The timeline in Flash is made up of layers and frames. The
layers enable you to separate your artwork in space. Frames enable
you to separate your artwork in time. In this section, you'll
explore how you use both
when you create a Flash
Think of layers in Flash as sheets of acetate
on top of
each other. Layers have a stacking order. If you have a shape on
your top layer, it will obscure anything on a lower layer, as
in Figure 1.21. How many layers can you have in Flash?
The actual limit is 16,000 layers, but if you need that many
layers, it's probably time to rethink the organization of your
movie. Layers do not increase the file
of your published
movie, so use as many layers as you need to create an organized
Figure 1.21. A series of layers in a Flash movie. Notice how
the shapes in the lower layers are partially obscured by
the higher layers.
Changing the stacking order of your layers is as simple as
clicking on a layer in the layer stack and dragging it to a new
You can hide or lock layers as necessary by clicking the dot
the appropriate icon in the layer stack. The eyeball shows
or hides layers. Lock layers to prevent any accidental changes. If
your movie is very complex, you might want to view your layers as
outlines only. (See Figure 1.22.)
Figure 1.22. In this example, the upper layer is hidden, the
middle layer is locked, and the bottom layer is shown as outline
Double-clicking a layer
enables you to rename the layer.
Always use meaningful layer
. When you have a movie with 50
layers all named Layer 1, Layer 2, and so on, finding the
appropriate layer can become difficult, if not
One of the benefits of layers in Flash is that you can select
any object on any layer without first switching to that layer
(unless, of course, the layer is locked or hidden). If you've
worked in other programs where you've clicked an image or shape and
dragged it, only to find you were actually dragging something on
another layer, you'll quickly appreciate this.
Another benefit of layers is that simple shapes on different
layers do not interfere with each other. Unlike some other graphic
programs, there is no option in Flash for merging layers. However,
you can cut an object from one layer and use the Paste in Place
option to paste the object into exactly the same position on
A frame in Flash is used to represent time. Each movie begins
with 595 available frames, but you can add as many frames as you
need. Flash movies default to a frame rate of 12 frames per second,
but for simple Web work, you can get away with as low as 8 frames
per second. Increasing your frame rate speeds up your movie and
smoothes out your animation. Slowing down the frame rate slows down
your movie and can cause your animation, depending on its
complexity, to appear jumpy. Keep your frame rate as low as is
reasonable for the movie you're creating to help keep your file
size low. As a point of reference, you should know that film is
shot at 24 frames per second, and video is shot at 30 frames per
At Fig Leaf, we usually shoot for a frame rate of 15 to 18
frames per second. We've found that 18 frames per second keeps the
animation nice and smooth, and 15 frames per second is a little
less taxing on the processor.
You'll see two types of frames in Flash: regular frames and
exist where changes in the
animation take place. Any time there is an object on the Stage, a
keyframe in the timeline shows a small filled circle. If a keyframe
is empty, you'll either see a small
circle (if you are
displaying the frame in the Flash 4 style) or a darkened vertical
line (Flash 5 style).
When you insert a keyframe in Flash, the contents of the last
in the new keyframe. The frames between
Regular frames display
the content of the previous keyframe (either blank or filled).
Much of the animation you see in Flash is produced by tweening.
, short for in-betweening, is the process of
generating intermediate frames between two keyframes to give the
appearance of a smooth animation. Flash saves you time by creating
the tweened frames for you.
You have the option of using the Flash 4 frame drawing style or
the Flash 5 frame drawing style. You can change from one style to
the other in the Preferences dialog box (Edit > Preferences).
Personally, I prefer the Flash 4 style. I like my blank keyframes
to be really obvious. A quick survey of the other Flash users in
our offices came up with a split of 50 percent for the Flash 4
style and 50 percent for the Flash 5 style. It's really whatever
you're comfortable with.
As your movies become longer and more complex, you might want to
consider breaking them up into scenes, movie clips, or multiple
movies to simplify the editing process. You'll find that scrolling
through thousands of frames quickly becomes annoying.