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Multimedia Localization

Macromedia Flash:
Macromedia Flash is on the web what Macromedia Director is for CD-ROM design - almost the standard format for interactive multimedia presentations. Its layered structure allows designers to combine text, graphic, audio and video. After being a proprietary format for a while, there are now plenty of 3rd-Party authoring systems available. Some are only offering certain aspects such as text effects, graphic logos, animated buttons, video integration or 3D-effects (CoffeeCup Flash Firestarter, various tools from Wildform Software, Sothink Glanda and Swift 3D), while others offer a complete palette of applications almost omparable to the original - prominent examples are: Adobe LiveMotion, KoolMoves Flash Editor, 3D Flash Animator and SWiSH. In addition, many important design and animation tools as well as CAD and Mapping Software such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw and Designer, 3D-Studio Max, AutoCAD, Géoclip and GeoFlash can save or export into Flash's SWF (Small Web Format). Macromedia published the specifications for SWF in April 1998 (OpenSWF).

Fig. 1: Flash MX Workspace (Stage), Timeline including Layers and Properties of the Marked Text Layer
Please click on the image for a closer look!

Flash may contain localizable text or voice or even both. Switching between different localized version can be achieved through either user input (clicking on buttons) or automatic detection of the language version of the operational system or the internet browser. In general it is not necessary to design complete duplicates of the multimedia presentation in different languages but just to differentially load text or audio files. This reduces the production overhault. All subsequent chapters refer mainly to the Macromedia Flash MX format (Flash Player 6 format). Flash files have to be planned and prepared for localization as the standard design options do not permit a later extraction of text. As in the case of images, text in Flash can either be stored as text strings or transferred into bitmaps for extended formatting. Flash's standard text processing option is "static text" in which case text strings are only accesible and not rendered into bitmaps if you activate the "Use Device Fonts" option, thus overriding the use of any special fonts. Saver is the use of "Dynamic Text" in which case also only system fonts are used. There is only one tool up to now, which is able to extract text prepared according to the described methods. Tramigo (Translator's friend - TrAmigo) of the New Zealand company Avral (Russian-Ukrainian: Urgent work). Tramigo uses either an internal approach, where translations done within the Tramino Interface (Fig. 5) are saved back into the SWF file. Alternatively, a localized external text file can be loaded at runtime after inserting a few lines of Actionscript (Flashs internal coding language - similar to JavaScript).

Fig. 2: User Interface of Avral Tramigo Showing the Internal Approach of Text Layer Translation
Please click on the image for a closer look!

Flash MX itself offers various options to load multiple unilingual or one multiligual external text or XML files at runtime using the loadVariables action, the getURL action, the LoadVars object, or the XML object within Actionscript.

Fig. 3: Flash MX Localization: Loading text from external XML files on user interaction

The brand new Flash MX 2004 adds string variables accessible through a new Strings Panel which allows localizers to edit strings in a central location right inside Flash, or generate external XLIFF files which can be easily localized using any XML enabled software or translation memory. Translating from within Flash allows for readjustment of the size and position of dynamic text fields to fit and optimally position the new language strings. An additional great novelty is that you can select which character sets you want to embed in your applications and which not. This reduces the number of character glyphs in your published SWF file and thereby your movie's size dramatically. You can furthermore use a western-style keyboard to create text on the Stage even in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Unfortunately, I appoached quite a bit of children deseases in these new features but I am sure that Macromedia and the community will overcome every single of them in a matter of short time.

Fig. 4: Internal Translation of Text Strings in Macromedia Flash MX 2004
Please click on the image for a closer look! View the localized example !


© 2003 by Dr. Thomas Wassmer, e-mail: tom at softreviews.org


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