Flash 4! Creative Web Animation with CD-ROMby Derek Franklin
Flash 4! Creative Web Animation introduces you to the art of creating Web animations incorporating resolution-independent graphics, antialiased text, and streaming sound. Follow step-by-step tutorials to master Flash 4, from basic drawing to authoring complex interactions. Learn to:
- Create vector illustrations and modify images created in other drawing programs.
- Make your Web site come alive with Flash animations, buttons, and actions.
- Plan and test your creations.
- Optimize Flash movies for faster downloading and smoother playback on the Web.
- Peachpit Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 3RD BK&CDR
- Product dimensions:
- 7.01(w) x 8.98(h) x 1.00(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Why FlashMultimedia is just as its name implies: an experience that uses multiple forms of media to convey a message, idea, or thought in a manner that requires the use of many senses. Movement, sound, interaction, and the passage of time are the basic elements; life itself is the ultimate multimedia experience.
It's human nature to want use every one of our senses to experience life. Although we love to look at a beautiful picture, that experience pales in comparison to watching the sun set over the ocean while feeling a gentle breeze against our cheek and hearing the waves beat against the shore. We enjoy listening to our favorite musician's latest CD, but it doesn't compare to seeing the artist perform live, where he or she might dance on stage and interact with the audience against the backdrop of a perfectly timed light show. Nothing moves us more than an experience that engages as many of our senses as possible-which is what multimedia attempts to do in digital form.
Although digital multimedia has been around for several years, it didn't blossom until CD-ROM drives became integrated into personal computers. Prior to that, practical limitations made it difficult to experience good multimedia presentations. This is because the elements that make up multimedia-pictures, sound, and animation--require a large amount of disk space. So in many ways the CD-ROM disc itself-which can hold as much as 640 megabytes of information-sparked the multimedia revolution. In the intervening years, multimedia has become a way of life for many computer users, making programs and games more exciting and enjoyable. Today, in fact, multimedia is de rigueur for such programs--anything less is simply unacceptable.
In 1994 another revolution was about to begin: that of the World Wide Web. Although scientists and educators had been using the Web for several years, the public was just beginning to understand its attraction. And although computer users the world over were enticed by the thought of accessing a massive worldwide computer network, the delivery of this information was somewhat disappointing: The Internet was largely a text-only medium--a far cry from the multimedia world they had grown accustomed to.
It didn't take long, though, for graphics to move from novelty to necessity on the Web: Users simply weren't interested in looking at text-only pages. Yet the transition was hindered by the fact that most Web surfers had slow connections-no small obstacle since graphics, by nature, are bandwidth intensive. To solve this problem, image viewers using the GIF and JPEG standards were introduced into browsers, allowing graphics and even some animation to be added to Web pages without making them ridiculously large and slow to download.
For the multimedia neophytes, however, satisfaction remained elusive. Graphics had to be small and few, and adding sound-let alone synchronized sound-was impractical if not impossible. User interaction was also almost nonexistent. Web pages were simply a collection of useful but static documents. With bandwidth at a premium, creating full-blown multimedia Web pages seemed a distant, if not unobtainable, dream. How could you incorporate compelling graphics, synchronized sound, and interactivity into a medium with so many limitations?
If the Internet craze has taught us anything, it's that the world of cyberspace is all about speed and accelerated evolution: If a task needs to be accomplished on the Web, the solution is generally just around the corner. Building a technology for multimedia delivery over the Internet would have to rely on a process that would minimize the bandwidth problem by incorporating various compression methods for graphics, sound, and overall development.
Enter Macromedia Flash!
With Flash, Macromedia combined a number of powerful ideas and technologies into a single program that allows users to deliver full multimedia presentations over the Web.
One thing that makes Flash an incredible development tool for the Web is its use of vector graphics as the default graphics mode. Vector graphics are objects defined by mathematical equations, or vectors, that include information about the object's size, shape, color, outline, and position. This is an efficient way of handling graphics and often results in relatively small file sizes-even when dealing with complex drawings. Furthermore, vector graphics are resolution independent, which means that a vector graphic the size of a pinhead will retain the same file size even when enlarged to fit your entire screen with no quality degradation.
