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Chapter 16. Debugging a Movie > Debugging Concepts

Debugging Concepts

When you debug a movie, you're not just looking for the obvious problems; you're attempting to see if you can find anything that might happen. Depending on the complexity of the movie, hidden problems can be difficult to find. For example, if you're calling video files into a Flash movie, are all your paths to the files correct? It may function fine when you're testing on your computer, but will it still work when you move it to a CD or Web server? Test it and find out. Here are a few things to consider when going into the debug phase of a Flash Movie:

  • Paths to file. I've already mentioned this, but it needs repeating. If you're importing external .swf files, image files, video, or audio files into a Flash movie, the best approach is to create a folder to hold the entire Flash project, and then create sub-folders within that folder to hold the movie assets. When you move the Flash project, move the entire folder. That way all the path names stay correct, and you always know where everything is, at all times.

  • Short descriptive file names. Computers allow for file names of unlimited length; however, that does not mean that you need to use large file names. Large file names are harder for you to type in, and there is a greater chance that you will mistype the name. Use short descriptive names.

  • Use smart naming conventions. Since file names display alphabetically, it's not a bad idea to come up with similar names for similar file types. For example, car_1.jpg, car_2.jpg, car_3.jpg. The name and extension describe (in general terms), the content of the file, and file type, and will display one after the other. Smart naming conventions won't make your flash project any better, but they will help to organize some of the confusion that comes with a complicated Flash project.

  • Test and test often. Debugging does not start at the end of a project, it begins as soon as you click the File menu, and then click New. As a matter of fact, Flash lets you test a movie whenever you choose. Just click the Control menu, and then click Test Movie (to test the entire Flash movie), or click Test Scene (to test just the active scene).When you test a scene or movie, Flash creates a temporary .swf file, and then runs the movie in a version of the Flash plug-in. Flash publishes the test movie using the settings in the Publishing dialog box.

  • Bandwidth. If this project is going out to the Internet, make sure that the size of the finished movie isn't so large, that your visitors have to wait a long time for it to download. It's possible you might want to include a pre-loader to entertain the audience while they're waiting.

  • Planning is the key. If you want your Flash movie to look good, work without error, and be completed in the least amount of time, then plan, plan, and then plan some more. Use the carpenter's adage: Measure Twice… Cut Once. University studies show that planning a project, before you start, cuts the project completion time by 20 percent. Planning involves thinking about what you want to accomplish (what's the message), research and gather all the files, and things you'll need to get the project complete, and think about where the project will be used (Internet, CD). In addition, a well-planned project will cut down your debugging time by over half.



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