I’ve already told the story of my first Flash project and hinted at how that demonstration altered the trajectory of the Mac Lab. Sure we’ve used Flash extensively in here over the past 7 years but if there’s one thing that really sets our classroom apart from the others, it’s the animated versions (Steven M) of our Photoshop work (Michael W). Newbies in here are probably wondering what I’m talking about because we haven’t focused on Flash yet this year.
There’s a controversy surrounding who created the first animated PSD in here, but there’s no doubt that among those early projects, Michael Werner‘s was the best of the bunch. Two of the many tutorials I recorded about this technique may be found here, and here. And before I get carried away and move on to animated masking (here’s Brian S’s source file if you’re interested) and the world of fun you can have with those skills, let’s get straight to the Flash resources you’ve got access right now.
Rather than searching the Internet, why not take advantage of two of the best Flash resources on the planet? The Mac Lab’s Flash Tutorials, believe it or not, are praised by folks around the world. If I don’t have what you want, Justin, the genius behind CartoonSmart, surely will. We’ve got all his tutorials in the Resources folder* on the server. If you want to learn from him at home, He’s got free tutorials, info about free tutorials, a new home for more free tutorials (Vimeo’s blocked here at school but available everywhere else), and a wonderfully informative blog for all things Flash and beyond (he’s branched out to a wide array of other programs).
So, if you’ve been wanting to learn Flash, there’s no excuse anymore. Just know that it’s going to take some time and effort to really feel comfortable with the program.
*Resources > digital_arts > double_click > tutorials > cartoon_smart
Note: Isaac and I discussed this before I published the following. He agreed that the story would have value to others and has no problem with my public critique of his work. So, here’s what happened…
Isaac asked me if he could focus on Flash animation this semester. I encouraged him to follow his bliss so long as he incorporates lessons we’ve learned about color, composition, storytelling, etc. He “finished” this animated short on Saturday. I don’t think so.
Make no mistake: I think Isaac shows a lot of potential but he’s gotta follow the rules. Here’s the “finished” project. (I made a QuickTime version so you could see the individual frames if you’re interested in how the illusion of motion is achieved.) I asked if he planned things out or made it up as he went along. He said he tried the former but the latter works better for him. That’s going to change if he wants to continue – and make no mistake, I think he should continue to develop his craft. I also think he needs to take a closer look at this project. Is the available space (the Stage in Flash) used effectively? Should there be color? Sound? Should the “camera” appear to pan or zoom at times? (There’s no actual camera in Flash.) Should there be the illusion of camera cuts? Should certain animated effects be developed further. Can the story line be improved? And above all, should he have storyboarded the idea before even starting the animation?
Think about it. Then think about your own work. How might you revisit and modify your own “finished” projects to make them better?
I’m a huge proponent of competition. No, not me versus you or us against them or even Macs vs. PCs. (Please, let’s leave the platform wars out of any discussion here.) It’s the inner competition (Michael W) — competing with oneself — that matters most. Doing one’s best. And then doing even better. Here’s an example…
A former student felt strongly about Macs so he made a Flash project to express his feelings. I challenged him several times, Is that the best you can do? He responded with this and this and this. That’s it? That’s the best you got? That’s pitiful! And the kids around him laughed, though not at him. He was a hero for taking the pro-PC stand against Skocko — for putting down Skocko’s beloved Macs. But he knew what I really meant. He felt the challenge. And he rose to meet it (press the play button).
Now we were getting somewhere. While the other kids just saw a cooler version of destroying a Mac, he and I discussed the robot and its movement. What he’d accomplished was actually quite impressive. It showed real promise and I encouraged him to take the animation further. He worked. We talked. He came up with this series of animations (resize the browser window to better fit the SWFs): one, two, three, and four. Only those who understand Flash can begin to appreciate just how far this student pushed himself. That’s a journey one doesn’t easily forget.
Sometimes you have to be willing to take on something intimidating. (Like seeing if reality matches one’s memory.) According to the date on the file, I set out to create my first Flash project just short of one month into my Mac Lab gig. (I took over the class on January 21, 2002.) As I remember it, and now I’m not so sure I have it straight, I challenged the kids to learn Flash with me. That’s right, with me. I’d never used the program but it looked like fun. I wasÂ trying to establish that learning can be a team effort – that we’re all in this together – and, to be honest, I was trying to build some enthusiasm for the curriculum. In the heat of the moment I said something like, If I can make something cool, you have to too, okay? And more than a few of them had that let’s see if the old fart can back up his words look in their eyes.
Here’s my first Flash project – the little animation that got the Flash ball rolling, for the students and for my career. What followed was an amazing string of coincidences that led to success in and out of the Mac Lab. The kids began using (and abusing) Flash and the day after school let out I jumped on a plane and taught two 40 hour, week-long, total immersion Flash courses at the University of Texas for a company called Digital Media Academy. But that’s another story. The point of this one is that sometimes, the bigger the wave, the better the ride.