Adjusting Flash Movies for Video Output Flash

By default, Flash uses a frame rate of 12 fps for all new movies. Unless you have changed this setting with the Modify➪Movie command (Command+M or Ctrl+M), this is the setting for any Flash movie you have created so far. As mentioned earlier, broadcast (NTSC) video needs 30 fps (29.97 fps to be exact) for motion to be smooth and fluid. It may be necessary for you to add more blank frames between each of your tweened keyframes to accommodate a faster frame rate. Your 5-second intro to your Web site may have been possible with 70 or fewer frames, but now you need 300 frames for the same amount of time in full-motion video. Flash doesn’t support interlacing (or field-ordering) with any export method (see the “What Is Interlacing?” sidebar for an explanation of interlacing). As a result, you need twice the number of frames (double the frame rate) used for every second of NTSC video 59.94 fps to be exact to properly render full-motion video from Flash. It’s easier to use 60 fps in Flash and then conform the rendered sequence to 59.94 fps in the video-editing application.

If possible, restrict your Flash movie to one scene for video-editing purposes. Flash exports all scenes within a Flash movie into a sequence or QT/AVI movie, which may complicate the editing process later. It’s easier to make more Flash movies and render them independent of each other.

Frames stored in Movie Clips do not export with sequences. Make sure that you have either removed any Movie Clip symbols or that you have replaced them with the actual frames contained within the Movie Clip. To replace a Movie Clip symbol with the actual frames contained within it:

  1. Open the Movie Clip in the library, select the frames in the timeline.
  2. Copy the frames with the Copy Frames command (Command+Option+C or Ctrl+Alt+C) in the Edit menu.
  3. Go back to the Scene and paste the frames with the Paste Frames command (Command+Option+V or Ctrl+Alt+V). Paste the frames on their own layer, so that they won’t conflict with any tweens or settings in other layers.

You may also need to adjust your Flash movie’s pixel width and height. Depending on the type of video-editing software you are using, this setting needs to be 640 × 480, 720 × 534, or something else. Again, use the Modify➪Movie command to adjust the size of your Flash movie. You can notice that adjusting pixel sizes of the Flash movie doesn’t have the same effect as changing pixel heights or widths of raster-based images. Usually, adjusting pixel sizes will distort or change the shape of elements.

With Flash, the movie’s pixel size is independent of the pixel sizes of any elements it may contain. You’re simply adding or subtracting space to the movie area. If you intend to bring the sequence into another video-editing application such as Premiere and you are outputting with the DV format, a movie size of 720 × 534 should be used.

Why? The DV format uses nonsquare pixels delivering the same 4:3 aspect ratio with 720 × 480 as other video formats do with only 640 × 480 square pixels. By using 720 × 534 movie sizes, the frame can be stretched to fit a 720 × 480 DV workspace without losing any resolution quality. It’s better to adjust the size before you export any material intended for broadcast video delivery (or for transfer to any NTSC recording media), especially with raster formats. Not only does this ensure optimal quality, it could easily lessen the time during video rendering in other applications.

Not only do you need to have the proper frame size for high-quality video output, but you also need to be aware of overscanning. TV sets overscan video images, which means that information near the edges of the frame may be cropped and not visible. Because the amount of overscan is inconsistent from TV to TV, some general guidelines have been developed to make sure vital information in the frame is not lost. The crux of the guidelines is simple: Don’t put anything important (such as text) near the edges of the frame. Video has two safe zones: title-safe and actionsafe.

To see these zones on a sample movie in Flash. The action-safe zone is approximately 90 percent of the 720 × 534 (or 640 × 480) frame size we’re using in Flash, which calculates into 648 × 480 (or 576 × 432). All of your Flash artwork should be contained with the limits of the action-safe zone. The title-safe zone is about 80 percent of the total frame size. For a 720 × 534 frame size, any text on the Flash stage should fall within the borders of a 576 × 427 centered frame. With a 640 × 480 frame size, this centered frame size would be 512 × 384.

While designing for broadcast content in Flash, you should always be aware of the safe-zone boundaries for NTSC video playback.

While designing for broadcast content in Flash, you should always be aware of the safe-zone boundaries for NTSC video playback.

Finally, you may need to adjust the colors and artwork you used in your Flash movie. NTSC video, while technically 24-bit, doesn’t display some colors very well. In general, bright and saturated RGB colors tend to bleed on regular TV sets. Here are some guidelines for using broadcast (and WebTV)-safe color:

  • Avoid one-pixel-wide horizontal lines. Because NTSC is interlaced, this line flickers constantly. If you need to use thin lines, try blurring a one-pixel line or simply never use anything less than a two-pixel stroke width.
  • Do not use very fine textures as they may flicker and bleed at the edges. Because most NTSC monitors have low-quality resolutions, the fine details are lost anyway.
  • Avoid using any color that uses any color channel’s maximum intensity. Use a NTSC color filter on any bitmap art, such as the NTSC Colors filter in Adobe Photoshop. Full red (R: 255, G: 000, B: 000) displays horribly on TV sets.
  • Replace a full red with R: 181, G: 000, B: 000. Pure white backgrounds should also be avoided and replaced with R: 235, G: 235, B: 235. Like red, pure white can cause annoying screen flicker, especially if high contrast objects are placed against the white. As a rule of thumb, keep your RGB values within the 16 to 235 range, instead of 0 to 255. Although Photoshop’s NTSC Colors filter actually allows certain 255 values to be used, you should only use these values if they do not occupy large solid areas in the Flash movie.

  • Use the NTSC & Web Safe color set (ntsc_web_179.act file) on the Flash 5 Bible CD-ROM. Of the 216 Web-safe color palettes, only 179 of them are NTSC/WebTV safe. NTSC TV sets are capable of displaying more colors than that, but if you’re used to working with Web color palettes, then you may find this optimized palette handy. There’s another color set file, ntsc_213_colors.act on the CD-ROM that you can use if you’re just taking Flash content to video, which has 213 NTSC-safe colors, converted from the 216 Web-safe colors. Because 35 colors of this set are outside of the Web-safe colors, you should not use this palette for Web and broadcast work.
  • If you are using video-editing software that allows both color and levels corrections on imported clips, then you might avoid time-consuming adjustments to your Flash movie. After you have generated a Flash sequence and imported the sequence into your video-editing application, restrict the gamut of the sequence clip using the values in the preceding tips.

How Photoshop’s NTSC Colors filter remaps the saturated values of the Web-safe color palette see below.

Ntsc color conversion chart

Ntsc color conversion chartNtsc color conversion chart

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