Today Aardman Digital (where I’m Technical Lead) put live one of the biggest site builds we’ve done yet. Called the Tate Movie Project, it’s all about children getting involved in the creation of a film, which will be shown on the BBC next year. They can create assets online using a suite of tools we’ve built, or visit one of the tour buses currently going around the UK, where they get real hands on experience of the film making process. Ultimately children will have created the bulk of the visuals used in the final film.
Due to other projects I didn’t contribute a great deal of coding personally, but the Sound Tool (which you can find in the Sound Studio part of the site) is mine! This is where the children can record themselves, apply special effects, and submit their creations to the film. I built the tool several months ago, knowing that the release of Flash Player 10.1 was imminent. I wanted to use 10.1 as it allowed us to get real-time access to the Microphone, and then apply special effects without the need for a media server back-end. However we also had to create an FMS version for users running older versions of Flash Player! So the site switches between the two tools based on your player. Thankfully Adobe released Flash Player 10.1 final a few weeks before launch. It will be interesting to see the change in traffic to our FMS servers as users migrate over to 10.1.
The other tools include the Script editor, an Animation tool and an area to upload your images for the film. The tools are aimed at 5 to 13 year old children, which is a very wide spectrum in terms of technical capability. We ran a lot of user testing sessions in schools, gauging how the children worked with the tools and tweaking them accordingly – so although they may seem a bit primitive to most readers of my blog, we know they’re bang-on for the target audience.
There are also loads of hidden features across the studio: for example when the director is talking you could try clicking the lights in the background, bang the spot lights with your mouse, drag down light switches, pull down the ladder and many more. In the Script room turn the fan on, then click on the paper that falls to the floor, then bounce it off your mouse cursor into the bin. In the music studio knock musical notes out of the composers head, drag them onto the wall, and play your tune! An awful lot of love and care went into the smallest details, all of which are aimed at rewarding kids natural curiosity.
It was an extremely exciting project to be involved with, using a lot of talented people. The bulk of Flash development was handled by Tom Milner, our resident Flash guru. With animations coming in from two of the best Flash animators out there: Robin Davey and Felix Massie. Awesome thanks also go to a big roster of Bristol’s finest web development talent including Craig Francis, Rick Hurst, James Spencer and Julian Guy, all of whom are superb and strongly recommended if you’re in need of site build ninjas.
We first began work on the site almost 2 years ago, when myself and Dan Efergan (our Creative Director) spent a long time coming up with the “virtual studio” concept, how the tools would work and interact together, and how the progression of the film production would be displayed (keeping the children interested for what is a year long process). So Tom and the other developers can blame a lot of the frantic deadline chomping work they had to do on us But it was all worth it. The site is lovely to interact with. And the biggest kick of all is actually watching children use it. It truly makes it all worth while.
There’s a brilliant piece on the site over on Creative Review.
If you are in the UK (and have kids who are the right age for this) then I urge you to let them take part, or maybe visit the Tour Bus. Also keep an eye on Blue Peter and Newsround on CBBC.
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