Traditionally (and on the Web in particular), graphics have been delivered primarily in the form of bitmaps. Although effective and often quite artistic, bitmaps are bandwidth intensive and share none of the benefits of vector graphics. Bitmap graphic files, for example, are almost always larger than their vector counterparts (even though they appear similar)--a fact that becomes more apparent as the physical dimensions of the graphic increase. The construction of bitmaps accounts for this difference. (Figure 1.1).
Unlike vector images, which use mathematical equations, bitmaps are made up of a collection of dots, or pixels, placed in a grid formation, or pattern, one right next to another. These pixels are usually so small that from a distance, the pixels in the pattern that make up a bitmap blend seamlessly to form a picture. However, if you were to zoom in on this picture, the tiny square pixels would become apparent. Each pixel in a bitmap has associated information that relates to its color. Most images comprise thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pixels. Obviously, the larger the graphic, the more pixels it contains. Hence, even a small bitmap 100 pixels tall by 100 pixels wide would have to store information for 10,000 pixels. You can begin to see the benefits of using vector graphics wherever possible. Although vector graphics offer file size advantages, you can achieve some graphic effects only with bitmaps. Fortunately, Flash supports bitmap graphics. And because it uses the latest compression technologies, Flash helps you keep file size to a minimum even when using bitmaps.
Flash's development approach also facilitates the creation of complex multimedia presentations while still maintaining small file sizes. Because such elements as vectors, bitmaps, and sounds are usually employed more than once in a given movie, Flash allows you to make a single version of an object, which you can then reuse elsewhere rather than re-create the object each time you wish to use it--a capability that goes a long way toward conserving file size. For example, if you wanted to use a 10-KB bitmap logo in ten locations in your Flash presentation, it would appear to require 100 KB (10 KB used 10 times) of file space. However, Flash requires just one actual copy of the 10-KB logo; the other nine instances are simply references to the main file. Although these "references" appear just as the actual file would, less than 100 bytes per instance are required to reference the actual file. So, you would save nearly 90 KB in file size--a considerable amount on the Web. You can use this powerful capability with vectors, bitmaps, sounds, and more.
A final-and perhaps the defining-factor in Flash's ability to create fast-loading multimedia over the Web is streaming content. Despite its other benefits, without this capability, Flash would probably not be practical for the Web.
Streaming content is another example of a technology born out of necessity on the Web. Before streaming, bandwidth issues prevented users from viewing or listening to files until all of their contents had been downloaded. Engineers, however, realized that users don't see or hear every byte in a file simultaneously: Users can experience the full impact of the content by receiving it incrementally. For example, when reading a book, you view only a page at a time. So, if your book were delivered over the Web, you would probably appreciate being able to read the first few pages while the rest of the book downloaded in the background. If you had to wait for the whole book to download before you could begin reading, you might give up and click elsewhere.
Flash's streaming capabilities mean that even large files with sound, animation, and bitmaps can begin playing almost instantaneously. If you plan your project precisely, your audience can view a 10- to 15-minute presentation over the Web without noticing that content is being downloaded in the background...
Meet the Author
Derek Franklin is chief development officer of Crazy Raven Productions, and as such is required to thoroughly understand current technologies to push them to the limit. Derek discovered the Web, his niche, in 1995 and never looked back. When not working or sleeping in front of the computer, he enjoys playing music, reading, and dreaming about Tahiti.
Brooks Patton is the president and CEO of Crazy Raven Productions Inc., a leading multimedia and Web development firm with offices in Anchorage, Alaska, Indianapolis, and Dallas. With more than a decade of experience in network engineering, Brooks founded Crazy Raven Productions four years ago to focus on Web technologies and multimedia. On the rare occassions that Brooks is allowed out of his office, he enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, and being somewhere warm.
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