New Media Flash online Assignment 2

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1 Flash online Students: Anna Palm Hanna Åstrand Lecturer: Thomas Pederson

2 Index New Media INTRODUCTION...3 HISTORY...3 VERSIONS...4 ARCHITECTURE...5 FLASH AUTHORING ENVIRONMENT...5 FLASH PLAYER...7 COURSE LITERATURE...8 STATE-OF-THE ART EXAMPLES...9 FUTURE...10

3 Introduction Macromedia Flash is a web authoring and animation tool that is widely used today. It has gone from a simple drawing and animation program, to be one of the most common tools for creating interactivity on the web. The Macromedia Flash Player, needed to view Flash applications, is even more common than the authoring tool and is one of the most installed media players. History It all started with a small company called Go 1, which wanted to improve the possibilities to draw on the computer. They created SmartSketch. SmartSketch did not become a success and to reach higher levels they brought animation into the sketching program. They changed the name on their product to FutureSplash Animator, to especially point out the animation capabilities they were bought by Macromedia and FutureSplash Animator became the first version of Macromedia Flash. The history of Flash could start. In the end of last year, 2005, Macromedia was acquired by Adobe Systems 2. Table 1. Some of the Flash versions 1 Jonathan Gay, The History of Flash, Adobe Systems Incorporated, Retrieved April 2006, from 2 Adobe Pressroom, Adobe Completes Acquisition of Macromedia, Retrieved April 2006, from omedia.html

4 Versions Until today Macromedia Flash has created eight versions. The last one, Flash Professional 8 was released in the end of last year. The table below describes the new features of every version 3. Year Version Features/ Functions 1996 Flash 1 Macromedias version of FutureSplash Animator 1997 Flash 2 Library 1998 Flash 3 Movieclip, JavaScript plug-in, transparency and a external stand alone player 1999 Flash 4 Internal variables, input field, advanced Actionscript, streaming MP Flash 5 ActionScript 1.0, smartclips, HTML text formatting 2002 Flash MX Video codec, Unicode, UIComponents, XML support, compression 2003 Flash MX 2004 ActionScript 2.0, behaviours, extensibility layer, alias text support, timeline effects 2003 Flash MX Professional 2005 Flash 8 -Basic 2005 Flash 8 -Professional Screens, web services integration, video import wizard, Media Playback components, Data components, data binding APIs, the Project Panel, v2 UI components, and Transition class libraries. Basic drawing, animation and interactivity Filters and blend modes, easing control for animation, enhanced stroke properties (caps and joins), object-based drawing mode, run-time bitmap caching, FlashType advanced anti-aliasing for text, On2 VP6 advanced video codec, support for alpha transparency in video, a standalone encoder and advanced video importer, cue point support in FLV files, an advanced video playback component, and an interactive mobile device emulator. Table 2. The different versions of Macromedia Flash 3 Wikipedia, Macromedia Flash, Retrieved April 2006, from

5 Architecture Macromedia Flash is both a multimedia authoring tool and a Player. The Player is the virtual machine used to run the Flash files. Flash authoring environment Flash as an authoring environment is a popular method to add animation and interactivity to web pages and presentations. Besides animations, Flash projects can contain several of other media elements, such as images, sound and video. Flash use vector graphics, which does not require as much memory and storage space as bitmap graphics. Instead of keeping every pixel in memory, the picture is saved as a mathematical formula. The small size of the files is one of the reasons why Flash is well suited for the web. When working with Flash the graphics is first done, usually using the drawing tools the program offer, and then possible other media elements are added. When this is done the author decides how all of these elements should be used, i.e. when and where on the page. Flash has many built-in components and methods which can facilitate the creation. To create a project in Flash there are four main parts that are important 4 to know about; the Timeline, the Stage, the Library and the programming language ActionScript. Figure 1. Macromedia Flash Professional 8 4 Macromedia Flash Professional 8

6 The Stage is where for example the graphics and text entry fields appear. The Stage shows what the viewers will see. In the Timeline the author decide when the elements should appear. For example if the author wants to create animation he/she can use the timeline and traditional animation concepts like keyframes and tweens. The Library is a list over all elements used in the Flash project. ActionScript is Flash s programming language. The Flash author can code what should happen to the elements, when it should happen and how it should happen. With ActionScript it is possible to create all different kinds of interactivity, like buttons and entry fields. Figure 2. ActionScript in Macromedia Flash 8 Finally when all is done the author publish the project. When this is done, a compressed version is created, called a swf-file. This is the file the Flash Player will play. Flash is one way of creating web pages, HTML, JavaScript and PHP are other ways. One of the greatest differences of the different methods is the animation part in Flash. It is not possible in HTML, JavaScript and PHP. Even a person who is not good at programming can do a dynamic web page using the built-in functions in Flash. But the animation possibility can also cause complications, since it makes it unsuitable for the search engines to indexing the created page. Another drawback with Flash compared to the other authoring tools is the difficulty for persons with impaired vision to navigate the web page. They use the links to go through a web page, and flash pages are seen as big images which make the page invisible for them.

