Flash is the most common animation format for the Internet and even for other media like television. It is quite easy to make a simple Flash animation, because current animation software offers a whole host of tools to simplify the whole process. If you have an idea for an animated movie to create in Flash, you can make it into a previewable sketch in a matter of hours.
Part 1 of 3: Make Frame-by-Frame Flash Animation
Step 1. Frame-by-frame animation
This technique is considered to be the most traditional basis of animation, in which each frame contains the image of the one preceding it except that it is slightly modified. When the frames are displayed one after the other, the resulting image appears to be moving. This way of doing things is the one that has been used since the beginnings of traditional manual animation and requires much more time than the so-called “interpolation” technique (see the following sections).
Flash will produce animation at 24 frames per second (or 24 FPS) by default. This means that a second will contain 24 images, which do not have to be necessarily different from each other. You can adjust this number to suit your needs, and many animations actually only use 12 frames per second. However, you should know that a scrolling speed of 24 frames per second will make your animation appear very smoothly
Step 2. Install "Flash Professional"
There is a wide variety of Flash animation programs, but the most advanced of them is "Adobe Flash Professional CC". You can install the trial version for free, but you can also use another product if you are not tempted to purchase Adobe. The remainder of this article will refer to “Flash” for using Adobe Flash Professional as well as any other similar software.
Step 3. Create your designs
A frame-by-frame animation requiring several frames having only small differences between them, you will have to do them all by hand. You can draw them all from the start or as you progress. You can also use the Flash editor to draw them directly in your project or make them with your favorite image creation program.
If you want to change the size of your images without sacrificing quality, it will be better to create them as vector drawings rather than as a bitmap. Vectorized images will redraw themselves without rasterization or loss of quality if their size were to be changed. Bitmap designs are the traditional images that you are probably more accustomed to seeing every day (Photos, icons or the like, etc.). They will deteriorate by pixelation effect if you change their size
Step 4. Create your first frame
When you start Flash, you will see a white background and a blank timeline appear. This will populate automatically as you add images. You will be able to interact between the background layer and the drawing ones in the same way as you would with Adobe Photoshop.
- Create a basic background for your animation before inserting your image. Rename the first layer to "Background" then lock it. Create a second layer and give it whatever name you want. It is on this layer that you will create your animation.
- Add your design to the canvas for the first frame. You can either import it from your computer or use the built-in Flash software tools to draw it directly with this program.
- Your first image will be a "primary frame". Primary frames are those that will contain an image and form the backbone of your animation. You will need to create a new one each time you change your image.
- Primary frames are marked with a black dot in the timeline.
- You don't necessarily have to put a new image in every frame. You can achieve good animation by applying a primary frame every four or five secondary frames.
Step 5. Turn your drawing into a “symbol”
By converting your drawing into a symbol, you can easily include it multiple times in a raster. This is especially useful if you need to create multiple objects such as fish in an aquarium.
- Select your entire design. Right click on it then choose the "Convert to Symbol" option. This will add the image to a library that you can quickly access later.
- Erase the drawing. Do not worry ! You will put it back on stage by dragging the object that represents it from your library. This will allow you to easily add multiple instances of the same drawing to your sequence!
Step 6. Add some empty secondary frames
When your first frame is ready, you can place a few empty secondary frames between the first primary frame and the next. Press F5 as many times as necessary to add as many empty secondary frames to your sequence.
Step 7. Create your second primary frame
After adding a few empty secondary frames, you are ready to create your second primary frame. Among other things, you have two possibilities to do this: copy your existing primary frame and apply some modifications to it or create an empty one and insert a new image to it. The latter procedure will be preferable if you are working with objects created with another program and if you have used the drawing utilities of your Flash program, use the first method.
- Press F6 to create a primary frame with the content of the previous one. To create an empty primary frame, right click on the last frame of your timeline then select "Insert empty primary frame". All the content of the previous sequence will disappear (but will be stored).
- When you have created your second primary frame, you will need to make some modifications to your image to give it the effect of movement you are looking for. If you are working on your drawings with Flash software, you can use its transform tool to change aspects of your drawing, such as a character's arm made out of strokes.
- If you insert a new drawing in each primary frame, you must place it in the same place as the previous one or at least that its new location follows a correct positioning logic on the screen, so as not to cause any effects unwanted skipping between frames.
