Module 3 - Planning your first program


Where do we start?
Creating an outline
Creating a detailed storyboard outline
Learning through experience
A word on project organization
Things to do


You will understand the concepts that will give you the ability to:

  • create a simple but organized program outline
  • create a series of storyboard cards
  • begin to apply your visualized and written concepts to creating a simple multimedia program
  • apply experiential learning to resolve design challenges
  • a word on project organization

Where do we start?

There are many detailed books on the subject of creating multimedia, but for your first project, we will keep the process as simple as possible. For your second project, we will take a more in-depth look at planning, costing, designing and producing multimedia.

We will assume that you already know the subject, what the program will be used for and who will be using it.

As you think about building your program you will probably entertain many ideas on its structure and content.  Images and sounds may flash through your mind, or you may find yourself flipping through magazines for ideas.  This is the beginning of the creative process, and the approach each person takes can be quite different.  Personally, I get creative flashes during my waking hours which have lead to quite innovative productions. Be sure to keep the purpose and message of your program in mind as you go through this initial process.

Creating an outline

Outlining the structure and content of a program is absolutely essential before we begin work on any media project.  Write down all of your ideas.  Eventually, you should start to build up a flow chart or diagram showing how the information will be organized and presented. Sometimes these diagrams are referred to as navigation maps.

You will still have plenty of room to be creative after you do this.  In fact, the best multimedia projects are the ones that are tweaked and changed throughout the design and production process. However, in larger projects too much tweeking can lead to costly delays. 

This is similar to the outline I used to produce a multimedia program in 1996 which gave an overview of the Communication Technology Program in Dubai.  By studying it, you can see what information will be presented and how it will be organized. As you examine it, think of how you can apply cards and stacks to this type of structure.

The user can get an overview of each area, and has the option of exploring the selected area further or returning to the main menu to choose again.

Obviously you would not present this "rough looking" diagram to an employer or prospective client, but for your first project, it is all that is required.

Creating a detailed storyboard outline

Now that you have a rough outline, you can become more specific with each screen design by using storyboard cards.  The storyboard cards you will use are very similar to the ones you have already been exposed to in graphic design and television production.  They contain a basic visual representation of what the screen will look like as well as indicate any  audio or technical requirements.  Multimedia storyboards should contain comprehensive information on links to other cards or stacks, effects, animation's or any other action.

The storyboard card can start out very basic like this one illustrating the main menu screen in the above outline.

Storyboard cards can be easily re-ordered or shuffled around until you are satisfied with the order.  You may decide to add information to your cards at any time during this planning stage.  For example, you may not be sure exactly what information the card will contain or what it's actions will be, but you do know or at least have an idea that it is needed.

Here is a more complete storyboard card on the title page or card, showing more detail.  Note that the information can still be changed at this time, and that some design elements have not been firmly established.

After you have established the structure and content of your program, you can start designing and assembling the production elements.  Once again, there is still plenty of room to be flexible and change things.  In fact, you will discover that new ideas will come to you throughout the entire production process, and that other ideas did not work out well.

Click here to download blank storyboard cards for your project.

Above is the finished card or screen. To view and navigate through part of the finished program, click on the multimedia icon. You will need to have the Hyperstudio browser plugin installed on your computer as well as Quicktime.  If you do not, you can get them by clicking here.
*Note that the card size has been reduced and the video files and other stacks have been removed to limit size.

Multimedia provides much opportunity for users to easily navigate from place to place.  You want to encourage free choice and movement, but you also have to keep things logical.  An easy way to move back or return to the home card or main menu from almost any location is highly recommended.

Learning through experience
As you begin to produce your first program, you will probably change some of your design strategies because of various challenges and limitations.  Through some of these minor difficulties you may discover new and better ways to do things.  Some of your ideas might not be possible to produce at all, and you will have to seek creative alternatives. 
    Listed below are a few examples of the types of experiences you should be prepared for:
    • The buttons I used do not blend in with the theme of the program. I'll have to change all of them.
    • There wasn't enough RAM in the computer to run an entire video segment, so I'll have to use audio and still images instead.
    • I found so many new photos on soccer teams, I'll have to create another stack just for these images.
    • The audio file I wanted to use is just too long, so I'll use scrolling text instead.
    • Wow! This animation really looks cool. I think I'll put it on my main page.
    • This frame effect is very nice.  I'll go back and apply it to every page.
    • I forgot to save my stack and I've lost over two hours of work.
    • I really don't understand how to make the program do what I want it to. I'd better ask someone for help.

    There will be frustrations, but remember... it's all part of the learning experience, and it makes us better at what we do. Good luck with your storyboards!

A word on project organization

There is nothing more frustrating than having files spewed all over the place!  Taking a few minutes to create special folders will help keep your project work organized properly. 

Before you begin any multimedia project, setup a special project folder containing sub-folders for all of the elements that you will be working with. 

Remember to save constantly and backup periodically!

Things to do
  • begin the assignment on creating a navigation map and storyboard.
  • click on the link icon to view an example of a completed stack (you may have to download the plugin).
  • set-up your own special folder(s) to hold your project work.

Michael Shaw, 1997