Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tools: Project Messenger

Most computer techies tend to look upon Flash with utter contempt every time a blaring banner ad fires up an invitation to play “Punch the Monkey” while they’re carefully digesting a news article. But Interactive Art Services (IAS) is quietly producing a conferencing tool that utilizes Flash in what may potentially become the 800-pound gorilla of web-enabled communications. And it won’t be knocked out anytime soon.

IAS’ main business is working with ad agencies and production companies to take their rough sketches and ideas, and generate slick online storyboards from them that can serve as both productive project outlines and dazzling coming-attraction demos. In deciding how they want their brainstorms polished into effective presentations, clients can choose from a bewildering array of styles, artists, and mediums that IAS uses to customize the final display. Clients can constantly monitor their revisions to ensure that their projects are progressing to their satisfaction. This situation calls for a way for clients around the world to continually and virtually collaborate with their personal IAS project directors while reviewing their multimedia creations. And thus the Flash-powered Project Messenger was born.

The IAS Project Messenger was built from the ground up to allow for video and audio conferencing on a variety of different computer configurations. Flash, designed to create a consistent user experience on any platform it’s used on, was the perfect conduit for this need. IAS needed a solution that would allow for future integration with the company’s current storyboard processes. IAS looked at the current flash-based conferencing tools on the market to provide the level of scalability and customization that it would require. It looked to development companies in India and out-of-box solutions that offered a myriad of smiley chat emoticons, but these wouldn’t provide a necessary level of integration with IAS’s products. So they hired a custom Flash programmer who created the Project Messenger after 5 months of intense work.

Currently the Project Messenger is in the final stages of testing. Clients can utilize a familiar instant-messenger-style user list to choose whom they wish to chat with. The sessions are optimized for 125 kps of bandwidth and the Flash Media Server is the software backbone. An uncluttered interface allows users to exchange ideas and feedback without distractions. Because the mediums that IAS works in are crucially visual, a video link allows a client and project director to display mockups or just get some virtual face time for a more personal collaboration.

What IAS is most excited about is what future features will spring from this framework. Expected updates to the Project Messenger will include full integration with the company’s SketchBoard tool, where a whiteboard environment may enable users to edit projects simultaneously within the Messenger interface. One of the first updates will allow users to save logs of their sessions, so that they can review their conversations at a later time. Users will also be able to set their online status to let others know if they are currently away from their computer, as is possible in traditional chat programs.

The capabilities for Project Messenger will only grow as IAS builds a stage in which techs and creative minds can consult each other every step of the way. With such intimate teamwork, spectacular productions will be made which faithfully embody the client’s vision. So keep a close eye on this amazing tool’s progress and contact IAS today for a demo. It may not be done in a flash. But Flash will get it done, and here’s knowing Project Messenger’s storyboard will have a happy ending.

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