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Flash Animation: More Than a Flash in the Pan

Fred Patten interviews some of the leading professionals who are using Flash to make TV series.

Mr. Dink Show was the first Flash show to appear on Canadian TV. © Mr. D Production Inc.

Mr. Dink Show was the first Flash show to appear on Canadian TV. © Mr. D Production Inc.

When Macromedias Flash animation software first appeared around 1997, it was considered mostly as a toy for Internet users. By 2000, it was an increasingly sophisticated and necessary toy for Internet users who wanted to add glamour to their Websites. Today professional animators have increasingly used it as a serious production tool for broadcast TV.

Here are 11 views of Flash animation from both the designers and animators who use it and the TV companies that broadcast programs using it.

Lili Chin & Eddie Mort started FWAK! Animation in Sydney in November 2000 to produce Flash cartoons for the Internet. In 2001 their ¡Mucha Lucha!, was bought by Warner Bros. to become the first Flash series broadcast on U.S. network TV.

Ron Crown is the cd at Vancouvers Bardel Ent. Over the past 15 years, he has worked on more than 70 productions as well as creating and directing Bardels first Flash series, The Mr. Dink Show, also Canadas first broadcast/broadband Flash production.

John Hardman is svp of programming at Kids WB! in the U.S.

Angela Howard is the exec in charge of production of Kid Notorious at Comedy Centrals original programming and development department.

Robin Lyons is md and one of the founders (in 1981) of Siriol Prods. in Cardiff, Wales, one of the U.K.s leading animation studios that also produces programming for French and other European broadcasters.

Alex Meza & Dave Markowitz are the lead animators producing Kid Notorious at Comedy Centrals Central Productions department.

Jeff Nodelman is the founder/ceo of New York City-based Noodlesoup Prods., which is producing The Venture Brothers for The Cartoon Network.

Larry Schwarz, the ceo of Animation Collective in New York City, was involved in the production of the first online Flash movie in 2000.

Robert Watts is Bardels head of production in its Flash animation department. Robert has worked on more than 60 productions for television, feature films and CD-ROMS including Warner Bros. hit Flash series, ¡Mucha Lucha!, which is one of North Americas top rated animated shows.

Andy Wyatt is Elephant Prods head of animation in its Elephant Egg animation studio (formerly Fictitious Egg). Elephant Prods., founded in 1990, is based in London and offers a wide range of productions styles and methods for edgy shows such as Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, Hilltop Hospital and Animal School.

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For Jeff Nodleman, ceo of Noodlesoup Prods., Flashs speed and efficiency are its greatest advantages. Photographers credit: Nick DeMayo. Venture Brothers image courtesy of Cartoon Network.

1. What is your own opinion of Flash animation?

Chin & Mort: Even though Flash as a program was never designed for broadcast TV, its affordability and user-friendliness has encouraged and enabled traditional animators to produce and show their own films. Whether the end product is for the Web or television, full or limited, we think you have to judge it on its own merits as you would with any other show, regardless of the software used to produce it. Flash is a production tool. Its how you use it that makes the difference.

Crown: Im not sure what Flash animation is. Flash is a tool we use to create animation, not to define it. A production using Maya isnt creating Maya animation any more than we are creating Flash animation. Flash is our keystone program where we do most of our building and animating, but we also use many other programs and techniques to make a show the best we can. There are inherent limitations in Flash as a program, but if you understand what they are and design a show that uses them as strengths, you can produce animation well within the quality standards of any client.

Hardman: ¡Mucha Lucha! was presented to us in the all-Flash format which was great because it allowed us to really see the visually dynamic fantasy-action and provided us with a real sense of the show in such an early stage of development. It has been wonderful and a great way to be able to really get what we want visually out of the series.

Lyons: Its not good for everything. It gives a bright, clean look, very flat. Its good for things that are graphic, simply designed and dont need sophisticated expression. Its not a cure-all.

Meza & Markowitz: We believe that Flash is an excellent tool for many styles of animation. Also, we think that Flash has grown because its diversity. One file can be used for broadcast television, the Web, and print, all with a single Flash file.

Nodelman: Flash is a great tool for animation and has practical uses all the way through television broadcast. Where people run into problems with it is when they forget that it should be used as part of the animation PROCESS and not the end all and be all, push the button and it animates itself.

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Flash pioneer and Animation Collective ceo Larry Schwarz just finished Princess Natasha (pictured on right) and Kung Fu Academy for AOL.

Schwarz: Flash changed my life! It has blown open the gates of entry to the animation business.

Watts: Its a great tool to repatriate a type of animation back into North America. Its also an extremely efficient tool, but for animation purposes I would like to see some changes to enhance the program.

Wyatt: Its a terrific versatile program although I am dubious about categorizing Flash animation as a genre, especially as so many people are using it with other packages, and in so many different ways.

2. When did you first start using Flash? Did you do much experimentation with it before starting to use it in production, or did you experiment while first using it in production? What is the practicality of mixing Flash with other animation techniques in the same production?

