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Thread: What is Flash?

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    I'm really sorry. I know this question is common but I am still completely baffled by the topic. First off, I am not looking to create a flash website. I'd like to use flash to compliment my HTML site. I think that can be done. I'm just talking about maybe an intro and things like that.

    That said, WHAT IS FLASH? Can anyone explain flash on a high level for me? Like what is it basically? Layers of images? Animated images? What? I only understand webpages in terms of code and static images/text. I don't understand the concept of creating things that actually move.

    Also, I have a copy of Macromedia Dreamweaver 3 and Fireworks 3. Will either of these programs help me create flash?

    Thanks in advance and I'm really sorry to annoy with another question about flash.


  3. #2
    Senior Member Shani's Avatar
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    Nov 2004
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    Hi joejoe,

    I am going to assume you have seen Flash, and you can recognize Flash on web pages. Aside from that, your question is a lot more complicated than it seems. Flash is extremely complex, and I would very much suggest a tutorial, book, and/or class. I will touch on the basics and beginner stuff, but please realize I don't have the time or patience to give you a full on description of Action Script, Layers, Masks, Paths, or other secondary Flash functions.

    Flash is basically a movie. You specify frames/second. It is a series of static images shown in succession so you don't see the space between them. It IS Animation.

    In the more basic form, you arrange objects on a Timeline. The objects are called Symbols. Symbols fall into three categories: Movie, Button, Graphic. One can be embedded into another. So, you can have a button with a movie playing in it. All of these things are stored in the Library. For them to appear in the movie, they have to brought onto the Stage.

    Symbols can be used multiple times. When you do that, you have to define the Instance. This becomes a lot more important when you get into Action Script. Action script is the language associated with Flash, in the same way that HTML is associate with web pages. It is similar to javascript, though of course has completely different syntax. If you are serious about Flash, you will learn it.

    In the beginning though, animations are created in the Timeline by the use of Key Frames and Tweens. In case you are not familiar with basic cel animation here's your tutorial. When Mr. Disney was drawing stuff, he would draw turning points of an action. In order to make things fluid, artists, interns and other "tweeners" would draw images that would go inbetween (<--- look at that, a bonus lesson in etymology!) the two original drawings. Flash will generate those inbetween stages. Key frames define the beginning and end of a movement.

    So, to have a ball bounce, you would set up three key frames, with, let's say 10 frames in between them. The first frame will have the ball on the top left of the screen, the second key frame would have it at the bottom in the center, and the final key frame (frame 30 on the timeline) would have it mid-way up on the right. Capish?

    Other things you should know... Flash is vector-based. While you can import bitmaps, it's better to import vector graphics or you can use the interface in Flash to produce simple vectors. Fireworks & Photoshop are bitmap tools, Illustrator and Freehand are vector tools. Basically, that allows you to resize anything without losing the integrity of the shape.

    There are two file types: the .fla, or working document. And the .swf (shockwave format) which is what you actually use on the web page. Flash>Export... In the same way that gifs and jpegs are added to a website, same goes with Flash, only that since Flash requires a plug-in there is generally a little more code to check that the user has it... So basically, you can treat it like it's static, it's an object in your html.

    Flash is the program to produce Flash; Dreamweaver and Fireworks will not help produce a .swf.

    Okay, this is a lot, hope it clears stuff up!

    I have an eye for detail like you'd never believe.

  4. #3
    Senior Member straight_up's Avatar
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    Dec 2003
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    DCScene seems to have you covered!

    To rehash the high-level stuff...
    Flash is technology from (what was) Macromedia. It is used in HTML as an <object>. Essentially Flash is a huge platform that can hold JPGs, sounds, video, or almost anything inside it, but mostly, like DCScene said, it contains animated vector art. Vector art does not describe individual pixels, like JPEG or GIF; it describes the shape of things. This can make for amazing animations that are still small files, and allows for easy lossless scaling.

    (Also note that some other programs besides Macromedia (Adobe?) Flash can save as Flash files! For example, CorelDraw's R.A.V.E.)
    I am Alan Hogan (@alanhogan on Twitter). I like PHP, UI/UX design, and OS X.

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