Christmas Card MMII

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 it really.

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.

Two santa's
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.

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