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Flash Teaching Notes

Flash presents many problems to students and instructors. The biggest problem of all is the role played by scripting. Many of the things that Flash is used for, from interactive animation to Web application front ends, rely on scripts. ActionScript has become a complex language, and Adobe have commendably imposed restrictions on how scripts can be associated with events, which lead to well-structured and maintainable code. The result, though, is that you need to know quite a lot about object-oriented programming before you can do anything at all with scripting in the current version of Flash.

Given our intended audience, and the constraints on length of the book, we were not able to teach ActionScript in Digital Media Tools, so we have presented Flash purely as a vector drawing and animation tool. If you want to use it in ways that require scripting, you will need a different book.

Another problem with Flash is its interface, which has always been notorious for being obscure and unintuitive. Few things work in quite the same way as in Illustrator and Photoshop, the other tools that animators are likely to be using. Although CS3 is an improvement on earlier versions, there are still many irritating features. To take a single example, operations that affect the timeline are scattered among Timeline sub-menus on several different menus instead of being collected together in a single place.

If you are teaching both Flash and Illustrator, students will probably be confused by Flash's default 'merge drawing' mode, so be sure to tell them about object drawing mode.

If high quality animation is your aim, it is often better to use Photoshop and Illustrator to create the artwork, and just use Flash to assemble it and export it in a form that can conveniently be played on the Web.

Animation is a distinct skill. Unless you are teaching specialist animation students, it will be more appropriate, and more gratifying to the students, to make simple motion graphics than to attempt character-based or experimental animation.

Since Flash Video is becoming increasingly important on the Web, do not neglect the section of the chapter dealing with video.