Testing Flash Movies - Flash

You have three ways to test your Flash movies: in the authoring environment of Flash 5 using the Test Movie and Scene commands, in a browser using the Publish Preview command, or in the standalone Flash Player using Flash files (.SWF) made with the Export Movie command. There are several reasons why you should test your Flash movie before you transfer Flash movies to your Web server (or to the intended delivery medium):

  • Flash .FLA files have much larger file sizes than their .SWF file counterparts. To accurately foretell the network bandwidth that a Flash movie requires, you need to know how large the final Flash movie will be. If the download demand is too overwhelming for your desired Internet connection speed (for example, a 28.8 Kbps modem), then you can go back and optimize your Flash movie.
  • The Control➪Play command in the Flash authoring environment does not provide any streaming information. When you use the Test Movie or Scene command, you can view the byte size of each frame, and how long it will take to download the .SWF from the Web server.
  • Movie Clip animations and actions targeting Movie Clip instances cannot be previewed using the standard Control➪Play command (or the Play button on the Controller) in the Flash authoring environment.
  • Most scripting done with Flash 5 actions, such as loadMovie, loadVariables, and startDrag, cannot be previewed with the Play command.
  • Enabling Frame Actions or Buttons in the Control menu has no effect with new scripting actions. You need to use Test Movie to try out most interactive functions in a Flash movie.
  • Accurate frame rates cannot be previewed with the Play command (Control➪ Play) in the authoring environment. Most complex animations appear jerky, pausing or skipping frames when the Play command is used.

Using the Test Scene or Movie command
You can test your Flash movies directly within the Flash 5 interface by using the Control➪Test Movie or Test Scene command. When you choose one of these commands, Flash opens your Flash movie in a new window as a Flash .SWF movie. Even though you are only “testing” a Flash movie, a new .SWF file is actually created and stored in the same location as the Flash .FLA file. For this reason, it is a good idea to always save your Flash file before you begin testing it.

Before you use the Test Scene or Movie command, you need to specify the settings of the resulting Flash .SWF movie. The Test Scene or Movie command uses the specifications outlined in the Publish Settings dialog to generate .SWF files. The Publish Settings dialog is discussed later. For the time being, we can use the Flash 5 default settings to explore the Test Scene and Movie commands.

Test Movie
When you choose Control➪Test Movie (Command+Enter or Ctrl+Enter), Flash 5 generates a .SWF file of the entire Flash .FLA file that is currently open. If you have more than one Flash movie open, Flash creates a .SWF file for the one that is currently in the foreground and that has “focus.”

Test Scene
If you are working on a lengthy Flash movie with multiple scenes, you want to test your scenes individually. You can do this by using Control➪Test Scene (Option+ Command+Enter or Ctrl+Alt+Enter). The process of exporting entire movies via Test Movie may require many minutes to complete, whereas exporting one scene will require a significantly smaller amount of time. As is shown in the next section, you can analyze each tested scene (or movie) with the Bandwidth Profiler.

How to use the Bandwidth Profiler
Do you want to know how long it will take for a 28.8 Kbps modem to download your Flash movie or scene? How about a 36.6 Kbps modem? Or a 56 Kbps modem? Or a cable modem? The Bandwidth Profiler enables you to simulate any download speed. To use the Bandwidth Profiler, you first need to create a test movie or scene. When you create a .SWF file with the Control➪Test Movie or Scene commands, Flash opens the .SWF file in its own Player window.

View menu
The Test Movie or Scene viewing environment changes the View and Control menus. The first four commands in the View menu are the same as those of the Flash Player plug-in viewing controls:

  • Zoom In: Selecting this option enlarges the Flash movie.
  • Zoom Out: Selecting this option shrinks the Flash movie.
  • Magnification: This submenu enables you to change the zoom factor of the movie. The .SWF movie is displayed at the original pixel size specified in the Modify➪Movie dialog when 100 percent (Ctrl+1 or Command+1) is the setting.
  • For example, if the movie size is 500 × 300 pixels, it takes up 500 × 300 pixels on your monitor. If you change the size of the viewing window, the movie may be cropped. The lower section of this submenu enables you to change the viewable area of the Flash movie. Show Frame (Ctrl+2 or Command+2) will show only the frame boundary area in the Player window. Show All (Ctrl+3 or Command+3) shrinks or enlarges the Flash movie so that you can view all the artwork in the Flash movie, including elements off stage.

