Foundation Flash CS5 For Designers- P18

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Foundation Flash CS5 For Designers- P18

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Foundation Flash CS5 For Designers- P18: Flash is one of the most engaging, innovative, and versatile technologies available-allowing the creation of anything from animated banners and simple cartoons to Rich Internet Applications, interactive videos, and dynamic user interfaces for web sites, kiosks, devices, or DVDs. The possibilities are endless, and now it just got better

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  1. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Figure 15-14. We start by drawing a shape containing a lot of vector points. 3. Copy your shape to the clipboard. Select each of the remaining three key frames in layer 1, and select Edit ➤ Paste in Place. 4. Select the shape in frame 2, and select Modify ➤ Shape ➤ Advanced Smooth. The new Advanced Smooth dialog box, shown in Figure 15-15, opens, and not a lot seems to happen. Make sure the Preview check box is selected, set the Smoothing strength to 100, and scrub across the Smooth angle below hot text. Note the changes to the object when you change the value to one greater than 90 degrees. Figure 15-15. The new Advanced Smooth dialog box 779
  2. CHAPTER 15 5. Select the shape in frame 3, and select Modify ➤ Shape ➤ Advanced Straighten to open the Advanced Straighten dialog box. Scrub across the Straighten strength hot text, and the curves will start to come to attention as you increase the value. 6. Select the shape in frame 4, and select Modify ➤ Shape ➤ Optimize. This time, you are presented with the Optimize Curves dialog box. Select Show totals message and Preview. Move the slider all the way to the top, and click OK. The dialog box will close and be replaced by an alert box, telling you how many curves were found, how many were optimized, and the size of the reduction as a result of the optimization (see Figure 15-16). This book was purchased by Figure 15-16. Using shape optimization 7. Test the movie. The graph shows you the file size of the content in each frame and the effect that modifying the shape has in each frame. As you can see in Figure 15-17, the results are quite dramatic. 780
  3. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Figure 15-17. Smoothing, straightening, and optimizing curves can have a profound effect on download times. You are most likely looking at the graph and thinking, “Wow, I am going to start optimizing all of my vector shapes!” Not so fast. Each of the three methods presented did a good thing and a bad thing. They did indeed reduce the bandwidth load. However, they also introduced distortions into the image. If you are happy with the distortions, fine. If you aren’t, then you might want to consider doing the optimization manually, by selecting the shape with the Subselection tool and manipulating the shape and the points. So, why was there such a drop in the graph between the object in frame 1 and its counterpart in frame 4? Remember that vector nodes require bandwidth. You removed a few of them using the Optimize Curves dialog box, which accounts for the drop in required bandwidth. If you import vector artwork from outside sources, such as Illustrator files, you may find shape optimization quite challenging. Obviously, it depends on the intricacy of the artwork, but industrial-strength tools like Illustrator CS5 naturally have more complex features than the drawing tools provided by Flash. When Flash imports vectors from other tools, it does its best to “translate” those anchor points into the “language” it uses internally. 781
  4. CHAPTER 15 This can lead to some rather interesting missteps between Illustrator CS5 and Flash CS5. You can see this in Figure 15-18. The image on the left is the image, on the Illustrator CS5 page, as it was drawn in Illustrator CS5 using the Extrude filter and a couple of effects to create the splatter. The whole thing is vectors. The image on the right is the same image on the Flash stage. The top version is the result of importing the AI file into Flash. The bottom version is one saved in Illustrator as an FXG image. The difference is, when the FXG file was created, Illustrator rasterized the extrusion, which sort of defeats the purpose. Your “take away” from this is that all vectors are not equal, and, in certain instances, something could become “lost in translation.” Figure 15-18. Just because Illustrator CS5 draws vectors, don’t get lulled into complacency. Just be mindful of the pipe. If elaborate vector artwork seems to weigh more than you would expect, consider exporting it from the original application as a bitmap or FXG file and compare file sizes. If you don’t