There's no avoiding it - when people think of Flash, they think of animation. It may well have evolved into an application authoring package, but there are good reasons why it's largely famous for animation. The combination of vector graphic support with the easy-to-use timeline makes it a pleasure to work with. Even if you've never considered animation before, Flash MX provides you with enough roads in to inspire anyone.
The most obvious way to get started is to use frame-by-frame animation. Pioneered in the earliest days of the art, this technique is given an interesting new twist in Flash. Vector graphics enable you to make changes to artwork quickly, while layers enable you to build up static backgrounds to accompany your work. The package's ability to adapt to other media means that you're not confined to using Flash's drawing tools. You can just as easily use the program in a more traditional way, scanning in artwork and arranging it in Flash. The results can be instantly viewed and tweaked in a variety of ways.
This traditional method is augmented by several features that you could only achieve digitally. Tweening is Flash's killer feature - a method that enables you to specify the start and end points for an animation, letting Flash work out the frames in-between. As the package has become more sophisticated, tweening has too. In Flash MX, you can automatically animate the rotation, scale, colour, transparency and position of objects. If it's necessary, you can do all of those things at once - creating spinning objects that grow larger as they fade into view, for instance. To control the movement of objects, you're also able to define paths that combine with tweening techniques to give a superb level of control.
Flash 4 introduced a feature that enables you to take two different shapes and animate the transformation from one to the other. Again, this is a form of tweening, requiring you to simply place two keyframes on the timeline containing two different objects. Creating the animation is as simple as selecting a menu command.
In isolation, such techniques are easy to master, but when combined into a single project, the results can be very impressive indeed. Over the last two issues, we've looked at Flash's drawing tools and timeline in detail. In this third tutorial of the series, we combine all that knowledge with Flash's animation techniques to create the introduction to a Web cartoon. We'll show you all the techniques we used to complete the project: how to combine frame-by-frame animation with tweening effects, how to morph shapes and create fades.
INFO Words and Flash expertise by Karl Hodge.