It's hard to believe that something so basic to animation had its start with Lego blocks, but the software we now know as Flash traces its roots to that constructive toy. In this article, you'll get an overview of the tools you can use in Flash CS3 Professional, and learn how to navigate its toolbars and windows.
Sometime during the 1970s while the rest of us were watching the Smurfs or outside riding our bicycles, an intrepid young Jonathon Gay was deep in the dungeons of his parents ranch-style home, his little fingers poking and prodding a seven-foot-tall monster made of a rag-tag assortment of Lego building blocks. He had it strapped to a lift table and was busy cackling maniacally as a dark thunderstorm boomed outside his home. He sat waiting for the clock to chime midnight (considering that he had been in the basement since 9:00 a.m., he had one heck of a wait). Of course Jonathon Gay was only a child at the time, and his bedtime was a soul shattering 7:30 pm, so instead he decided to move his experiment to a respectable 6:00 pm (right after a hearty helping of his mother's macaroni and cheese but before he had to brush his teeth).
As the clock chimed six, he pulled the lever next to the lift table and watched as the roof opened up and the table slowly inched its way into the night. Lightning struck all around, turning his red Lego monster a crisp black. As the table slowly lowered, the Lego monster began to mutter and moan and turn its head three hundred and sixty degrees. All the while, Johnathon Gay shouted into the night: It's alive. It's alive! And thus was born his greatest creation: Flashenstein.
While that isn't the exact way it happened (I think he really had meatloaf that night), Legos did play a role in Jonathon Gay's eventual creation of Macromedia's Flash, laying the foundation of his interest in structure and seeing a project through to its completion.
Originally titled FutureSplash Animator, the software (and the company that invented it) was purchased by Macromedia in December of 1996 after both MSN and Disney decided to use FutureSplash Animator to design their websites. The software was renamed Flash 1.0, and the world of online animation was changed forever.
Flash CS3 Professional: An Overview
Before we jump into how to create web pages and movies with Flash, let's first discuss the tools it offers and how to navigate the different toolbars and windows.
When you first open CS3, you will get an intro page that allows you to create a number of new Flash files, open a previous project, or create from a template. You can also view tutorials and visit the Adobe Flash exchange, where you can download snippets of code and animations. After using Flash a couple of times you might begin to get annoyed with this pop-up window and wish for a way to stop it from showing. Fortunately for you, there is a check-box in the lower left-hand corner that allows you to do just that.
For now let's click on the Create New>Flash File (ActionScript 3.0) button. This will open the new file and display the “stage” and “timeline” along with the tools, library, and color panes. There are more panes available within Flash, but this is your basic set. We'll start with the stage.