Animation Express, HotWired's latest and greatest endeavor, was launched with the express (pun unavoidable) goal of showcasing Web-based animation, along with the multimedia authoring tools used to create them.
The core Animation Express team is made up of people that the faithful Webmonkey reader will probably recognize: Wendy Owen, Anna McMillan, Taylor, Kevin Hunsaker, Nadav Savio, Aaron Meyers, and me. The desire to create such a channel sprung out of our collective love of all things animated. Also, it seemed the Web had finally reached a point where multimedia-rich presentations, like animated shorts, were no longer relegated to a small, remote, bandwidth-heavy corner of the Internet.
In addition to sending out a general call for submissions, we contacted some of our favorite animators, cartoonists, production houses, and festival heads to see if they would contribute to the channel. We encountered the usual technical and legal stumbling blocks, but it was all worth it since we managed to snag the approval of the amazing Spike and Mike people (whose animation festivals have launched the likes of Beavis and Butt-head and South Park, to name a couple). They sent us several tapes from both of their festivals, amounting to a wealth of terrific material, and gave us license to pick short clips to use. All we had to do was find a way to present our selections to the user.
We also accepted several animations that were submitted as QuickTime or AVI files. While both of those technologies are stellar, they do tend to be bandwidth hogs. Since much of our intended Animation Express audience is home users on slower modems, we made a conscious decision to convert, whenever possible, the "fatter" animations to the less bandwidth-intensive Shockwave Flash file format. Which meant that one of us needed to learn the conversion process. And that one of us was me.
The first animation I tackled came from Spike and Mike Wunderkind
Craig McCracken, who had created a series of No Neck Joe shorts that each ran
for less than a minute and featured his signature clean, simple style with
limited movement - a style that practically begs to be converted to Shockwave Flash.
As expected, I made some mistakes, took more than a few detours, and generally groped around blindly. But when all was said and done, I was pretty satisfied with the end result. So you don't have to relive all my trials and errors, I submit to you a semi-detailed log of how I went about converting a VHS animation to Shockwave Flash.