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proj•ect, n. An extensive task undertaken by a student or group of students to apply, illustrate, or supplement classroom lessons.

About Macromedia Flash MX

Macromedia Flash is one of the leading Web development applications on the market today. It continues to mature with each new release, and the Flash MX version is no different. This book covers many of the new features of Flash MX, while also presenting the fundamental tools and techniques you need to unleash the full power of Flash.

Today, Flash is used to create interactive project interfaces and designs. It can generate low file size animations and sharp, clear graphics and images. This book covers the basics of Flash functionality, the creation and implementation of this functionality, and intermediate-level ActionScript for making a Web site come alive. Although Flash can be used for both online and traditional presentations, this book focuses on using Flash for Web site development.

Because of the added functionality and interactivity Macromedia has gradually added to Flash since its inception, Flash is no longer considered a mere two-dimensional, vector-based animation tool. It goes even further by enabling you to create interactive Web sites and applications. However, the power of animation and movement is still one of the main reasons Flash has come so far so quickly.

Flash combines streaming animation, vector-based graphics, and ActionScript for creating movies. As a beginning user of Flash, you will find the tools similar to other graphic applications, in particular the Macromedia suite of Web development applications. After you master the tools, you can begin to use the power of Flash to create symbols and movie clips. Then, you can combine these symbols with ActionScript to create interactivity and movement. As you become more familiar and experienced with Flash, your only limitation on what you can create is your own imagination.

Who Should Read This Book

This book is for new users of Flash MX who are looking for a complete, informative, and integrated tutorial on the use of Flash MX’s basic features and functionality. This book is geared toward people who have worked with HTML or other graphics applications (or previous releases of Flash) and want to learn Flash MX to take their talents further in their fields of expertise. This book quickly progresses to more intermediate skills, such as using ActionScript to control Stage content.

Intermediate and advanced users of Flash can benefit from the book because many practical and time-saving techniques are presented in each seminar. At the completion of this book, you will have a full understanding of the basic principles and practices for using Flash in Web development and computer animation.

How to Use This Book

Each seminar in the book is divided into two parts: a discussion of techniques and concepts of Flash, and a workshop to put those concepts and techniques into practice. Each seminar is built on the foundation of the previous seminar. All seminars have a workshop that provides step-by-step instruction for developing a fully interactive Web site. As you build the Web site, object by object, layer by layer, you’ll be learning by doing, which will equip you with a complete understanding of the basics of Flash and Web animation.

Because each seminar is composed of a discussion section and a workshop, you can work through both or just focus on one. The discussion section provides key information on Flash features and functionality accompanied by tips, notes, and warnings. The workshops provide practical, hands-on development of a Web site. Both provide creative solutions for common development issues related to Flash.

This book could be worked through in a week if you were very diligent in your learning. But, to be practical, plan on two to three weeks for completing the book. Allow yourself time to practice and test the new ideas and techniques. Let new information sink in by practicing with the tools and features of Flash, work through the workshops, and explore the sample files in the discussion sections. There are no limitations on creativity when it comes to computer-based animation, so play, experiment, and see just how far you can bend the rules.

The Contents of This Book

Through the workshop sections of this book, you will create a Web site for children. The Web site is called The Honeycomb site. You can see an example of the final site by opening the honeycomb.swf file located in the Seminar16/Samples/ directory on the CD-ROM that accompanies this book.

This site has a login area for the end-user to log in, as well as four buttons. Each button links to an activity, and each activity has its own functionality and interactivity.

The About Me activity is designed to allow the child to keep a journal or diary entry that can be updated daily. The Matching activity uses animals and animal sounds, and the child must match the animal sound with the animal that makes it. The In Quest of Ducks activity is designed as a counting activity—a short video plays and then the child can either count the visible ducks or click on each duck to reach an answer as to the exact number of ducks in a pond. The child must type a number for her answer into a text field; then, she can click the Check button to find out whether the answer is correct or incorrect. The final activity is a slider puzzle. This puzzle is composed of a 3×3 grid with numbered tiles. One empty slot in the puzzle allows the tiles to be rearranged, and the goal of the puzzle is to list the numbers from 1 to 8 in the correct order.

All these activities make up the final Honeycomb site. You will re-create this site by working through each of the workshops. The discussion portion of each seminar covers the skills presented in the workshop.

