Adding Sound to the Timeline Flash

In addition to the use of sounds to enhance the interactivity of buttons, another popular use of sound in Flash is to provide a background “score.” The simplest way to achieve this is to place the sound within its own layer in the timeline, at the precise frame in which you want the sound to begin. To do this, you must first import the sound and also create a new layer for it.

Adding sound files to the timeline is similar to assigning sound to a button. To add sounds to a movie’s timeline, follow these steps:

  1. Add a new layer to the timeline and label the layer with the name of the sound.
  2. Create a keyframe on the sound layer at the frame where you want the sound to begin.
  3. With that keyframe selected, either (a) right-click/Ctrl+click the selected frame, choose Panels from the ensuing contextual pop-up, and then choose Sound; or (b) proceed from the menu with Window➪Panels➪Sound. You should now have the new Flash 5 Sound Panel open. (See how similar this is to the methodology for adding sound to a button?)
  4. If you remembered to import the sound that you want to use, you can now choose that sound clip from the Sound drop-down menu. If you find yourself stuck at this point, review the preceding steps and/or retrace your steps through the methodology for adding sound to a button.
  5. From the Event pop-up, choose how the sound should be handled by Flash. The Event pop-up offers several preset effects, plus custom, which invokes the Edit Envelope. For no special effect, choose None. For more about the Event presets and the Edit Envelope, refer to the subsequent section, “Applying Effects from the Effect Pop-up of the Sound Panel.”
  6. From the Sync pop-up, choose one of four options Event, Start, Stop, or Stream to control how you want to the sound to be synchronized. (See the next section for a detailed explanation of Sync options.)
  7. Specify how many times you want the sound to loop. To loop indefinitely, enter a high number, such as 999. (For specific information about looping stream sounds, refer to the next section.)
  8. Perform any last minute editing or finessing of the sound file. Then return to the Main Timeline and save your work.

Your sound is now part of the timeline. Its waveform is visible on the layer to which it was added. Test your sound by pressing Enter on your keyboard, which plays the timeline. Or, for sound with a Sync setting of Stream, manually “scrub” the sound by dragging the Playhead across the timeline. To perform the most accurate test of the sound, use either Control➪Test Scene or Control➪Test Movie to see and hear it as a .SWF file.

Organizing sounds on the timeline
There is no technical limit to the number of sound layers; each layer functions like a separate sound channel, and Flash mixes them on playback. (This capability of Flash might be considered an onboard, economy sound mixer.) There is, however, a practical limit, because each sound layer increases the movie’s file size, while the mix of multiple sounds may burden the computer it’s being run on.

Enhanced viewing of sound layers
Because sound is different from other types of Flash content, some users find that increasing the layer height of the sound layers eases working with multiple sounds in the timeline. That’s because a taller layer height provides a better visual cue due to the unique waveforms of each sound. To increase the layer height for individual layers:

  1. Right-click/Ctrl+click the layer bar, and then choose Properties from the contextual pop-up.
  2. At the bottom of the ensuing Layer Properties dialog, change the layer height from the default 100 percent to either 200 or 300 percent.
  3. Note that these percentages are relative to the settings chosen in the Frame View Options pop-up. For an actual example of this, open the file titled, jwl_silly_soundtest.fla, located in the ch15 folder on the CD-ROM in the counting 123 folder.

Organizing sound layers with a mask
A helpful trick for organizing sounds is to use a Mask layer. Because Flash doesn’t have a utility to group, nest, or collapse multiple sound track layers (or other content, for that matter), a Mask layer (or a Guide layer) can be used to achieve a similar result. Here’s how:

  1. Create a new empty layer above the sound track layers.
  2. From the layer bar, right-click/Ctrl+click to open the Layer Properties dialog.Give it a meaningful name, such as Sound Gang, and change the layer type to Mask. (Leave this Mask layer empty.) Click OK.
  3. Drag each of the sound track layers up to the Sound Gang layer. They’ll indent beneath the Sound Gang layer, neatly organizing sound content within the timeline.


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