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Flash 8 Essentials Paperback – Jan 4 2006

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About the Author

I started my mind going early in life when I was about 4 years old. At that age, I began playing the piano, which was sitting unused in our house. I've been playing ever since then. Later, in 1997, I co-wrote a full-length musical called Chrystanthia. Somewhere along the way, I picked up game programming as a hobby, and eventually ended up making games professionally for home console systems. Then, in 1998, I discovered how I could take all my experiences and combine them when I discovered Flash. The rest is history. I share my ideas on my website,

After studying theatre in London, then working for several years as an actor in the US, Todd was introduced to Flash in 2000 and was quickly taken by how it allowed for both stunning creativity and programmatic logic application&emdash;a truly left-brain, right brain approach to production&emdash;and has not looked back. He now freelances as a Flash developer in New York City, creating both silly animations and utilitarian applications. His personal work and experimentation can be found at his website,

Tink aka Stephen Downs has been a freelance Flash Designer/Developer for the past 4 years with a background in art, design, and photography. Based in London, England he works on a wide range of projects, both for other companies and his own clients.

The growth in his workload has recently lead to the start up of Tink Ltd.

His primary focus is user interaction and interactive motion, integrating design and development to any design specification using best practice methodologies.

For contact info and work examples visit
For Tink's daily thoughts, visit

Craig is founder of the award-winning Toronto based interactive agency CRASH!MEDIA and is focused on merging fresh ideas with cutting edge technologies. CRASH has produced Flash and audio work for clients such as Coca-Cola, Intel, Miller Brewing, Bacardi, Sony|Playstation, Cadillac, and Calvin Klein.
A specialist in interactive audio, Craig has spoken at over a dozen conferences worldwide and created the web\'s premiere musical mixing destinations and bacardiDJ. When unplugged from the matrix he enjoys munching crullers and getting his freak on.

Flash Master Instructor, Team Macromedia Member, internationally published Flash author, and RocketBoots Partner, Matt has been using Flash since its inception as Future Splash. With over ten years professional web and multimedia industry experience, Matt was one of five subject matter experts (SME's) invited to work with Macromedia in the development of their official Macromedia Flash MX2004 Developer certification exam.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive Overview Jan. 9 2006
By Nathan Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
I recently finished reading Flash 8 Essentials, and have found it to be an excellent resource for anyone looking to jump with both feet into the complex world of Flash design. The contributing authors are some of the biggest names in Flash design today. There is so much packed into this book that I am only going to be able to touch briefly on most of the highlights. Of the many new features available in Flash 8, here are the ones I found most exciting:

* Search Engine Compatibility

* Graphics Effects Filters

* On2 VP6 Video Codec

* Improved Text Rendering

* Bitmap Caching

Each of these topics is covered at length throughout the book. What's especially nice is that source code for each example can be downloaded from the website. You don't need to have purchased the book to use these code examples, but they will of course make better sense when accompanied by the text. Without further ado, here is why each of these improvements really matters...

ch.1 - Search Engine Compatibility

This book refers to this momentarily, but I thought it important to mention. One of the biggest complaints against Flash is its lack of accessibility, and implicitly its lack of search engine friendliness. These issues have been put to rest with Flash 8, because it now supports using a version of XML entitled XMP, which stands for Extensible Metadata Platform. In short, this means that Flash can now comply with W3C standards for information accessibility.

This metadata could probably double for usage in subtitles, to aid in viewing Flash movies for those who have hearing impairments. For a good example of this in action, check out the Making of Flash 8. Throughout the video, by using various keypoints the way one would index DVD chapters, there are changes in the text displayed along the bottom of the screen.

Stored as metadata, this could be indexed by Google, and would increase page relevance for the topics covered throughout the video. I never thought the day would come that I would use the word accessibility in reference to Flash, but I think that if designers pick up on this, it will be beneficial to the hearing impaired, as well as your clients. It's smart on both sides of the argument.

ch.3 - Graphics Effects Filters

In the past, if you wanted to have an effect added to something in your animation, it was not an easy thing to do. For instance, if you wanted to include a drop-shadow, you would have to make it ahead of time in a graphics program, and then import it as a layer into your SWF file. Flash 8 though, can create drop-shadow effects from within the player. These effects can even be created live via ActionScript, Flash's language similar in syntax to JavaScript.

In fact, all effects and filters can be manipulated via ActionScript. These include the following blending modes: Normal, Darken, Multiply, Lighten, Screen, Overlay, Hard Light, Add, Subtract, Difference, Invert, Layer, Alpha and Erase. Various available effects are: Drop Shadow, Blur, Glow, Bevel, Gradient Glow / Bevel, Adjust Color / Matrix, Displacement Map and Convolution.

Photoshop users will no doubt recognize many of those, and immediately realize the benefit of being able to call these into effect during runtime rather than constantly importing multiple PNG images. If those don't sound familiar then buy the book. I can't just give away everything - This ain't no hand-out!

ch.5 - On2 VP6 Video Codec

Another thing I'm all fired up about is Flash's great new handling of video. Gone is the trusty Sorensen Spark codec, although it still remains as a legacy option. This paves the way for the new On2 VP6 Codec. On2 codecs are also being used in other popular products such as the new Skype video beta.

