Because the strength of Flash lies in its vector animation capabilities, it makes sense that Flash prefers vector-based material. Most Web-site visitors prefer quicker download speeds, and vector animations are much easier to store as small files than are raster graphics. As a result, Flash handles raster-based material with JPEG or lossless (a.k.a. PNG) compression schemes. In the past, Flash didn’t let you import digital video files into a Flash movie because they added too much to the file size, which prevented efficient compression and delivery on the Web. So, what do you do if you want to showcase your next blockbuster feature in your Flash movie? You compromise.
If you want visitors to get a taste of some raster-based animation, it’s best to select a short section of the overall movie and extract frames from that selection. In contrast to the coming sections, which discusses the process of exporting sequences from Flash movies, this section describes how to create still image sequences in other applications and bring them into Flash. If you want to accommodate visitors who are willing to wait for larger full-length movies, then you can then link the preview in Flash to load the entire QuickTime movie (or QuickTime movie reference), via HTML and the QuickTime plug-in, into its own window or frame. Generally, though, this method of digital video integration into Flash is used for visual effects or just really cool raster content you snagged on video, such as water ripples or textures.
This section covers a basic method of converting digital video content into a Flashfriendly sequence of frames. Even though Flash 4 or 5 enables you to place QT movies in a Flash movie, they do not export or link with a .SWF file. If you want to embed frames from a QuickTime movie in your Flash movie for playback on the Web, read the rest of the section.
Extracting frames from digital video clips
The premise of frame extraction is simple: Instead of downloading large video files with Flash content, reduce the video in frame size, rate, and length to something that Flash (and slow Internet connections) can handle.
Although QuickTime video cannot be imported into Flash as one video file (because Flash does not store video files in the current implementation of the .SWF format), Flash does support image sequences in bitmap formats. So, we can convert any video clip into a short sequence of still images that can play as an animation or movie clip in Flash.
The following tutorials/workshops assume that you have some working knowledge of the applications described herein. Also, you must have some existing digital video material; we do not create or edit any video in these tutorials. We recommend that you have QuickTime 4 or higher installed on your computer, as well as any updates to your video-editing application(s). At the time this book went to press, QuickTime 4.1.2 was available for both Windows and the Macintosh.
QT Player Pro
You don’t need an expensive video-editing application to extract frames from video clips. In fact, you can do it for less than $30! Apple’s QuickTime Player Pro (see Figure below) can export any QuickTime movie as a series of individual still frames, which can then be imported to Flash. You need the latest version of the QuickTime software (currently 4.0) to export image sequences.
After you have some QuickTime movie footage that you want to use in a Flash .SWF file, you can begin the process of selecting a range of frames and exporting them as a bitmap sequence. This sequence will then be imported into our Flash movie .FLA file.
Unfortunately, QT Player Pro does not show frame numbers in the time code display. As a result, you need to eyeball your selection. You can also use the additional video controls to move through the video clip frame by frame. The selection is indicated by a gray bar between the In and Out points. Using Movie➪Get Info and selecting Time from the pop-up you can view the time code of where your selection starts and its duration. A twosecond selection is made from a QuickTime video clip shows below.
The QuickTime 4 Player interface
Keep your selections as short as possible. Longer selections add substantial weight to the file size of the Flash .SWF file.
In the Save Exported File As dialog, choose Movie to Image Sequence as the Export type.
In the Export Image Sequence Settings, you can access the file type-specific settings, such as color depth or compression. Choose Millions of Colors if you don’t want to prematurely limit the color palette used for the image sequence.
Click OK to the BMP or PCT Options dialog, and then click OK again on the Export Image Sequence Settings dialog. Finally, click Save on the original Export Image Sequence to render your image sequence. QT Player Pro adds consecutive numbers to the end of each filename generated in the sequence. Flash can recognize file sequences with this kind of numbering. Now you have a collection of still images that can be imported into Flash. See “Importing a Sequence into Flash” later in this for instructions.
Adobe Premiere 5.1
Adobe Premiere is a cross-platform video-editing application used by serious hobbyists and professional videographers. Unlike proprietary video systems such as Avid, Premiere uses the QuickTime and/or the Video for Windows architecture for processing video. Premiere’s functionality extends from creating Web-based video to CD-ROM video to professional broadcast-quality video. You can also use Premiere to generate image sequences from existing projects or movies.
