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How Web Animation Works

Creating Flash and Shockwave Movies

Flash and Director are designed to be fairly easy and fun to use -- they both have a straightforward interface and many automated tasks. The two programs handle movie creation somewhat differently, and they have different names for almost everything, but they share some basic components. To make a movie, you need to manipulate the movie elements in three different ways. You need to:

  • Create and edit the individual images that make up the movie.
  • Arrange these images as they will appear in individual frames of your movie.
  • Order those frames so that they form a movie.

Flash and Shockwave both have a means of importing, generating and editing movie elements. In Flash, you store these elements in the library; in Shockwave, they go in the cast. In both programs, you assign these elements any dynamic characteristics and arrange them on the stage. The stage represents what will actually appear in the final movie. Using the stage, you create key frames that you position in sequence to layout the movie. In Flash, the area for arranging your frames is called the timeline, and in Shockwave it's called the score.

One reason you see so much Flash animation on the Web today is that it is surprisingly easy to generate. The Flash program, as well as Director, puts a functioning animation studio right on your desktop, and automates a lot of the complex tasks involved in multimedia. If you want a globe to roll from one side of the screen to the other, for example, you don't have to animate every frame of the globe as it moves along; you simply tell Flash where the globe starts and where it stops and assign it a rolling motion in between these frames. For a good introduction on how to make Flash movies, check out Webmonkey's animation tutorial.

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A Flash animation from our engine article.