Digital storytelling made easy!

On my last article I’ve written about interactive infographics on tablets and the problem facing newsrooms around the world. Where previously newsrooms where able to produce such graphics for their online publications using Adobe’s Flash, for the iPad that knowledge was no longer useful. On the same article I mentioned a new software, named Hype, and promised to write about it. Here it is.

A previous word, when I started Digital Distribution I made a rule for myself that I would not do reviews of apps. Nevertheless, sometimes something comes around that is so important that gives me the excuse to break my own rules. The launch of Hype is such an important affair I think and so, I am more than happy to break the rules and write about this piece of software. 
The team behind Hype is Tumult Inc., a small company funded by Y Combinator (check this website for some sweet startup funding). Both founders of Tumult Inc. have worked previously on Apple. They are Jonathan Deutsch and Ryan Nielsen. I was lucky enough for Jonathan to find some time to answer some questions about Hype. You can read the short interview at the end of this article.

Presentations made, let’s get to it!

Hype is a Mac OS only simple software that allows users to make HTML5 animations and simple interactions without the need to write HTML code. Aimed (from the gallery examples, at least) specially for making simple websites, this software looks more like Flash Catalyst than like Flash Professional. And that is just fine because most interactive graphics can be done using Hype’s tool.

Within the software, you can create different scenes (think of it as different pages on a website) and different timelines. Hype offers the possibility for you to create buttons that navigate among the different scenes (with or without predefined transitions). Buttons can also trigger the launch of additional timelines.

What does this mean? For creating interactive graphics, you can set several pages and some navigation buttons to move forward and backward (use this for simple step-by-step storytelling, for example). If, on a certain page, you need a button to trigger an animation (for example, the flying route of a plane), you can use Hype’s action to launch a timeline (the timeline that has the plane’s flying route).
In Flash Professional terms this is like having the main timeline, with scenes stopped and navigated by buttons. On a given scene, if you want to launch something, you would use a moviecplip and a button to play it, that is what the different timelines on Hype can do.
Now think about most of the interactive graphics used on newspapers websites (or done by you). With this two simple tasks you can do a lot!
Of course, Hype is capable of much more. For example, doing an animation of an object, from one place to another, is really simple with the use of a record button on the software interface. The ‘programing’ of buttons and interactions is all done on a simple, well designed tool panel.

On Hype’s website there are two tutorial videos (one for Getting Started and another for Animations) and a small but effective Documentation section with some help for using the software. One main asset of Hype is this, it is so simple that after watching both videos I was able to start doing a simple interactive web element and the only two doubts I found when doing it where answered on the Documentation page. It’s that simple!
Now, imagine you wanted an automated slideshow for your iPad application (or website). There is a huge amount of software being sold out there to do this (I know, I’ve been looking around, because I wanted to use slideshows on my iPad applications). I did a five photos slideshow using Hype in a couple of minutes. Then I kept using Hype to make the previous mentioned interactive web element.
Testing everything I did on one of my browser was as simples as pushing one button. One new tab opens on my default Web browser and I can see and interact with my ongoing design. After making your stuff with Hype, exporting it to use on whatever you want is also very simple. Hype gives you the ability to export all the used assets onto a folder.

But I wanted to test it on the iPad. I am using Woodwing’s Digital Magazine solution for publishing some titles on the device. This publishing platform allows me to use web elements made with HTML and Java, widgets, and place them on a InDesign page. I then export the document and, if I want to test it on a real iPad (opposed to using Apple iPhone simulator), I upload the exported stuff to a delivery web server. It works fine and I believe its one of the best platforms out there for publishing on tablets without having to learn and write code. But for testing what I’ve just done using Hype on the iPad was somehow too much for me. What if I needed to make some changes?
Hype has a very clever way of allowing you to test on the iPad (or other devices) ‘on the run’. The software allows you to export what you are doing into a Dropbox folder! That is just sweet.

I am designing stuff on my Mac, I then export it into my Dropbox folder. On my iPad, I access the folder, chose the .html file and open it on Safari. Since Woodwing’s solution (and also Adobe’s and Quark’s solution for publishing on the iPad) uses Safari integrated inside their apps, if it works on Safari, it will also work inside my magazines or newspapers applications. After some fine tunning I uploaded everything onto Woodwing’s delivery web server and it worked inside one of my apps!
To sum it up, this is what you need to know if you are looking for a tool that works on the iPad and allows you to do most of the interactive infographics you usually do. Hype is so simple that anyone can use it, without any knowledge of HTML coding. It has some clever features that will make your life easier. Even if it is not the perfect tool yet, from my knowledge is the best yet that I’ve found. For it’s price of $29.99, it’s really worth giving it a try.
Hype still has so much space to grow. I wanted to know more about it and what is next on the roadmap so I send a couple of questions to Jonathan. Here are his answers:

Digital Distribution: Hype is available only on the Mac App Store. Are you expecting developing a Windows version? 

Jonathan Deutsch: We have no current plans to develop a Windows version, but are gauging interest

DD: Since the launch of the iPad, publishers have been looking for a tool that enables designers to create interactive graphics. Flash has been the king for this on publishers websites. Hype is a great help towards a HTML5 tool able to replace Flash, but it still lacks some helpful tools. What are your plans for the following releases of Hype?

JD: Sorry, we don’t comment on upcoming plans!

DD: As you know, Adobe’s tools are everywhere on the newsrooms. Photoshop and Illustrator are the main tools for designing graphics on print. Do you think we can expect Hype to work with native Adobe’s files, like PSD and AI

JD: Same as above, but of course we would like Hype to integrate with widely used file formats

DD: Digital storytelling is developing rapidly, more than ever with smartphones and tablets. How do you see this evolution and what are your expectations for Hype’s place on it?

JD: We think Hype is a great tool for digital story telling!  We made it easy to craft interactive and animated content and you do not have to write any code.  This puts the power to make digital pop-up books, animated comics, and visual novels in any storyteller’s hands.  Stories made with Hype will also work across a wide range of phones/tablets, so authors can reach more readers.

DD: For every publication typefaces are a big asset regarding the title’s brand. Services like Typekit allow publishers to design their online presence using fonts that aren’t system fonts. Do you expect that Hype will be able to allow designers to have the same liberty, without having to code? 

JD: Without commenting on upcoming plans, we agree that designers need to be able to use more than the “safe web fonts” to properly express themselves or to make beautiful sites.

DD: Thank you so much guys and keep up with the great work. Any last thoughts you want to share with us?

JD: We’re just looking forward to seeing what artists, designers, and storytellers are able to come up with using Hype!

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Comments
3 Responses to “Digital storytelling made easy!”
  1. I’ve been trying for sometime now to create a digital magazine that works on the iPad that also rivals the likes of Wired and other interactive magazines like that. Woodwing and Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite are both too expensive and require monthly costs. Do you think Hype can create a digital magazine that allows to same capabilities as something like Woodwing?

    • Hello and thank you for your comment. Doing something like the Adobe/Woodwing iPad magazines using Hype might be a little to hard working. I advise you to look at more inexpensive solutions like Aquafadas or Mag+.
      Sadly, there is still no easy and inexpensive way to produce high quality design for iPad magazines. He’ll get there, I’m sure.
      I hope this helps. Cheers

      • As I feared. I’ve been waiting for it “to get there” for awhile now. I was working on a web app that turned a website into an HTML5 magazine which is a really cool concept but it’s hard to do when you aren’t a coder. Was hoping Hype could help make up for that;) Hopefully someday soon the space will be democratized and we can all create. Thanks.

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