have the original application, import the artwork into Flash, situate it on the timeline of a temporary stand-in FLA, and then use File ➤ Export ➤ Export Image to select a suitable raster format. Aren’t vectors supposed to be smaller? Generally speaking, yes. But every rule has its exception, and it goes both ways. Giulia Balladore (, a self-taught artist featured on, produces jaw-droppingly beautiful artwork directly in Flash. Her vector drawings rival the sort of detail that normally requires a camera and meticulous studio lighting. And yet, because she works in Flash and optimizes her vectors, images like “Sole” (see Figure 15-19) can be resized in the browser without ever getting pixelated. And the depicted SWF weighs a minuscule 23KB! 782
  5. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Figure 15-19. Yes, this image was drawn entirely with Flash’s drawing tools, by Giulia Balladore ( Publishing and web formats Tattoo this to the inside of your left eyelid: The SWF isn’t a web document. Nothing drives us crazier than someone telling us, “Dudes, check out my Flash site,” only to have that individual double-click a SWF on his computer’s desktop. Flash SWFs should appear on the Web only if they are embedded into an HTML page. Why? Because you can use the HTML to control aspects of the SWF—scaling, context menu items, and more—that you can’t do without the HTML wrapper. Thus, a “Flash site,” to be precise, is composed of an HTML page that points to the SWF, along with any media— audio, video, images, text—that the SWF may need from external sources. Creating the SWF is a bit more complicated than selecting File ➤ Publish Preview and merrily clicking away in the Publish panel. As we pointed out in the previous chapter, you need a solid grounding in what’s under the hood before you create the car. Again, as we have been saying since the first page of this book: keep it small! This is the reason for Flash’s broad acceptance on the Web and where an understanding of the publishing process is invaluable. Up to this point, we have essentially created a bunch of FLA files and asked you to test them. The time has arrived to get off the test track and put the vehicle on the street. When you publish your movie, Flash compresses the file, removes the redundant information in the FLA, and what you are left with—especially if you’ve been taking this chapter to heart—is one sleek, mean web presentation. The default output file format—yes, there is more than one—is the SWF. The SWF is wrapped in HTML through the use of and/or tags, plus extra information about how the browser should play the SWF. 783
  6. CHAPTER 15 Yes, you can link directly to a SWF without that bothersome HTML. Just be aware that the SWF will expand to the full size of the browser window, meaning all of the content on the stage will also enlarge. In many respects, linking directly to the SWF is rookie error number one. Before we move into actually publishing a movie, let’s look at some of the more common file types used on the Web, listed here: Flash (.swf) HTML (.htm or .html) Images (.gif, .jpg, and .png) QuickTime (.mov) Flash Before there was Flash, there was Director. Though used primarily for interactive CDs, DVDs, and kiosks, it was at one time the main instrument employed to get animations to play on the Web. The technology developed by Macromedia to accomplish this was named Shockwave, and the file extension used was .dcr. Flash also made use of this technology, and in order to differentiate between them, it became known as Shockwave for Flash and used the .swf file extension. Flash Player is the technology that allows the SWF to play through a user’s browser. Through a series of clever moves, Flash Player has become ubiquitous on the Web. In fact, Adobe can rightfully claim that Flash Player, regardless of version, can be found on 98 percent of all Internet-enabled computers on the planet. This means, in theory, that you can assume your movies are readily available to anyone who wants to watch them. But the reality gets a bit more complicated. For you trivia buffs, the first couple of iterations of Shockwave for Director used a small application named Afterburner to create the DCR files. When Director developers prepared a presentation for the Web, they didn’t just create the DCR; the movie was “shocked.” One of the authors happened to be around on the night Macromedia quietly released Shockwave and Afterburner to the Director community. He still remembers the excitement generated by members of the group as they posted circles that moved across the page, and he remembers the “oohs” and “ahs” that followed as the circles moved up and down. Each new Flash Player version brings with it new functionality. Flash Player 8 introduced filter and blend effects, which can’t be displayed in Flash Player 7. FLV video can’t be played in Flash Player 5. Any movie you prepare using ActionScript 3.0 can be played only in Flash Player 9 or newer. Flash Player 9,0,115,0 was the first to display HD video content. The current version, 10.1, moves Flash onto practically any device, including smartphones, home television systems, and game systems found on the planet. Though you may initially think the Flash Player version is a nonissue, you would be making a gross miscalculation. 784
