Archive for March, 2010

Topics

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I have been busy working on a new feature called topics. It is an attempt to make it easier to find drawers who want to draw something along the same lines. Along with this there come several enhancements and features.

Optional User Registration

Topics come together with user registration. You will only need to register if you want to take part in drawing on topics, “normal” Colorillo remains the same: you don’t need a username for that.

I am not a big fan of having to sign up on a web page and Colorillo is very usable without it. But it happens that someone comes along and draws over the homepage where just something nice was being created. I don’t want this to happen for people who have found each other to draw something specific.

When you are registered you will show up with your username in the user list.

There are also two bonus features for registered users: statistics and view the drawings you participated in or created.

Sidebar

New Sidebar SectionThere are some additions to the side bar: on the top right there is a drop down that lets you switch from the user list to something called “drawing info & options”.

I have picked a screenshot that shows all available boxes on this section. Most likely you won’t encounter all of them at once.

  1. When the drawing was created.
  2. Statistics of the drawing. This shows the number of drawers and lines that were used to get to this drawing. This behaves a bit differently on the homepage, there it shows a live statistic of what has happened since you arrived.
  3. Whether the drawing belongs to a topic (see below for more).
  4. When you are the one who created the drawing, you can now lock the drawing. If you feel that the drawing is finished, you can lock it so that nobody can add any lines to it.
  5. There is also a voting box so that you can vote for or against a drawing right then and there.
  6. Creation history: Shows if the drawing was based on another drawing, and/or other drawings are based on this drawing.

Topics

I have to say up front that the whole section still is a little rough, but over time it will become better.

Apart from the idea that drawings can belong to a topic, each topic has something I call a drawing room. When you are registered, you can simply go to this picture and draw. Everyone else can watch.

There are already a few topics like animals, landscapes, and portraits, but you can create any topic you want.

Every drawing that is created from a drawing room or from a drawing already assigned to the topic gets assigned to the topic again. Also I can re-assign existing drawings to a topic.

So this leaves me to say: Try it out, I hope you like it and create even more amazing drawings together.

Video Export

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

You know I am a big fan of the playback feature. I love watching how a drawing has been created.

Download a picture in several formatsNow you can also export the playback as a video and download it to your PC. There are now several formats in which you can download picture (You can find the links as depicted on the screenshot on the left side of an image on Colorillo):

  1. PNG (Portable Network Graphics): A pixel based format that is commonly used in graphics processing.
  2. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics): In this format each line is stored separately so that you can resize the picture to any size you want.
  3. MP4 (Motion Picture (Experts Group, Version) 4): This is the format of the new video feature (actually the h.264 codec is being used). While the download will start with the other formats instantly, clicking this link will open a window that will ask you a few further questions.
  4. Video Export options
    You can set an output format (the iPod format is a little scaled down but plays on an iPhone or iPod Touch and probably on the future iPad), and–what I find most interesting–change the duration of the video you will download. This means you can choose how fast the picture should be drawn.

    Here is an example of such an exported video (the fanstastic picture by Uram and Jackie Lee):

    Happy downloading :)

Playback Refinements

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Today I can report about some refinements that I have made to the new playback feature. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really have to. It’s really amazing to be able to watch again how a beautiful picture came into being.

New Picture through Playback

New Picture from PlaybackSo, for the first improvement: this can be used as an undo function!

When you click the play button, playback mode is activated (which is indicated with a special border around the image). While you are in playback mode, the “new picture” button receives another option (see the screen shot).

This can be useful in several situations:

  1. When someone comes along and draws over your picture. Now not as bad anymore: just go into playback mode, go back to before the guy did what he did, and then click the new picture button. You can also invite people to come along and leave that guy behind.
  2. When you encounter something nice within the playback. Sometimes it’s worth keeping a picture that has been overdrawn again. Before, it was buried in the playback, but now you can rescue it by promoting it to a new picture. Cool!
  3. When you really need to undo something. Ok, Colorillo lacks an undo function, but it’s for a good reason: You can’t take back what already has been sent out to all other users of the picture. So, you liked the nose you drew before much better than the current one? Go back with playback and continue with the old one.

More information

The playback section gained a little more height: There’s now a second line being displayed when you start playback:
Load more Playback Data
This now displays when the drawing was done, how many people and lines were involved and how long it took them. I think it’s pretty interesting.

Note: for older pictures there might not be all data available for this, so it might say that x-thousand lines were drawn in one second. Hard to believe and probably not true indeed, but I didn’t store that information in the beginnings of Colorillo…

Load More Playback Data

I have an algorithm in place that analyzes the picture to see at what point everything was overdrawn, so that point could be considered as a starting point for the current picture (actually that’s often the reason why creating a new picture as a “copy” of the old one takes a few seconds — actually it’s not a copy, it just references the line where the new picture was created).

This is also used for playback. It will load so much data until it arrives at a point where everything before has been overdrawn since. Now, I have lifted this frontier: With the Load more playback data link, Colorillo will load the data to the overdrawing before that. Maybe there is a great picture hidden in there which, as you now know, you can now promote to a new picture.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Playback

If you want to undo something or create a new picture just before someone came in and drew something bad, it is very important that you find exactly the right spot where to create your new picture. I have made this a lot easier with keyboard shortcuts:

← (left arrow key) to step a frame/line back and → (right arrow key) to step a frame forward. Use the Shift key to step 100 frames or lines.

Space can be used to pause or resume playing.

I think these changes greatly improve the playback functionality, and there’s more coming. I’m working on making it possible to download the playback as a video and/or export it to YouTube. There are still a few technical hurdles to take on this, but I’m optimistic.

PS: Just a few moments ago we had our 30,000th picture drawn. What a thrill!