How Does Flash Work?

By Craig Campbell

Flash was originally designed to be a tool for creating animations with your computer. Flash (or Future Splash, as it was once called) introduced frames and keyframes to the computer world and made it possible for millions of people all over the world to try their hand at animation.

But as Macromedia began adding more and more features to Flash, it eventually became much more than a simple animation application. With the addition of ActionScript, Macromedia made Flash into a more interactive solution for the web. Flash designers and developers could now create cartoons, slideshows, and even full-fledged websites.

ActionScript 3.0, which was released with Flash CS3, is now more powerful than ever. Even hardcore programmers have finally started gaining respect for ActionScript as a solid, object-oriented programming language.

But Flash still has a lot of very exciting features for designers and animators. In fact, many animated television commercials, and even some Saturday morning cartoons, are created in Flash. With its vector-based authoring system, Flash animations can be scaled to any size without losing any quality.

Flash Video

Over the last couple of years, Flash has gained a strong foothold in the online video industry. One of the greatest appeals of Flash is that it is compatible across all platforms. All you have to do is install a simple plugin, which usually comes with most browsers anyways. And now, with video becoming so prevalent on the web, the Flash Video format (FLV) is becoming the preferred format. Websites like YouTube.com are now using the FLV format for their videos, because with FLV files, you don’t have the same compatibility issues that you might encounter with AVI, MPEG, or MOV files.

How Does Flash Work?

There are two sides to the Flash development environment: the Flash Player, which is a simple browser plugin that allows the end users to see Flash files, and the Flash authoring environment, which is an application available from Adobe that allows developers to create Flash content. The Flash authoring environment also ships with an FLV encoder that allows you to import video files from other formats and convert them into FLV files.

Flash Animation

Flash makes use of an innovative timeline that consists of frames and keyframes. In order to create a simple animation, for example, of an object moving across the stage, the Flash animator would create two separate keyframes. The first keyframe would store the beginning location of the object, and the second keyframe would contain the ending location. A motion tween would then be applied to the frames in between the two keyframes. With a motion tween, Flash looks at the beginning and ending keyframes, calculates the distance in between, and then creates all of the frames in between. This functionality also works for animating size, opacity (or transparency), and even color.

Flash also allows animators to create shape tweens, which work in a similar fashion as motion tweens, except with shape tweens, you can create an animation that morphs from one shape to another.

ActionScript

ActionScript is Flash’s native programming language. ActionScript allows you to make your Flash files more interactive. With ActionScript, you can add interactivity to buttons, create slideshows that run on a timer or interact with the user, create fully customized video players and audio players, or create fully functional websites that contain animation, music, etc.

Using ActionScript, you can also tie Flash to XML files, or even to an entire database, in order to make truly dynamic web applications. In order to communicate with databases, Flash must interact through an intermediate server-side scripting language, such as PHP or ASP.

For more information on learning how to create amazing Flash content, check out the following resource:

[http://www.schoolofflash.com/how-does-flash-work.html]

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