Mark R. Johnson


[Interactive Screens]
[Amateur Recording]
[24 Hours]




Narration & Dialogue

In addition to having the panels fade into place in the linear order of the comic book, the text balloons were also designed to appear one at a time or in small groups based on the intended reading order. This addresses the same mapping problem as the panel transitions in that they add visual appeal and motion, and it suffers from the same problem in that it limits the freedom of the reader to read the text out of order.

Figure 5. Example of text balloon transitions, appearing one at a time, in sequence.

However, it may also be considered an augmentation since the text of "24 Hours" was already implemented in a manner that shows clear intentionality with respect to the order in which the text is to be read. First, the creators were extremely careful (more so than is usually found in contemporary comics) about the placement of word balloons such that they follow a strict left-to-right, top-to-bottom reading order. Second, the story itself is built around the passage of time as a central theme -- it is divided into twenty-four sections labeled "Hour 1," "Hour 2," etc., and all of the narration and dialogue follows that timeline in a strict, linear fashion. In fact, the periodic nature with which the panels and text balloons are drawn in 24 Hours helps to establish a rhythm to the project, much like the ticks of a clock.

The lettering and word balloons in "24 Hours" also use a wide range of visual cues other than placement in order to describe the intention of the text. Rectangular word balloons, for example, indicate narration, round ones dialogue. Pointed outlines indicate voices and sounds from a television. Text is bolded to indicate words of emphasis, and color is used to distinguish between text from the narrator and narration told by a character within the comic. By animating the display of word balloons, further cues can be added to define the order and purpose of the text. For example, in 24 Hours, narration boxes fade in, whereas dialogue balloons simply pop into view. The result is a presentation that more resembles a cinematic performance than a static text.

In order to make the sequential appearance of word balloons work, it was necessary to carefully control the timing between them. A word balloon should appear on the screen and remain there just long enough for it to be read before the next balloon appears. If the delay is too short, the appearance of the second balloon could be distracting for the reader. If the delay is too long, the reader may quickly grow annoyed as he or she must constantly wait for the computer to catch up. For this reason, several custom scripts were created to ensure that the timing would be appropriate for the text, and that it would be adjustable for those with different reading speeds. As a result, the computer feeds out the text in time with when the reader expects it. (See "Custom Timing Layer" below.)

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Last modified 6/11/97.