Chin & Mort: We first became aware of Flash animation on the Spumco Website, back in 1996. We were working in traditional animation at the time and were impressed to see traditional cartoonists were using it, and producing animation for a new medium. We had an inkling back then, that this would be the way to go. Although we thought the future was in producing web cartoons; we never dreamed that Flash would be able to be utilized for television! (We never saw Flash as a toy; as far as we knew it, it was the most efficient way of streaming cartoons on the Internet. At the time we didnt see ourselves as Web animators so the program didnt mean much to us.)

When we first used Flash, it was out of necessity. In 1998, we were commissioned by a web entertainment portal to produce series in the Flash format. We were literally thrown into the deep end and were learning on the job. Although wed started to get familiar with the program, we had never used it to produce anything of a substantial length, then suddenly we had several minutes of Flash animation to produce on a tight deadline and small budget. There wasnt really any time to experiment and, five years ago, there werent any helpful user manuals around either.

We remember there was already a large Flash community on the Internet at this time (with the Internet animation boom). We would be scouring the Flash user forums for tips, and posting questions everyday. People helped each other out and shared technical advice. There were other traditional broadcast animators taking advantage of this new tool.

Crown: I was unimpressed with the Flash animations I first saw on the Internet, but I didnt place the blame on the program. Flash is a simple program to use at a beginner level, allowing anyone who wants to be an animator the ability to produce films from their home computers, but that doesnt mean theyre animators. When I began using Flash, it was with a background of 12 years working in the industry as an animator, so I had a good idea of what I wanted to create. The trick was learning how to use a program designed to build web pages to create broadcast quality animation, and then standardizing those techniques for large-scale productions. Flash has proven itself to be quite flexible and fun to use.

I started to use Flash in 1999 when I was creating a character called Mr. Dink, which ultimately became a Bardel production. The series of shorts, The Mr. Dink Show, ended up being the first Flash series to be broadcast in Canada on CTVs Comedy Network, as well as being available online. I didnt experiment as much as I just kept doing things the wrong way over and over until I could figure out a better solution.

Most of the time I find it difficult not to use Flash with other animation techniques, to work at the level we are.

Lyons: We started using it about four or five years ago, to make short animation webisodes for young adults, and then did a title sequence with it. It was more trendy than useful at the time. When the dot.com bubble burst, we started thinking about using it for television production, and now have a unit dedicated to Flash animation.

I think you have to combine it with a good compositing package, like After Effects, or combustion. Its becoming more user-friendly, but its not really designed for animation production for television. I suppose we have dropped in little Flash sequences into our model animation work (if theres something playing on the TV in a scene, for instance), and weve used a Flash title sequence for a more traditional animated sitcom, Knife and Wife. It has a distinctive look, and you cant really mix it much with other techniques.

Meza & Markowitz: We first became aware of Flash animation just after we graduated from art school, and jumped into the job force in the dot.com era. For traditionally trained animators, the transition to Flash was quite easy. We knew then that it was an excellent medium for animation.

When we were first introduced to Flash, we were just clean up artists who created the symbols for the animators. That lasted a few months, until we were given our first scene to animate for the Web. When we began experimenting with Flash to broadcast, there were problems, but through good communication, and long nights, they were solved. You can know the basics to any program, but it is not until you start the production that you have to really start thinking outside the box to solve any obstacles in the way.

Nodelman: We started using Flash when I founded Noodlesoup in 2001. It was the most accepted delivery format for Internet viewing, and a cost effective way of providing animation to our clients. We have since included traditional 2D animation as well as CGI to our repertoire, but will always keep Flash as a very competent outputting tool.

We have a very talented staff of animators at Noodlesoup, each possessing his/her own bag of tricks. Our goal was to be able to use off the shelf technologies like Flash, combined with our own duct tape and chewing gum, to replicate any type of camera move that can be done traditionally. This is a definite trial-and-error process, but so far we have been successful in recreating all of the techniques we want.

The practicality of mixing Flash with other techniques depends on the look you are going for. If you want a cutout type of feel, such as South Park, then Flash is a great tool to use as is. You can archive body and mouth charts, walk cycles are a breeze and the background elements are flat. For a bit more complicated of a Flash show you can look at ¡Mucha Lucha!, which would then lend itself more toward the tweening tools and has more of the Flash look to it.

To get a traditional animated squash-and-stretch show with a full range of motion, you need to incorporate hand drawings. The example I always give is think of Flash as the skeleton you hang on your front door every Halloween. It can be well designed and is articulated at the joints so it can wave its bony little arms back and forth, but only in the way a puppet can. In reality, the radius would rotate around the ulna giving a more fluid motion. Incorporating hand-drawn inbetweens is the only way to achieve a traditional look. The backgrounds are a whole different story. For a more painterly look, we use programs like Photoshop, but then you have to start rasterizing for moves and Pandoras Box gets officially opened.

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An Internet commercial for an SUV showed Robert Watts (left) of Bardel Ent., the potential of Flash animation. Ron Crown (right) created Bardel Ent.s first Flash series The Mr. Dink Show. Photos courtesy of Bardel Animation.

