Valorem Consulting

| Tags: Evan Lang, WPF

originally posted by Evan Lang: (link) - please comment at original post

We at IdentityMine typically use AGILE team strategy that Microsoft rather effectively beats into your head when you use TFS to manage anything. Nothing wrong with it, certainly, but I’ve found that as a visual effects developer, my integration into the team process is… unusual.

A visual effects developer, more than anything, needs to pay attention to the needs of the designers. In this sense, developing effects is very similar to developing custom controls (in fact, many effects could be implemented as custom controls). Often times, visual effects don’t get added to a project until fairly late in the development process. That said, special effects are as much a part of the design as the style and theme you see in comps. In a perfect world they need to be thought of and planned for by the designers, fairly early on in the process, just as a custom control would.

That’s where things get tricky. WPF has done a fantastic job of opening up the world of user interaction so that designers really feel that the sky’s the limit. We hear all the time “What if you had a list that scrolled like this?” “What if the user could use that gesture to do it?” “What if the windows are laid out like this?” Truly natural UI is born from the ability to think freely on the subject without feeling constrained, and IdentityMine has made a name for itself doing just that.

The exact same thing could be said of special effects, but WPF and Silverlight both are much more limited in that area than in user interaction. Designers feel they have RenderTransform, DropShadow, OpacityMask, and gradients to play with, but not much else. With ShaderEffects and D3DImages this assumption is no longer true, but when a new application gets designed, these constraints are already built in to the earliest wireframes and comps. Since, as the visual effects developer, I tend to be the only one fully aware of the range of possibilities, it’s typically left up to me to think of something to incorporate into the app, and find a way to wedge it in there. Obviously this isn’t optimal, since I’m not a designer (I remember seeing a mood board for the first time and realizing just how differently devs and designers processed things).

Going forward, visual effects developers need to meet with designers early and often, and work to give them a feel for what they are really capable of. The ideal scenario would work exactly like the custom control scenario does: designer thinks “Hey, what if that button animated like this when you press it?” and the developer goes off and puts together a special image or effect to make it happen.

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