Random techie babbling...

(how not to) Build a Silverlight Media Player

So I came across this small tutorial on the Reg entitled ‘Build a Silverlight media player’. Now I’m far from an expert on this stuff (hell I’m on Ubuntu, can’t even see the demo), but there were a few things in there that seemed odd, be interesting to hear feeback from someone that knows more…

* First of they say…

“Rather than work with Adobe’s Photoshop, let’s encourage the designer to use the new Microsoft Expression.”

… now I guess by that they mean ‘MS Expression Design’…. HAHAHA! (Please imagine a demented Tom Cruise type laugh there!) Every creative I’ve ever worked (i.e. many of the UK’s best) with would rather poke out their eyes with rusty nails than drop photoshop for some new untested tool, let alone one that comes from MS and doesn’t run on their Mac. I know (hope?) this isn’t the only way of getting your artwork in there, but surely you’ve failed at the first hurdle if you really expect this to happen. (Hmm, I wonder, can Design open PSD’s?)

* It’s not really covered in depth but they seem to do the actual layout design in Blend. Having been quite excited about Blend before it’s launch and in turn quite disappointed with it when I tried the first release, this seems to sum up the problem. Designers will not use Blend as a design tool, period, end of story. It’s an odd bastard child that sits somewhere between being too geeky for designers (loads of panels and event lists) and not geeky enough for developers (no code??)… it’s rather like the old days of clunky flash components and seems to me to be good for one thing, filling in and ticking little boxes to join the code and design up… an important task no doubt but who’s the tool intended for?

* Next there’s a little C# added in VS to hook the events up, all simple enough and easy to read from an AS perspective. I’m assuming here using ‘rootElement’ isn’t the cardinal sin ‘_root’ is in Flash? :)

* Then they use the timeline to animate the slideshow. Now I know this is a simple demo, but surely you’d want to show how to load images dynamically rather than embed them all, that’s just bad practice, no?

* On a side note, if I remember rightly the Blend timeline works more like coded Tweens in Flash, ie it’s all about the end points of the animation and not where the objects are starting from… this I like!

* They sum up with the statement…

“Traditionally graphic designers use a tool like Photoshop then “throw their design over the wall” to developers who are responsible for cutting the graphics into the application. The design very rarely works exactly as intended and considerable rework is required if the design changes. The combination of Expression and Visual Studio offers a way to close the gap between the two camps.”

..well I’d say designs and functionality will always change, and if you work in that way you’re always going to have problems. We (I?) work in a design led, technology based field and if your designers and developers don’t work hand in hand from the initial brainstorm through to delivery no amount of new tools are going to improve your end result. Surely better teamwork, understanding and communication would help close the gap?

So anyway, I’m not trying to bash the article, the authors or even Silverlight, I don’t know enough about it to do so, would instead welcome your thoughts and comments…

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  1. John Dowdell says:

    heh, I had the same reaction when reading the piece… that stance of “Everything will be easier once you fix your design team” seems more than a bit otherworldly…. ;-)

    Sometimes articles are paid placements, but Rob Blackwell, although affiliated, seems legit:

    I like that line you have: “Surely better teamwork, understanding and communication would help close the gap?” That’s true, but marketers can still sell a hope.

    One of Adobe’s tasks now is to turn this desire into a reality. The old Adobe Creative Suite 2 toolset didn’t do much with application development, and the CS3 release (with the Macromedia acquisition in the middle) added the easy, low-hanging fruit to combining the design and development worlds. CS4 will be the first full development cycle melding these technologies.

    It’s good that Microsoft is making the story, and investing in convincing the world. The key benefit may be that their approval helps convince MS-affiliated IT shops of the benefits of richer media, multi-platform, and the rest. Let’s see who ends up actually delivering what, and how real people use it…. ;-)


  2. langmuir says:

    “Surely better teamwork, understanding and communication would help close the gap” It is ture not all the teams are good.Better tools can help teamwork early. (Hmm, I wonder, can Design open PSD’s?)Why Design should support PSD? If a project need PSD image,transform it into other forms is OK. There is a plgin can transform ai to xaml. Time should prove all.^_^

  3. oldskool73 says: (Author)

    Langmuir -

    Cool, after a bit of hunting I guess you mean this…

    Still seems to be the wrong way round, as this exports from AI as XAML rather than allowing Design to import AI files (or SVG etc). So if I’ve only got Blend and someone sends me an AI file I’m still screwed. So therefore I need a copy of AI, and if I have that why bother opening up Design, I simply work in AI and export my XAML directly. Seems an odd choice to not allow you to import the most common competing file formats. Oh, and it only runs on windows, so no designer’s gonna use it anyway ;)

    The reason that this is required for a design tool is that designers aren’t normally like us geeks, they use the software as a tool to create beautiful stuff, it’s this end stuff that matters not how it’s made. They’ve invested time and money becoming good with their tools, and they generally don’t want or need a new tool if the one they use works just fine.

    I see what you are trying to say about better tools, but two people who don’t communicate are not a team, no matter how many tools you give them. A bad team with the best tools is just a well equipped bad team :)

  4. Todd says:

    I also felt cheated when I read that article. When did we start calling a slide show a media players?

  5. honest says:

    . . . conclusion: you’re an idiot.

  6. Vania Hamic says:

    “Come on dude, these facts* and proof* i suggest who’s posting* lol :P”


  7. oldskool73 says: (Author)

    You do realise this post is almost 3 years old?

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