Flash Professional 8

Flash Professional 8

Flash Professional 8 grows some serious teeth, with impressive improvements in workflow, performance, video, typography, and drawing.


Flash is the best cross-platform, cross-browser rich-media-delivery platform on the planet, and the latest release of Flash Professional adds even more depth to this authoring tool. The improvements come in four categories: creative, technical, workflow, and video.


Creative. After two programmer-centric releases, Flash Professional 8 finally makes some solid designer-oriented improvements, including upgrades to pixel-based handling, the addition of run-time image filters (such as drop shadows, glows, and blurs), and enhancements to run-time displacement mapping, image scaling, and image resampling. Animators looking for better acceleration and deceleration controls for sprites now have velocity curves between keyframes in a dialog. A new drawing mode makes Flash shapes behave as they do in Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia FreeHand. A three-by-three scaling matrix finally brings a level of layout management to designers of user interfaces, allowing MovieClips to intelligently scale and stretch.

Technical. Programmers have not been overlooked. Complex vector shapes and text can be cached as pixel-based bitmap proxies, improving the final output's performance. Programmers gain access to more filters than what can be found in Flash's user interface, such as custom convolution filters. The ActionScript 2.0 scripting language has evolved and expanded - there are too many useful improvements to list here, but its syntax and patterns haven't changed in any significant way.


Workflow. Workflow improvements are largely centered on an enhanced workspace that makes Flash a joy to work with. Flash also sports some new testing features for developers of mobile content via the FlashLite platform. The poor performance of Flash's developer tools in the last few Mac releases made them arguably unusable for complex projects, but it's safe to say that Flash Professional 8 feels snappier - even though it still runs faster in Windows.


Video. The two most welcome enhancements are full 8-bit alpha-channel support for imported videos and the addition of the astounding On2 codec, which produces incredible quality in tiny file sizes. The video-import workflow is now largely contained in one interface. Flash also comes with a capable standalone video encoder for queued multivideo compression, but it doesn't support broader workflow features such as watch folders.


To-do list. The better Flash gets, the more obvious its overt omissions become. These include Flash's lack of full OpenGL acceleration, native 3D support, velocity curves within the timeline, single keyframes showing all state changes (rather than keyframes of each independent state), truly customizable layout-management schemes, and human-readable markup for drawn objects. These limitations may become more pronounced with the upcoming release of Microsoft's Expression interface-authoring tools (see www.microsoft.com/products/expression) and their XML-based way of describing everything shown onscreen. Expression's tools might not compete directly with Flash any time soon, but they may change expectations about rich-media performance and authoring that could haunt Flash in the long haul.


The bottom line. If you're a media designer who needs to serve up a hot dish of rich media, there's never been a better time to get Flash Professional 8 into your digital kitchen and start cooking.


CONTACT: www.adobe.com
PRICE: $699 (full), $299 (upgrade)
REQUIREMENTS: G3, Mac OS 10.3 or later, 256MB RAM, 2GB disk space
Improved performance, filtering, interface, workflow, image handling, and typography. Great video handling.
Best performance enhancements require writing code. Output not fully hardware accelerated.





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