This episode is a bit of a departure from my normal shows. Usually, I show graphics and animation techniques in Flex and Flex 4. This time, I talk about Flash Pro, the authoring tool for Flash (not Flex) applications. In particular, I show how to create a reusable library in Flash Pro that you can then link to and use in other Flash Pro projects. The process of creating a library in Flash Pro wasn't obvious to me, so I thought it might be useful to show how it was done. Thanks to Trevor McCauley for helping me figure this out. Trevor's on the Flash player team and is very helpful is figuring out all kinds of things about how Flash works, including this bit about Flash authoring. Check out his blog at senocular.com.
Here's how this relates to Flex and my work for Flex: the library I create is an animation library based on the core facilities underlying the Flex effects. I call the library Flexy.
Flex effects are pretty dependent on the Flex library overall. They use concepts in UIComponent, graphic elements, styles, and other concepts that are found in the core Flex framework. So building a full-on Flex effects library in Flash Pro would necessarily drag in so much of the Flex infrastructure that it wouldn't be worth the effort; you might as well just use Flex directly.
But the underlying animation engine that the new Flex 4 effects depend on, including the
Animation class, arbitrary type interpolation, and the new easer interface and classes, are independent of Flex effects and of nearly everything else in Flex. I wanted to see if I could break those animation facilities out into a separable library. There were various niggling dependencies, such as the use of the
EffectEvent class, some use of resource bundles for error strings, and other minor issues, but one 50-minute train commute later, I had a 13k library built in Flash Pro that had no Flex dependencies and had all of the underlying animation support that the Flex effects use for running their animations.
Flexy doesn't handle all of the effects functionality, of course, because Flex effects aren't part of the port. Flex effects provide mainly two extra layers of support for animations. First, they handle setting animated values on target objects/properties. The animation infrastructure only handles calculating the animated values, not what to do with those values. Second, effects have extra built-in logic and convenience APIs that makes it easier to declare and run effects than you might otherwise have to do with a more manual approach to animation.
I can't do much about the second bit; that's most of the code in effects, and I was looking for something simple. But for the first part, I've provided a utility class called
PropertyAnimator which you can use to automate assigning animated values to properties, just like effects do. It simplifies using
Animation and makes very easy property animation possible with this library.
Check out Flexy and see what you can do with it. And come back for the next show to see a simple example of using the library from within Flash Pro.
Here's the video:
There is no demo application this time, because the demo is really just the reusable Flexy library, which isn't very exciting to watch, as demos go, because it just sits there, being reusable.
Users of the Flex
Animation class should be able to start playing with the library pretty easily, but if the API is a bit of a mystery to you, check back for my next show, in which I'll dmeonstrate how to use the library in Flash Pro for a simple example.
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And here's where you can find CodeDependent on YouTube.