BBC Schools Indus Valley site launched

Professor Indus

I recently produced a large quantity of images for a new BBC Schools project on the Indus Valley, and the site went public on 25th February. If you have 15-20 minutes to spare, you can work your way through the entire BBC Schools Indus Valley site. I have also added a selection of images from the site to my portfolio.

This was a great project to work on, for a number of reasons. Not least was the chance to visit the BBC team in Belfast, and talk through the design of the site with the producers and designers. This was really useful, and we managed to squeeze out some nice ideas that may not have seen the light of day without a face-to-face meeting. This is the first project I’ve worked on that was produced for BBC Schools, and this meant that it had to meet some strict guidelines regarding file size, screen size, and content.

This made designing the site challenging for myself and Deirdre, the BBC Flash designer, as we had to try and create a visually rich and interactive site, but keep the images as simple as possible to reduce the file size. For my part, I tried to ensure that all the vector images used common elements, which could be repeated, resized and mirrored to create more complex scenes and characters, and be sparing in my use of gradients. It also meant more work for Deirdre when she assembled the scenes in Flash, but I think the end result justified the extra work, as we have ended up with a site that looks great, but comes well within the file size restrictions, to the point where some of the proposed “loading, please wait” animations could be abandoned altogether.

The chameleon’s walking animation was a particular challenge, as his front and back legs are the same objects (two sets, one for each side of his body), animated out of phase to create his plodding walk. Deirdre has done a great job transferring all the objects into Flash and reconstructing the animation, and for me he is the star of the show. We both wish we had had the time and resources to use him elsewhere. There was a brief discussion about having him stick his tongue to “balloon cam” and get towed off across the scene, but we had to abandon this idea on technical and moral grounds. The idea of having him flung against the window of Professor Indus’ office and squeak down the glass went the same way.

Time constraints mean that some of the superfluous visual effects in the museum scenes got dropped, but that section still works really nicely. If time had allowed, it would have been nice to put a few random people into the museum lobby to make it look a bit busier too.

Thanks again to Phyllis, Deirdre and Chelle for looking after me so well in Belfast, and congratulations again to Deirdre for doing such a great job putting the site together.

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