7 Flash Player The Flash Player is a client application that most PC s connected to the web have installed. According to a study made by Census 5, 97.7 percent of all computers connected to the web, have the Flash Player installed. The reason may be that the Flash Player is for free and distributed with most of the software sold today. When installing Flash, the Flash Player is also installed by default. It is independent of operating system and hardware, but has been criticized for neglect optimization for Mac OS X and Linux 6. The Flash Player is, as mentioned earlier, the virtual machine which makes it possible to watch web pages created in Flash. It supports vector and raster graphics, the scripting language ActionScript and bidirectional streaming of audio and video (support MP3, H.263 and VP6). The Flash Player sends standard request over HTTP connections 7 and over HTTPS for secure messages. Since it is event-driven and has asynchronous communication with the server, it does not have to wait on every server response, which makes it faster. Figure 3. As simple as this, the Flash Player Other plug-ins are for example; Acrobat Reader, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, Java and RealOne Player. Compared to the others, the Flash Player has very small install size and fast initialization time 8. 5 Macromedia, Macromedia Flash and Shockwave Players, retrieved April 2006, from 6 Wikipedia, Macromedia Flash, Retrieved April 2006, from 7 Kevin Lynch, The Flash Platform Delivering Effective User Experinces Across Browsers, Operating Systems and Devices, Årtal! 8 Kevin Lynch, The Flash Platform Delivering Effective User Experinces Across Browsers, Operating Systems and Devices, Årtal!

8 Course literature Flash is a nonlinear medium where the author can not expect the visitor to read from a beginning to an end. Wortzel 9 argues for real experimental art, now when the limitations of linearity disappear. Storytelling is not always just a linear story told from one person. In the culture of the aboriginals 10, they tell their stories with not just words but also with dance, body language and body painting. Flash provides more dimensions than many of the traditional media, with the possibility to add video, images, colours etc. The worlds created of the authors often deal with pluralistic narratives weaving in and out of each other 11. Therefore Flash seems to be an appropriate medium for storytelling, authors can build up their stories in new ways. A visitor can experience the same web page differently each time he or she enters, depending which ways of navigating that are chosen. One could believe the concept of interactive fiction on the computer is quite new, but it started already in the late 70 s 12. Text adventures, without any graphics, were a popular way of entertainment. The player could choose which direction and which actions she or he would like to perform with answering yes or no to questions raised at the screen. Figure 4. The early computer game Adventure In Janlert s article The Idea of Cyberspace 13 he lists definitions that make cyberspace something new. The forth definition is an active and interactive world. Flash could be a tool or more probably, a role model for new applications that could contribute to make that point reality. Flash also provides feedback (depending on the author of the web page) and that these new conceivable applications should take in consideration. 9 Wortzel, Adrianne, The electronic chronicles, 1995, Blue Planet Years 10 Guest lecturer James Barret, Dept. of Modern Languages 11 Wortzel, Adrianne, The electronic chronicles, 1995, Blue Planet Years 12 Crowther, Will, Woods, Don, Interactive fiction, The new media reader, 2003, Noah Wardrip- Fruin & Nick Montfort 13 Janlert, Lars-Erik, The Idea of Cyberspace, 2005, Umeå University

9 State-of-the art examples Flash on the web is used in many ways. Some use Flash as a way of creating art. On this artist s web page the interactivity level is high, the visitor can click on moving objects and new sites will open. Figure 5. Some companies create dynamic web pages and sale them. The page below starts with a white background and then more and more elements are added to the page. The buyer can change the text, the images and add sound to the page. Figure 6.

10 It is common among artists to have Flash made homepages. This example below is only one among many. Figure 5. Future Over time the name will change to something containing the name Adobe. Also the other former Macromedia products will have their names changed 14. This kind of change has no direct affect on the product and its future usage, but the change of owner can have an influence on the development of the product. Probably in future it will be easier to integrate Flash with Adobe s other products, as for example Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. Our mission is to revolutionize how the world engages with ideas and information says Adobe. Further on they are explaining what their future plans are. Our long-term plan is to develop a "universal client" by combining PDF, Flash and HTML in a single, integrated runtime. Of course, we will continue delivering the Flash Player as a small, efficient runtime for content and applications on the web, and Adobe Reader for viewing and interacting with PDF documents and forms. The integration of these technologies into a unified framework creates a ubiquitous platform that runs on virtually every device, and dramatically expands the opportunities to create compelling solutions. Integrating these programs into a ubiquitous platform, as they call it, will create a new environment for developing interactive media that did not exist before. The effect of this is not determined and is still to be seen. Hopefully, Adobe will create an even better tool for making interactive web pages and also take the interactivity to another level, even if this new level is hard to imagine today. The future of Macromedia Flash is also depending on the development and usage of the web. It is hard to picture the actual changes that will come, but taking earlier development in consideration, changes will come almost for sure. One can only speculate about the oncoming future. 14 Adobe Systems Incorporated, Adobe completes acquisition of Macromedia, Retrieved April 2006, from

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