Obstacles and Problems

The most immediate difficulty with multimedia is the reliance upon the image. Unlike a book in which one tends to choose images to support and illustrate text, a successful CD-Rom must be largely driven by images. However, when one is trying to tell a story, it is not always easy to find, or gain permission for the use of, the appropriate image. Furthermore, one might have splendid images which are not entirely relevant but which one would like to use. For this project it became a 'chicken and egg' problem resulting in numerous different scripts and searches for appropriate images.

Scripting for multimedia is very different from writing a book, article or film-script. It is possible to develop a method which combines conventional writing with story-boarding, but even then, what is committed to paper does not always work on screen and further changes have to occur. This is often the case when one tries to incorporate voice-overs with written text.

Images are often not obtainable, mainly due to cost and copyright problems. One can now expect to pay up to £100 or more for an external image which increases the costs of a project dramatically when only a few images are bought in. Furthermore, copyright laws and enforcement in Britain and the rest of the world are both inconsistent and subject to rapid changes, as has been experienced with this project. From the outset, reliable legal advice is required so as to avoid major problems later in the production phase.

"It is crucial that the academic researcher has the power of veto in an obviously incorrect presentation or interpretation...but there are cases where academic rigour has to be weighed up against the broader educational objectives"

Another source of difficulty is the conflict of interest between academic research and technical capabilities. The production company often has a much better idea of what is possible, but this has to be communicated to the academic coordinator. There were occasions where the creative designers had excellent ideas, but there were also times when a great deal of time was spent scripting and collecting images for a part of the disk which then could not be delivered due to problems with the production process or cost. This can best be overcome by good communication and project management. Linked to this problem is the whole area of academic credibility, a problem highlighted by other colleagues in the field. It is crucial that the academic researcher has the power of veto over any unauthorised activity by the creative and production staff that results in an obviously incorrect presentation or interpretation of the past. That said, there are obviously numerous borderline cases where academic rigour has to be weighed up against the broader educational objectives, and it often is pushing at this frontier that creates some of the most exciting new developments. There can be little doubt that professional creative designers, like those at Braunarts, have helped to present the past in a much more vibrant and meaningful manner. However, for the academic, multimedia production can shred the conscience of a perfectionist!

Many of the problems with producing a CD-Rom stem from the need for effective project management. Sub-contracting to an outside company immediately fragments the line of command and tensions understandably occur as two organisations with very different objectives try to maintain their control of the project. It is also essential that compatible computer equipment, with the requisite training, is available from the outset on both sites to enable a smooth transfer of material between the technical and academic staff. I do believe that most of these problems can be solved by careful planning and coordination before the project actually begins - it is no good trying to work things out on a management and technical basis as one goes along.


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Last updated: Thu Aug 1 2002