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Real World Adobe InDesign CS4: Interactive Documents

Article Description

Olav Martin Kvern and David Blatner explain InDesign's features for the “rich media” producer. Many of these tools don’t produce any visible effect on your InDesign pages, but change the behavior of PDF or Flash SWF files that you export.
Audio and Video

Audio and Video

Why on earth would anyone want to put movies, animations, and sounds into an InDesign document? Because InDesign is all about enabling you to communicate ideas in elegant ways, and sometimes movies and sounds in a PDF file do that better than plain ol’ quiet, static print. For instance, watching a movie about how to change the oil in your car might help more than trying to figure it out from ten pages of printed diagrams and explanations. (Ole doubts it would, provided the diagrams and explanations were competently done.)

You can add a wide variety of audiovisual files to your files—InDesign supports WAV, AIF, and AU sound file formats, and QuickTime, AVI, MPEG, and SWF movie formats. As Acrobat evolves to support more formats, we’re sure InDesign will follow suit. As we said earlier, movies and sounds only work in PDF files—not SWF.

Importing Sounds and Movies

You import a sound or a movie file in the same way that you import text and graphics—use the Place feature or drag the file from a Finder/Explorer window (see Figure 13-6). If you’re placing the file in an existing frame, it’s important that the InDesign frame be the same size as the media file. If you’re placing the file on a page, click the place icon to create a frame that is the size of the original file. If you drag the place icon (to specify the size of the frame), then immediately choose Fit Frame to Content to scale the frame.

Figure 3.6 Placing a Movie

Here’s a third way to import a movie or sound: First select any empty frame on your page and choose Movie Options or Sound Options from the Interactive submenu (under the Object menu or the Context menu). Then, in the Sound Options dialog box, click the Browse button to load a file. Or, in Movie Options, either choose a file with the Browse button or type a URL into the URL field.

You might want to link to a movie on a Web site (via a URL) if the movie will change after you export the PDF file, or if the movie is large and you don’t want to transport it along with (or inside of) your PDF file. Because you want the frame to match the movie size, after specifying a URL, click the Verify URL and Movie Size button—InDesign finds the movie on the Web and gets its dimensions (you need a live Internet connection for this to work, obviously). After you click OK, use the Fitting features to make sure the frame is the same size as the movie. You can scale the movie, but don’t try to clip or mask it. There doesn’t appear to be any way to link to a streaming audio file; just video.

By the way, when you import a sound or a movie, make sure you don’t put any other text or graphics on top of it. Acrobat isn’t smart enough to play rich media behind other objects (see “Movie Limitations,” late in this chapter).

A poster is a still image associated with a movie or sound—basically what you see on the InDesign page and in the PDF file (before you activate the movie).

Sound Options

The Sound Options dialog box (see Figure 13-7) provides controls for managing imported sound files. (There’s definitely room for improvement. A way to deal with more than one sound file at a time would be most welcome.) You can open the Sound Options dialog box by choosing Sound Options from the Interactive submenu (under the Object menu or the Context menu), but it’s much faster to double-click an imported sound with the Selection tool.

Figure 3.7 Sound Options Dialog Box

You only need to give a sound a poster image when you want the viewer to be able to click on it to play the sound. If you have set up another button to play the sound, you can leave the Poster pop-up menu set to None. If you do want to use a poster image, choose Standard Image (which gives you a silly little speaker icon image) or choose Image as Poster to select an image (and click the Browse button to display a standard file dialog box).

To change the default Standard image, save an image in the JPEG format to a file named StandardSoundPoster.jpg, and put it inside the Images folder in the Presets folder inside your InDesign folder.

We suggest giving your sounds useful names and descriptions. The name is what you use to control the sound using a button event. The description appears as a tool tip if the viewer hovers their cursor over the sound (but only if the sound has a poster).

The Sound Options dialog box offers three other controls, too.

