Price: around £515
Hypnotizer.editor is a tool for creating interactive video for the Web and for CD- and DVD-based applications. We can already create great interactive content using Macromedia’s Director or Flash, but Hypnotizer.editor offers something a little different, enabling designers to overlay interactive elements such as banners, button, tape transport controls, menus or subtitles over existing movies in RealVideo, QuickTime and Windows Media formats. In order to achieve this, Hypnotizer doesn’t modify the source video in any way. Instead, it creates an XML script that’s interpreted by the Hypnotizer Web browser plug-in (a 900K download) which streams the video from the Web site, and overlays the interactive content. All of this content – whatever its format – is downloaded separately from the movie file itself. This does mean that the user has the hassle of downloading another plug-in player on top of RealPlayer, QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave and anything else installed in the browser, but this takes place automatically the first time a Hypnotizer file is encountered. Handling scripts On to the editor. It’s supposed to be an intuitive application to use, but I was slightly baffled at first by the layout – although after a couple of hours it started to become more familiar. Using Hypnotizer is a mixture of laying objects on top of the video and scripting events. I’m not really a coder by any means, but I soon managed to get the hang of triggering events associated with timers, mouse clicks, and rollovers. It’s actually a very clever system, and I’m sure other developers will be studying the way Hypnotizer works with intense interest. Making movies Making interactive videos can be quite simple – the creation of the associated GIFs, JPEGs and other content to be overlaid is what will take up most of your time. You can use the scripting to do more than just pop up windows: events can be included that open browser windows, you can create controls to pause, stop and start the video, and even create DVD-style chapter listings and jump to a specific frame or a specific time in the movie. My main criticism is that it’s difficult to time events accurately in the movie, you can’t scroll the movie file back and forth within the Scene window in order to determine the frame number or the time index. This means that you have to plan when your events are going to occur by watching the movie in another application to note timecode and/or frame numbers. On the other hand, streaming videos are rarely more than ten minutes in length, so it’s not that much of a drawback for small- to medium-scale projects on the Web; but it could be more of a problem for CD or DVD projects. Hypnotizer.editor 1.5 shows just what XML and scripting is capable of on the Web when coupled with a genuinely useful application. Once you get used to the way it works, you can build quality interactive presentations and movies faster and easier than you could ever have expected.