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A math question

February 16, 1998
by Pat McClellan

Dear Multimedia Handyman,

I've been for weeks trying to get objects to move across the screen following a sine curve (or a wave line if this is a more accurate description). I have even bought a book on trigonometry. But I am still stumped! Can you help me some pointers as to how to integrate all these beautiful trigonometric functions in my code.

Thanks in advance,

Patrick Y Bousseton, pyb / at /

Dear Patrick,

For this question, I asked for some expert assistance from a Shockwave Trig programmer extraordinaire, Jim Collins. Jim responds:

Mercy, such a simple little questions that opens a rather largish can o' worms. Trig is a wonderful thing. Feared, misunderstood, under-utilised, under-estimated. There is quite frankly almost no path an object might travel in your wildest imagination, be it straight lines, curves, curls, spirals, corkscrews or any imaginable combination thereof, that can't be at the very least closely approximated with a little trig. Yet use of trig is widely shunned out of math paranoia or mistaken assumptions about the overhead.

Trig functions are routine and old hat on all platforms, and have over the years been optimized more than most any common math function. Director is no exception. Its trig is minimal, but fast and efficient. Try making some blob of pixels spin in a circle using the score and try the same thing with a little trig. It will not only move in a true circle, not some bulging, asymmetrical oblate spheroid, but it will be faster to boot. But I still see it pooh-poohed by people who really ought to know better.

Take sprite 1... to move it across the screen in a sinusoidal fashion understand that it will need a trig function applied to only one direction of it's motion, up and down. The sprite motion left to right is linear. Assuming it's just off to the left side of the stage we want to apply a simple linear function to move it horozontally

on enterFrame
  set the locH of sprite 1 to the locH of sprite 1 + 10

To handle the sinusoidal part you add a bit to the same enterframe handler to set the sprites vertical position based on a trig function. In this case just a simple SIN function is all you need. But to drive it to produce the smooth up and down you need to feed it an artificial angle value that varies over time. Innumerable ways to do that. It just needs to be a numerical value that changes at a constant rate over time, like say the sprites locH.

on enterFrame
  set the locH of sprite 1 to the locH of sprite 1 + 10
  set myAngle to the locH of sprite 1
  set the locV of sprite 1 to 100*SIN(myAngle) + 100

The first 100 is because a SIN function returns values between +1 to -1 which isn't very far to move so you use a simple multiplier to increase the vertical dimension of the sprites movement. Now the sprites vertical location will oscillate between -100 and +100. Since -100 is off the stage the second 100 added to locV in the enterframe handler simply shifts all the vertical movements up 100 pixels. So now the sprites vertical position will oscillate between 0 and 200 pixels.

The last step is trimming in that angle a bit. One complete cycle of a SIN function returning values from 0 to + 1 down to - 1 and back to 0 requires 360 degrees but in director and most programming languages angles are measured in radians. 2*pi() radians is = to 360 degrees. So to get our sprite to do once full SIN bounce we feed it an angle whose value ranges from 0 to 2*pi() or a little less than 6 and a half. Using the sprites locH as the angle will have our sprite bouncing up and down like crazy. He will do a complete bounce every time he moves horizonatlly 6.5 pixels. To slow his bouncing down a bit just add a divisor to the locH used for the angle:

on enterFrame
  set the locH of sprite 1 to the locH of sprite 1 + 10
  set myAngle to the locH of sprite 1/float(50)
  set the locV of sprite 1 to 100*SIN(myAngle) + 100

bigger divisor = smaller angle = slower bounce

Use SIN or COS for this sort of thing depending on where you want your sprite to start. Both osciallet between -1 and +1 and the same rate for a given rate of angular change. But SIN starts at 0 and COS at 1 (both for an angle of 0). You can use anything to feed in the artificial angle, it just should be something that changes at a constant rate, which you can control with a divisor. Time is good, set my angle to the ticks/float(20), or just keep a running counter that you initialize somewhere to say 0. Then

on enterframe
  set myAngle to myAngle + .2
  set the locH of sprite 1 to the locH of sprite 1 + 10
  set the locV of sprite 1 to 100*SIN(myAngle) + 100

Something smaller instead of .2 and he bounces slower, bigger he bounces faster.

Zav was kind enough to make the demo movie (HQX or ZIP). For those of you who can't deal with the D6 download, here's the critical code.

on AnimateALASin
  set background = 2
  set mySprite = 3
  set backgroundLoc = the loc of sprite background 
  set xMag = 20
  set yMag = 100
  set x = 0.0
  repeat while true
    set y = sin(x)
    set the loc of sprite mySprite = backgroundLoc ¬
      + point( x * xMag, - y * yMag)
    if x <= pi() * 2 then
      set x = x + .1
      exit repeat
    end if
    DoDelay 2
  end repeat

Thanks go to Jim and Zav for their help this week! Be sure to check out Jim's astounding and beautiful Shockwave work. TMH

Patrick McClellan is Director Online's co-founder. Pat is Vice President, Managing Director for Jack Morton Worldwide, a global experiential marketing company. He is responsible for the San Francisco office, which helps major technology clients to develop marketing communications programs to reach enterprise and consumer audiences.

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