Electrifier Pro

QuickTime has for years been taken for granted by Macintosh users. Regarded as no more than “the gizmo that plays movie files”, many are now surprised when they learn how extensively QuickTime 3 can be used as a one-stop shop for authoring and playing sound, movies, bitmap and vector images, animation, synthesized music, panoramic scenes and 3D objects, as well as for building interfaces that gather together all of these file-types into an interactive multimedia presentation. Although Apple made a great job of QuickTime 3, it’s made no real effort to build any authoring tools for it. The result is that the amazing abilities with QuickTime 3 go largely unnoticed. You need Electrifier Pro to unlock them. Electrifier works along the lines of Macromedia Flash. It has a timeline, multiple layers onto which you place media, and commands that you attach to any object so that it can respond to mouse-clicks. It diverges from the Flash model in three important ways: its timeline and command flexibility are much less detailed than in Flash, so you can’t build such complex presentations; it caters for many more media types than Flash, and so Electrifier can arguably build richer presentations; and Electrifier has no drawing tools of its own, so it’s a pure layout-and-assembly engine rather than a design tool. Easing into Electrifier
A key feature of the program is its ease of use: you simply drag items (referred to as Actors) straight from your desktop into Electrifier’s Layout window, and then use the Structure window to set the in- and out-points on the timeline for each Actor. To add a little movement to the presentation, you can attach any number of Effects to an Actor by just dragging the appropriate Effects icon onto the Actor in either the Layout or Structure windows. With this approach, you can do things like move an Actor around the screen (either straight or along a bézier path), change the colour settings, zoom, spin, slant, fade in/out, or add one of the built-in QuickTime 3 special effects such as blurring, film noise and solarization. If the Actor is a soundtrack, then you can use Effects to adjust the volume, balance and sound quality. In the Structure window, it’s easy to set the in- and out-point for the effects, independent of the Actors to which they’re attached – although it would be handy to be able to modify the scale of the timeline, as with a long presentation there’s far too much side-scrolling to get from one end to the other. You can also assign Actions to any Actor, thereby setting up events that respond to mouse actions (or alternatively, events that simply start at the given point in the timeline). For example, you could attach an Action to a button-graphic Actor which, when you click on the button, adjusts the volume of another sound-file Actor. Like Effects, the Actions appear independently in the timeline so you can define when they’re active. One of the neatest features of QuickTime 3 is a set of effects that are built into the plug-in, and which can be controlled simply by passing parameters to the plug-in. This means that with barely any bandwidth, you can have QuickTime build up an area of realistic flames, gently moving clouds or – particularly effective – rippling water. Electrifier Pro has specific tools for each of these effects: you just define the area to which you want to apply the effect, and then set its parameters.

OUR VERDICT

Electrifier Pro’s main competitor is Macromedia Flash, and Flash is the better product if you’re serious about low-bandwidth Web-based presentations – if for no other reason than the Flash plug-in is only around 100K, whereas the full QuickTime 3 download is about 6MB. There’s also the question of the size of the presentation file itself. Both Flash and Electrifier specializes in making these very small, but it’s more tempting to use full-motion video and photos in Electrifier, resulting in fairly large files. However, QuickTime is widely installed on most Macs and many PCs, and so there is an audience that’s already geared up to viewing QuickTime presentations. Given the trend towards better bandwidth provision, file sizes will become less relevant in the future, and so Electrifier is well-placed as an easy-to-use tool for creating densely textured interactive experiences. There’s potential for Electrifier to become an even closer competitor for Flash, with Apple’s plan to incorporate the Flash player into QuickTime in a future release. Given an appropriate upgrade, this would make Electrifier a very powerful authoring tool. In the meantime, Electrifier is already excellent. If you’re a multimedia author, then it’s probably an essential buy; and if you’d like to dabble in multimedia but can’t stomach the complexity and price of Director, or the limited media types of Flash, then Electrifier Pro is the best route to follow.

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