?
  • Adobe Kuler: An AIR app that until recently was online only used to explore and share color schemes. Great for inspiration or finding matching colors.
  • Seashore: An open source image editor for Mac OS X with Cocoa framework that enables the use of gradients, textures, text anti-aliasing, brush strokes, and other essential and basic image editing needs.
  • Daz3D: A free, feature rich 3D figure design and 3D animation tool that enables anyone to create stunning digital imagery.

Big in Japan: Scent-emitting Digital Signage

This Japanese article describes a recent digital signage install by Recruit Co Ltd in Tokyo Station’s underground mall that uses a “Scent-emitting LCD Display System” by NTT Communications Corp to entice passer-byers with some tasty smells. Restaurant and coffee shop advertisers get their video ads shown on a 42-inch LCD screen and are included in a coupon booklet that is part of the display. Recruit’s hypothesis is that hopefully, the sweet smells that fill the surrounding area will get the mall-goers looking at the ads and grabbing the booklets (oh, and ya, going to the restaurants).

A TV that emits smells!…sometimes these “only in Japan” ideas seem a little off to Westerners but who hasn’t been within 50 meters of a McDonald’s and said “smells like French fries”. McDonald’s use of this idea (although in a slightly different iteration) should be proof enough that dialing into people’s lower-level needs gets people into the door.

Combining different types of media or taking several different angles at once could be what makes your OOH or POS advertisements effective. While the scent in the surrounding area plays on the consumer’s psychological needs, the video ads and coupon booklets can hit higher level needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, effectively triggering a wider range of stimuli and catalysts to buying behavior.

An aspect of the above-mentioned article and Recruit Co’s install that I didn’t think made as much sense is their “Commercializer” product/service. The service makes ads for you based on templates with your pictures and copy. The goal is to save costs (i.e. advertiser doesn’t need to spend on making an ad) and (possibly, but not mentioned) end up with an effective ad based on a tried-and-true format. In dealing with clients I know that it is very true that creating content can be a pain; it takes time and it costs more money than you’d initially expect.

When reading about the “Commercializer” I can’t help but hear the clich√© phrase made so popular by the Search Engine Optimization industry, content is king. Sure, the service will help save costs, but at what expense? This idea of template-based ads gives me the impression that all the ads will start being very uniform and difficult to distinguish one from another, reducing the effectiveness of the visual portion of the unit.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the digital signage system being tested in the Yaesu Underground Mall:

The digital signage system being tested in the Yaesu Underground Mall.