Finding Applications for Flash 5 Movies Flash

A Flash movie can be many things, depending on the function and design of a project. Because Flash has only just hit its adolescence, things are definitely getting interesting. Already Flash has unforeseen relationships with all forms of communication, around the world. And Flash’s popularity continues to grow, unabated. But that’s all based on Flash 4!

If you were to compare the functionality of a Flash 4 movie to that of a Flash 5 movie, you’d agree that, yet again, Flash movies have come a long way but in an even shorter time than when we last said that. There’s already an impressive legacy of Flash movies and we don’t usually refer to youths as having a legacy. Here’s a short list of the (known) possibilities for Flash 5:

  • A splash page animation for a Web site
  • An interactive map
  • An interactive form on a Web page
  • An interactive database that sends and retrieves information with server-side scripts; this has been a function since Flash 4
  • A live, multiuser game or chat with XML sockets that allows real-time communication between Internet users
  • An online jukebox that can play MP3 audio that is delivered dynamically via Macromedia’s Generator 2 application
  • Stand-alone Web applications check out the calculator sample in the Flash Samples menu
  • Entire Web sites, presented without any HTML-based graphics or textual content which means absolute control over scaling and placement of items, including fonts
  • Interactive art presentations that involve 3D transformations and multiuser experiences
  • Web installation art that offers access to high-quality bitmapped artwork and rich audio experiences
  • Interactive QuickTime Flash movie trailers that allow user feedback while watching
  • Stand-alone Presentations or Slide Shows on either CD-ROM or floppy disk
  • With the help of third-party tools, screensavers for both Windows and Macintosh made from Flash movies
  • Web cartoons in the last 18 months, there has been an explosion of Flash cartooning
  • Broadcast-quality cartoons of which Turnertoons’ Weber, The Murkeys and Richard Bazley’s Journal of Edwin Carp are groundbreaking examples
  • As a platform for QuickTime editing and enhancements there’s a world of possibilities in the synergy of QuickTime and Flash 5 (We have developed workflows about which even Macromedia said, “It can’t be done.”)
  • Flash movies can be integrated into a larger Shockwave Director movie that can play QuickTime movies, MIDI audio, and other media formats that Flash doesn’t support

As you can probably tell from this list, if you can imagine a use for Flash, it can probably be accomplished.

Planning interactive Flash projects
Before you attempt to construct interactive projects in Flash, you should be familiar with the structure of the authoring environment. Even if you already know Flash 4, this is advisable. That’s because with the release of Flash 5, Macromedia has again added many new features to the interface, and either moved or improved other features and functionalities. So, to get a firm footing with the new interface, we strongly suggest that you work your way through this book from the beginning.

Moreover, you need to proactively plan your interactive projects before you attempt to author them in Flash. An ounce of preplanning goes a long way during the production process. Don’t fool yourself the better your plan looks on paper, the better it will perform when it comes to the final execution.

How Flash movies are made up of individual scenes that shows below, in turn, contain keyframes to describe changes on the Stage. What you can’t see in the figure is the efficiency created (or time saved) by being able to share Flash Libraries between Flash projects (.FLA files) and by linking other Flash movies to a parent Flash movie using the Load Movie action.. Before you start to try to do that level of interactivity, though, you need to know the difference between Flash movies and .SWF movies.

Looking at Flash movie file types
Flash movie (.FLA) files are geared to work in an efficient authoring environment. Within this environment, content can be organized into scenes, and the ordering of scenes can be rearranged throughout the production cycle. Layers provide easy separation of graphics within each scene, and, as guide or mask layers, they can also aid drawing or even provide special effects. The timeline shows keyframes, motion and shape tweens, labels, and comments. All imported bitmaps and sounds are stored in the Flash Library (which can be shared with other Flash movie files). The quality of these Library files (or symbols) is identical to that of the originals.

Elements of the Flash Environment

Elements of the Flash Environment

However, when a Flash movie (.FLA) is exported to a Small Web Format file (.SWF), much of this information is discarded in order to create small .SWF files (or as small as possible) for network delivery (for example, the Internet or intranets). In fact, just about everything that’s stored in the original FLA file will be transformed in some way. The elements in the Library are loaded and stored on the first frame of their use while unused Library elements are simply discarded. (They are not exported to the .SWF file.) Thus, for maximum efficiency, elements that are reused are saved into the .SWF file only once because they are referenced from one location in the SWF file. Layers and scenes are “flattened” in the order that is established in the .FLA file. In other words, the .SWF file contains the all the elements from the original .FLA in one layer, controlled by a single timeline. Technically, .SWF files are not compressed like ZIP or SIT/HQX files only individual bitmaps and sounds are compressed according to the settings specified for each element in the Library and/or during the export process. For a graphic explanation of the characteristics of the Shockwave Flash movie (.SWF) Format see below.

How a Shockwave Flash movie works

How a Shockwave Flash movie works

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