Viewing the Timeline Flash

The timeline graphically orders Flash content across two dimensions: time and depth.

  • Time: The sequence of frames is arranged horizontally, from left to right, as they appear in time. Thus, if your movie is set to 20 frames per second, frame 40 occurs at the 2-second point of your animation.
  • Depth: The timeline layers enable you to separate content on discrete layers. These layers are arranged vertically, from bottom to top. They also enable you to separate content from actions, comments, labels, and sounds. Any items placed on layers above will block out any items in layers beneath them, without otherwise affecting each other. In the editing environment, you can set layer visibility (the eye icon), editability (the lock icon), and the display mode regular or just outlines (the square icon). Note, however, that these settings do not affect the final movie: All layer content, regardless of visibility or outline settings, is included in the final movie.

At this point, it’s worth noting that Flash 5 occasioned several changes to the way the timeline works. These changes were designed to make frame spans more easily recognized and manipulated. (A frame span is the group of frames ranging from one keyframe to, but not including, the next.)

Because the frames between two keyframes do not add any new information to the movie, they really depend on the keyframes preceding them. Thus, in a logical sense, it’s reasonable to be able to select them as a singular entity (the keyframe and all of the frames that depend on it), rather than individually. This group selection also makes moving frame spans easier clicking a frame span turns the cursor into a hand and enables dragging.

The many features, options, and controls of the timeline shown below. As shown below, the principal parts of the timeline are:

  • Title Bar: This identifies the timeline if the timeline is not docked near the top of the screen.
  • Active Layer Toggle: This is more of an icon, really. To make a layer active, either click the layer’s name, or select a frame or group of frames. Then the pencil icon appears, indicating that the layer is now active that’s in addition to this more obvious clue: The Layer Bar of the active layer is black, whereas inactive Layer Bars are gray. Only one layer can be active at a time.
  • Show/Hide Layer Toggle: This is a true toggle. Click the dot beneath the eye icon to hide the contents of this layer from view on the stage. When the layer is hidden, a red X appears over the dot. To return the layer to visibility, click the X.
  • Lock/Unlock Layer Toggle: This toggle locks or unlocks the layer to either prevent (or enable) further editing. As with Show/Hide, when the layer is locked, a red X appears over the dot.
  • Because animation is the art of making things happen with pictures that change over time, the timeline might be considered the backbone of Flash. The timeline uses layers and frames to organize and control a movie’s contents.

    animation is the art of making things happen with pictures

  • Layer Color Toggle: This toggles the colored layer outlines on or off. When on, the dot changes into a small square outline of the same color as the outlines for the layer. When on, the items in the layer are displayed only as colored outlines, which can be useful for analyzing and finessing animated effects. The Layer Color can be changed with the Outline Color control of the Layer Properties dialog, which is accessed by choosing Modify➪Layer.
  • Playhead or Current Frame Indicator: The red rectangle with a line extending down through all layers is the Playhead. The Playhead indicates the current Frame. Drag it left or right along the timeline to move from one area of the timeline to another. Push it beyond the visible area to force-scroll the timeline. You can also drag the Playhead at a consistent rate for a preview of your animation; this is called “scrubbing the timeline.”
  • Timeline Header: The Timeline Header is the ruler that measures the time of the timeline each tick is one frame.
  • Frame View options button: This button, at the far right end of the timeline, accesses the Frame View options pop-up, which as shown below affords many options for the manner in which both the Timeline Header and the Frames are displayed.
  • Add Layer: Simply click this button to add a new layer above the currently active layer. By default, layers are given numeric names. Double-click the Layer name in the Layer Bar to change the name.
  • Add Guide Layer: Guide layers are used to move elements along a path.This button adds a Guide Layer directly above (and linked to) the currently active layer.
  • Delete Layer: This button deletes the currently active layer, regardless of whether it is locked. Of course, the final layer cannot be deleted.
  • Center Frame: Click this button to shift the timeline so that the current frame is centered in the visible area of the timeline.
  • Onion Skin: The Onion Skin feature enables you to see several frames of animation simultaneously.
  • Onion Skin Outlines: This enables you to see the outlines of several frames of animation simultaneously.
  • Edit Multiple Frames: Normally, onion skinning only permits you to edit the current frame. Click this button to make each frame between the Onion Skin Markers editable.
  • Modify Onion Markers: Click this button to evoke the Modify Onion Markers pop-up, as shown in Figure below. In addition to manual adjustments, the -options are used to control the behavior and range of onion skinning.
  • Current Frame: This indicates the number of the current frame. It’s most useful when working with small frame sizes, which, as shown in Figure below, can be specified from the Frame View options.
  • Frame Rate Indicator: This indicates the Frame Rate of the movie, measured in fps, or frames per second. Although the program default is 12 fps, usually 20 fps is a good starting point. The Frame Rate is specified in the Movie Properties dialog, which is accessed by choosing Modify➪Movie (Ctrl/ Command+M). You can also double-click the Frame Rate Indicator to invoke the Movie Properties dialog.
  • Elapsed Time: This indicates the total movie time, measured in fps, which would elapse from frame 1 to the current frame provided that the movie is played back at the specified speed.


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