RE: Flash for CBT

Subject: RE: Flash for CBT
From: Jennifer Maitland <jlm -at- kwi -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2002 10:02:36 +0100


Hey there Dida,

Sorry to be a bit late on replying to this one, I've been on vacation.

Anyway, here are my recommendations on using Flash. Oh, and BTW, two years
ago I got assigned a project just like yours, and just like you, I didn't
want to do it. Today, I am a full time tech writer and free lance flash
designer/tutorial creator - I hope to drop paper-based documentation soon
and dive solely into Flash stuff as I love it!

First off, the user manual is actually not that great (pretty, seemingly
well organised and clear, but not very effective in my opinion). Instead,
check out the actual tutorials offered in the help menu, they are quite
good. Other list members have also offered you good URLs.

Like any program, the key to learning Flash is to learn the basics which are
common across the program and to learn them well. Flash is actually built on
some very, very simple concepts, all of which are based on old school
animation tricks for saving time (and in this case, file size). Learn and
make sure you understand what sybmols, instances and buttons are before you
jump in, and understand what file types will work best for your movie. As
well, understand the concepts behind frames vs. keyframes as well as the
concepts of scenes - very important!!!

Whether it is a complex or very simple movie, you have to know these basics
before you begin or you'll be wishing you never heard the word "Flash"
within the first hour.

Second, invest some time in storyboarding. When I was a beginner my boss
made me present him with full project plans covering every element of the
movie, including hand drawn sheets representing every scene. I always found
that thinking of my movies as plays with different acts was really helpful.
I mapped out the acts as well as the transitions between acts. I actually
used a stack of old animation books and magazines for reference - found them
sitting outside of the dumpster of Vancouver Film School, go figure.
Animation and graphic design books (especially Flash books) do tend to be
quite expensive, so I often check them out of the library before buying
them.

Third, test your movie often. Compile your movie into a swf file and send it
to a friend to see if it runs ok on their machine. Don't wait to the end of
your project to test the movie, you'd be surprised at how different these
things can look and run on different machines.

Four, read up on preloaders. I find it best to construct a preloader after
I've finished the movie, and I know there are tons of them on the web
available for download. Make sure you understand the concept of preloaders
as you risk losing your audience if they have a slow connection and have no
idea how much longer the damned thing is going to take to load!

And finally, five, take the opportunity to learn a little Actionscript. I
know, you said you were only interested in creating a simple movie, but with
Flash 5 Actionscript is soooooo easy and very cool - it's an OO language
used to assign actions to objects. So, for example, when one scene finishes
you could have an arrow at the bottom corner that users could click to get
them to the next scene, and so on. For anyone looking to learn more about OO
programming I suggest taking a look at Actionscript in Flash because the
concepts of objects becomes very clear when you are creating them and
assigning actions to them - you may even find it'll help you on your way to
C++ or Java. Even if it doesn't it's still pretty cool to learn. There is an
Actionscript reference book along with the user guide and 900 million other
Actionscript books out there.

The Macromedia site is good for tech notes, and do sign up for one of their
user groups. Beyond that, the best resource out there for Flash has got to
be:

http://www.moock.org/webdesign/flash/

If you find anything from Alistar Moock on the web read up on it, the guy's
a genius!!!

Oh, how I'd love to talk on and on about the virtues of Flash for tech
writers and how much better this program makes my working life, but I fear
I've talked enough already. Anyway, dive in and give it a try, I have a
feeling you'll really like it once you learn the basics. If you have any
questions please do not hesitate to contact me off list.

Good luck,
Jennifer Maitland



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