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Animating the Page with Flash 5

In this sample chapter you will learn the basic concepts you need in order to create animation in Flash movies. Gain an understanding of what an animation is, learn the difference between the speed and the length of your animation, and what interface elements the Flash editor contains to help you create and control your animation.
This sample chapter is excerpted from Lynn Kyle's Essential Flash 5 for Web Professionals.
This chapter is from the book

You have totally re-created the Shelley Biotech homepage graphics with Flash. Now comes the fun part: animating it! In this chapter you will learn the basic concepts you need to create animation in Flash movies. You will gain an understanding of what an animation is, the difference between the speed and the length of your animation, and what interface elements the Flash editor contains to help you create and control your animation.

Timelines and Frames

Before we begin animating the page elements, we need to do some clean-up work, including converting some graphics to symbols and reorganizing and creating layers. You can download the current project from the Chapter 2 section of http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5 or directly from http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5/shelley/shelley1-12.html.

Creating the Link Text Symbol

Take a look at the current page, Figure 2–1. The links on the page will all appear to move together in our animation. To allow us to do this easily, we can create a single graphic symbol that contains all of them grouped together.

FIGURE 2–1 Current Shelley page.

  1. We need to select all the text links. Use the Arrow and hold down the Shift key to select the seven text links: about us, vendors, investors, products, contact us, research, and press releases.

  2. Choose Modify → Group.

  3. Choose Insert → Convert to Symbol.

  4. Name the new symbol "Link Text" and set its behavior to Graphic. Click OK.

Creating the Logo Layer

Flash requires that any symbol to be animated must be in its own layer. The lines connecting the circles need to be moved to their own layer, since we will be animating them. To do this:

  1. Select the top layer in the layer list and click on the Insert Layer button, shown in Figure 2–2.

    FIGURE 2–2 Flash interface with the Add Layer button.

  2. Name the new layer "Logo."

  3. If you haven't already done so, move the Link Text layer over the Circles layer.

  4. Click on one of the lines connecting the circles. This will select all the lines and circles, because we grouped them earlier.

  5. Choose Modify → Ungroup.

  6. Choose Edit → Deselect All.

  7. Use the Arrow and the Shift key to select all of the lines. If you accidentally select something else, just click on it again with the Shift key held down to deselect it and leave everything else selected.

  8. Choose Edit → Cut.

  9. Select the Logo layer.

  10. Choose Edit → Paste in Place. You have now moved the lines to the new layer. They are in front of the circles, but we'll be moving them in a moment.

  11. With the lines still selected, choose Modify → Group.

  12. Finally, make the lines into a symbol by selecting Insert → Convert to Symbol. Name this symbol "Lines" set its behavior to Graphic. See Figure 2–3.

    FIGURE 2–3 Symbol Properties dialog box.


This would be a good time to save your work. Choose File → Save As, and save this file in the directory of your choice as shelley.fla. Download the project at this point from http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5 or view it directly at http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5/shelley/shelley2-1.html.

Adding an Additional Background Layer

Both the white and the brown curves making up the background will be animated. We need a separate layer for each.

  1. Click on the Background layer. This layer currently contains both of the background curves.

  2. Choose Insert Layer from the Layer menu. This will place a new layer immediately above the Background layer.

  3. Rename this "Background 1."

  4. Select the white curve. Choose Edit → Cut.

  5. Select the Background 1 layer and choose Edit → Paste in Place.

  6. Rename the original Background layer "Background 2."

Creating Some Layers for the Circles

The last organizational change you need to make involves moving each of the seven circles to separate layers so each can be animated separately.

  1. Select the Background 1 layer and create seven new layers.

  2. Name them as follows: Press Releases, Research, Contact Us, Investors, Vendors, About Us, and Products. Don't worry about the order; we will adjust that in a moment.

  3. We need to move each one of our current circles to one of these new layers. For each of our seven circles, select it, choose Edit → Cut, click on the appropriate new layer (according to the text link overlapping it), and choose Edit → Paste in Place.

  4. When all the circles have been moved, the Circles layer will have nothing left in it. Get rid of it by selecting it and choosing Delete Layer from the Layer menu.

Select and drag the layers up and down to move them. Put your layers in the following order, from top to bottom:

  1. Header Text. This is the Shelley Biotech banner and associated shadow.

  2. Link Text.

  3. Address Text.

  4. Address Sphere. This is the sphere under the Address Text.

  5. Office Photo.

  6. Link Circle layers. Each of the seven circles should be in a separate layer.

  7. Logo. This consists of the seven lines that connect the link circles.

  8. Background 1. The white curve.

  9. Background 2. The brown curve.


This would be a good time to save your work. Choose File → Save As, and save this file in the directory of your choice as shelley.fla. Download the project at this point from http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5 or view it directly at http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5/shelley/shelley2-2.html.

Frames and Animation

One of the most important aspects of a Flash movie is the animation, which is nothing more than a series of still images, displayed over time. Each of these still images is called a frame. The speed at which the frames are displayed is controlled by the fps (frames per second) setting in Flash. A setting of 12 fps, which is the default setting, means that 12 frames will be displayed every second.

There are two ways to change the fps value:

  1. Double-click the fps box, which is located just below the timeline. See Figure 2–4.

    FIGURE 2–4 The frames per second box.

  2. Choose the menu option Modify → Movie.

Both of these open the Movie Properties dialog box, shown in Figure 2–5. The first blank on this dialog box contains the frame rate. A rate between 8 and 15 is recommended. This range allows relatively speedy processing of the animation while retaining smoothness of motion. For our animation, make sure the value is set at 12.

FIGURE 2–5 The Movie Properties dialog box. The frames per second rate can be changed here.

Tweening and Keyframes

Before the advent of computers, cartoon animators had to draw each frame of an animation. Although you can do that with Flash, you are provided with a time-saving method of animation that requires you to create only the most important frames. Flash creates the intermediate frames for you. This is called tweening. In using tweening, you create only special frames, called keyframes, to serve as turning points during an animation, and Flash fills in the gaps. For example, if you wanted to animate an object moving to the right, hitting the edge of the screen, and moving left, you would only have to create three keyframes, and tell Flash to do the rest.

Adding Keyframes to the Shelley Biotech Page

We can now put in place the keyframes we will need for the Shelley page.

  1. Open the latest version of the Shelley file. This can be downloaded from http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5/shelley/shelley2-2.html.

  2. We now need to select the thirtieth frame of all the layers. To do this, click and hold on the frame area at the 30 frame mark of the top layer and drag downward until all the layers are selected, as shown in Figure 2–6. This is a little tricky.

    FIGURE 2–6 Selecting the thirtieth frame of all the layers.

  3. Choose Insert → Keyframe. Your timeline should now look like Figure 2–7.

    FIGURE 2–7 Current timeline.


This would be a good time to save your work. Choose File → Save As, and save this file in the directory of your choice as shelley.fla. Download the project at this point from http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5 or view it directly at http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5/shelley/shelley2-3.html.

We still have no animation, even though we have multiple frames. If you click on the first or last keyframe or any frame in between, you will notice that nothing changes. Two things still need to be done: First, you select a keyframe and make some change to the graphic at that point. Then you must tell Flash what kind of tweening to use. Flash can tween the movement of an object as well as its shape and color.

The next section will show you how to animate the graphics on this page. One final note: The graphics we created in Chapter 1, "The Basics," are the final product of the animation. We will be working backward and modifying the first keyframe, while leaving the last one alone. To get a clearer picture of this, go look at the finished product at http://www.phptr.com/essential/flash5/shelley/new/ and notice that the page ends up looking like our current file, but looks totally different when you first see it.

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