Lewis Francis

H. Lewis Francis, Jr.
1010 Parker St.
Falls Church, Va. 22046

703.855.6995
[email protected]

[abstract] [expanded] (case studies)
résumé
alternate expanded formats: pdf : doc : txt

Type
CD-ROM
Title
Beyond the Wall: Stories Behind the Vietnam Wall

Description:
goal

A multimedia virtual tour of the Vietnam War Memorial; history of the war and the memorial, an interactive database of names, personal stories told through the photos, movies, recordings, and writings of those whose names are engraved on the wall and the families and friends they left behind.
Awards
  • NewMedia Invision Awards (Gold Award, Award of Excellence, Best of Show)
  • International Winter Consumer Electronics Show (Innovations '96 Award Winner)
  • Macromedia UCON People's Choice (Gold Medal: Education)
  • New York Festivals:International Competition for Interactive Multimedia (Gold Medal: Social Studies)
  • MacWorld (Top 10 CDs of the Year)
  • Family Channel and USA Today (Seal of Quality)
Features
QuickTime video, audio, database names search, printing, installation
Involvement
Lead Programmer, Technical Lead
Tasks
Director Programming; defined platform specs and dev standards, performed compression tests, batch image processing, minor bitmap, video and audio editing, CDR optimization and burn, QA.
Tools I used
Macromedia Director 4.0x, SoundEdit 16 II; Equilibrium Debabelizer; Adobe Photoshop, Premiere; MovieAnalyzer, Hypercard, QuikTopix,

Programming
Comments

Project was targeted for 8-bit displays but the Mac version of Director 4 allowed higher color-depths, which along with the Mac's higher CD-ROM throughput made the video experience much better for those users (interestingly, the Peoples Choice award was based on the PC version of the CD on display at the UCON). Custom 8-bit Superpalettes were created with Debabelizer for each section.

XObjects: A custom database and xObject/DLL was created in-house to allow searching the list of soldiers who are memorialized on the Wall. PrintOMatic was used to print out search results and Wall panel placement. The Mac version used a cool xObject called GammaFade that allowed fade-to/from-black effects on 16 and 32-bit machines by fading gamma tables. Additional xObject/DLLs were used to fix QT/palette conflicts, detect the version of QuickTime, the presence of virtual memory, and to handle various file management tasks (for the handling of retrieved database records).

The cross-platform multimedia CD-ROM development solutions developed in this project were to be used on all subsequent titles, specifically the Launcher Strategy, environmental adaptation and video encoding standards.


Type
Web site
Title
National Geographic Online
Description:
goal
The team was tasked with guiding National Geographic's effort to put a web face to their world class content. The site architecture would be designed in such a way to allow the client to maintain a base of features, but to easily sub out and integrate specific components of the site, called Content Modules, to various development firms.
Awards
  • Software and Information Industry Association, 1997(Codie Award: Best World Wide Web Site )
  • Family Channel and USA Today, 1996 (Seal of Quality)
  • Internet Professional Publishers' Association, 1996 (Award for Design Excellence)
Features

1000 page site at launch. Content modules showcased richmedia content. Database managed and scheduled content. Site search with relevancy ranking. Custom content management tools, Real audio streams.

Involvement
Senior Technical Director, Technical Director
Tasks
Primary technical point of contact between our team, National Geographic, and NGS' partners and contractors. Research and educate the team and client on the web environment and limitations thereof. Participated in information architecture, site and database design sessions, worked with client to define platform specs and dev standards, managed programmers, QA, troubleshooting and bug fixes.
Tools I used
Text editors, Real Audio server and compression tools, Equilibrium Debabelizer; Adobe Photoshop, Telnet, ftp, SKey, Netscape Enterprise Server, various browsers.

Programming
Comments

An acknowledged leader in it's own field, the client needed help in mapping it's high standards and experience into the new world of online media; driving research into what was possible and practical with web and streaming media technologies of the day. The first drafts of what became the Magnet Interactive Styleguide and Technical Reference documents were a result of this research.

