Few animation programs offer as much to professionals and amateurs alike as Flash does. What started as a simple piece of software at the dawn of the dial-up era helped shaped the Internet as we know it today, and has even been responsible for dozens if not hundreds of cartoon shows on television. Instead of being a complex software kit that focuses on one job, Flash can also be used to make games, Web ads, and entire Websites. No matter what your end goal in the animation industry is, Flash should be your first step.
As with all animation software, learning the program itself isn’t the most important thing to know; the animation principles are. All software should be viewed as nothing more than a different tool to help you get the same job done, with many programs being perfectly acceptable. It’s great to find out which one you like best but different employers use different software, so it’s likely that over the course of your career you’ll be asked to learn a few different animation programs. Try them all and have fun, but why not start with a small and simple program to learn the basics? Unless you want to stick to paper and pencil there’s no reason not to know Flash. Here are some of the fundamentals that it offers.
Easy Key Frame Timeline
All animation software thrives on the foundation of utilizing key frames to map out your scene. 3D animation programs have hundreds of special options involved to perform advanced tricks, and often come with a thick book as suggested reading material to learn everything you’ll need to know. With other animation packages the worry is about large install files and even larger render files that eat up both RAM and hard drive space. Many 2D animators just want access to a simple key frame timeline as quickly as possible, and Flash definitely delivers.
Adobe acquired Flash from Macromedia back in 2005, but not a whole lot has changed since not much was broken at the time. The good GUI (graphical user interface) provides you with easy to find tween options and everything else you’ll quickly look for when making your first animation. Set your start and ending key frames by right clicking the timeline and hit play and it’s that simple. The objects you draw are vectors to ensure no quality compromise, and the abundance of Bezier curve manipulations makes drawing as easy as possible.
One incredibly helpful perk is the option of changing the shape of an object on an end key frame tween. This does the hard for you and morphs the first object into the next smoothly and saves you vast amounts of time. However, there are a few headaches beginners should look out for.
Flash likes to anticipate a lot of your actions, which can be great for a lot of things but can also be a nuisance at times. Newcomers should make a mental note that some objects need to be double clicked to be fully selected. Also keep in mind that Flash has an affinity for combining objects or changing layers when not desired, so pay close attention to your layers. Lastly, due to embed and render issues, always remember that some animations need to be viewed not in the timeline, but instead in the preview mode for an accurate portrayal of your scene. Once you’re finished though, Flash offers a variety of export and save file types to meet all your casual or business needs.
Other Relevant Flash Uses
Flash is as easy as it is diverse, with several professional paths available to those versatile with the program. Instead of going the route of artistic animations, there’s a great demand for Flash artists who can make convincing Web advertisements. Flash is something every site and every Web user is likely to have, so its technological reach is vast.
On the other end of the spectrum, since many find Flash much more enjoyable to work with than other tedious tools, some choose to make Flash minigames with it. While that may not interest everyone, its potential for building a professional looking art portfolio Website certainly will. With just a few online tutorials about button “actionscript” code under your belt you’ll be ready to create a site that stands out from the competition and helps you get remembered.