This book presents information that is at first simple but key to Flash development. It quickly progresses to more intermediate topics. Understanding where you have been is as important as knowing where you are going. Each seminar builds on the previous ones. You need to understand the basics before you can create striking and effective animation and Web sites. This book helps you learn and surpass the basics of Flash.

Seminar 1, “Macromedia Flash MX and Web Site Development”

This seminar covers the features and functionality of Flash. The new features in Flash MX are highlighted and explored. To begin the development of a Web site with Flash, basic Web project management techniques are also covered.

The workshop section of this seminar covers the many project planning documents needed to begin developing The Honeycomb Web site. Although you do not create these documents in this seminar, they are available on the CD-ROM for you to open and review.

Seminar 2, “Setting Up the Macromedia Flash MX Environment”

This seminar introduces you to the Flash Workspace. You explore the Timeline, toolbox, panels, Property Inspector, Stage, and work area. You learn about the Preferences available in Flash MS, create a guide layer, and import a template image to help guide your movie development. In the workshop section of this seminar, you set your preferences and panel layer for developing The Honeycomb site. You also set your guides and create a guide layer. You then import a graphics template of the site onto the guide layer. This graphics template is used to guide you in the creation of The Honeycomb site.

Seminar 3, “Creating a Movie”

In this seminar, you begin to create your movie using the Flash tools, panels, and tool modifiers. This seminar covers creating and modifying objects and text. You learn how to use the Property Inspector of Flash MX to create and modify Stage objects.

The workshop covers the creation of the basic background images for the design of The Honeycomb site. You create the header and footer objects as well as the login area and menu bar. In this workshop, you create only one button for the menu bar.

Seminar 4, “Using Symbols in a Movie”

In this seminar, you begin to use the power of Flash by creating symbols and using instances of these symbols throughout your movie. You learn how to create a movie clip symbol and use it in animation, and you use your Library and many of the features of the Library for organizing your Stage objects.

The workshop covers the creation of one square symbol, which you will use for the header and footer objects on the Stage. You also use this square symbol for the login area and menu bar. Also, in this workshop, you create all the buttons that link to the activities of The Honeycomb site.

Seminar 5, “Importing Graphics into a Movie”

This seminar covers the Import and Import to Library features of Flash MX in relation to graphics. You import both vector art and bitmap art and learn how to convert bitmap art to vector format and how to optimize it to lower its file size.

In the workshop, you import and optimize graphics that you need for your site. After importing the files, you convert some of the files to vector format and optimize them to be as small in file size as possible.

Seminar 6, “Animation and Special Effects for Flashing Up the Site”

You learn how to work with the Timeline to create animation in this seminar. You also create motion tweens, size and rotation tweens, and color and shape tweens.

The workshop covers the development of the opening animation that introduces the site. You cause the header and footer objects to fly onto the Stage, stopping at their resting position as indicated by the graphics template. You then create a motion guide for generating a motion path for the host character to follow.

Seminar 7, “Site Interactivity and Button Functionality”

Flash is ideal for creating engaging interfaces and interactivity, and that is just what this seminar explains. Button functionality and basic ActionScript actions are covered. You learn how to use the loadMovie action and how to create a drop target for positioning a loaded SWF file in the main movie.

In the workshop, you begin to create the ActionScript for the interactivity required to move around in The Honeycomb site. You create all the SWF files that will become the activity movies for loading into The Honeycomb site. You also make all the buttons functional.

Seminar 8, “Using Components in a Macromedia Flash MX Form”

In this seminar, you learn how to use the component feature and preset Flash UI components. You also learn how to customize the appearance of the Flash UI components and how to test them.

In the workshop of this seminar, you create the About Me activity. Through the use of input text fields, static text fields, and a couple of the Flash UI components, you develop a form that can be used to gather information from the end-user.

Seminar 9, “Using Preloaders and Conditional Loops”

This seminar covers how to create a gate page that will prohibit the end-user from advancing into the site until all the features of the site have loaded or streamed down. This requires a conditional loop. You’ll also use the Bandwidth Profiler for testing your conditional loop and site functionality.

In this workshop, you create a preloader for The Honeycomb site. You use the getBytesTotal and getBytesLoaded actions to create a dynamic preloader that updates the end-user on how large the movie is and how much of the movie still needs to be loaded.

Seminar 10, “Using ActionScript to Control Objects”

This seminar covers the fundamentals of controlling Stage objects through ActionScript. You learn how to use the Dot syntax of ActionScript to target and then control other objects on the Stage.