  • Play on Page Turn. When you turn on this check box, Acrobat begins playing the sound as soon as the page it’s on is displayed.
  • Do Not Print Poster. If you specify a poster image, then you get to choose whether that poster image appears in print or not. We’re not sure why you wouldn’t want this turned on.
  • Embed Sound in PDF. You can embed sounds into PDF files or leave them as separate files on disk that the PDF references. We usually embed sounds. However, if the sound file might change later (perhaps you only have an “FPO” sound), linking to a file on disk might be preferable. The Export as PDF dialog box can also override this object-level setting, embedding or not embedding all your media files.

Movie Options

The Movie Options dialog box offers most of the same features found in the Sound Options dialog box, but also adds several other, movie-specific features.

  • Poster options. If you choose Default Poster from the Poster pop-up menu, InDesign grabs the default poster image from the movie (which is almost always the first frame of the movie). If you prefer to use a different frame from the movie, select Choose Movie Frame as Poster; InDesign lets you scroll through the movie until you find just the right image. If you’re creating a document that will be used for both print and onscreen PDF, then you should probably select Choose Image as Poster—this lets you pick a high-resolution image (like a PSD or a TIFF file) to stand in for the movie, both as a poster and when you print.
  • You can use any size poster you want, but posters are always cropped to the size of the movie itself. It’s best to make sure that the poster and the movie have the same dimensions.

  • Embed Movie in PDF. The Embed Movie in PDF check box lets you control on a movie-by-movie level whether a movie will be embedded into the PDF. If you already know that you’re going to embed all the movies, you can leave this alone and just choose to embed all movies in the Export as PDF dialog box. While you can embed movies and sounds into a PDF, you cannot embed them into the InDesign document itself.
  • Mode. Use the Mode pop-up menu to control what happens when the movie ends. The choices are: Play Once then Stop (the default behavior), Play Once then Stay Open (if the movie is playing in a floating window, should the window stay open or not), or Repeat Play (puts the movie into a loop).
  • Show Controller During Play. Do you want the standard QuickTime movie controller buttons to appear while the movie is playing? If so, turn on this check box. If you have designed your own buttons to play, pause, stop, and resume your movie, then you’d leave this turned off.
  • Floating Window. Acrobat (and therefore InDesign, too) offers the choice of playing movies on the page itself or in a floating window. If you turn on the Floating Window check box, you can specify the width, height, and location of the movie.

Movie Limitations

We feel that it took ten years or so—until Acrobat 6 Professional was released—for PDF files to really get good for print production. We figure it’ll be another few years until Acrobat handles onscreen multimedia as elegantly. Currently, movies and sounds are still a bit clunky. For example, there’s usually a pause before and after a movie plays, making it hard to have seamless loops of movies. (This is especially a pain when you want to have a soundtrack looping in the background.)

Here are a few other limitations Acrobat has, and how they affect making interactive PDFs using InDesign:

  • You can scale a movie on your page and it does appear scaled when you play it. However, you cannot crop a movie, even though you can crop the movie’s poster image on your InDesign page—the movie will scale itself to fit inside the cropped area.
  • Similarly, you can’t clip movies into nonrectangular shapes. Acrobat can’t deal with nonrectangular movies, so they’ll appear as full-frame rectangles in the PDF.
  • You can use the Hyperlinks panel to apply a hyperlink to a movie or sound frame (or to a button), but, unfortunately, they’re not active in the final exported PDF document.
  • As exciting as it might feel to rotate or shear movies and sounds, all that goes away in the final PDF. Oh well.
  • While it might appear that you can apply transparency effects to movies and buttons, these effects will not appear in the exported PDF. Drop shadows, however, work (because drop shadows are images behind the movie).
  • As we said earlier in the chapter, you can import SWF files into InDesign, but as of this writing there are some serious problems with getting them to play in Acrobat. Test, but don’t get your hopes up yet. Instead, if you need a SWF in the PDF, consider adding it in Acrobat Pro.
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