INSPIRE seems to hold out great potential for both the "interfaces" that "brand" company products and service, and ubiquitous broadband animations. The maximum for these applications is apparently about twelve images as a cycle for full screen 640 x 480 graphics using the GIF standard, higher speeds probably being possible with 16 or 32 MB video cards used for gaming. The limit seems to be directly related to image area, so that one might have ten different eight-image cycles only one inch across play as smoothly as one four-image cycle twelve inches across.
I think INSPIRE 3D is a superb resource for multimedia presentations especially, though I am obviously biased. Using MS Front Page 2000 or other web authoring tools, one can create "multimedia" instructional and entertainment projects, as well as Broadband-format web pages. 640 x 480 renders were loaded into ULEAD GIF ANIMATOR 3.0 where they were assembled into a cycle, and saved as a GIF. GIF animations are undistinguishable from GIF single images, and do not animate in "Front Page Express," though they animate in Explorer.
Once one realizes that the majority of web pages are left-aligned for a window size of 640 x 480 pixels with a wide right margin accomodating the 800 pixel screen size, and once one accepts that "tables" are used for anything that isn't accomodated by normal alignment OR SPACING, the "surprise" element may subside for much of the web authoring experience.
Using the "Front Page Express" software included with Windows 98, and Ulead GIF Animator 3.0, this page was created. The Background animation is a GIF, but foreground objects could be animated GIF links as well. How about that? One can have a house dancing in the background, and animated fire hydrant, dog, "for sale" sign, lamp post and mail box -- each with a link to somewhere. At this time, however, it would be easier to have one background image with all of the components and the links as "mapped" link areas or slices of one foreground image. A common "trick" for animators is to use even divisors as cycles, so a twelve frame cycle might have 3, 4, 6 and 12 image cycles embedded in it, as well as stops-and-starts and the smoothest possible transitions.
The GIF animation standard is powerful and lean for a pre-MPEG standard. 256 colors and one transparency assignment. It goes without saying that if there are any non-moving areas, like much of the background GIF used here, they should be removed to a separate background image. This is the same speed/memory-saving technique behind the popular idea of the "sprite." The whole screen can be animated as long as one keeps the total animated area under a 7 image cycle totalling 640 x 480 pixels.
Incidentally, the "jitter" of the head can be increased or reduced by adjusting the x and y "offset" of each GIF image. In this way, a dog can run across a page or run-in-place, except that the dog running across the page will probably require 50 GIF's while the cycle might only take 5. That is the 10 year old GIF Animation standard, I do not know if "Flash" or other programs have other ways to move cycles.
And what about "Director" and "Lingo" and "Flash?" Proponents of these Macromedia programs make the valid point that they will be standards for some years to come. They do not begin to tax the video math processors, since they rely heavily on lists of commands to create and store images. The programs are smaller and run much faster. They own the world. We may hope that at some point the "Flash-interpolation" programs being introduced to help hand-drawing artists adapt Flash to photo-realism or transition. www.macromedia.com is very gracious in providing 30 day trial downloads of their products. I would recommend applying oneself diligently to the product if one downloads a demo.
Making multi-animation pages work requires either careful background blending or the use of GIF "transparency" assignment. I have found that INSPIRE 3D ".avi's" with black backgrounds are easily converted to animated GIF's. For other colors, I have found that using Adobe Photo Deluxe's right mouse click "Show Layers" panel, and double clicking on the "Show Layers" layer icon to bring up the "transparency" panel simplifies the making of single color "masked" images for GIF transparency processing. That color is then assigned transparency by the program. This kind of multimedia page has been possible using GIF animations for something like 5 years, but the processing speed to enjoy it is fairly recent.
These transparent animated GIF's are called "sprites," and they may cycle in place or cycle with movement across the screen through a kind of cropping function. They may also dissolve or have other transitions as part of one-time "mouse-over's." Web pages aren't really the subject of this site, but if one becomes involved in authoring web pages, the GIF transparent "sprite" will probably start showing up.