  • Bandwidth Profiler: To view the Bandwidth Profiler in this new window, use View➪Bandwidth Profiler (Ctrl+B or Command+B). The .SWF movie shrinks to accommodate the Bandwidth Profiler.
    • The left side of the profiler displays three sections: Movie, Settings, and State. Movie indicates the dimensions, frame rate, size (in KB and bytes), duration and preload (in number of frames and seconds). Settings displays the current selected connection speed (which is set in the Debug menu). State shows you the current frame playing and its byte requirements, as well as the loaded percent of the movie.
    • The larger right section of the profiler shows the timeline header and graph. The lower red line beneath the timeline header indicates whether a given frame streams in real-time with the current modem speed specified in the Control menu. For a 28.8 Kbps modem, any frame above 200 bytes may cause delays in streaming for a 12 fps movie. Note that the byte limit for each frame is dependent on frame rate. For example, a 24 fps movie has a limit of 120 bytes per frame (for a 28.8 Kbps modem connection).
    • When the Bandwidth Profiler is enabled, two other commands are available in the View menu: Streaming Graph (Ctrl+G or Command+G) and Frame-By-Frame Graph (Ctrl+F or Command+F).
  • Show Streaming: When Show Streaming is enabled, the Bandwidth Profiler emulates the chosen modem speed (in the Control menu) when playing the -Flash movie. The Bandwidth Profiler counts the bytes downloaded (displayed in the Loaded subsection of the State heading), and shows the download/play progress via a green bar in the timeline header.
  • Streaming Graph: By default, Flash opens the Bandwidth Profiler in Streaming Graph mode. This mode indicates how the Flash movie streams into a browser. Alternating light and dark gray blocks represent each frame. The size of each block indicates its relative byte size. For our bandwidth.swf example, all the frames will have loaded by the time our playhead reaches frame 22.
  • The Streaming Graph indicates how a movie will download over a given modem connection.

    The Streaming Graph indicates how a movie will download over a given modem connection.

  • Frame-By-Frame Graph: This second mode available to the Bandwidth Profiler lays each frame side by side under the timeline header . Although the Streaming Graph enables you to see the real-time performance of a .SWF movie, the Frame-By-Frame Graph enables you to more easily detect which frames are contributing to streaming delays. If any frame block goes beyond the red line of the graph (for a given connection speed), then the Flash Player halts playback until the entire frame downloads. In the bandwidth. swf example, frame 1 is the only frame that may cause a very slight delay in streaming. The remaining frames are right around 200 bytes each below our threshold of 240 bytes per frame for a 56 Kbps modem connection playing a 20 fps Flash movie.
  • The Frame-By-Frame Graph shows you the byte demand of each frame in the Flash movie.

    The Frame-By-Frame Graph shows you the byte demand of each frame in the Flash movie.

Control menu
Use the Control menu to play (Return) or rewind (Option+Command+R or Ctrl+Alt+R) the test movie. Rewinding pauses the bandwidth.swf movie on the first frame. Use the Step Forward (>) and Step Backward (<) commands to view the Flash movie frame by frame. If a Flash movie doesn’t have a stop() action on the last frame, the Loop command forces the player to infinitely repeat the Flash movie.

Debug menu
The Debug menu also features commands that work in tandem with the Streaming and Frame-By-Frame Graphs:

  • 14.4, 28.8, 56K: These settings determine what speed the Bandwidth Profiler uses to calculate estimated download times and frame byte limitations. Notice that these settings use more practical expectations of these modem speeds. For example, a 28.8 modem can theoretically download 3.5 kilobytes per second (KB/sec), but a more realistic download rate for this modem speed is 2.3KB/sec.
  • User Settings 4, 5, and 6: These are user-definable speed settings. By default, they are all 2.3KB/sec.
  • Customize: To change the settings for any of the modem speeds listed previously, use the Customize command to input the new value(s).

Using the size report
Flash also lets you view a text-file summary of movie elements, frames, and fonts called a size report. In addition to viewing Frame-By-Frame Graphs of a Flash movie with the Bandwidth Profiler, you can inspect this size report for other “hidden” byte additions such as font character outlines. This report can only be generated when using the Export Movie or Publish commands.

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