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my first flash movie
june 16, 2001
Like everyone else in the world, sometimes I like to just wander around the Web, visiting some of the millions of sites out there in the sparkle. Each time I think I've more or less seen everything the Internet has to offer, I'm re-humbled by coming across a new trail of links to sites it never occurred to me to investigate, whether it's on comic book trading, the intrusion of outdoor lights on the natural darkness of the night (a serious issue to a lot of people, judging by the number of sites), speaking backwards (which actually is a fascinating subject), creating three-dimensional snow globe paperweights using PaintShop Pro, etc., etc., etc. The Internet truly is a bottomless brass-hinged, black-sided trunk discovered in a grandparent's attic (incidentally, two technologies the Internet should develop are (1) the ability to travel, from any starting point in the millions of sites, from URL to URL in alphabetical order, simply by hitting the ENTER key, and (2) a Random URL Selector, where you hit the ENTER key and you're transported to a site at random, whether that's a garden sculpture business site, a black text on white background rant, or the homepage of some twisty-eyebrowed Korean guy who's lucky with the babes.)
A while back I came across a developer's site, and I apologize I don't remember his name, who displayed on his Index page the following disclaimer: "This page best viewed by coming over to my office and looking at it on my computer."
Which is true.
When I first started working with HTML, back in late 1997, I focused entirely on the coding itself, completely unaware that there were so many other factors that affect how my efforts are displayed to the world, including type of operating system, brand and version of browser, and screen resolution. At a couple of places on this site I say "best viewed using 1024 X 768 resolution", but the only reason why I chose 1024 X 768 is because the computer I bought had that resolution as a default, and I didn't know any better (in fact, most of the people who visit this site use an 800 X 600 resolution, which I'm sure makes my words appear extra-large, and which may cause that most dreaded of all Internet humiliations to occur, the left-right scrolling bar, an inadvertent self-debasement as bad as talking carefree to someone in a restaurant, and suddenly tongue-feeling the rippled membrane of a green lettuce scrap across your front teeth).
I have to admit though that I've been fascinated by Flash whenever I've seen it on a site, and recently splurged on its purchase.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Flash is a web-development software that allows you to add animation and synchronized sound to a webpage, to a degree that's just not possible with HTML. You completely control what appears on your visitor's screen. Each Flash file you create is referred to as a "movie", because you create it frame-by-frame, layering different effects to achieve the finished presentation. It's like primitive television.
(Despite the mutterings of "one-box convergence", where we'll use the same screen to watch 'a very special' Frasier or surf the Net, which probably will happen at some point, and which will lead some sites, especially commercial ones, to become even more dynamic and interactive, I do believe most Internet sites, and indeed the most popular sites, will continue to offer the silence of text. There's something very compelling about that silence, with which whizzes and bangs can't compete. Although SENTENCE is now adding Flash, I see it as an isolated section of SENTENCE. I don't intend to turn SENTENCE into a Flash site, but do want to offer Flash within SENTENCE, because it does excite me, the technical challenge of it, although not so much as the far greater challenge of choosing the right word.)
After I bought Flash, I spent a month or so reading handbooks on it, to get some idea of how it operates, and its capabilities. What I want to do is convert some of my "tiny texts", fictions only one paragraph long, to Flash movies, adding images and music.
As my first project, I've created the introductory page to the Flash section of SENTENCE, which you can view by going here.
It was a lot of frustration and fun. Flash does give you incredible control, but sometimes that amount of control can be overwhelming. You really do need to storyboard in advance what you want to accomplish before you start (even though I abandoned my own storyboard half-way through, as my knowledge of Flash, and hence my ambitions, increased).
Flash is ideally meant for broadband, because of file size. However, it can be loaded on slower connections, although I've discovered that can sometimes cause the images and sound to not entirely synchronize. Another problem to add to operating systems, browsers, screen resolution. For the record, the Flash introductory page is 364k in size. Using a 56k connection, I was able to download the movie in about two minutes. On an ISDN connection, it takes about twenty seconds. Those of you with DSL or cable connections shouldn't experience any delays. It looks best in Netscape, where it displays the aspect ratio I created (Internet Explorer puts a vertical black band on either side).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy my first Flash movie, and I myself hope that very soon I'll realize just how primitive this first attempt of mine was. I found the movie works best if you let it load, then hit the Refresh or Reload button to view it a second time (where it'll play more faithfully to what I intended).
Although really, to see it exactly as I created it, you'll need to come over to my house, and watch it on my computer.