if ($picture=(words*1000)) {$animation="even better"} else FAIL
July 4, 2007 12:57 AM   Subscribe

I have a large, multi-step logical diagram that needs to become a slick presentation. How do I get there?

I have a multi-page Visio file that illustrates the growth of a system over a period of time. Each page represents a single change to the same environment (additions, deletions, node re-purposing) and each successive change builds upon the previous page. The intended effect is a timeline of getting from point A to point B in n steps. The problem is the complexity of the changes alters the environment so dramatically that step 2 may look nothing like step 1 when illustrated statically. The result: Geeks get it, executives look out the window and doodle.

I'd like to solve this problem by moving from a series of static pages to a fluid animation that can be narrated instead of annotated. Instead of a node just 'appearing' in a successive step, I'd like that node to pop up and displace / connect to its neighbors in a very obvious manner. This requires a new format.

I know what I HAVE to do, it's the HOW that I'm missing - namely, what application to use. The diagram is large (>1024x768 to be readable), so any output format would need to be near HD resolution. Flash would be ideal, but recreating the diagram would take DAYS. I could import to powerpoint and do animations, but the native ppt resolution is too small to capture all of the minutia. MS movie maker and photo story lack the ability to work with objects so they're not really options. Any suggestions?
posted by datacenter refugee to Technology (7 answers total)
Use Visio layers to storyboard.
posted by paulsc at 1:11 AM on July 4, 2007

Not trying to be de-rail but, if the geeks get it as it is, are you sure you need to do this? In my experience of presenting to senior management, they don't care about the details of the technical evolution of a system, they want to know what business benefit they get from the changes, what it costs and what the risks are.
posted by crocomancer at 1:52 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: at crocomacncer: very valid point. In this case, however, our need is to not only justify equipment purchases but also explain the partial functionality of the system at each step in the process. Other (already paid for) business systems rely on this system and the diagram details how their functionality will be briefly degraded, maintained and then enhanced throughout the multi-year timeline.

In short: we need to get from state 0 to state 2, as long as you can live with state 1 for however long the intermediary steps take. Gotta love gutting legacy infrastructure.
posted by datacenter refugee at 3:14 AM on July 4, 2007

How about you ditch Visio altogether and make some simple animated powerpoint slides (it's the language of the boardroom, I hear):

State 0: old fashioned roundabout with traffic all snarled up and crawling along

State 1: Big yellow "Under Construction" sign placed over the roundabout, with new "detour" signs routing traffic around it, now a little more slowly even than before.

State 2: All signs removed, gleaming new modern interchange where the roundabout used to be. Traffic flows unimpeded.

I don't see how you could possibly lose with management if you combine powerpoint with a car analogy (I'm kidding?)
Forget the minutiae that will be consuming your time and just tell them what they need to know: what are they getting, how long will it take, and why will they have to suffer a temporary downgrade in service in order to get there?

Also if you're speaking to non-engineers you may want to add 1 to each step number (1-3 instead of 0-2).
posted by contraption at 5:14 AM on July 4, 2007

Wink is free screen capture software that I have used with other tools to quickly build up, frame by frame, the needed sequence. You can then edit pauses insert other graphics, add narration, etc. etc. It outputs flash or a series of frames which can make an animated gif. It sounds like you will most impress with a quick pass at the big picture rather than a long dissection of details.
posted by gregoreo at 7:52 AM on July 4, 2007

Can you use trace? I assume Flash has such, but if not you could probably trace it in some other vector program (Inkscape, Illustrator) and import it. I think this'll take the edge off of the recreating stage and leave you with a nice format which can easily be animated (oh and it'll look pretty).

Other then that, I'm not seeing many options, since you need to add in animation that's not actually there and you don't sound like you want to print and break out the scissors........
posted by anaelith at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2007

Just this week I made a clickable prototype interface for user testing using Visio alone. Tons of pages, as I needed one whole page for each state of each page component, but it worked. You would probably need fewer pages and fewer links. Select an object, control-k, then click the second "Browse" button and select the page you want to jump to from the dropdown. Then F5 to full-screen for display.

This does require clicking and needs the person presenting to know the flow of the presentation, but it's pretty quick to set up.

If it's really strictly linear, you could probably just make sure all elements are in the same place from page to page and not even set up the links. Just F5 to full-screen and click to advance to the next screen, giving the appearance of elements being added or changing.
posted by librarina at 6:27 PM on July 4, 2007

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