What this means for Flash is new support for alpha channels within video. For instance, in the fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan in Star Wars Episode III, very little of the surrounding environment were actual props or movie set. Most of it was shot against a green screen, after which the green areas were replaced with digital enhancement. This is now possible to do with Flash.

Also new are the embedded cue points, making subtitles via XML a possibility. Also, with Flash 8 Professional there is a stand-alone video encoder which allows for massive batch file processing. So, if you are a video guru and work in Quicktime format all day, and need to convert many of those MOV over to FLV files, you can batch convert them all overnight, rather than one by one.

ch.6 - Improved Text Rendering

A huge complaint of Flash has always been that text below a certain point size, depending on the font, becomes nearly unreadable. To get around this, many designers would purchase pixel fonts made especially for small scale display. Communities such as Fonts for Flash arose to compensate for this deficiency.

Printed text aficionados can rejoice, because Flash text rendering just got a huge shot in the arm. It's called Saffron, a technology that has been licensed from Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs. It works similarly to Microsoft's ClearType in Windows XP, or the native font smoothing of Apple OSX. Flash pushes Saffron to the edge, with several modes for readability, animation or even custom settings. It nearly allows for creating entirely new font faces.

ch.7 - Bitmap Caching

In the past, if you had multiple vector shapes viewable at once, the Flash player would have to render each and every animation on the fly, increasing strain on the CPU with each additional graphic. Version 8 though, allows for caching of shapes that might animate, but not change. For instance, if a square-shaped object is moving but not rotating, it can be cached as a bitmap.

If it were to rotate slightly, then the rendering engine would need to redraw it, after which it could be cached again as a bitmap until the next rotation. You can think of it this way: Distortions such as rotation, changes in opacity, and zooming - all require re-drawing. Simple things like moving an object from left to right can be cached. This allows Flash Player 8 to be the fastest ever. It should be noted though, that caching should be enabled wisely, because if you are constantly misusing it, it actually increases strain on computer hardware.

Summary: If you're looking for a great place to get a handle on the new improvements in Flash 8, this book is for you. If you don't have a background in previous versions such as MX 2004, you might want to consider Foundation Flash 8, which covers more of the basics.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Missing Upgrade Manual for Flash 8 Feb. 23 2006
By Adam Pasztory - Published on
Format: Paperback
With Flash 8, Macromedia (now Adobe) gave veteran Flash Developers a wealth of new creative options to explore. Many of the features, while clearly powerful, are not intuitive to use. This fact is primarily due to the inherent complexity of the new tools. Filters and gradient focal points are not as easy to figure out as the basic timeline and drawing tools. And trial and error is simply not going to lead you to a solid of understanding of how to use External Interface to communicate with JavaScript, or what the Cache As Bitmap setting does. Unfortunately, the documentation within Flash is a bit thin so most users have to resort to scouring the internet for tutorials and tips.

This is where Flash 8 Essentials comes to the rescue. The book provides documentation of all the new features in Flash 8 (and only Flash 8). This is not a Flash for Beginners book. It is targeted squarely at experienced Flash artists and programmers who want to tap the power of the new features. A better title for the book would have been "What's New In Flash 8".

Each chapter focuses on a particular feature, and there is little overlap, so you can jump around to the parts that are most pertinent to you. Chapters are organized with the less technical information at the start, and more complicated bits, including the ActionScript, at the end. In this way, the book can be useful to both artists and developers, and it's easy to figure out where to go for the information you need.

I was a bit leery at first, when I saw there were 6 authors attached to the book. Fortunately, the editors at FriendsOfEd successfully pulled the content together, and made it feel consistent. I also tend to avoid computer books like this one with lots of pretty color pictures. However, in this case, I feel the color is a necessary component of the book because pictures are the best way to demonstrate different filters and blending modes. And I have to admit it's definitely a nice-looking book.

If there's one part that feels thin, it's the chapter on Video. I still don't have a solid understanding of the "new ON2 VP6 codec", (though the authors dropped this buzzword many times). Granted, Flash Video probably deserves a book of its own...

In short, Flash 8 Essentials serves as a manual for veteran Flash developers who want to get up do speed on the new version. It's too bad the software makers no longer ship adequate documentation with their products, but I suppose we should be glad that companies like FriendsOfEd are around to fill the void. Adobe would do well to include a copy of this book with every upgrade version of Flash they sold.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for review.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Extremely Solid Flash 8 Book Dec 28 2005
By Eric E. Dolecki - Published on
Format: Paperback
Flash 8 Essentials provides thorough coverage of the new features of Flash 8 - including On2, filters, blend modes, and also BitmapData. The book has good quality paper, and screenshots and figures are represented in full-color which is a very nice touch. The cover is different than the other Flash FOE titles being released, which is nice actually as its a general" what's new" kind of title.