  7. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Corporations, through their IT departments, have strict policies regarding the addition or installation of software to corporate-owned computers. We personally know of one organization that isn’t budging, and its Flash Player policy is Flash Player 6 or lower to this day. Shrewd Flash designers actually ask potential clients which versions of Flash Player are to be targeted for the project. The last thing you need is to find yourself rewriting every line of code and reworking the project, because you assumed the target was Flash Player 9, but corporate policy dictates Flash Player 7 or older. Flash Player 10 follows a tradition that each successive version of Flash Player will play content faster than its predecessors. When Flash Player 9 was released, Adobe claimed it provided a 75 percent speed increase over Flash Player 8, which was partly because of the support for ActionScript 3.0 introduced in Flash Player 9. This sort of increase is usually enough for most users to install the new version. Even so, in many instances, actually downloading and installing the plug-in is becoming a thing of the past. Flash Player has the ability to download and install in the background, but, as one of the authors is quick to point out: “It takes a programmer to make it work.” HTML HTML is short for Hypertext Markup Language. Where HTML and ActionScript part company is that HTML is a formatting language, whereas ActionScript is a scripting language. This means HTML is composed of a set of specific instructions that tell the browser where content is placed on a web page and what it looks like. ActionScript has nothing to do with the browser. It tells Flash how the movie is to perform. The HTML instructions, or tags, are both its strength and its weakness. HTML was originally developed to allow the presentation of text and simple graphics. As the Web matured, HTML found itself hard-pressed to stay current with a community that was becoming bored with static content on pages. The emerging version of HTML, HTML 5.0, deals with this in a rather fascinating manner, but it is still in its infancy, and we don’t see it gaining broad adoption for a few more years. The real problems with HTML start when you try to drop multimedia or interactive media into a web page. HTML simply wasn’t designed for this sort of heavy lifting, which explains why JavaScript (a language that shares roots with ActionScript) is now so widely used. For a Flash designer, knowledge of how HTML works is critical, because it is an enabling technology: it enables your movies to be played on the Web. Of course, this isn’t as difficult as it once was. Today, through the use of Dreamweaver CS5 and even Flash, creating the HTML involves nothing more than a couple of mouse clicks. You will still need to play with the HTML—you saw this in Chapter 10 when you had to dig into the JavaScript code to enable full-screen playback of a Flash video—because your HTML document can do things that Flash can’t. This would include such features as alt attributes for screen readers and keywords used to attract search engines. The other thing to stick in the back of your mind is that Flash-only web pages aren’t as common as they once were. Web pages consisting solely of one SWF are still around, but Flash is also becoming a medium of choice for the delivery of banner ads, videos, and other interactive content that are elements of an HTML web page. To see an example of this, you need look no further than our beloved publisher. If you 785
  8. CHAPTER 15 hit the friends of ED home page at, you will see a Flash banner at the top of the home page (see Figure 15-20), while the rest of the page is composed of HTML. Figure 15-20. A typical Flash/HTML hybrid page Animated GIFs Before there was Shockwave, there was the infamous animated GIF file. These files were the original web animations, and you still can export your Flash movie as an animated GIF. Why would you want to do this if Flash Player is so ubiquitous? Because users don’t need to install the Flash plug-in to view them. In fact, it is a two-way street: you can import a GIF animation into a Flash movie, and you can export a Flash movie as an animated GIF. In fact, it is not uncommon to encounter situations where the client wants both the SWF and a backup GIF animation. 786