The workshop covers the creation of the Matching activity. Using named instances and an if and else statement, you create the functionality required for the Matching activity to determine whether the animal sound matches the animal.

Seminar 11, “Communicating with the End-User”

In this seminar, you learn how to create a login. A discussion of database integration with logins is also touched on. In addition, you learn how to use Flash MX’s new Accessibility feature, which allows your Flash movies to be accessible and understandable to the visually impaired audience.

Through the workshop, you create a local login for The Honeycomb site and pass this login name to other text fields so that the host character communicates directly with the end-user. You also make The Honeycomb site accessible through the new Flash MX Accessibility feature.

Seminar 12, “Adding Sound to Enhance a Site”

This seminar covers sound, importing it into Flash, and syncing it with your movie. In this seminar, you learn about the various customizations of sound, as well as how to create a music toggle button for turning the sound on or off. The workshop covers adding sound to The Honeycomb site. You add a buzzy noise that is synced with the appearance of the host character and create a sound toggle button to enable the end-user to turn the buzzing noise off or on. You then modify the compression applied to the Matching activity animal noises so that they are smaller in file size.

Seminar 13, “Enhancing the Site Interface and Interactivity”

This seminar teaches you how to create drop-down menus, transparent buttons, and masks. You will also use the x, y coordinate to control a symbol’s location on the Stage.

Through the workshop, you add a drop-down menu for the Puzzles button. This menu will link to the Puzzles activity’s SWF file.

Seminar 14, “Dynamic ActionScript for Controlling Stage Content and Movement”

This seminar covers drag-and-drop functionality. You begin to use more advanced ActionScript and troubleshooting techniques throughout this seminar. You learn how to create ActionScript-based movement of Stage objects.

The workshop covers the development of the slider puzzle. You use if and else statements that compare whether the empty slot in the puzzle is above, below, left, or right of the tile that is being clicked. If the slot is above, below, left, or right of the tile, the tile swaps locations with the empty slot in the puzzle.

Seminar 15, “Adding Digital Video to the Site”

In this seminar, you learn how to use Flash MX’s new video feature to embed video clips directly into a movie. Compression settings for video clips are also covered. In the workshop, you import an AVI file directly into the In Quest of Ducks activity. Then, you create a counting game using ActionScript.

Seminar 16, “Publishing and Testing the Site”

This seminar teaches you how to configure your publishing settings and then how to publish and test your movie. The workshop provides hands-on practice configuring your Publish settings for The Honeycomb site. You generate a GIF image that can be used as the alternative image in case the end-user does not have the Flash Player 6 plug-in file.

Appendix A, “Setting Up Macromedia Flash”

This Appendix covers the system requirements necessary to run Flash MX as well as how to install the Flash Player 6.0 plug-in either through the Flash MX installation process or through the Macromedia Web site.

Appendix B, “What's on the CD-ROM”

The CD-ROM that accompanies this book is packed with exercise files to help you work with the book and with Flash MX. This appendix contains detailed descriptions of the CD’s contents.

How to Use This Book

Each seminar is divided into two sections: a discussion section and a workshop section. The discussion section comes first in each seminar and provides information on the various topics covered and some hands-on practice with sample files. It is used to introduce topics, concepts, techniques, and skills for Flash design and development.

The workshop section is focused on a project Web site, The Honeycomb site. You will create this site from scratch starting with Seminar 1 and finishing it in Seminar 16. Many of the topics, concepts, techniques, and skills in the discussion section of the seminar are covered with hands-on practice in the workshop section. Aside from this information, the workshop also presents design and development tips and techniques that I use on a daily basis for quick and efficient Flash development. The workshop section allows you to learn Flash from actually doing! There is no better way to learn Flash than by hands-on development.


Notes offer comments and asides about the topic at hand, as well as full explanations of certain concepts.


Tips provide great shortcuts and hints on additional techniques and skills for developing in Flash.


Warnings help you avoid the pitfalls of development mistakes, thus preventing you from making mistakes that will make your Flash experience much more difficult.

In addition, you’ll find various typographic conventions used throughout the book:

  • Text you should type appears in monospaced font.

  • Folders and filenames that are called out appear in monospaced font.

  • Layer and symbol names that are also called out appear in monospaced font.

Relax and have some fun with the book. You will find that Flash is a wonderful tool for Web development as well as for other graphic design and development areas. As with many software applications, after you learn the fundamentals of the program, it is up to you to practice and apply the skills to truly master them. With that all said, let’s begin!

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