There has been a lot of anti-Flash talk in the last year or two, but I am referring to Flash the authoring environment, not the browser plugin, although that kind of sucks too. I use Flash for all digital 2d animation, mostly frame by frame, and it is the bane of my existence. It has causes me more aggravation (RAGE) than any other program, and is very high on a short list of most infuriating things on this earth. It is so bloated and buggy and inefficient and I feel stuck with it. I have looked into other software, but there’s always something prohibitive, usually cost. I also don’t want to invest the time in learning a whole new piece of software to find out it’s also unacceptable. This is kind of a review, but really it’s just a rant for those that already know this awful/useful software.
I would like to admit the possibility that some of my complaints may well have a better work around, or even solution that I’m not aware of, or is specific to CS4 (the version I use, since there weren’t ANY good new animation features that I’m aware of in the newer versions). If that is the case, please let me know. PLEASE!
The thing that is just unfathomably awful to the point of nearly being useless, is when Flash can’t export a smooth video from a file that is too complex for it to playback perfectly in unrendered vector form. So If you add a bunch of effects like blur and textures, it get’s so slow that you have to export a 1 frame per second video file and speed it up in another program. That is a whole other bag of complications later. The only other option is to export still frames and piece them together after the fact into a video file, except that if there is a motion guide or selection box visible anywhere in your animation, it will come out in the images. On top of that, sometimes animated elements inside movie clips show up as still images. You can always convert everything to a graphic, but then Flash won’t let you apply effects like blur, glow, or composite modes. So you’re charged with the annoying task of nesting symbols in a way that fools the program or converting each frame of the animation to a separate movie clip to add the effect. One might suggest that my computer isn’t up to snuff, and it is a few years old, but it’s still a 3ghz core2 quad with mediocre video card and 4 gigs of ram. Yeah, it’s a couple generations out of date, but damn, how much power does it really need to accomplish a task that any other program in the world (with enough processing time) can do perfectly? This is just stupid.
Has this every been very useful? Very useful in theory, but it behaves so poorly and uncontrollably even with shape hints, that most of the time it’s quicker to draw out each frame individually. I only ever use it for very simple fluid effects.
Symbol to Timeline Discrepancies:
Sometimes, when Flash is feeling particularly evil, I will make a change to an animation within a symbol, but no matter what I do, it doesn’t show up on the main timeline. It plays through as if nothing was changed at all, but when you click back into the symbol, everything is current. The only thing to consistently fix this seems to be quit and restart the program. This one was especially fun before I knew what was going on.
Often! I use an auto save plugin most of the time, set to 1 minute intervals, because it can happen a lot. I have lost so much work due to crashes. I try to save regularly, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in a particular piece of work that I just for get for a while. Often crashes occur during a publish preview, but any time at all is fair game. It will just seem so very unfair. The auto save plugin is very useful, but since it is a third party extension, I don’t think there’s a way to make it automatically activate every time you open Flash. So don’t forget, I have, many times.
New vs Classic Motion Tweening:
If the new tweening was all that great, they wouldn’t have had to keep the old method around. Truthfully I use both. The new tweening has a motion path built in, which sounds awesome, and it is, if your doing something very simple. Otherwise it gets all screwed up and jagged. Not only that but once it’s bent out of shape it seems permanently ruined. You have to start all over! Seriously?! For the new motion tweening, there is now the motion editor, which lets you control just about everything about your tween in a big complex window. The thing that sucks is that for most people this is way more than needed and now there is no easy way to ease a tween in and out without doing it in the motion editor or reverting back to classic. Well that’s not entirely true, you can trick it by breaking the motion into 3 pieces, easing in on the first clip and easing out on the last. It works, but it seems silly. New tweening does do some things better than Classic, but it seems like too much of a compromise to me. There must be a way to add Classic like features to the New Tweening system.
This one is a double edged sword. I actually have to list this as a positive thing, even though it is also infuriating. For one thing it’s a plugin, so I can’t blame any faults on Adobe, but it’s not the faults that piss me off the most about this. It’s the fact that I need it to do Pixel Art animations, and there doesn’t seem to be anything similar for any other animation program. I’m not going to go into the flaws of this since there’s no way to know if they are the result of poor 3rd party code, or Adobe.
I naively thought it would be good for Flash when Adobe bought it from Macromedia, but all I have seen is the program get larger, slower, and crashier. I keep vowing to give it up in favor of a more specialized program like Toonboom, Flipbook Pro, or TV Paint, but so far no luck. It has a strange hold over me.
There are probably more bugs that bug me, but I’ll leave it here for now. Dear Flash, I wish I could quit you….and never re-open you.
Update: This one has been bugging me lately, so I thought it should be included.
Random Layout Change:
Sometimes when you open a saved file, you may find your layout completely off. A tweened object is in entirely the wrong place. If you look at the motion path, it is still in the right place, but for some inexplicable reason the object is way offset. No amount of restarting seems to fix this. So to correct it you must drag the whole motion path away from where it is supposed to be to get the object back in place. That, or move the object inside it’s symbol. Okay, fine, annoying but easy work around, that is until at some later date when you open the file again. Yes that’s right, now it has corrected itself. So now your workaround is causing it to be off in the other direction. FUMES!