CEO at Econsultancy
19 October 2000 07:12am
I've posted below in this thread some more practical considerations when requesting and handling content assets destined for use on web sites. I've broken this down into 4 separate posts on text, imagery, audio and video.
19 October 2000 07:14am
Most common source format: Word document, hard copy (paper or fax), Quark file, PDF, plain text (in e-mail often)
Web format it will probably become: HTML, data in a database, PDF, sometimes part of an image
Considerations for text:
- Make sure you exchange documents in a version that both parties can read. RTF is a good format to ensure compatibility between word processing software packages. For Quark etc. it is less easy so make sure you know what version of Quark the content provider is using.
- Specify that you receive text content digitally – it takes ages to retype. If the text only exists in hard copy see if you can use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to scan the text into a digitally editable format
- If you want text to be entered into a database correctly, consider creating a web form which can use validation to help with quality control.
- Creating PDFs is in theory easy but can take longer than you think. Be aware that the version of Adobe Acrobat you use will affect which Reader version the user will need to see the document.
- Note that Macs and PCs have different fonts available to them so text won’t necessarily be rendered the same on each of the operating systems
- Remember HTML can only mark up text using fonts that exist on the user’s machine so you are effectively limited to the fonts you can use. (Typically fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Helvetica are used with default font families defined, e.g. sans-serif)
- You can export the text out of a Quark document. However, make sure you are sent the fonts and pasteboard extensions used in the Quark document as well as the .qxd file itself.
19 October 2000 07:17am
Most common source format: Hard copy (photos, brochures, printed material), JPEG, Photoshop document (PSD), TIFF, BMP, Adobe llustrator (AI), Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), PICT, Targa (TGA)
Web format it will probably become: JPEG, GIF, Flash, Shockwave
Considerations for imagery
- As a rule of thumb you want to have as high resolution images as possible to start with. This allows you to control the final image quality better.
- Many designers use Macs for creating graphics. If you are using a PC and are to receive Mac files, ask the designers to add the PC file extension to the Mac file names or at least let you know what format the files are in. Otherwise you will spend a while guessing the file format.
- If you receive a Quark document make sure you ask for the high resolution images the document will refer to separately as well as the thumbnails that the .qxd file contains.
- Monitors display images at 72 dpi (dots per inch). Source imagery can be at a much higher resolution (e.g. 300) but should ultimately be saved down to 72 dpi
- Use your Print Screen function to capture screen images (e.g. another site’s homepage) before pasting them into a document or graphics editor. If the image is then shrunk down or used as part of a background the quality is just about good enough to get away with.
- If you are in any doubt that the client can supply the images digitally as you require, it is often easier to do all the scanning etc. yourself from hard copies though you will need to allow for this work in the budget.
- Often you will be working with a client’s print design agency who may not be eager to co-operate: they may not be paid for their work of they may feel that they should be doing the work in the first place. Make sure the client gets you the authority to obtain what you need.
- Try and get logos as vector graphics rather than bitmaps e.g. as an Adobe Illustrator file. This means that you can scale the logo as you wish without losing quality. Any line art should also be delivered in vector format.
- If you are going to be using a vector format such as Flash, try and make sure that the graphics that form the Flash movie are vector graphics. Flash can work with bitmap images but the quality will drop when the image scales and the file size will be significantly larger.
- If the image has larger areas of flat color, then the GIF format is the best compression method to use. For photographs or other images with wide gradients of tone or color, use the JPEG format.
- GIFs support transparency, JPEGs don’t. GIFs are only 8-bit images (256 colors); JPEGs are 24-bit (up to 16 million colors); with JPEGs you can specify the level of compression, you cannot with GIFs. GIFs can be indexed against a particular color palette.
19 October 2000 07:26am
Most common source format: Cassette, CD, DAT, Mini Disc, Video tape ((Digital) Betacam, SVHS, VHS, Hi-8, Secam, DVCAM, DVCPro etc.), AVI, MPEG, MP3, WAV, AU, MOV, QuickTime
Web format it will probably become: MP3, WAV, QuickTime, RealAudio, Netshow, embedded in Flash / Shockwave
Considerations for Audio
- As with imagery, go for the highest level of source quality you can.
