Animation Tutorials :: Efficiency in Flash Lesson 01

A word about this; a coworker of mine suggested that I do a series of tutorials on Flash drawing and animation. Examples will be taken from my film for more indy related stuff and some examples from work files and processes used in game development. I have always believed that its good karma to share all that you know. That said I will attempt to share all that I know. Enough said, now for the first lesson.

LESSON 01
Efficiency in Flash is important. Whether you are working on your own or on a production team, you need to get your work done as fast as possible. In this lesson I will explore JSFL plugins for Flash.

JSFL (Javascript Flash) is a script language that lets you perform certain tasks with in Flash. The best analogy I can come up with is that its a harder to work with version of Actions in Photoshop. That said its not as easy to use. I personally have no idea how to make any of these, though that doesn’t mean you can’t use them. First you will need to get your self a copy of Adobe Extension Manager. You will Extension Manager to install all the following extensions.

Here is a list of essentials for the Flash animator:
AnimSlider Pro
AnimSlider Pro – ($45) [http://www.animonger.com/flashtools.html] I can’t say enough about this tool and how it will help you with animation. Other than the time savers, like vertical and horizontal mirror, it has a button that will reposition the center point of a symbol to its 0,0 origin. It also has a quick motion tween and ease in / ease out quick buttons. This doesn’t even cover the primary function of this tool, the slider itself. AnimSlider lets you scrub through a graphic symbol’s frames without having to open the file. This comes in handy with mouths and lip syncing. In the past you would have to set each key frame with a number in the “Properties” window, now you just scrub though the mouths and you can visually work out the dialog.

Toon TitanToon Titan – ($44.95) [http://cinestarfilmworks.com/products/toontitan.htm] Toon Titan is an excellent app. I have used it in projects, though sometimes I feel its easier just to do it the Flash way. If you do a lot of toon-shading and want something to manage those shades this is it. Last I checked though it was pretty hard to share color library’s amongst other users, best use of this is making your Flash color pallet then saving that and sending it to your staff.

Symbol Swap – ($Free) [http://www.5etdemi.com/blog/] This one has saved me more than once on a big job. In Flash you can select any symbol and swap it with another under the “Properties” tool bar, you can even duplicate the current symbol and rename it to something else. But what happens if you finished you animation and you have to swap out all the heads with say a different colored head? Well you use this beauty. Select all the symbols that you want to change (you can use the select multiple frame tool, just make sure you lock all the layers you don’t want to change) then select the symbol you want it to swap with in your library. Then under “Commands” select [ced] swap symbol. Thats it! you made the change.

Toggle Guide – ($Free) [http://jessewarden.com/] Other than the obvious, this little script lets you select multiple layers and guide them as a group. Also if you have some guided out and some not, it will swap the guiding. This is also under the “Commands” munu.

Tween 2 Keys – ($Free) [Tween 2 Keys] [Toonmonkey.com] Toonmonkey is an indispensable source for an assortment of animation related plugins for flash. I am including direct links to certain select ones. Tween 2 Keys isn’t exactly name accurate, it should be more like ‘Double Key Tweens” or something. This is great if you animate a walk cycle on 2′s* but then tween the forward movement on 1′s. Tween 2 Key will convert the teened animation to keyed animation on 2′s.
* 2′s means every other frame, 1′s means every frame (ie. 2′s at 24fps means 12 keys per second).

Library Renamer – ($Free) [LibraryRenamer commands 1.0]  This lovely script will append a suffix to an entire library.  It can also batch change the name of linked assets.

Enter Graphic at Current Frame – ($Free) [Enter Graphic at Current Frame] [http://www.dave-logan.com] This little do-hicky is handy. It lets you bypass Flash’s pension for making you enter a graphic symbol at frame one. This tool will instead allow you to enter the graphic symbol at the current frame.

Over all you will find that there are a lot of helpful plugins out there for Flash, a lot I feel are a waste of time. The ones above though are the exception and will really save you time in the animation process. For additional plugins here are some more sites that have them:
http://www.dave-logan.com/weblog/?p=46
http://www.toonmonkey.com/extensions.html
http://www.flashextension.net/product.php?productid=16164&cat=3&page=1

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