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Did You Know?

Luckily, the daunting task of matching audio to Flash animations can be better managed through some simple sleights of (development) hand. Again, it's more about strategy and tactics than the software itself. Fundamentally, the rule is to KISS: keep it simple. You know the rest.

  • Start by optimizing each audio file instead of using global parameters in the Publish properties. Even small audio events can be downsized, improving the playback. Certainly, you don't want to compromise quality, but remember that most desktops still have fairly low-end speakers. Unless you are managing a Web site for the New York Philharmonic, there's little chance someone, except the author of the music, is going to curse you for downsampling an audio track.

  • Break up your lengthy sound tracks into smaller units. Director has wonderful compression utilities for audio and great controls for keeping everything tied together. Flash still has a ways to go, and longer tracks inevitably will get away from you. If a way to break up audio tracks—particularly narratives—exists, the benefits are worthwhile. Consider this: You have a product presentation online with a three-minute voice-over audio track. If, for some seemingly arbitrary reason, the audio gets out of place after 30 seconds, the remaining 2 1/2 minutes will be painful for you and the user.

    If, however, the audio was broken into 30-second tracks, it is reasonable to expect that the first narrative will get out of step, but the next one will come in on time. If you are using longer audio files, definitely apply the streaming synchronization. It is a personal preference for each developer, but most would argue that it is better to lose a couple of frames than have audio completely out of step with the animation. Again, it is part finesse, part tactics that will mean the difference between something reasonably entertaining and something that makes people fidget and quit the movie.

  • Use the size report to help identify areas where audio might be overwhelming the playback. Remember that a sound event will basically throw all the audio data across the wire at the same time, so you inevitably will see a spike here. Streamed audio will deliver the data over several frames, and although there will obviously be a jump here as well, you can anticipate this and reduce the number of high-resolution bitmaps you introduce while the audio is coming in. To generate a size report, select File, Publish settings and click the Flash tab in the resulting Publish Settings dialog box. Make sure the box next to Generate Size Report is selected. The output will appear in the same directory as your final movie or other output when you publish.

  • Work with the preloading options in ActionScript. Managing preloads is a foundation technique for Flash—it's why nearly every movie starts out with some very interesting hold sequence. Applying this algorithm vigorously throughout your presentation, particularly where you might have lulls in the animation, can sneak in valuable audio data under the wire without affecting the playback.

  • If you are concerned about dropping frames, try experimenting with various frame rates. A small change might better synchronize the audio with the playback and reduce the number of anomalies that crop up. Of course, higher frame rates will further tax the target hardware, but small adjustments are unlikely to cause serious malfunctions.


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