  9. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Exporting as an animated GIF Let’s reuse our now-familiar parrot to see how animated GIF exporting works: 1. Open the YawningParrot.fla file in this chapter’s Exercise folder. This is the file to be exported as an animated GIF. Flash will convert each frame of the movie to a GIF image. There are 355 frames in this animation, meaning you should prepare yourself to create 355 separate GIF images. OK, web-heads, settle down. Creating an animated GIF consisting of 355 frames is, as our editor Ben Renow-Clarke would say, “Simply not done, old chap.” We know that, but if you understand what happens—in a big way—you’ll be more cautious in your efforts. Anyway, the parrot is pretty cool and makes for a rather interesting workout for Fireworks CS5. 2. Select File ➤ Export ➤ Export Movie (press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S on Windows or Cmd+Option+Shift+S on a Mac) to open the Export Movie dialog box (see Figure 15-21). Navigate to the Parrot folder in the Chapter 15 Exercise folder, and select GIF Sequence in the Format drop-down menu. Then click Save. Figure 15-21. Select GIF Sequence as the export format. 787
  10. CHAPTER 15 3. In the Export GIF dialog box, specify these settings (see Figure 15-22): Dimensions: 570 550 pixels Colors: 256 Smooth: Selected Figure 15-22. Preparing to export the Flash timeline as a GIF animation You may notice that when you change the dimension settings, there is a corresponding reduction in the Resolution value. If you click the Match Screen button, you will be returned to the original settings for this image. The physical reduction of each frame and its corresponding reduction in resolution have the net effect of creating a rather small GIF image. In this case, you need to just ignore size. That can be dealt with in Fireworks CS5. 4. Click the OK button. A progress bar will appear, showing you the progress of the export. This is a fairly quick process and should take only a few seconds. When it finishes, the progress bar will disappear, and you will be returned to the Flash stage. At this point, you are now the proud owner of the 355 GIF images that will be used to create the animation. We aren’t going to get into the nitty-gritty of creating the GIF animation in Fireworks CS5. The process is fairly simple, and the next steps give you the general idea. 5. Launch Fireworks CS5, and then select File ➤ Batch Process. Navigate to the folder containing the GIF images and import all of them. 6. Scale the images to a size of 113 109, and save the scaled images to a new folder. 788
  11. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES 7. Still in Fireworks CS5, click the Open button on the Welcome screen, and navigate to the folder containing your GIF images. Select all of them in the Open dialog box, and select Open as animation, as shown in Figure 15-23. Then click the Open button. 8. When the animation appears on the Fireworks CS5 canvas, test it by clicking the Play button in the bottom-right corner of the canvas. Fireworks will create the animated GIF by putting each image in a frame. You can then do what you need to do and export the file from Fireworks CS4 as an animated GIF. Figure 15-23. Importing the GIF files into Fireworks. The key is to select Open as Animation. Only the main timeline is considered when Flash content is converted to an animated GIF. Nested movie clip timelines and ActionScript do not make it through the translation process. The simple rule of thumb is that if you can see it move while you manually scrub the timeline, the GIF can, too. If you can’t, it won’t show. Yes, we set you up. In Flash, if you select File ➤ Export ➤ Export Movie, you can bypass the need to restitch the GIF sequence in Fireworks by choosing Animated GIF from the Export Movie dialog box. Still, it’s good to know where these things come from, how they are created, and your options! 789
  12. CHAPTER 15 Importing an animated GIF Now that you know how to create a GIF animation in Flash, let’s look at the reverse process. Here’s how to import a GIF animation into Flash: 1. Open a new Flash CS5 document, and select File ➤ Import ➤ Import to Library. 2. Navigate to the ParrotFW.gif file in the Exercise folder for this chapter, and click Import to Library. When the process finishes, you will see that each image in the animation, along with a movie clip, has been added to the Library. 