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Original article: November 24, 2003 - Updated November 21, 2009

by: Stefan Mischook

How to create Flash movies


This week I'm taking a little side step (from HTML and CSS) to address a question that has been asked more than once:

How can I create Flash movies?

Flash movies today are pretty common thing to see on the Web, and one of the reasons for this is because Adobe made the Flash plug-in (the engine that runs Flash movies) ... a standard that other software manufactures could program to.

As such today, you can find many programs out there that allow you to create Flash movies besides the original Adobe Flash software/program or as nerds call it: development environment.

Each one of these programs has a different focus; some are designed to make character animation easy, others specialize in text special affects, there are others that allow you to create 3d objects in the Flash format and so on … The following is a list of some programs that create Flash movies:


Flash Video Tutorial Course: Flash CS4 Basics

This is the original program that started it all. Over the years, Flash has evolved considerably from the simple animation program that it once was.

Today, Adobe Flash is the Flash creation powerhouse, we are talking about things like:

  • point-and-click drawing and animation capabilities ... and even tools traditionally found in 3D animation software!
  • advanced programming capabilities where you can create sophisticated games and e-commerce systems … and a lot more.

With the latest version (Flash CS4 -released Oct 2008) the nerds at Adobe really did a good job of optimizing the program to make it much easier to create Flash movies and Flash based web applications.

Web applications are basically Flash movies that talk to databases for things like e-commerce stores and so on. To do this effectively, you need to learn Flash Actionscript, a programming language built into Flash that unlocks the true power of Flash.

What has changed in Flash the last few years?

Flash has been optimized for power and speed. The new Flash engine (the software that actually runs the Flash movies you create in Adobe Flash) is much more powerful than it used to be; that means you can create much more sophisticated Flash movies – that means games etc.

Note: check out our video tutorial course on Flash if the concept of the Flash engine is confusing you.

Beyond that, your Flash movies can now run on any computer and many devices - Flash content can run in a web browser, on a computer desktop or even on smartphones.

A little Flash history:

Flash was originally created by a company called Macromedia. Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005 and so Macromedia now only exist in the memories of old nerds such as myself.



Flex is a sub project within the Flash world. To quote Adobe on what exactly Flex is:

'Flex is a highly productive, free open source framework for building and maintaining expressive web applications that deploy consistently on all major browsers, desktops, and operating systems.'

OK, so what does that mean?

In a nutshell, Flex is a bunch of components that extend Flash's core capabilities to allow you to easily create web based programs ... web applications. So we are talking about building shopping carts, blogs etc...

A few bullet points:

  • Flex makes building database driven websites easy.
  • Flex is something geared toward programmers and not designers.
  • Flex works well with server-side technologies like PHP or



Another sub project in the Flash world that allows you to create desktop applications (programs that run on your desktop) using the Flash engine.

AIR is similar to Flex except that AIR applications/programs run on the desktop and Flex applications run in the web browser. So for example, you could take a Flex application and then turn it into a desktop application using AIR.

Note: Adobe AIR used to be called 'Apollo' in its' early stages of development.

A final comment about Flex and AIR

Flex and AIR are parts of Flash that really target programmers/developers and not designers. So as a Flash designer, you don't have to worry about these technologies. On the other hand, if you want to get into the high-end of the Flash world, Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR are in the heart of all that.

To use Adobe Flex and AIR, you will need to learn Actionscript.



This tool is one you want if you're into creating 3d Flash movies. This program comes in three versions; a stand alone program that is used to create your 3D Flash movies from scratch, as a plug-in for 3D Studio Max and as a plug-in for Lightwave, another very popular 3d animation program (like 3D Studio Max) used to create 3d effects for both movies and video games.



This very popular program makes creating fancy text affects easy and fast. It comes with pre-built text animations for you to use, all you need to do is type in the text you want to animate, choose your font and then you can play with all the settings to tweak the animation. With this program, you can in just a few moments create great looking text animations that would take hours to do in Macromedia's Flash.

Besides the text animations, Swish has been expanded to allow you to create all sorts of Flash animation very quickly.



Never used this program, but from what I could tell it's target is text animation.



Again, never used this but looks like a competitor to Swift3D

There are also a whole slew of programs out there that can out put non-animated Flash files that are really designed for you to import into a proper Flash creation software tool like Macromedia's Flash or Adobe's LiveMotion. Some examples are Adobe Illustrator, Xara, and Macromedia's FreeHand among others.

Which one to choose?

The answer to this question really depends on what your goals are. If you want to become a professional Flash expert, then you need to learn Adobe's Flash.

Nowadays to really get into Flash, you will need to learn Flash's scripting language: ActionScript.

ActionScript is really modified JavaScript, so learning JavaScript takes you 90% of the way (I am writing a series now to teach you all how to program with JavaScript BTW!) to learning how to program in Flash's ActionScript.

If on the other hand you are just a designer who is looking at be able to create some nice looking Flash animations instead full fledge Flash web applications, then you ought to consider easier to use and much cheaper to buy programs like Swish et cetera.

When doing Flash work, we use Adobe Flash for the bulk of our movies and we also use specialized programs like Swift 3D and Swish to take advantage of their capabilities. I think many professional Flash developers are probably doing the same.

If you liked the article and you want to see more let me know!

Stefan Mischook.

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