With CS4, Flash has finally turned the corner from a code-based authoring tool with an interactive animation element, to a designer-friendly space for illustrators to intuitively draw animation. Yes, draw animation—by shaping the path of an illustration the same way an artist would draw a vector path in Adobe Illustrator. The new Flash identity is immediately apparent in its new default layout. The change is both functional and symbolic. Underlying the new look is a new logic and model for generating animation.
Intuitive animation tools Central to the transformation of Flash is the emergence of object-based animation. This means that animation properties are now assigned to, and edited as graphic objects, rather than residing in the movie frame that hosts the object. The change is profound—since the emergence of Flash from the Shockwave evolutionary tree, generating and editing animation has been rooted in defining frames and in particular, pivotal frames called keyframes in the Timeline, and enhancing them with ActionScripts.
Now, a designer can create a complex animation without even knowing what a frame or a keyframe is. Flash CS4 does not do away with the Timeline, frames, keyframes, and scripting. But these elements are now submerged beneath new intuitive and accessible tools.
An analogy to Dreamweaver is helpful here: The heart and soul of Flash—and this is more so in CS4—is moving animation motion tweens. To create this kind of animation in Flash CS4, you no longer start by defining starting and ending frames, and inserting keyframes where the animation changes direction.
Instead, you simply draw on the stage, as if you were designing an illustration on the Illustrator artboard. When you Control-click on any object, the contextual menu allows you to generate a motion, or a shape tween animation. And Flash automatically converts your object to a ready-to-animate symbol. You then drag the object on the stage to generate an animation path. The resulting animation path can be edited on the stage like any vector path. You can control an animation on the Flash CS4 stage.
Tweak the path of the animation by editing the vector line that defines the animation's motion. To return to the Dreamweaver analogy—the frames, keyframes, and ActionScript coding generated as you create an animation on the stage in Flash CS4 are all still editable the old-fashioned way, so users who are comfortable with these modes of defining and editing animation can still use them, with no loss of functionality, from previous versions of Flash.
Learn more about macOS Catalina ] Illustrator influence The Flash interface now so resembles that of Illustrator that I find myself sometimes referring to the stage as the artboard—Illustrator's terminology for a drawing area.
Like Illustrator or Photoshop, Flash CS4 allows you to isolate an object by showing and hiding layers. As was the case with Flash CS3, when you copy and paste Illustrator layer objects, the layers import along with the artwork. Similarly, Illustrator symbols import automatically as easily animated movie clips. And the Flash tool set now more closely matches the tools in Illustrator and Photoshop. Building on, and launching from this reconceptualization of animation, Flash CS4 provides a set of additional tools that have both immediate implications for animators, and give a hint of things to come.
The feature with the greatest impact might be the 3D Rotation tool. The inner and outer rotation circles provide about as intuitive access to 3-D rotation as 3-D gets—no scripting or digital input required. Flash CS4 provides access to complex, not particularly intuitive, but powerful motion controls with the new Motion Editor appearing as a tab in the Timeline panel , which provides a control set and environment similar to After Effects.
With Flash CS4, non-coders can not only generate complex animations, they access a set of motion presets that can be used to quickly apply common animation sequences like a bouncing ball, a fly-in object, or pulsing to objects. And custom motion presets can be defined and reused—again without any scripting. The stage has been elevated to the top of the workspace in Flash CS4, and assumes a greater role in defining animation. Bone structure Along with object-based animation and interactive 3-D transformations, the coolest new feature in Flash CS4 might be the Bone Tool, which uses Inverse-Kinematics IK to generate animation resembling a moving human body with a bone structure.
You can define bone structure with the Bone Tool for Inverse Kinematics animation. The curve being applied to the path on the lower-right of the drawing will define how motion is applied when the drawing is animated.
As implied earlier, professional Flash animators will not be tossing their volumes of ActionScript coding references into the recycling bin.
The keyframe and ActionScript undergirdings of Flash remain, but they are generated by interactive on-stage object manipulation with tools and panels. The closer Flash gets to implementing support for Illustrator drawing tools and effects, the more expectations I have. The limited set of Flash effects is mainly due, at this stage, to the constraints imposed by Flash movies having to play on the Web or in other digital environments in the Flash Player.
The Motion Editor provides an After Effects-type environment for fine-tuning animation and effects. But it also defines what effects can and cannot be applied in Flash. You can take any vector illustration from Illustrator and copy it into Flash with no loss in appearance. But the ability to apply complex sets of effects while retaining and not changing the foundational vector paths in an object is supported in only a limited way in Flash because even Flash Player 10 has very limited support for such effects.
The dominance of Flash as a tool for designing animation and interactivity is, of course, integrally linked with the ubiquity of the Flash Player—nearly all modern computers support some version of it. YouTube, and other online video portals, rely on the FLV format—a packaging of Flash-produced video, for high-quality, small-file size, quick downloading streaming video. The outer circle allows free rotation; the inner circle can be used to rotate specifically on the X, Y, or Z axis.
This means that for now, Flash animations must still be exported to non-vector formats before they can be viewed on iPhones. Beyond the big, strategic changes, Flash CS4 has other, less dramatic innovations. Workflow flexibility Other innovations in Flash CS4 have intriguing workflow implications. Bringing an InDesign publication directly into Flash opens the door to the simultaneous generation of print and digital-interactive versions of publications.
The Media Encoder has been completely redesigned and it supports a wide spectrum of popular video formats including MPEG and QuickTime , reflecting and consolidating the dominance of the FLV format for online video again, with the missing link of support on iPhones.
And even animators who have grown comfortable with ActionScripting will find new 3-D animation tools and other improvements impressive time-savers over writing all the required code by hand. When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details. At a Glance.
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