In the first blog post of this series, “Using Demibooks Composer as an eLearning development tool“, I talked about starting on this journey to flex the entire Composer family of apps to see how they could be applied to eLearning development. My first demonstration of layered 3D animations is what you see in the attached video, and hopefully you can begin to see the power of Composer and share in my enthusiasm.
The demonstration was called a “complex sequence test” because I wanted to see if multiple animation sequences could be layered on top of each other. As you can see, not only can you seamlessly layer animations, but you can also integrate Composer’s built-in Spinner functionality. This capability is pretty cool in my book, and it’s one of the reasons I was drawn to Composer in the first place.
I develop eLearning courses for a building automation technology company, so we specialize in providing training on the physical equipment the company manufactures and installs. We also deal with software and soft skills, but mainly we are a physical products company. The training we provide our technicians and external customers should include the ability to interact and manipulate our products within those courses.
I normally use traditional desktop development software like Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline, but I still have to resort to creating animations in Adobe Flash to create the type of interactions inherent in Composer. In fact, the Spinner capability of Composer would require some serious Flash Actionscript 3.0 coding to produce the same results for the desktop development software.
With a tablet device like the iPad, objects can be manipulated, rotated, poked, extended, and interacted with on a whole new level. I wanted to see if Composer had the capability to interact with a complex object in multiple ways within the same animation. So far, my answer is: Yes!
I used a program called Swift3D by Electric Rain to create the animation sequences. The 3D object itself doesn’t exist as far as I know. It was just something simple that could be created and animated for this one demonstration. I was just looking for 3 distinct movements to mimic a piece of equipment a technician might install.
The animation was created in one large video and exported in each individual section as PNG sequences. Those files were transferred to my iPad through iTunes and the first two sequences were imported into Composer Pro as animations. The third sequence was imported as a Spinner to create the rotation effect. There were only 30 frames in the rotation for the Spinner, and Composer Pro took care of the spinning functionality. No coding was necessary. How cool is that?
Assembling the animations in Composer Pro
Once all of the sequences were imported into Composer Pro, I layered them on top of each other with the same registration point so they would look seamless. The first sequence was visible when the page loaded, and the other two were hidden until the previous animation stopped playing (the trigger event). This combination of hiding and showing animation sequences was the trick to making the entire animation look like one seamless piece.
Final thoughts and what’s next
I thought the importing and assembly of the sequences were really easy. It took a few minutes to figure out what triggers to use and how to make everything work together correctly. In fact, it took longer to add the instructions and hand movements than it did to build the animations.
The ability to manipulate the object based on what frame it’s on at any given time would be a great enhancement to Composer. For example, if the animation was on Frame 10, I could trigger an additional animation from that specific location. It would also be nice to move or stop the spinner animation on a specific frame.
My next test is to see if I can “explode” a multi-piece object and spin each piece independently. At the beginning, the object would be fully assembled. A trigger would expand the pieces outwards into an exploded view. Then each individual piece would turn into a spinner. Stay tuned for a full report on this devious little plan.
What do you think?
Please leave a comment below to give me your thoughts on this first experiment. How can you use this capability? What else would you like to see me test out?
About the Author
Andrew Weaver is a Project Manager for Online Resources at Siemens Industry Inc., Building Technologies Division. He is responsible for customer support and administration of their Learning Management System (LMS) and is the eLearning developer for external customer online courses. Andrew has a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) and has over 20 years experience in Learning and Curriculum Development. You can reach Andrew on his LinkedIn page or his personal blog at eLearningBuilders.com.