3. Drag the movie clip to the stage, and test the movie. You have a low-resolution version of the yawning parrot, as shown in Figure 15-24. This book was purchased by Figure 15-24. A yawning parrot in the GIF format QuickTime QuickTime is Apple’s Internet streaming video technology. As we have pointed out throughout this book, QuickTime is losing its grip as the premiere web video technology. Even so, you have the ability to output your Flash animations as QuickTime movies—File ➤ Export ➤ Export Movie ➤ QuickTime—and use them in video projects. This isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. The rise of motion graphics on the Web makes Flash an ideal tool for creating these things for web or broadcast. To prove it, Figure 15-25 is a screen capture from a video one of the authors did for activetutsplus ( tutorials/screencasts/getting-to-grips-with-alpha-channel-video/), and you might recognize our pal Grotto in the bottom-left corner. He was output as a QuickTime movie and added to an AfterEffects project, which was then subsequently output as an F4V file. 790
  13. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Figure 15-25. Flash animations can be output to video. Flash is gaining ground as a broadcast animation technology, and no matter how you slice it, QuickTime is the way to go with digital video. Up until the previous release of Flash, QuickTime and Flash have had a rather uneasy relationship. It was extremely difficult to get Flash animations into QuickTime for editing in a video-editing application. Why? Because you couldn’t use nested movie clips, nested timelines, or ActionScript. These impediments have been removed, and publishing a Flash document as a QuickTime movie is easier than it ever has been. That raises this question: how do you publish a Flash movie for the Web? It’s showtime! Everything works as it should. You have sweated buckets to optimize the movie, and the client has finally signed off on the project. It’s showtime. The Flash movie is ready to hit the Web and dazzle the audience. Though you may think publishing a Flash movie involves nothing more than selecting Publish in the File menu, you would be seriously mistaken. The process is as follows: 1. Open the Publish Settings window to determine how the movie will be published. 2. Publish the movie and preview the SWF. 3. Upload the SWF and any support files to your web server. 791
  14. CHAPTER 15 Publish settings We’ll start by exploring the publish settings. Open GardenFinal.fla in this chapter’s Exercise folder. It struck us as somehow appropriate that you finish the book by working with the file you created when you started the book. We are going to concentrate on a movie headed for the Web and not a mobile device. We discuss the mobile process in greater detail in Chapter 14. Select File ➤ Publish Settings (Ctrl+Shift+F12 on Windows or Option+Shift+F12 on a Mac) to open the Publish Settings dialog box, as shown in Figure 15-26. Figure 15-26. The Publish Settings dialog box 792
  15. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES You can also launch the Publish Settings dialog box by clicking the Edit button in the Profile area of the Publish section in the Properties panel. The one thing you don’t want to do, unless you have a lot of Flash experience, is to select File ➤ Publish. Selecting this will publish the movie using whatever default settings are in place. As you can see, this dialog box is divided into three distinct sections: Formats, Flash, and HTML. In fact, that last tab (or tabs) will change depending on the format chosen. We’ll get to that in a minute. The five buttons along the top, next to the drop-down menu, are the Profile buttons. These allow you to “tweak” your settings and then save them for future use. Formats The file types are as follows: Flash (.swf): Select this, and you will create a SWF that uses the name in the File area unless you specify otherwise. HTML (.html): The default publishing setting is that the Flash and HTML settings are both selected. This does not mean your SWF will be converted to an HTML document. It means Flash will generate the HTML file that will act as the wrapper for the SWF. If you are a Dreamweaver CS5 user, you don’t need to select the HTML (.html) option. Dreamweaver will write the necessary code for the SWF when it is imported into the Dreamweaver CS5 document. GIF Image (.gif): Select this, and the Flash animation will be output as an animated GIF, or the first frame of the movie will be output as a GIF image. JPEG Image (.jpg): The first frame of the Flash movie will be output as a JPEG image. PNG Image (.png): The first frame of the movie will be output as a PNG image. Be careful with this one, because not all browsers can handle a PNG image. Windows Projector (.exe): Think of this as being a desktop SWF that is best suited to play back from a Windows desktop or CD, not from the browser. Macintosh Projector: This is the same idea as the Windows projector. Just be aware that a Mac projector won’t play on a Windows machine, and vice versa. The Navigate buttons (they look like folders and are located beside each file type) allow you to navigate to the folder where the SWF will be saved (see Figure 15-27). If you see a path, click the Use Default Names button to strip out the path from the file name. 793
