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Flash Timeline, Frames and Layers

Several of my readers have asked me what exactly is an animation and what images are needed to create an animation in FlashR. When answering this question, I like to use the example of a flip book, which is a group of sequential images with each image slightly different from the one before and after it in the sequence. When you "flip" through the pages of the book, you get the illusion of movement.

Another example is the individual images, or frames, of an animation in a filmstrip. Each frame is slightly different from the others in the sequence but when the filmstrip moves quickly in front of the projector aperture, the result is movement on the screen.

Creating animation is all about the individual frames and their sequence.


Frames

Before the computer, each of these individual frames were created by hand with only the media and techniques changing over the years. Even a simple, short animation would require the animator to create a large number of individual frames. Now, with animation software, we can create that simple animation with only one or a few frames. These "marker" frames, or keyframes, usually establish the beginning and ending of the animation and Flash draws the other frames for us. This process, called a Tween animation, is the easiest and most popular type of Flash animation.


Timeline

If we stay with the filmstrip example, we can compare the filmstrip to the Flash Timeline. In the projector the filmstrip moves vertically but in Flash we need to rotate the filmstrip 45 degrees and change the name from "filmstrip" to "timeline". This Timeline is made up of individual frames. When the playhead moves horizontally along the Timeline and plays the frames in the Tween sequence, movement is created on the Flash stage.


Layers

Another aspect to the Flash Timeline that we need to consider are layers. These layers are much like the transparent celluloid sheets, called cells, used in traditional animation. These layers are stacked horizontally on the Timeline. Because the layers are transparent, objects on the bottom or lower layers will be visible through the layer above, unless obscured by an object on a higher layer. We will place the moving and nonmoving parts of our animations on these layers. As you would expect, each moving part will be placed on its own layer. These layers will be placed above the bottom layer which will contain the nonmoving parts.




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