Saturday 26 July 2008

Uke Tuner - Flash Based Ukulele Tuning Application

Now that I teach interactive media, rather than practice commercially for a living, I sometimes get fidgety, wanting to do more of my own but never having the time.

Finally the holiday's arrived and I was able to get inspired, on account of my wife buying a Ukulele. She was using an online tuning system, but it wasn't as helpful as it could have been. The problem with the online tuning system, was that it only gave audio samples of a Ukulele string being plucked. However it is much easier to tune an instrument to a continuous tone. In Uke Tuner I gave the option, plucked note, or continuous tone, so the user can choose their preferred method. Then of course I went overboard on graphics and interactivity - just for the fun of it.

You can download Uke Tuner 0.92 (Beta) here free >

For the more technically minded, graphics were produced in Fireworks then exported as PNG 32 to preserve alpha channels or SWF, for use in Flash. Audio was recorded from a Yamaha PSR-240 keyboard via a line-in cable from the keyboard's headphone socket. Sound was recorded and processed with Audacity then exported as WAV 32-bit for use in Flash. Interactivity was produced in Flash, with ActionScript 2. Flash Audio settings were set to export sound at 22Khz stereo and 128kbps. Playback speed is 30 fps to make it animate more smoothly. The application was compiled with MDM Flash Studio because it has a faster projector engine than the Flash Standalone Player, extends the ActionScript classes available in Flash with some additional functionality, and allows the creator to tweak the display options (such as turning off the blue bar at the top).

Sunday 20 July 2008

Accessibility and Colour Blindness

Colour blindness has been more relevant to me this year more than previous years on account of having a colour blind student.

While it certainly doesn't make life easier for an Art & Design & Interactive Media student it doesn't make it impossible to work in the design industry either. I did know of a former product designer, who was colour blind, who had a successful career in industry and in teaching.

Even so, as a teacher, it is helpful to have some understanding of colour blindness so I know what to expect, and can help the student develop strategies to cope with areas of difficulty.
One resource I found recently is a website called Vischeck.

Vischeck provides colour blindness simulation tools, including an image previewer, a website previewer and a Photoshop filter. The site also gives information about a Daltonization algorithm for correcting images for colour blind people. All fascinating stuff.

I downloaded the Photoshop filter and installed it for Photoshop and Fireworks. It works fine in both.

I wondered how the normal visible spectrum would look to a colour blind person, and so I used the Photoshop filter to adjust a bog standard colour wheel. The results were truly astonishing:

I just cannot imagine a world so radically different to the one I see now.

Now I know why my student picked a muted grey/green instead of a vibrant green to represent grass in a client visual. To them they looked the same.

This insight into how colour blind people actually see the world is probably the most valuable outcome of this find. Meanwhile the Photoshop filter will allow me to demonstrate it to other people, and to gauge usability of my own designs.