Reading through, I only found a rogue (out of place) screenshot here and there - overall its edited pretty well and its a very easy read. Its broken into main functional chapters - so you can freely jump around the book without worrying about missing out on some precursor knowledge that might be required later on.

The book starts out with a good overview of the new features that Flash brings with it. Its very nice to see this all in one chapter to get a top-down view of everything. Macromedia certainly did pack some great things into the last release to bear that company name.

Next comes Blending Modes. The different kinds and their respective effects are explained with the help of useful screenshots. IDE is covered mostly, but you're introduced to ActionScript and Blend Modes at the end of the chapter. Nice.

Filters comes next, then Drawing & Graphic improvements, then Video (great chapter!), Textfield improvements, Speed improvements, BitmapData (another great chapter!), External Interface (a decent chapter on the subject), and then some Flash 8 examples that use some of the new Flash 8 features.

This book is intended to get newer Flash 8 users up and running pretty quickly- showing them what is now possible, getting them excited as to how things work, and freeing them up to create things on their own.

In general, this is a very solid book for those new to Flash 8, or those who know very little about it and don't want to spend their time on Google hoping to discover all the things they might find interesting. The FileReference API is a nice touch in the samples, but everywhere one looks you'll find PHP code to go along with it - it might be nice to see a collection of scripts accompany samples like that. One could search and find code to go along with it - but one would think that kind of code might be found in a book that has an example of it.

This book might even be valuable to those who have been using Flash 8 extensively because sometimes its easy to forget about certain functionality and the book may allow for a quick reference to some of the new functionality.

For me, the BitmapData stuff in this book alone is worth the price. It can't possibly cover everything, but it does a very good job wrapping your head around the basics - readying you to discover some more advanced things on your own, armed with some knowledge to get you further. The Video chapter is another gem too boot.

Well done chaps, this is a good title!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Definitely worth the money Jan. 3 2006
By Matt Przybylski - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was really excited to see my copy of Flash 8 Essentials arrive as I've been looking for a place to read about all the new features of Flash 8 and how to use them. I definitely wasn't disappointed in the book and the way it progressed along. The examples throughout the book are very good and help you understand the tools and how to use the new classes. On top of that, the last chapter in the book has four "bigger" examples that show you how to use some of the code you've learned to build bigger application-like projects, which is really cool to see. It's always good to learn from the best on how they set up their projects and how they go about developing them.

The Flash 8 Video chapter is ridiculously good. I would get the book for this chapter alone. If you've tried to look at the VideoPlayer class in the Flash documentation you would know that, well, there really isn't any help there for it. This chapter doesn't go through ALL of the methods/properties (because damnit there is a ton of them) but gives you a good start on how to use some of those more useful new methods. If that wasn't enough, the end of the chapter makes mention of a new title from friends of Ed in the works that is going to cover the WHOLE VideoPlayer class. I DEFINITELY can't wait for that one. Oddly enough, while reading this book this past week, I was working on my next presentation for MMSUG which is on After Effects/Flash 8 video/new features, so this was a HUGE help in the process.

The BitmapData chapter is also very good as it covers almost all of the methods of the BitmapData class. There are a couple of methods that are left out with a reference to Flash help, but nonetheless it's a really good chapter. The author takes you through the source image and output image on one file so that you can easily see the differences that are made by each method.

I think all of the chapters are pretty well written, with the exception of the ExternalInterface chapter. Don't get me wrong, it serves its purpose and to its credit, the end states that the power of the ExternalInterface class is not really the class itself, but what you can do with it with your respective language of choice, but I think the examples weren't as powerful as they could have been. There were also some small editing errors throughout the book, but none of them code specific, just some funny looking sentences being formed and even a hint of how the book is edited (one chapter has a line of code that shows where the bold and italics of the code were supposed to be made without actually making them so all you see is that text), which was in all actuality kind of cool to see because I always wonder how the process of putting books like this together goes (but that has nothing to do with the book itself, just my own personal curiosity).

Since the book is written by six different authors, as expected you can see the different teaching styles. Some chapters are explained MUCH better than others. Nonetheless, the book is still explained very well and that doesn't mean that the other chapters aren't explained, just not as well as the other ones. The only other beef I have with this book, but really all friends of Ed books (and this is simply due to me being lazy), is that I LOVE how they give you the example files (which are always available for download from their site), but they're all the finished version of the files, as opposed to giving you the starting versions as well as the finished samples. I usually like to start off with a barebones file and write some code myself to get the file to where it should be, but in this state I have to delete all the code and some of the movie clips to redo them myself. This of course is a personal preference just because I learn better when I do the whole thing myself, so it gets a bit tedious to have to do that for all the files.

All in all, I highly suggest the book to anyone looking to catch up on the new features of Flash. Pretty much all of the features are outlined, in the IDE and through ActionScript.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Essential for Flash 8 users April 16 2006
By David Basulto - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just got into Flash and after reading Phillip Kerman's Flash 8 in 24 Hrs, i really wanted to get even more into it. This book is for me like the title reads "Essential". The explanations and lessons are fantastic and eye opening. This book will be on my desk at all times as i journey though the fantastic world of Flash 8 Pro!