Use these Project Settings for DV format video that you want to export as an image sequence.
Use the Monitor window to set the In and Out points of the Movie Clip.
Build your video project in the timeline window. For an image sequence, put your Movie Clip on any video track at time 00:00:00:00, which is at the very beginning (far left) of the time scale.
Use these settings to export an image sequence that Flash can import.
On Mac, use PICT Sequence. You can also try Animated GIF if you don’t mind having the color palette of the sequence limited to 256 colors.
Otherwise, the field you specified in the New Project settings is used as when rendering the frame. De-interlacing is not recommended if you are scaling down any DV-format video that you want to convert to an image sequence. Meaning, if you’re outputting an image sequence at 720 × 480 (normal DV frame size), then you should turn de-interlace on. If you are outputting at any size smaller than the original interlaced video, then leave the de-interlace option off.
Adobe After Effects 4.1
Adobe After Effects is an extremely powerful video-compositing tool. You can think of After Effects as Photoshop for video. You can add custom filters and motion control to any graphic or video with After Effects. After Effects comes in two versions: regular (Standard) and professional (Production Bundle). The Production Bundle version of After Effects uses the exact same interface as the regular version, but it has superior filters for compositing video. While it’s easier to use Premiere or QT Player Pro to extract frames from a video clip, you can also use After Effects to do it. If you’ve already constructed a project in After Effects, it’s much easier to use it to extract a few frames from a larger project. Otherwise, you need to render the entire project and then go to another application, such as Premiere, to extract those frames from an already rendered (and possible very large) movie file.
Before we begin the steps to extract frames in After Effects, we briefly discuss the workflow in After Effects. Like Premiere, After Effects uses a Project window that links all your graphics, sounds, and video clips to compositions, or comps. A composition can be thought of as the real project container, but you can have more than one composition for a project. In fact, for some killer effects and presentations, comps are often nested within another comp. If you’ve used After Effects primarily for full-motion video effects, then this section shows you how to repurpose your video content for Flash.
Use the Work Area tabs in the Time Layout window to set the In and Out points of the image sequence.
Use the Render Settings options to control resolution, time span, and frame rate for image sequences.
The Output Module Settings control the file format, video, stretch, and audio characteristics for a queued composition.
Importing a sequence into Flash
After you have created an image sequence from another application, you can import the sequence into Flash as a series of keyframes with bitmaps. Flash can autoimport an entire sequence of numbered stills and place them frame by frame on the timeline.
Movie Clip storage
Rather than import an image sequence directly into a layer within a scene, you can import the sequence into a Movie Clip symbol. This makes it easier to duplicate an image-sequence animation through the Flash movie in any number of scenes.
Whenever you import a file whose names contains a number, Flash asks you whether you want to import the entire numbered sequence of files.
Like any imported bitmap, you can trace each bitmap in the image sequence. Tracing effectively converts raster information into vector information. Depending on the complexity of the bitmap image, though, the efficiency of tracing can vary wildly.
Flash Related Interview Questions
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Understanding The Flash Framework
Exploring The Interface: Panels, Settings, And More
Using Tools For Navigation And Viewing
Working With Selections And The Pen Tool
Working With The Drawing And Painting Tools
Working With Text
Exploring The Timeline
Checking Out The Library: Symbols And Instances
Drawing In Flash
Animating In Flash
Using Bitmaps And Other Media With Flash
Designing Interfaces And Interface Elements
Understanding Sound For Flash
Importing And Editing Sounds In Flash
Optimizing Flash Sound For Export
Understanding Actions And Event Handlers
Navigating Flash Timelines
Controlling Movie Clips
Sharing And Loading Assets
Planning Code Structures
Creating Subroutines And Manipulating Data
Understanding Movie Clips As Complex Objects
Sending Data In And Out Of Flash
Understanding Html And Text Field Functions In Flash
What Is Generator?
Revving Up Generator
Working With Third-party, Server-side Applications
Working With Raster Graphics
Working With Vector Graphics
Working With Audio Applications
Working With 3d Graphics
Working With Quicktime
Working With Realplayer
Creating Full-motion Video With Flash
Creating Cartoon Animation With Flash
Planning Flash Production With Flowcharting Software
Working With Authoring Applications
Publishing Flash Movies
Integrating Flash Content With Html
Using Players, Projectors, And Screensaver Utilities
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