Flash Professional 8

It’s hard to believe that Flash began life just ten years ago as FutureSplash, a simple cartoon-style vector drawing and animation program. Since those early days Macromedia has grafted on advanced multimedia and programming capabilities to turn Flash, and its all-pervasive player, into an all-encompassing web platform. Now to reinforce the program’s development credentials, Macromedia has phased out the old standard Flash and replaced it with a new version of the previously high-end, programmer-oriented Flash Professional.

After a decade of constant reinvention, today’s Flash Professional is largely unrecognizable but FutureSplash still lives on in the program’s bizarre approach to the fundamental task of drawing. Overlay two identically coloured objects, for example, and they merge together; overlay differently coloured objects and the top one eats a hole out of the one underneath! In skilled hands, the system can be surprisingly efficient, but for most users it’s an initial stumbling block and a constant irritation. Now at last the nightmare is over with the introduction of a new optional Object Drawing mode in which objects in Flash finally behave in the same way that they do in all other drawing applications.

In fact Flash 8 Professional’s vector drawing power has been enhanced all round to bring it more into line with the likes of Freehand and Illustrator. Using the Properties Panel, for example, you can now control end caps, mitres and joins. There’s also a Stroke Hinting option which ensures that nodes are anchored on full pixels ensuring razor-sharp horizontal and vertical lines. Gradient handling has also been seriously overhauled enabling up to 16 colours to be mixed with full control over overflow modes and focal points. Gradients can also now be applied to strokes as well as to fills.

Gradients are a crucial weapon in the Flash designer’s formatting toolkit, but they pale in comparison to Flash 8’s new support for blend modes. If you convert your objects to a movie clip or button (though not a graphic symbol for some reason) you can now apply one of 12 new blend modes - multiply, screen, lighten, darken, difference, invert, add, subtract, alpha, and erase – that control how the object’s colours interact with those below it. The compositional creativity this opens up is enormous, especially when combined with animations and run-time scripting.


Flash Professional 8 offers improved graphics handling.

And blend modes are only one of a whole new range of graphical effects that can now be applied to your movie clips and buttons. Using the new Filters tab on the Properties Panel you can add bevel, drop shadow, glow, blur, gradient glow, gradient blur, and adjust color effects – ideal for quickly creating Fireworks-style effects such as a bevelled button with rollover glow. The control offered over each effect is impressive and you can always fine-tune parameters as desired, and also animate them to produce effects such as a drop shadow moving in response to an apparent light source. Best of all, the effects processing is left to the Flash 8 Player so file size is hardly affected offering a major leap in end impact at little cost.

Gradients are a crucial weapon in the Flash designer’s formatting toolkit, but they pale in comparison to Flash 8’s new support for blend modes. If you convert your objects to a movie clip or button (though not a graphic symbol for some reason) you can now apply one of 12 new blend modes - multiply, screen, lighten, darken, difference, invert, add, subtract, alpha, and erase – that control how the object’s colours interact with those below it. The compositional creativity this opens up is enormous, especially when combined with animations and run-time scripting.


Flash Professional 8 offers improved graphics handling.
And blend modes are only one of a whole new range of graphical effects that can now be applied to your movie clips and buttons. Using the new Filters tab on the Properties Panel you can add bevel, drop shadow, glow, blur, gradient glow, gradient blur, and adjust color effects – ideal for quickly creating Fireworks-style effects such as a bevelled button with rollover glow. The control offered over each effect is impressive and you can always fine-tune parameters as desired, and also animate them to produce effects such as a drop shadow moving in response to an apparent light source. Best of all, the effects processing is left to the Flash 8 Player so file size is hardly affected offering a major leap in end impact at little cost.

Onscreen text quality has been significantly enhanced.

As well as improved graphics and text handling, Flash 8 Professional sees a major advance in terms of animation. As with its core drawing capabilities, Flash’s animation has been left largely unchanged since the old FutureSplash days relying on an awkward and underpowered system of keyframes and tweens. At first sight the new graph-based Custom Ease In / Ease Out dialog doesn’t look like it will change this situation much, offering little more than the ability to visually control the speed of tweens.

In fact by graphing the degree of motion over time you can visually and intuitively control advanced animation effects, say producing a realistically bouncing ball coming to rest. Previously this would have involved multiple keyframes and tweens and would have been a nightmare to edit; now it can all be handled intuitively with a single tween. Even better, you can independently control the tweening of position, rotation, scale, color, and filter parameters. And the icing on the cake is the ability to preview the effect of changes live onscreen.




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