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Flash training at BAVC - the funcrunch files


Mar. 8th, 2008 09:13 am Flash training at BAVC

I mentioned that I was taking a class this week. This was the "Flash Beginner Bootcamp" at the Bay Area Video Coalition. I was looking for Flash and video production classes and a colleague of boyziggy's at the opera recommended BAVC. After months of requests and stonewalling at work, I was finally approved for the week-long class. (Actually in some ways the delay turned out to be fortunate, as this particular class wasn't offered when I first requested the training, and it was more comprehensive than the one I originally selected.)

The class was taught by Abigail Rudner, a highly accomplished designer, teacher, and author with a fun and dynamic personality. We had only three students, and each had a Mac G5 tower loaded with all the Adobe and Apple goodies. We used Flash CS3, but saved our projects in Flash 8 format to maximize compatibility (which was good as we only have CS2 at work, though I did just buy Adobe Web Premium CS3 for myself at home). We started out with the basics but went at a fairly rapid pace, so much that I fell behind a bit the first couple days, and was embarrassed to admit it; I'm used to being the "star pupil" in many of my classes. But Abigail was very responsive to questions and repeated each step as many times as necessary for us to follow along and catch up.

We did a lot of animation in this class. Drawing with vector tools did not come naturally to me, but it was fun making little animals bounce and move around the screen, and the exercises taught important concepts like how to use the timeline. When we got into ActionScript later that was more my territory, as I could understand the basic syntax, though we used "Script Assist" to construct the code most of the time. And by the last class we were dealing specifically with what I most needed to learn, presenting video in a custom player ("skin") on the web. (Abigail's teaching a new BAVC class just on web video later this month; not a good time for me to take it unfortunately, but I told her I might the next time it's offered.)

Some of what we learned I never intend to use on a web site. I don't care for most sites that are built entirely in Flash and use custom scrollbars, etc. I generally follow Jakob Nielsen's thinking that it's better not to reinvent the user interface because you'll end up just confusing your visitors and, for a commercial site, losing sales as a consequence. However, I feel Flash can be very useful for multimedia presentations on the web; if someone visits a site that has the specific purpose of showcasing video or providing interactive applications such as games, then dropping you into a custom-built experience is more appropriate.

My only real quibble with the class was that we weren't given any printed handouts; the company said they are trying to be as "green" as possible, and therefore e-mailed us materials the week before the first class and asked us to print them out on our own if we wanted to. I declined to print out the over 50 pages of material, some of which were inexplicably scanned from printed PDF files. I appreciate the dedication to the environment, but for a $995 class I did expect to receive some sort of printed booklet. Fortunately, Abigail was so thorough that I really didn't need to refer to the step-by-step instructions anyway, though they would have been helpful for review later.

By the end I felt this was a very good way to take a class. I've taken many continuing education courses over the years, mostly at UC Berkeley Extension, and most met once a week for 2-3 hours. Being in class 9-5 every day for a week really helped me retain the knowledge from session to session and allowed us to go through the material faster. I'm glad to have found out about BAVC and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in multimedia development.

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