The launch showcase content module, "Silver Bank", featured a virtual walk-through of the Spanish galleon Concepción. To ship illustrations designed by Chuck Carter of Myst fame, we added streaming audio sound effects of sea waves and creaking timbers. To provide a seamless CD-ROM-like experience, I used a Real Audio plug-in instance placed in a hidden frame persisting throughout the walk-through. Users who had the plug-in enjoyed a true multimedia experience, even across a low-bandwidth connection.

Silver Bank also featured a treasure hunt game where visitors searched for coins hidden among the pages of the content module. Users who found all five coins and had registered were eligible for a drawing to win one of five actual coins recovered from the wreck of the Concepción. The game and registration was implemented in cgi with Python.


Type
Enhanced Web Site
Title
Pop-Tarts 'Pop-Trivia'
Description:
goal
The team wanted to provide the poptarts.com visitors an experience as close as possible to that of a CD-ROM, yet provide for an enjoyable experience to dial-up users or users with slower machines. The site was pitched to reach tweens and young adults, ages 12-24, and would feature a monthly cash award to participants of its Survey and Multiuser popular culture trivia game.
Awards
  • INTERCOM, July 2000 (Silver Plaque: Interactive Multimedia - Web Sites)
  • Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, April 2000 (Finalist: Online Game of the Year)
Features
Dual Flash/HTML broadband interface with graceful degradation. Visitor selected control over the user experience (Flash, HTML, high or low-bandwidth versions). Shockwave for Director based multiuser game interfacing with Macromedia Multiuser Server and a Java servlet back-end. Shockmachine support of MU game.
Involvement
Director of Media Technologies, Technical Director
Tasks
Pitched degradation plan, multiuser and Shockmachine technologies to team and client, participated in site and game design sessions, defined platform specs and dev standards, managed programmers, QA, troubleshooting and bug fixes.
Tools I used
Macromedia Director 6.5, 7.x, Multiuser Server, Flash 3 and 4, Dreamweaver, BBEdit, Javascript / VBScript, Telnet, ftp, custom netLingo debugging tools, various browsers.

Programming
Comments

To accomplish the stated goal, we designed a site with multiple levels of graceful degradation, including plugin detection and fail-back in both Javascript/VBScript and Director plus a cookie-based method of storing the users bandwidth and Flash viewing preferences. Pages were dynamically written out to display either broadband Flash, dial-up Flash, or HTML for the site interface and content, and Shockwave for the Survey and Multiuser games. Back-end tools were built to handle authentication, contestant eligibility (COPPA compliance) and to manage and deliver the rotating sets of questions, answers, and scores from our database.

The Shockwave 6 based Survey collected pop culture question answer data for later use in the Pop-Trivia game, had a Flash Asset based interface matching the Flash 3 based web site option, and included login and a remote-fed Privacy Policy content for easy updating.

The Shockwave 7 Pop-Trivia multiuser game included all this plus MU functionality in the "Lounge", where users could fill out surveys while waiting for other contestants to login, and the "Studio", where the actual gameplay took place. Additionally, the Pop-Trivia game needed conditional testing to detect whether the game was playing in a browser or from within Shockmachine; if the latter, custom network detection and error handling was activated.

During development, an issue arose when AOL changed their proxy system preventing PC AOL users from playing the game (and AOL users from downloading Shockwave). With PC AOL 4 or 5 and Shockwave 7.x, getNetText requests to our back-end failed with a 4152 error if the returned data was greater than 1024 characters. After much testing and experimentation, I found that if the query string itself was greater than or equal to 256 chars, then our data could be returned as expected. To work around this issue, we first tested a known file of 1026 characters and if it returned a 4152, we padded out the query string and requested our actual data. This allowed a workaround that could be skipped when AOL fixed their problem and wouldn't affect other systems.


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