The Christmas Card was something I started playing around with after viewing
some demo's on the Swish web site, Swish being a piece of software that
creates Flash compliant files, but creates effects a lot quicker and
is extremely flexible.
So, I had in my mind that I wanted a Father Christmas (santa) in a Christmas
card shaped window, with 'Happy Christmas' at the top and a 'from' message
at the bottom. Santa should be in the middle of the card on a suitable
Christmas tree and pressies strewn background and should dance. That was
The Tools and How
As mentioned, Swish was used to create the entire card. Once the card was
finished I simply exported as a .SWF
Dreamweaver was used for the web stuff although there was actually very
little of that required. I had originally wanted to put the card actually
in an email, but that proved beyond me within the time parameters allowed.
So I created a front page, inserted the potter logo (also Swished) from
the main page and added the few lines that took you either to the card
or the web site as you would expect with a normal 'off the shelf' ecard.
The URL for the actual card was a JAVA pop-up window command that I have
used several times on this web-site and is a god send as I can define the
size and whether scroll bars exist etc etc. It was then a simple matter
of creating a html page for the card, creating two gif's in Fireworks;
happy christmas and from johniebg, inserting the first, inserting the .SWF
file exported earlier and then the last gif. I then tested it all with
an email to myself and then plucked everyone I knew from my contacts list
and sent them the email with the link to the front page.
Unfortunately the number of people in the distribution list exceeded the
limit allowed by three service providers I use so I setup an SMTP server
on my old notebook and directed Outlook to this server, which then delivered
each card to the recipients server personally. Unfortunately, due to
the load on the network itself at the time (Christmas Eve) some didn't
get delivered because their server couldn't be contacted (was too busy).
Creating the Card
Background Picture - So, after a quick check in my digital photo album
I had none of a Christmas tree with pressies so went to the web. After
about 5 min's I had located a number of pictures of a South African family,
with the children in various states of wide eyed wonderment in front
of the tree. I saved a few of the piccies and cut the kids out. I then
changed the format of the picture to make it look like a painting (squint
and you might see what I mean, santa dancing on a real photo would have
looked wrong I felt!). It was then a simple matter of then saving it
and inserting it to the Swish canvass.
I then searched the web for a suitable father christmas which took another
5 min's (the power of google) and before he knew it, he was sitting in
my Swish canvass as well.
So, I then played around with various effects in Swish to get old Santa
dancing which at this point resulted in the bit with one santa and ended
with him as a button you could press to start it over again, there was
no music. It was then left on the back burner for a while, as it wasn't
quite ready and wasn't sure how to make it so!
One day while wondering through the web I came across a web page a bloke
had created, which was full of MIDI files of his favorite tunes and carols
that he had created on his electronic keyboard (as you do!). While listening
to these I thought it would be cool to have one of the Christmas tunes
play in the card, soo, I downloaded a few but already knew that I would
use Rudolph the red nosed as it started slowly and had a funky chorus
that I could imagine old santa really pushin out the boat too.
Much to my dismay I found Swish and for the matter, Flash do not support
MIDI files so after contemplating converting it to MP3 or something (which
made the file huge as opposed to its existing 20k size) I decided to embed
the tune in the web page itself. I wouldn't have any control of synchronising
santa with the chorus but could rough it out.
I then had to flesh out the card and try and make santa go for it at the
chorus. I didn't quite get it to work, but it almost does. It was doing
this I had the idea to make two santa's, which went crazy and before
I knew it there were dozens flying all over the place but actually started
slowing down the PC so the card flickered, so curbed back to just the
two. That it really, I played around with different effects but as soon
as I managed to get santa to fly off and come back again I was happy.
I wanted to loop this somehow for x number of times and then have something
else happen but that was not possible which is why it carries on playing
after the music stop's (if any of you ever watched it that long!).
The Happy and From messages were quickly created in Fireworks knowing the
size the card would be with the only other requirement for the font to
look like it was written. Both were exported as Gifs and inserted to
the card along with the presentation.
Anyway, that's the story of the christmas card.
PS I think Santa looks like Bill Clinton.