Flash CS4 features the same interface revamp as the rest of the Creative Suite, which may upset old-hand Flash users as it’s the second drastic front end facelift in as many versions. However, it serves its purpose in making Flash faster and easier to use, so can be forgiven.
In total, much of what’s new in Flash has been taken from tools on the Adobe side of 2005’s Adobe-Macromedia merger – especially After Effects, which has long had much better animation tools than Flash. Another upside to this is that Flash has become much easier to learn and use for AE-based motion graphics artists.
Flash’s keyframing system has been simplified almost to the level of AE’s. You can always right-click on an object and select ‘Create Motion Tween’ now – you don’t have to faff about manually turning it into a symbol, Flash does this for you. The software also automatically creates keyframes for you if you move to a frame on the timeline and modify a symbol – a simpler process that’s standard for AE users but a godsend for Flash animators. Moving keyframes is just as easy.
Assuming you say yes to not being shown this again, Flash will automatically create symbols for you.
Another direct steal from After Effects is the Motion Editor, which is a modified version of that tool’s Curves Editor. It allows users to fine tune animations by providing graphs of parameter values against time and allowing you to quickly modify values. You can also turn the straight lines of constant motion into Bezier paths to allow acceleration of change.
It’s a powerful tool but, unlike the Curves Editor, the Motion Editor can work with the parameters of one tween at once only and stacks up all of the parameter lines vertically in black against a gray background. The overlaid coloured lines of the Curves Editor allows you to see more at once without the panel taking up most of your screen.
Alongside this, Adobe has introduced Motion Presets: animation presets such as ‘fly-in-bottom’ and ‘fly-out-top’ that quickly add animation to your project. You can create your own and share them between projects – which you’ll probably have to do as the presets included are few in number and rather basic. Compared to AE’s extensive Animation Presets, these are weak.
For better animation, Flash CS4 also gains 3D transformation tools that are similar to Photoshop’s, being based around widgets where you drag on single-axis wheels to move and rotate symbols in 3D – which is much simpler than multi-axis rotation tools like AE’s if you’re new to this.