I previously gave a brief introduction to the new Flash CS4, which barely scratched the surface of what you'll find in this new release from Adobe. With it's new functionality, new tools, and its overall ease of use, Flash CS4 is better than ever.
Upon starting up Flash CS4, the first thing you'll notice is the new interface arrangement. With the Properties panel now smartly arranged vertically and the timeline on the bottom by default, you are seeing something that is designed for a better workflow from the start. However, you can also easily use the workspace switcher drop-down to change the workspace to another setup. You can also arrange things the way you would like them, or depending on what you use most, and save this new workspace.
But, let's get to the real meat and potatoes of Flash CS4, with it's advancements in animation. What I am talking about here is the new object-based animation model in Flash CS4, which will save you a whole lot of time right at the start. With just a few clicks you can set tween spans and keyframes with ease, by directly working with objects on the stage.
With just a right-click on an object and selecting "Create Motion Tween", you automatically see a span in the timeline. Further, you can easily manipulate motion paths right on the stage as well, resulting in automatic keyframes in the timeline.
This easy functionality makes Flash CS4 more accessible to the masses, as it is so much less tedious to set up basic animations than it was in previous versions when everything was controlled through the timeline. However, long-time Flash users that may be more comfortable with the old way of doing things, do not fear. Adobe has left in the old functionality that you can easily revert to by right-clicking in the timeline and choosing "Create Classic Tween."
Now, say you have your basics in line and want to add or enhance your work with some finer tweaks, or to add in other effects or advanced properties. Well, then, here is where the Motion Editor comes into play. As you can see in the picture below, there are plenty of options available to take your project to the next level. Everything from basic motion and transformation, to color and filter effects.
3D manipulations are also now introduced in Flash CS4, with 3D Translation and 3D Rotation tools, though not real 3D, but merely a way to manipulate your 2D objects in 3D space. This makes it quick and easy to show depth and perspective in a way that once had to be done outside of Flash.
Moving on to the designing side, the new Deco tool can come in quite handy. This new tool is able to accomplish a few different and fun things. For example, with this tool there is a 'Vine Fill' option which you can use to create pattern fills based on symbols you specify. As suggested by the name, its use results in a random branching effect, when you specify a branch and leaf symbol for it to use.
You'll also notice the two other options with the Deco Tool: Grid Fill and Symmetry Brush. Grid Fill does just as it says, by filling with a grid pattern any symbol you might create for it.
The Symmetry Brush I found to be quite cool for quick symmetrical object placement and fun kaleidoscope effects.
One way to get a project started quickly is by using the new Motion Preset library, which is already packed with a number of good standard motions you can call up and add easily. You can also very easily create and save your own motion presets for future use.
And now for the addition that really got me excited about Flash CS4: the new Bones Tool! This is a Flash animator's dream come true, as it adds more possibilities and more creative ease. It's exciting to see inverse kinematics come into play in Flash, and many will say it's about time!
Using the Bones Tool at the start is quick and easy. You can draw bones to connect objects, or even create a bone system to distort a single shape. As pictured below, with the bones in place, you can control the shape the bones are constructed in.
Then, there is the Bind Tool, which you would use to fine tune how the bones are connected to a shape, or between objects.
You also have plenty of options available in the properties panel for constraints you can set, such as how far a bone can move and rotate.
Now, what is really exciting about using bones in Flash CS4, is that you have the option to publish your work as a runtime. This means that there is now a new option for interactivity. As a quick example, pictured below is simple text, with each letter connected using the Bones Tool. The starting bone is at the "W", so you can click and move the other letters. Please note that you must have Flash Player 10 installed in order for this to work. You can download and install Flash Player 10, here.
Now, I would be remiss if I wasn't to mention the new Media Encoder that ships with Flash CS4. Though I haven't worked with it much yet, you can see below that you can export to a wide range of formats, including the high definition H.264.
The new Flash CS4 opens up many new possibilities for both the newcomer to Flash, and the experienced Flash user. With its major improvements in ease of use, quick-start out of the box, and exciting new tools and functionality, I would say without a doubt that Flash CS4 is Adobe's definitive version thus far.
For more information, as well as pricing and availability, please visit: www.adobe.com.
**To reward customers for staying current, Adobe is offering Creative Suite 3 customers moving to Creative Suite 4 a lower upgrade price than it offers to those moving from older, qualifying versions. For a limited time, a special introductory offer enables customers with older qualifying products to enjoy the same lower price with savings of up to US $200 off their actual upgrade price. For more detailed information please visit www.adobe.com/creativesuite.
About Adobe Systems Incorporated
Adobe revolutionizes how the world engages with ideas and information—anytime, anywhere, and in any medium. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.
Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
December 15, 2008
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