- Ask for a source format that you have playback and encoding facilities for if possible. Otherwise you can spend much time and money converting between formats.
- Be aware that audio is often provided bundled with accompanying video (e.g. AVI or on a video tape). This means you will have to record the audio separately; it means the source file sizes, if they include video, will be very large.
- Make sure you are entirely clear as to whether you will be doing any audio editing or only audio encoding / conversion to a web format. Doing the encoding is one thing, and fairly simple, whereas editing the original source material is quite another skill and usually requires much more sophisticated audio post-production equipment. Doing a fade in or out for a single clip of sound you should be able to do, but editing out the bird singing in the background is not so easy.
- You will need to decide whether you are going for a streaming audio format (plays as it downloads) or whether the user will need to download the audio file before they can play it. Refer to your web strategy, target audience and technical specification to see what plug-ins and connection speeds the users are likely to have. They will need the appropriate plug-ins to play streamed audio (RealAudio, Netshow, Quicktime etc.) and the quality will depend on how you have encoded the audio and the user’s internet connection speed. If the file is downloaded you can control the quality more easily but the download could take a while.
- If you are going to stream audio then make sure you have fully looked into server and client side technical requirements, hosting and bandwidth issues, pricing models, user experience and content availability. Microsoft’s Netshow, for example is free, whereas the more advance server side software provided by RealNetworks can be very expensive, especially on a highly trafficked site.
- Be aware that adding rollover sounds to buttons may sound good and bring the site to life but will significantly add to download times. Audio files are generally much larger than graphics files.
- Try keeping audio files sizes small by looping an audio sample.
- If you are providing downloadable audio files which rely on system software or hardware for playback then make sure you provide the file in the appropriate formats to suit the user’s OS e.g. Mac vs. PC.
- Clients might want to use a famous piece of music to go on their site. If you are not using library material, or specially composed music, or music that is out of copyright, then you will find it can take a long time and cost a lot of money to get permission to use the music. There are many levels of permission needed. Have a look at the MCPS (recently allied with the PRS) web site
http://www.mcps.co.uk/Welcome for more
- There are many shareware or even freeware audio editing tools available on the web. Try http://www.download.com or http://www.softseek.com to search
19 October 2000 07:31am
Most common source format: Video tape ((Digital) Betacam, SVHS, VHS, Hi-8, Secam, DVCAM, DVCPro etc.), AVI, MPEG, MOV, QuickTime
Web format it will probably become: RealVideo, Netshow, AVI, MOV, QuickTime
Considerations for Video
- As with audio and imagery, if you put bad quality in, you will get bad quality out, so try and get good quality video source material.
- Many of the same considerations for video are the same as those for audio. See above for streaming, copyrights, playback software and hardware.
- Video is even more expensive to create and edit than audio. The file sizes are vastly larger making it, on the surface, not ideal for web delivery unless you can be sure of a broadband connection.
- Because of current typical internet connection speeds, video is less reliable in quality of playback when streaming over the web than audio.
- Broadband internet will mean video becomes a much more important and integral part of the web experience, so learn about it now if you can.
- Be aware of the different video standards across the world. The UK and US use VHS and Betacam as fairly standard video formats but the UK uses PAL whereas the US has NTSC, each with a different frame rate. France and other European countries use Secam. This means that your machines may not be able to properly play back video content that comes from abroad or only exists in another standard.
- You can digitize video in order to take screen grabs for use as imagery on the site. Try and digitize the source material at as high a rate as possible (though it really eats up hard disk space) so that you screen grab image will be as good as it can be for further editing. NB the resolution of TV images is lower than for a computer monitor e.g. PAL is 768X576 compared to a typical 800X600 for a computer screen. The scan rate for the lines that make up a TV picture is also considerable lower than for a monitor. The quality of a video screen grab will not be that good. It will, however, be sufficient if the image is not primary in the design.
- There is not enough space here to go into the details of webcasting (broadcasting video and audio over the net) but you will need specialist skills to do this. These include a knowledge of AV capture, editing, encoding and transmission with expertise in the serving of webcast material, including server side software options, pricing models, bandwidth and accessibility issues.
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