Getting Started with Rich Media

Before we can discuss how to make the most of BlackBerry’s rich media capabilities, it’s important to have a firm understanding of what rich media is and how it’s characterized. We’ll start with an explanation of what it is exactly, and then go on to cover what you can do with the Plasmic Content Developer’s Kit.

The term “rich media” is used to describe a wide array of digital interactive media, which can be downloaded or embedded into a web page. If the content can be downloaded, it can also be utilized offline with various media players, such as Microsoft Media Player, Real Networks’ RealPlayer, and Apple’s QuickTime, among others.

The single most defining characteristic of rich media content is its dynamic motion, which can either occur over time or as a direct result of user interaction. Examples of this “dynamic motion” include streaming newscasts, which occur over time, and webcasts that include a synchronized slide show, which require user interaction.

Obviously, rich media content is also increasingly associated with handheld devices. Understanding how to utilize BlackBerry’s rich media content features will enable developers to create interactive themes, mobile web sites, graphics, splash screens, and other animated content that can be optimized for specific use on BlackBerry devices.  

Now that we’ve got the specifics of rich media covered, we can discuss what exactly BlackBerry offers its developers in terms of rich media capabilities. Developers will surely be glad to hear that it’s a lot.  

BlackBerry’s Plazmic Content Developer’s Kit  

The Plazmic Content Developer’s Kit is a free suite of graphics design tools offered by BlackBerry. These tools enable both designers and developers to create mobile web sites, interactive themes, splash screens, and graphics, among other content. Even more impressive, the suite of tools also assists developers in creating custom themes and multimedia content.

BlackBerry’s kit also includes utilities that assist in the conversion of various file formats into a format that can be optimized for delivery and use on handheld devices. BlackBerry’s smartphone simulator also comes into play here, as it allows developers to test and debug their themes, animations, graphics, and other rich media content before they distribute these apps to other devices.

The Plazmic Content Kit includes a theme builder, which enables developers to design custom BlackBerry themes; it also comes equipped with a composer, which is an illustration and animation tool used for designing SVG content. Let’s discuss some of the specifics concerning these two very important features, which give developers the opportunity to create cutting edge, unique rich media content for their BlackBerry apps.

{mospagebreak title=Theme Builder}

The Plazmic theme builder allows developers to customize elements on a BlackBerry device’s user interface, such as the banners, home screen icons, backgrounds, indicators, and the fonts and colors for lists and menus, among other things. The theme builder comes equipped with a number of catalogs that are put in place to assist in the organization of project resources, such as images and colors that developers may want to utilize later. Catalogs also include sample resources that can be reused.

Ideally, a BlackBerry developer should be using BlackBerry’s smartphone simulator anyway, as it helps test and debug applications before they get distributed. The simulator is also particularly useful as it pertains to the Plazmic kit’s theme builder, however, because it enables developers to test new themes on the desktop before they are distributed to a BlackBerry device.

The Plazmic theme builder also comes equipped with a workspace, which includes a viewing area that showcases how the developer’s theme appears on a selected BlackBerry device. The workspace also includes buttons that enable the developer to design each customizable element and area, such as the banners, home screen, and global user interface elements. And last, but not least, the workspace also includes tools that can be used to arrange and resize any elements on a BlackBerry screen.

Creating rich media content for BlackBerry apps has obviously become a whole lot easier thanks to BlackBerry’s Plazmic Content Developers Kit. Aside from the benefits already discussed, the theme builder also allows developers to:

  • Design and develop completely unique user interfaces, home screens, backgrounds, banner icons, buttons, wallpaper, and fonts.

  • Customize banners, with the ability to design full-screen banners while hiding individual banner items. Developers can now also resize, reposition, and redesign banner icons for their custom themes.

  • Customize backgrounds for each phone screen and home screen.

  • Customize the home and lock screen with animation utilizing SVG files.

  • Save commonly used colors and images for re-use with the theme builder catalog.

  • Include multiple web links in themes and provide links to web pages from the app screen.

  • Customize the cursor navigation path by creating rules for the cursor navigation.

  • Test themes for a device type before distributing apps to actual devices with the use of the BlackBerry Smartphone Simulator.

  •  

{mospagebreak title=The Composer}

Essentially, the Plazmic composer is a graphic design tool that developers can use to create animated content, such as web graphics, app splash screens, and customized theme icons — all of which of course are made specifically for BlackBerry handheld devices. This feature also enables developers to create content that utilizes rich content animation and sound, and even to make amazing interactive content, such as triggers, which start apps, hyperlinks, and object rollovers. This content can then be used to create fully customized screens that contain rich media content, which can also be adapted as web content in BlackBerry’s browser.

It should also be pointed out that the Plazmic composer can be used to customize lock and home screen themes using rich multimedia content.

Similar to the theme builder, the composer also has a workspace, which offers a view window to be used while manipulating content. The workspace also features a catalog for project resources, a tool box for drawing tasks, an animation editor for animating content, and windows for both working with and viewing layers and objects.

Much like the kit’s theme builder, the composer also has many benefits to offer developers looking to utilize rich media content in their apps. Some of these include:

  • The ability to develop content using animation and vector graphics. This content can also be used with themes you develop in Plazmic’s theme builder.

  • The ability to import .swf files into the composer for use in animated screens.

  • The ability to start apps using theme buttons featured in the composer.

  • The ability to test dynamic content for specific device types before distributing the content to other devices.

Incorporating rich media content into your apps and design will not only make you a better, more well-rounded developer, but it will also engage your users in a new and positive way. As you can see, BlackBerry has made it easier than ever to utilize rich media; now it’s just a matter of familiarizing yourself with the Plazmic Content Developer’s Kit and all it has to offer.

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