  16. CHAPTER 15 Figure 15-27. Strip out any paths in the file name to avoid problems. Select all of the types. Notice how each file type kicks out its own tab. Deselect everything but the Flash (.swf) option before continuing. Flash settings Click the Flash tab to open the Flash settings, as shown in Figure 15-28. Figure 15-28. The Flash settings in the Publish Settings dialog box 794
  17. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Let’s review each of the areas in this panel: Player: This drop-down menu allows you to choose any version of Flash Player from versions 1 to 10.1 (the current version), AIR 2, and any version of Flash Lite Player from versions 1 to 4.0. If you have the Properties panel open, you will see the version chosen also appears there. It is extremely important for you understand that if you change your Flash Player version and are using features in the movie that aren’t supported by the chosen Flash Player version, you will be greeted by the alert dialog box shown in Figure 15-29). In his case, we had used 3D tweens in the GardenFinal file, and that feature is not supported in our target player: Flash Player 6. Figure 15-29. Flash will let you know you can’t, when you try to do something that isn’t supported by the version of Flash Player you have targeted. Script: There are three versions of the ActionScript language. If you are publishing to Flash Player 9 or newer, you are safe selecting ActionScript 3.0, ActionScript 2.0, or ActionScript 1.0 (we recommend ActionScript 3.0). If you are publishing to Flash Player 8 through 6 or Flash Lite 2 or 2.1, ActionScript 2.0 is your choice, though ActionScript 1.0 will work. Everything else uses the ActionScript 1.0 setting. Images and Sounds: This is where you control the compression of JPG images and sound quality. Your choices are as follows: JPEG quality: This slider and text field combo specifies the amount of JPEG compression applied to bitmapped artwork in your movie. The value you set here will be applied to all settings in the Bitmap Properties area of the Library, unless you override it for individual bitmaps on a per-image basis. Audio stream: Unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, leave this one alone. The value shown is the one applied to the Stream option for audio in the Properties panel. Audio event: This comes with the same warning as the previous choice but for event sounds. Override sound settings: Click this, and any settings—Stream or Event—you set in the Sound Properties area of the Library are, for all intents and purposes, gone. Export device sounds: Use this only if you are using Flash Lite and publishing to a mobile device. 795
  18. CHAPTER 15 SWF Settings: Use this area to tell Flash how to create the SWF. The following options are available: Compress movie: Even though Flash compresses the FLA’s assets when it creates the SWF, selecting this allows Flash to compress the SWF itself—usually text-heavy or ActionScript-heavy—to an even greater extent during the publish process. If you are publishing to Flash Player 5 or older, you can’t use this option. Include hidden layers: This option falls squarely in the category of “it’s your call.” All this means is that any timeline layer whose visibility icon is turned off will not be compiled into the SWF. Designers often like to keep reference layers handy during authoring, but in previous versions of Flash, such layers would show in the SWF, even if they were hidden in the FLA. An old trick to “really” hide them was to convert such layers to guide layers—but that can get tedious. If you really want those layers gone, just delete them. If you’re a little lazy, use this feature instead. We tend to leave it unselected, but if there is a compelling reason to include your hidden layers, select this option. Include XMP metadata: Select this option and click the File Info button, and the dialog box shown in Figure 15-30 will appear. Any text entered here will be added to the SWF’s metadata. As you can see, the amount of metadata you can add is quite extensive. For more information about Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP), see products/xmp/. Export SWC: Unless your name is Grant Skinner or you have been living and breathing Flash for most of your natural life, leave this one alone. It is used to create a component for Flash. Password: This option works in conjunction with the Debugger workspace, but only for