Step 8. Repeat the process
Now that you've created two primary frames, let's go. You can continue by repeating the same process until the end of your animation. Add a few empty secondary frames between each primary frame, while making sure that the movement of the object appears continuous.
Make small, incremental changes. Your animation will look a lot smoother if you only make very slight edits on each primary frame. If you want to move the arm of a character made of lines, your second primary frame should not represent the end of the movement, but an intermediate position. Use these intermediate frames to represent the transition from the start of the movement to its end. Your animation will be even more fluid
Part 2 of 3: make point-to-point animation (interpolation)
Step 1. The "interpolation" technique
Flash software includes an interpolation feature, which essentially lets you position the start and end points of objects in your animation. The software will produce the movement between these points and transform to your objects according to your indications, thus creating an illusion of animation. You won't need to create a design for each primary frame like you would using the stop-motion animation technique.
- The technique of interpolation is particularly useful for the effects of progressive distortion of shapes, also called morphing by which one gradually transforms an object during an animation.
- The techniques of frame-by-frame animation and interpolation can be applied in a complementary manner in the same film.
- You can only tween one object at a time. If you want to animate several objects at the same time, you will have to do it on different additional layers (only one per object to be animated).
Step 2. Create your first object
Unlike the stop-motion animation technique, you won't need to create multiple objects to animate to use the tween feature. Instead, you'll need to create an object and then change its properties during the tween process.
- Before adding your image, create a background for your animation sequence. Name the first layer "Background" then lock it. Create a second layer and give it a name to your liking. This last layer will be the one on which you will realize your animation.
- It is best to use the built-in tools in your Flash software or import your image from a vector drawing program. A vector drawing subjected to a modification of size (enlargement or shrinking) will not present any loss of quality whereas an image composed in bitmap will come out strongly degraded by rasterization.
Step 3. Convert your object to a symbol
You will need to convert it to a symbol so that you can interpolate the movements of your object. Flash will only be able to handle it in this format, and if you don't and try to interpolate an object not transformed into a symbol, the software will first ask you to convert it.
Right click on the object and select "Convert to Symbol". The object will then be added to your working library, which at the same time will make it easier to clone
Step 4. Create the interpolation of the first displacement
Interpolating motion from one point to another consists of moving the object along a given path. Right click on the symbol in your scene then select "Create displacement tween". The software will then add 24 frames to your timeline, this representing the time of a default interpolation. Remember that Flash creates animations at 24 frames per second, so this move will take one second.
When you create the displacement interpolation, the software will take you directly to the last frame of the interpolation
Step 5. Create the path
Once you've created the tween, you'll be able to move the object to where you want it to go. Flash will display the dashed path line to visualize the position reached by the object at each frame of the interpolation.
The path you create is a straight line between a start point and an end point
Step 6. Spread your base coat
If you started your animation now, your object would move on its assigned path, but the background image would disappear after the first frame. To remedy this, you need to extend your background image to all frames of the animation.
Select your basecoat from the timeline. Click on the last frame of the chronological line which also represents the end of the movement. Press F5 to insert the shadows up to this point, which will keep the background image displayed until the end of the move
Step 7. Add primary frames
Adding primary screens to your path will give you the ability to make transformations to your object while interpolating the displacement. You will only be able to transform your object if it is on a primary frame. To add primary frames to your path, first select the frame of your timeline that you want to turn into a primary frame. Click on the object then bring it to the position where you want it to be during the course of this frame. The trajectory will be automatically adjusted and a primary frame will be added to the timeline. Primary frames added to the timeline are marked with black diamond-shaped icons.
Step 8. Adjust the path of the interpolation
To change the movement of your object, you can click and drag each of the frame positioning marks to a new location. Avoid changing the course too much, as the movement could occur erratically (unless of course this is intended).
Step 9. Transform your object
When you have established your primary frames and trajectories, you have the option of transforming your object in such a way that it changes as it moves along the interpolated trajectory. You can change its shape, color, rotate it, modify its size and all of its other properties.
- Select the frame on which you want to make these changes.
- Open the object properties dialog. You can press Ctrl + F3 if this dialog is not visible.
- In this window, change all the values that are necessary to modify the object. For example, you can change its shade or color, add filters or change its size.
- You can also use the "Freehand" transform tool to change its shape the way you want.
