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Limitations of the table only webcomic approach
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ShadowCaster
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Joined: 23 Sep 2003
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Location: France

PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2003 7:43 pm    Post subject: Limitations of the table only webcomic approach Reply with quote

I was rereading Scott Mc Cloud warlus improv a few minutes ago and realized some of the limitations of this approach. Don't get me wrong, he has proven it to be simple and effective when he wrote zot online, he also has proven with "the right number" that if he needs more he knows to change his methods.
What I wanted to point out is that you could do "table" comics without tables, and while they are thought graphically the same way, the viewer has much to gain. (and the writer much to suffer from the extra boaring tech effort)
In the warlus improv, the comic is to be read column by column but html tables specify cells line by line. This implies that the second pannel will start loading after half the images (the first line) are loaded (not exactly since browsers download more han 1 image at a time but close enough).
In the example there is a workaround : using tables within tables can force the images to come in the right order in the html source. If th reading pattern had been a spiral, such trick woudn't have been able.
There again, some scripting could have solved it : all the images on the spiral could be originnaly a single transparent file, and the script deals with the downloads and changes the images source as they are downloaded in the right order. Besides the relative complexity of it, it would probably disable the propper saving of the web page.
Using "div" with absolute psoitionning is a good solution. http://www.e-sheep.com/delta/ delta thives is a nice example.
Another use of this is image stacking. This can effectively reduce file size and increase images quality : Images using shades of color are much better compressed with jpg, but the bubbles that are generally composed with few colors and brutal color changes would suffer from a too strong jpg compression ratio, while degrading the overall compression ratio of the jpg. Having the bubbles in separate gifs solves the problem. These bubbles could be translucent or have anti aliassed borders if using pngs instead of gifs (this last statement is actually not true since IE for window does not support pngs semi transparency correctly yet. At least you can convert gifs to indexed color and full transparency png to gain 25% file size)
Stacking can be used in many different ways : in the warlus example, the room is almost the same in each pannel. The Empty room could be put in each pannel with images over them containing mostly transparent pixels, only those differnt from the original pannel being opaque. I guess the file size gain would be 80%.

My ... that was way too big a post, I'll try shorter next time.
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Greg Stephens
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Joined: 14 Apr 2001
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Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2003 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. I knew that "Delta Thrives" was a great comic (one of my all-time favorites), but I'd never even thought to turn off the style-sheet and look at it that way. A pretty good illustration of the power of CSS, for those who want to delve.
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Haze
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Joined: 22 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2003 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Image stacking sounds really interesting. I'd never thought of it before. but it could be very useful.
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Greg Stephens
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Joined: 14 Apr 2001
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2003 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't get to e-sheep at the moment to check, but I expect he also uses PNG images with alpha-transparencies. Maybe not, though, since MSIE for Windows doesn't do that very well, and he's a savvy web designer.

At any rate, using alpha-transparent PNGs in combination with CSS positioning stacked images would make for all sorts of fascinating possibilities.

Two links relevant to PNG and alpha transparency:

http://home.tephras.com/temp/PNG/

http://www.libpng.org/pub/png/pngs-img.html
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