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Flash animations on the Web: an introduction

by Steve Coffin

What is Flash?

Flash is a software package from Macromedia that offers a whole new dimension to web-based content. A common use of Flash animations can often be seen on a website’s opening page. One basic technique of animation in Flash is called tweening, which applies actions between two objects over time to make an animation. So when you see a square morph into a triangle you can be pretty sure that you are watching a Flash animation and that a shape tween is being used.

Why use Flash?Flash uses vector-based animation as opposed to bitmapped or raster-based animation.This allows for a greater amount of information to be streamed across the net to the user. Simply put, a vector-based graphic is a series of mathematical dimensions and commands whereas a raster-based graphic is an ordered collection of dots or pixels. Vector-based files tend to be smaller in file size than raster images. In theory, this makes the download quicker.



What it offers

Flash offers an evolution in the interactivity level available to people surfing on the net. Its applications are almost endless — from a shopping cart application to online games and beyond. The main thing that drives the current popularity of Flash animation sites is the programmer’s creativity and the increasing accessibility of broadband Internet.

What is Action Script? 

Action Script is the programming language of Flash. It is accessed by a series of presets in the actions palette or, in expert mode, the programmer can hard code. This will be a familiar interface to anyone who has ever worked with Macromedia’s web page layout software, Dreamweaver.

Note: Most modern browsers already contain a plug-in to allow you to view Flash files. You may find you need to upgrade your plug-in — get the latest Flash plug-in (version 5).

Flash examples on the Web

 home of Flash and plug-ins

 cool flash animations

 Flash experiments

 interactive entertainment (radio hosts)

 Flash animations (cartoon series)

 Flash in music site


Funny Flashes from Todd Gallina

Cartoons from the Icebox 


Radio 1 UK radio host page

Flash experiments - try them!


Bottom Line:

Flash 5 US$399

Steve Coffin is an Ottawa-based Web, Flash and music producer. He can be contacted at

Originally published: December, 2001

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