Step 10. Add the finishing touches to your tween
Test the interpolations of its movements by simultaneously pressing Ctrl + ↵ Enter. Check that the transformations you are performing are plausible and that the object's movements are at the correct speed. If the animation is too fast, you can reduce the number of frames per second or increase the length of the tween range.
- The number of frames per second is set to 24 by default, so try reducing it to 12. To do this, enter the properties dialog and change the number of frames per second (FPS). Changing the value to 12 FPS will double the animation run time, but it can also make it too choppy.
- To change the interpolation range, select the layer it is applied to and use the slider to stretch it. If you want the interpolation to be twice as long, stretch it to 48 frames. Insert enough empty subframes into your background layer that you will then need to extend to all frames in the sequence so that the background does not disappear halfway through the animation movement. To extend the background layer, select it, click on the last frame of the animation in the timeline then press F5
Part 3 of 3: Add sound and music
Step 1. Record or search your sound effects and music backgrounds
You can add sound effects to the various actions that take place in your animation to enhance it and give it more depth. Music attracts more attention and can make your animation look great. Flash supports a wide variety of sound file formats like AAC, MP3, WAV, and AU. Choose the one that gives you the best quality for the smallest file size.
The MP3 format will bring you very acceptable quality sound and more compressed files. Avoid the WAV format if possible, as files encoded in this way are often large
Step 2. Import the sound files to your library
They should be set up in your software's working library before adding sound effects to your animation. This will make it easier for you to import them into your project. Click “Files” → “Import” → “Import to Library”. Then search for the appropriate sound file by browsing your computer. Make sure you name your sound files in such a way that they are easy to find later.
Step 3. Create a layer for each sound file
This is not strictly necessary because you can add sound over existing layers. Placing each sound file on its own layer will give you more control over the volume-down and volume-up effects and the cutoff locations. It will also be easier for you to move or synchronize the sound sequences.
Step 4. Create a primary frame where the sound should start
While on the sound layer, select the frame of the animation sequence from which to start the sound. Press F7 to insert an empty primary frame. For example, if you want to include a music file that should be played throughout the animation, select the first frame of the sound layer. If you add a dialogue specific to one of the characters, select the frame from which the latter begins to speak.
Step 5. Add the sound or music file
A section of the window for choosing properties is reserved for sound. You can expand this section to view the various options. Click on the "Name" menu item and choose the file you want to import from your library.
Step 6. Configure the sound effects
Once you have selected a file, you will be able to configure how it will be played. What you choose will depend on the effect you want the sound to give to the animation. You can modify the effect, the synchronization as well as the repeat parameters of each sound using the options included in the “Name” section of the properties selection window.
- Effects - This option allows you to add sound effects, such as decrease and increase gradually or bring echo to a sound. You can choose them from a drop-down menu where sound effect presets are set, or click on the pencil icon next to the menu to customize your own settings.
- Synchronization - This setting defines how the sound will be reproduced in the animation. The "Event" option will allow you to fully reproduce a sound from a given event until its end. If the sound is triggered again before the previous one ends, the original sound will continue until it ends. The "Start" option works the same as the previous one, but the current sound will stop and start again if an event triggers it again. The “Stop” option will stop the sound being played back in the same frame. If you want to use this option in conjunction with other sound properties, you will need to create a new primary field where you want the sound reproduction to stop and use this option. The "Stream" option will attempt to match the sound being played back with the number of frames located on other layers. This option is best applied to dialogs.
- Repeat loops - This setting allows you to set the number of repeat loops of a sound. You can set it to play a sound only once, but you can also have it play a number of times. If your animation is intended to loop, you will need to adjust this parameter for an indefinite number of repetitions.
Step 7. Complete your project
When you have finished your project, save it in the “.swf” format. This is the one that is used for reproducing movies that you can then view in virtually all Internet browsers with Flash plugins. You can also load them into a dedicated Flash player to watch them. There are also a number of websites that you can send your designs to for other people to see, such as Newgrounds, Albino Blacksheep, and Kongregate, among others.
Step 8. Advance your future plans
This guide only covers the basics of creating animations, but there is still a lot to learn. If you want, you can take an introductory ActionScript course to better manage the finer details of your animation and provide interactivity for creating games, for example. Keep gaining experience and soon you will be able to learn all the tricks and go much further in this area.