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Computer Animation Tips

Computer animation isn't just about diving into the software and getting right to work; there are many little external tricks to make the process easier, less expensive, and more enjoyable. These articles provide helpful information on just where to look, and a few tricky little shortcuts that I've discovered over the years.

Flash Tip: Symbol / Instance Use Counts
Use counts are a tally of the number of times a symbol is used in a Flash movie.

Flash Gradient Tool Tip: Removing Colors with Ctrl + Click
How many times have you been working on the gradient tool palette, clicked too near the color bar (or been dragging an existing color swatch on the bar) only to accidentally add a new color swatch through the click?

Flash Gradient Tool Tip: Changing Gradient Overflow
"Overflow" refers to the continuation of a gradient in Flash once it's reached the end of the blend from one color through all the colors in the gradient palette.

Gradient Tool Tip: Quick Shortcut for the Flash Gradient Tool
One of the smaller features of the Flash gradient tool is one that some people find a convenience, while others find it an annoyance.

Quick-Editing Symbols: Editing Flash Symbols in One Click
There are many ways to edit Flash symbols, but the easiest way is always best.

Using Layers: When To Use Layers (and Layer Groups) in Flash and When Not To
If you've been using Flash for any length of time, you're likely aware of the ability to use Layers and Layer Groups to organize and stack your content. Sometimes we overdo it on layers, though, so the question is: when do you use layers, and when do you stop?

Flash ActionScripting Tip: ActionScript Window Button
Yes, there's a button to open the ActionScripting panel. How many people are so used to the keyboard shortcut that they never noticed it?

Flash Workspace Tip: Changing the Flash Workspace Between Default & Icons
Just when you think there's no other way you could possibly customize your Flash workspace further, we find another one: the ability to switch your workspace panels between default, icon, and icon + text view.

Flash Animation Tip: Pin Current Library
You may know that you can use multiple libraries when working on Flash animation - but did you know that you can "pin" a library window so that it stays active across multiple documents?

Flash Tip: Hide Panels
Need a quick and easy way to get rid of all those toolbars, panels, and tabs on your Flash screen so you can maximize your working area?

Flash Tip: Save and Compact
You may have noticed that other than the standard "Save" and "Save As...", there's another option for saving your files in Flash: Save and Compact.

Flash Tip: Create from Template
Did you know that Flash comes with multiple preset templates that are already set up with the standard publishing formats for various media?

Flash Tip: Changing the Column Layout on the Flash Toolbar
If you remember Flash MX and previous versions, you'll remember that the primary left-hand toolbar had a two-column layout that was later replaced with a one-column layout in newer versions.

Flash Tip: Collapse to Icons / Expand Dock
One of the many ways to maximize space in Flash CS3 and higher is to collapse the right-hand dock of tool panels.

Animation Tip: In-Betweens After Keyframes
While this may seem like second nature to veteran animators, many animation beginners don't realize that animation generally isn't drawn in sequential order.

Flash Tip: Hide the Timeline
Let's face it: when you're working on artwork in Flash, sometimes you need as much available space as possible. That means getting rid of as many extras as possible - and sometimes the timeline is one of those extras.

Flash Tip: Fit to Window
A quick way to zoom out your working area so that you can see everything on your Flash stage is to use Fit to Window.

Flash Tip: Line / Stroke Caps
If you've ever paid close attention to the end-points of lines / strokes drawn in Flash, you'll noticed that they end in a slightly rounded tip, almost as if drawn by a pen.

Flash Tip: Swapping Line and Fill Colors
Use "swap colors" to switch up your line and fill colors.

Flash Tip: Sorting Swatches by Color
Sorting by color changes the way your color swatches are displayed in Flash's default palette.

Flash Tip: Turn off Snapping
Snapping in vector drawings has its uses, but when it's just making life harder for you, it's time to turn it off.

Flash Tip: Letter Spacing
You can adjust the spacing of your letters in Flash to move them closer together or farther apart.

Animation Tip: Printable Template for 4:3 Frame Drawings
Print off this template for use in drawing your frame-by-frame animations, for convenient 4:3 image framing.

10 Essential Art Supplies for the Traditional Animator
If you're less of a digital animator and lean more towards the traditional, you've probably got a studio as cluttered as mine--and there are some supplies that you just can't live without.

Animation Planning Tip: Storyboarding
Using a storyboard will help you organize your animation, and match you mental visualizations of scenes with the written script.

Animation Tip: Tools of the Trade: Light Tables
Whether you're drawing 2D animation for cel painting or doing the preliminary pencil work to be scanned in for a computer animation, a light table is one of the most important tools for frame-by-frame animation that you'll ever own.

Keeping Up With the Studios: Breaking into Computer Animation Without...
Computer animation can be be fun, but it can also be quite costly. If you know where to look and how to shop, it's not that hard to compete with the big boys without spending the big bucks.

How to be Seen: What it Takes to Get Your Animation on Television
It seems a farfetched dream, doesn't it: the idea of something that you worked on being played on broadcast television for all the world to see. If you're an individual or a small company, it's not that easy.

Optimizing Video Files for the Web: Codecs
When saving your 2D or 3D animations into video format, don't forget to check your video compression settings and remember that not everyone has the same codec sets as you do.

Cutting Your Test Render Time
Are you tired of waiting hours just to view a test of your animated motion, only to tweak it and render it again over and over again? There's an wasy way to avoid that.

Saving Your Files While Still Saving Computer Space
Anyone who's ever worked in computer animation can tell you that you're going to use a lot of system resources. The programs alone will eat up your hard drive and CPU resources, and your working files can be anywhere from 15 Kb to 150 MB. But there are ways to save your hard drive without purging your files, and they're not as complicated as you might think.

Avoiding the System Resource Bog
We've all experienced slowdowns and lockups while working on our computers. This can be a real pain when you're animating, so let's look at ways to clear up your system resources.

Flash MX Keyboard Shortcuts
When working in Flash, one thing that can save a lot of time is knowledge of the various keyboard shortcuts.

Flash Tip: Alternate Website for Non-Flash Users
While designing a website in Flash, it's easy to assume that your viewers will not have some version of the Macromedia Flash player. However, you may find that a large percentage of your users either have an older version of the Flash player or none at all. For these users, it's helpful to have a non-Flash version of your website available.

Flash Tip: Maximizing Workspace in Flash MX
Working in Flash MX can get pretty crowded, but there are ways to maximize your stage's work area. The easiest way to do this is to use your keyboard shortcuts to remove panels when you don't need them.

Flash Tip: Exporting a Preview
With a work-in-progress, it's always good to be able to stop and check how the overall project is coming along--especially in Flash.

Flash Tip: Enabling Simple Buttons
Enabling simple buttons in Flash lets you view how your buttons work without having to render/preview a movie.

Flash Tip: Onion-Skinning Animation
Frame-by-frame animation can be difficult when you're working on one frame at a time with no reference for the previous or next frames. Flash has a solution for this dilemma--known as onion-skinning, an option that you can turn on that shows a range of frames both before and after your current frame.

Flash Tip: The Trace Bitmap Function
In case you missed when it was covered in Lesson 5, here's a quick tip on how to use the trace bitmap function in Flash to turn bitmap art into vector images.

Flash Tip: Motion Tweening Expanded: Rotation
In the first Flash lesson, we covered motion tweening as a basic "Point A to Point B" process but you can also use motion tweens to rotate your symbols.

Flash Tip: Tools of the Trade: Drawing in Flash With a Graphics Tablet
Save yourself some time and effort in your frame-by-frame vector animation with this high-tech--but inexpensive--plug and play tool.

Getting Started in Animation - From the Comfort of Your Home

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