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Organizing Frames and Layers

If you've ever wanted to learn how to do Flash animation editing, you've come to the right place. This two-part series offers you a crash course. It is excerpted from chapter four of the book Flash CS3: The Missing Manual, written by E.A. Vander Veer (O'Reilly, 2007; ISBN: 0596510446). Copyright © 2007 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the publisher. Available from booksellers or direct from O'Reilly Media.

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By: O'Reilly Media
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 9
August 28, 2008
  1. · Organizing Frames and Layers
  2. · Working with Frames
  3. · Moving Frames (Keyframes)
  4. · Editing Multiple Frames
  5. · Adding Content to Multiple Layers

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Organizing Frames and Layers - Editing Multiple Frames
(Page 4 of 5 )

Imagine you’ve just completed a 250-frame animation showing a character in a red t-shirt demonstrating your company’s latest product, an electronic egg slicer. Suddenly, your boss comes in and declares that red’s out. (Red’s the color your competitor is using for their egg slicer launch.) You have, your boss declares, until the end of the day to change all 250 frames.

Now, if you had to change all 250 frames by hand, you’d never be able to get it done in time; and even if you did, you’d probably make a few mistakes along the way, like accidentally repositioning the t-shirt in a couple of frames or missing a few frames altogether. But it’s precisely this kind of en masse editing job that Flash’s multiple frame editing capability was designed to handle.


Remove vs. Cut vs. Clear

Flash offers several commands you can use to get rid of your frames (and the content associated with those frames): remove, cut, and clear. Unfortunately, it's not immediately clear which command does what.

Here's what these commands do to selected frames:

  • Edit -> Timeline -> Remove Frames. Removing a frame deletes that frame from the Timeline--unless the frame happens to be a keyframe that's not followed either by another keyframe, or by nothing. If you attempt to remove a keyframe followed by a regular frame, Flash deletes the frame immediately to the right of the keyframe instead (go figure). To be safe, if you want to remove a keyframe--in other words,
    if you want to delete a keyframe from the Timeline--you first want to clear the keyframe (strip the frame of its keyframe status; then you can remove the frame itself.
  • Edit -> Timeline -> Cut Frames. Cutting a frame deletes the content on the Stage associated with that frame (in other words, turns the frame into a blank keyframe). If the immediately succeeding frame is a regular frame, Flash turns that succeeding frame into a keyframe. Flash stores the contents of the cut frames on the Clipboard, so that you can restore them by choosing Edit -> Timeline -> Paste Frames.
  • Edit -> Timeline -> Clear Frames. Clearing frames is identical to cutting them, with one difference: Flash doesn't store the contents of the cleared frames (so you can't restore them).

Using a technique called onion skinning, you can see the contents of several different frames all at once. The currently selected frame appears on Stage as it always does; the other frames you’ve told Flash using onion markers that you want to see appear grayed out, so you can tell which is which. Onion skinning lets you quickly identify (and change) the frames containing red t-shirts.

Onion skinning is also useful for those times when you want to hand-draw an “inbetween” frame because you can see both the preceding and succeeding frames on the Stage at the same time.

Note: Technically speaking, when you edit multiple frames in Flash, you’re actually editing multiple keyframes. Keyframes are the only frames that contain unique, editable art. (Regular frames just “hold over” the contents of the previous keyframe, and Flash stores tweened frames not as editable images, but a bunch of calculations.)

 To edit multiple frames using onion skinning:

  1. In the Timeline, click the Edit Multiple Frames icon.

    Flash displays multiple frames on the Stage and adds onion markers to the frame display (Figure 4-3). These beginning and ending onion markers tell Flash which frames you want it to display on the Stage. 

    Figure 4-3.  When you click Edit Multiple Frames, Flash shows the content of a bunch of frames on a single Stage. Unfortunately, Flash might miss a frame or two. To tell Flash to show the content of all your frames, click the Modify Onion Markers icon and then, from the pop-up menu that appears, select Onion All. (You can also drag the onion markers separately to enclose a different subset of frames.)

  2. Click the Modify Onion Markers icon.

    Flash displays a pop-up menu. 
  3. From the pop-up menu, select Onion All (Figure4-4).

    Flash displays onion markers from the beginning of your Timeline’s frame span to the end, and shows the contents of each of your frames on the Stage. (If you don’t want to edit all the frames in your animation, you can drag the onion markers independently to surround whatever subset of your frame span you want.) 

    Figure 4-4.  Here you see the result of selecting Onion All. The onion markers surround the entire frame span (Frame 1 through Frame 4) and all four images appear on the same Stage, ready for you to edit en masse.
  4. Edit the frames.

    Because you can see all the content on a single Stage, you can make your edits more easily than having to hunt and peck individually through every frame in your animation. In Figure 4-5, all four frames’ contents are first recolored and then moved in one fell swoop. When the move is complete, your stage looks like Figure 4-6. 

    Figure 4-5.  You can work with multiple images just as easily as single images. For example, you can select several (or all of them) and apply whatever edits you like—moving them, coloring them, reshaping them, and so on.
  5. Click Edit Multiple Frames again.

Flash returns to regular one-frame-at-a-time editing mode and displays only the contents of the current frame on the Stage.

Note: You can't edit multiple Frames on a locked layer (page 132). In fact, when you click Edit Multiple frames on a locked layer, Flash doesn’t even show you the content of the frames in the locked layer (not even in onion skin form). 


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