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Flash revealed

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Jim Shelley has a somewhat technical yet comprehensible explanation of why Flash doesn’t always look so great and tends to “muck with your fonts.” Complete with screen grabs.

“But Jim, why would I ever reduce an image down by 15% or something like that?”

Well, you wouldn’t, but if you launch the Zuda image viewer on your pc/mac it’s going to set the image to a size that Flash thinks is appropriate for your monitor, which is why some comics look okay when the viewer is full size and some don’t. Flash does this by PROGRAMMATICALLY grabbing the size of your monitor and adjusting the viewer accordingly to completely usurp your screen area. – And since the people building the Zuda viewer don’t really have access to every type of monitor available, you’re gonna get some mixed results.

  1. The biggest problems with doing a straight comics-digital conversion is that comic book fonts for print are so small (6pt) that viewing at 100% 72dpi its almost unreadable. I ran into this issue on my own, and the solution I had was to force the user to view the comics in full screen, which IMHO is a better experience.

    http://www.jimkrueger.com/bebop/

    For this reason the images are generally presented larger then their print counter parts, as with Zuda, the images are significantly larger then how they are presented when they initially load. This is because the viewer was designed to run in full screen mode for a better user experience.

    The unreadability of the images at that size has to do with a glitch in Flash that doesn’t resize imported jpegs properly combine that with bad font choices (rookie mistake), and you get the problem Zuda is having.

    There are technically ways to improve the presentation of Zuda, and I am sure that version 2 of the player will have significant improvements.

  2. I’m not sure how they’re doing it, but one experiment Team Zuda might try is not relying on the lettering in the jpegs, but to use Flash-friendly fonts applied within Flash. The ability to resize Flash content automatically necessitates applying text using Flash; if they’re relying on the lettering in the original jpeg images this would explain the crunchiness of the text. Replacing the text in this way would mean more work for Team Zuda but might offer a better experience for the user.

    If Team Zuda needs any freelancers to help with this, I could always use the work. ;)

  3. As Sphinx Magoo has pointed out, Flash isn’t doing anything to the fonts. It’s crunching the entire JPEG image. Flash is not meant to render bitmap images at anything other than 100% size. It’s designed for vectors. If the text overlays were in original vector on top of the jpeg artwork there wouldn’t be this problem.

    Displaying straight JPEGs at anything other than 100% with a Flash player is a poor technical choice.

  4. maija, you are correct in that the problem is not Font specific, but rather jpeg specific, but the distortion is most noticeable on text in an image which is why I named my article like I did.

    btw – I agree about using Flash to resize jpegs is a poor choice. I think a more elegant solution for Team Zuda would be to have 3 sizes of each jpeg (small, medium, large if you will) and have Flash load the jpeg which would give the best screen display based on a given scenario.

  5. Flash does a poor job of rending images less then 100%. It does a better job at blowing them up, but downsizing images is not its forte.

    While the optimal solution is multiple images at different sizes, this does present both a logistical nightmare and impedes the user experience.

    Using a thicker font will help with the drop out that is occurring, also making use of Flash’s bitmap filters may help to resize the images with better results. Flash is being used to make online image editors like PhotoShop lite and Picnik (http://www.picnik.com/) so it is possible, more R&D just needs to be done.

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