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Web Animation Explosion: Headache Relief

Ged Bauer reviews "the ultimate library of animated web graphics."

Today's web technologies evolve faster than anyone who chooses to have regular interaction with other humans can follow. Therefore, NOVA Development's Web Animation Explosion, a collection of web graphics featuring sophisticated and advanced animated GIFs and Shockwave movies, would be a valuable asset to any web designer. After all, who has time to learn and keep up when your site needed to be online yesterday? Who has time to deal with the headaches and frustrations of learning new software? More importantly, who has the extra money to buy the suite of programs needed to develop this type of product? The answer is: nobody. So if you could pick up a CD-ROM that claims to be the ultimate library of animated web graphics and spare all this pain for a mere exchange of dollars ($49.95), what's stopping you? Let us see and have a look inside.

Shockwave Movies

This reviewer went straight to the Shockwave movies, curious to see what the developers cooked up. Shockwave movies are interactive animations developed in Macromedia Director. In simple terms, an animation that you have control over. These elements often include sound which is a welcome addition to any web page.

Overall there is good news and bad news regarding the included Shockwave movies. The good news is that they are nicely drawn and animated. It was interesting to see Shockwave in action and what is possible, in case one decided to make the leap and start making their own. They are extremely easy to use, only requiring one to enter a provided embed tag in the html code. They also download fairly quickly as most are around 20k and are marvelously cute and entertaining. The bad news is that only a few are of any practical value. How many uses do you have for a virtual whoopee cushion? (Yes, an interactive whoopee cushion, and under grandma's favorite chair no less!) There are some nice rollover buttons included and it was fun on one of the animations to squish the aliens as they came out of the spaceship, but nothing is very useful for a serious page builder.

Animated GIFs

As for the Animated GIFs, there are tons to choose from on this CD-ROM. Now widely used, the technology of GIF animation had previously existed quietly in a version of Netscape Navigator. There was no public announcement and no publicity drive. The technology was more or less stumbled upon by someone with entirely too much time on their hands. GIF Animations use a series of images compressed in Compuserve GIF format playing in a sequence with timed intervals. With a little practice you can setup multiple still images in a graphics program then put them in order in an Animated GIF building program, like the one included on this CD-ROM.

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The GIF Animations included in these collections are, for the most part, useful and worthwhile. Some of the animations, on the other hand, are too specific to have a wide range of uses which limits their value. However, the only major gripe I have is that a lot of the animations, especially the buttons, were too big size-wise for the space-saving webmaster. These features could be really distracting on a page. It's important to mention that you do not want mass-produced elements to dominate a page, and take away from the content that you want the viewer to see. It seems silly that the product creators didn't offer variable sizes. After all, then they could brag that they have over 10,000 animations, rather than the 5,000 that they currently claim. Another word to the wise on using pre-made elements on a web page or in any fashion, whether it be on a video, brochure, or business card: you aren't the only resourceful, clever, time saving person out there. Chances are if you find something interesting or attractive on a CD-ROM, such as the one being reviewed in this article, somebody else has as well.

Time Savers

Enough constructive criticism! This CD can save you a lot of time. It contains plenty of buttons with common phrases like "home," "back," "download," and "FAQ." They vary from the very plain and generic, to colorful morphs. There are also interesting buttons without any written text. They flash. They glow. They spin and shuffle. Motion is a great touch to distinguish yourself from the static pages of yesteryear, or was it yesterday? Plus they are so easy to use. Place them in Adobe PageMill, or include a <src> tag for you html purists, just like you would for any normal image (JPEG, GIF) included on a web page.

I found some groups of animated GIFs so useful that I would definitely use them on a page I am designing, even if I didn't need to save time. My favorites were the "Icons and Symbol" group. They contain animated icons for Quicktimes and video clips, audio clips, and e-mail.

Another gold mine contained on the CD was the "Bullet" category. For those of you who don't know, bullets are the little do-dads that you slap in front of a sentence to make it stand out, or to separate a list of items from standard text. These were some of the simpler animations included in the collection, but were by far the most useful. Since a lot of the other animations were more intricate, they had a narrow range of use. These animations can fit on any page, because they add a touch of motion and style, but won't take away from the content of the page due to their small size and simplicity.

Final Analysis

Web Animation Explosion is a good investment for those just looking to save time or for those afraid to invest in new software. The file sizes are minuscule, most are under 10k, which raises your style points without adding significant download time. Although it might take some digging, after all there are 5,000 animations to choose from, chances are you can always find something to fit your needs. The most important aspect of course is that these animations are well done. There is an aspect of talent and creativity in this collection that may be missing if you tried to do it yourself. So go ahead, save yourself some headaches, buy the darn CD, and take an extra long lunch.

Web Animation Explosion, published by Nova Development Corp. Hybrid CD-ROM for Macintosh system 7.0 or later and Windows 3.1, 95 or NT. $49.95. http://www.novadevcorp.com

Ged Bauer was the former Webmaster and Graphic Designer of Animation World Network. He also has worked for Star Media Systems on Power Surge, a series of packaged video transitions for non-linear editing software.

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