ActionScript 2.0. If you add a password to this text-entry box, whoever opens the ActionScript 2.0 Debugger panel will be prompted to enter the password if debugging the SWF in a browser. If the plan is to test and debug your Flash application remotely, this is a “must do.” Just remember, this only allows you debug your code. It won’t prevent people from maliciously “ripping” your def and decompiling the code. Advanced: You have a number of options regarding the treatment of the SWF available to you: Generate size report: Select this, and Flash will generate a .txt document that shows you where potential bandwidth issues may be located. The .txt file is generated when you publish the SWF. Protect from import: When this option is selected, the user will be prevented from opening your SWF in Flash. 796
  19. OPTIMIZING AND PUBLISHING FLASH MOVIES Figure 15-30. The ability to add metadata to a SWF is a major feature of practically every Adobe application. Omit trace actions: Flash will ignore any appearances of the trace() function you may have added to your ActionScript (they will actually be removed from the SWF). You use this function to track the value of a variable and display that value in the Output window. Tracing is great for debugging, but a ton of these common statements can affect performance. Permit debugging: Select this, and you have access to the Debugger workspace in Flash, even if the file is being viewed in a web browser. You really should turn this off before you make the movie public on the Web. Local playback security: The two options in this drop-down menu—Access local files only and Access network only—permit you control the SWF’s network access. The important one is the network choice. Access networks only protects information on the user’s computer from being accidentally uploaded to the network. 797
  20. CHAPTER 15 Hardware Acceleration: This needs a bit of explanation because if you make the wrong choice, your user is in for a really bad day. We’ll provide that explanation after the description of the next, and last, item in the Flash panel. Script time limit: Sometimes your scripts will get into a loop, sort of like a dog chasing its tail. This can go on for quite a long time before Flash sighs and gives up. Enter a value here, and you are telling Flash exactly when to give up. For the Hardware Acceleration option, you get three choices, as shown in Figure 15-31. These choices are offered thanks to Flash Player 10.1 and its ability to do a lot more heavy-lifting than any Flash Player in history. By using hardware acceleration, Flash will work with the user’s video card to render graphics and video more smoothly. Figure 15-31. Be very careful regarding what you choose. The first choice (None) is self-explanatory. The next one, Level 1 – Direct, tells Flash to look for the shortest path through the CPU from the video card to the screen. This mode is ideal for video. The Level 2 – GPU option was introduced in Flash CS4. The best way of wrapping your mind around it is to consider how movieclips are rendered. They are essentially drawn on the screen using software, but they are rendered—think of the fly buzzing around the garden—with your graphics card, or GPU. Scaling is a great example of this, and full-screen HD video rendering is also done this way. You probably read that last sentence and thought, “Well shucks, I’ll do everything this way.” Not so fast, bucko. As Flash engineer Tinic Uro points out in his blog ( gpu-acceleration-mean.html), “Just because the Flash Player is using the video card for rendering does not mean it will be faster. In the majority of cases your content will become slower.” Essentially, the Level 2 – GPU choice requires a minimum DirectX 9 card. If you are a Vista user, for example, and Aero Glass is a problem, you can bet that hardware rendering of Flash graphics will be equally problematic, because Aero has the same hardware requirements as the GPU choice. Also, frame rate will be an issue, because the frame rate will max out to the screen refresh rate. This means if you have a Flash movie with a frame rate of 72 fps, you have exceeded the refresh rate of 60 times per second. In this case, your Flash movie’s frame rate will downshift to 60 fps or, more realistically, 50 to 55 fps, thanks to dropped frames. The bottom line here is that either Hardware Acceleration choice will result in a serious memory hit on the browser, to the point where the browser becomes either sluggish or unresponsive. If you must use this feature, limit yourself to one SWF per HTML page, and use Level 1 – Direct as your first choice. Both choices are tied directly to the video card manufacturers and their drivers. Over the next couple of 798
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