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26.3. Creating Flash Movies

Full-featured Flash movies are best created using Macromedia's Flash software. Obviously, it is beyond the scope of this book to teach the ins and outs of Flash authoring, so I recommend using the tutorials that come with the software as well as support documents provided by Macromedia (http://www.macromedia.com/support/flash/). For an incredibly thorough book of tutorials and reference material, check out Flash 5 Bible by Robert Reinhardt and Jon Warren Lentz (Hungry Minds, 2001).

26.3.2. Flash Interface Basics

As noted earlier, it is beyond the scope of this book to teach Flash. However, it is useful to be generally acquainted with the Flash authoring environment. Figure 26-1 shows the core features of the Flash interface as seen on a Macintosh (the Windows version is nearly the same). The following is a brief introduction to the way Flash handles multimedia content.

Figure 26-1

Figure 26-1. The Flash interface


The Stage is the area where you compose and preview the movie.


The elements on a timeline may be stored on separate layers (similar to layers in image editing tools). Layers in Flash control the arrangement of objects from background to foreground, support masking, enable motion and shape tweening, and contain guide elements, frame labels, and actions.


Flash movies need only have one scene, but smart developers use scenes to better organize content. Scenes will play in sequential order by default. They may also be scripted to play based on user input (called an Action), like a rollover or a button click.


The Timeline is where you control the timing of the animation and assemble the elements from separate layers.


Like film, Flash movies divide lengths of time into individual frames. A keyframe is a frame in which you define a change in the animation. Static frames reflect no change and merely repeat the content of the prior frame. Animation effects are added by changing content over a series of frames. The most efficient (both in terms of production time and processing power) method for adding animation is tweening, in which you create the beginning and end keyframe images and allow Flash to automatically create all the frame "in between."


The Library is where you store all imported items (such as images and audio) and symbols, Flash objects that you want to use repeatedly in the same movie (such as a button shape with its various interactive states). When you place a symbol on the Stage, you create an instance of that symbol.


The Controller contains the typical buttons for playing, pausing, and stepping through the frames of a movie when previewing it on the Stage.


The Toolbox contains all the tools for drawing, painting, selecting, viewing, and modifying artwork. Additional tools are available in individual floating panels that can be shown, hidden, or collapsed into a small bar until needed.

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