Schwarz: We first started using it on the Web and it was great because we could cheat on inbetweens and minimize file sizes. When we produce for broadcast, we combine Flash with traditional 2D devices, like hand-drawn inbetweens and using painted backgrounds. It looks just like 2D at a fraction of the cost. You get out of Flash what you put into it. If you do the work, you wont be able to tell its not traditional ink-and-paint.

Watts: I found out about Flash when I wandered in to work and saw Ron animating a Ford Escape SUV Internet commercial. I immediately saw serious potential. At the time there was a lot of work out there that used Flash, but it was very simple stuff. I thought that in the right hands you could do a lot, if properly executed.

Using Flash with other techniques is quite practical. Well use other techniques as long as we achieve the desired result.

Wyatt: I started using Flash 2 in 1997, when we experimented with it to produce some simple web animations. We were soon using flash for broadcast productions and found it could easily be used in conjunction with other digital animation techniques.

3. How many Flash series have you produced, including those currently in production? What has been the clients reaction to them? The publics reaction?

Chin & Mort: Before ¡Mucha Lucha! (39x30) we had produced several Web series, and some promos and station IDs for TV. Recently we also produced a half-hour pilot episode of Cosmic Baby with Cartoon Network Asia-Pacific.

We dont think that the general public really cares if its Flash, traditional or otherwise. The reasons and benefits of producing with Flash are more relevant to producers and artists than to the audience.

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Crown: The Mr. Dink Show was Bardels first proprietary Flash series and the Comedy Network aired them so we think they liked it. People like the character, they laugh. It ended up winning the Grand Jury Award for Animation at The New York International Film and Video Festival in 2002.

Then we animated a mini-series called Stories from the Seventh Fire with Storyteller Prods. and the CBC. The client trusted us with our choice to use Flash and we feel that the expectations were exceeded.

We also produced Flash animation for some specials like The Drew Carey Show and Bardels Christmas special called The Christmas Orange, which is a hybrid of hand-painted backgrounds, traditional animated bodies and Flash animated heads and faces. The Orange has already won four Leo Awards and was nominated for two Gemini awards in its first year of production, so I think people like it too.

Right now we are working on the Warner Bros. series ¡Mucha Lucha! I think it is one of the top rated shows in North America, so it is definitely being accepted by both our client and the public.

Howard: We only air one program produced with Flash and that is Kid Notorious. The public response to the show has been extremely positive. I continue to be amazed at how unique the show looks. There are limitations with Flash and our group of animators has found creative ways to overcome them.

We have an untitled show premiering on April 28, 2004 that will be done in Flash. Weve ordered 13 episodes for that series. The show is being produced in New York by Eric Brown and Apostle. We also have a 2D traditional show called Drawn Together in production that weve picked up for eight episodes. Drawn Together will premiere on October 24, 2004.

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John Hardman says ¡Mucha Lucha! is the start of more Flash series to come on Kids WB! Hardman © The WB/James Sorensen; ¡Mucha Lucha!, © 2003 Warner Bros. Animation.

Hardman: ¡Mucha Lucha! is Kids WB!s only Flash series. It has had a great response on many levels: for the series irreverent, over-the-top comedy-adventure, the no-holds-barred comedy combining bold humor, exciting graphic designs and an original Latin-themed world that explores the Mexican phenomenon of Lucha Libre. This innovative and ethnically diverse series celebrates Latin culture and all cultures.

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Chin & Mort: Flash enables us to streamline the whole process of production. When you compare it to the traditional animation system, what you have is a more efficient and creative way of producing animation. The whole show is in the computer from animatic to final product. There is no need for voice tracks to be broken down Flash supports audio files, which can be directly animated to (in sync). In Flash, we can create libraries of drawn elements, which can be reused throughout the series, to keep characters on model and to cut back on redrawing time. Retakes are fast and easy animation can be tweaked and modified up until the last minute and reviewed instantly. Basically, you can achieve quality animation in less time and with a smaller crew. The end product is vector-based, and so can be scaled and formatted for different platforms without any loss of quality.

Lyons: Our main production using Flash has been Bobinogs, a series [for infants] for BBC Wales, which has been sold to CBeebies [the BBCs channel for preschoolers]. Weve done two seasons of this, and hope to be starting a third season soon. Were also working on a series for Tell-Tale Prods. This is something that is destined for the BBC. It is essentially service work.

The client appears to be delighted with Bobinogs. They keep recommissioning it. The viewers seem to like it, but they are extremely young... Were also developing a couple of shows that use Flash, including a sketch show called Fun With Coal.

Meza & Markowitz: We helped create probably about 20 different series for the Web. We have been the lead animators for three different series for Broadcast TV. 1) Proud Family: four shorts (2:30 each) for the Disney Channel. 2) Wasabi Warriors: A pitch for kids television, which went to Kids WB! 3) Kid Notorious: Nine 22-minute episodes for Comedy Central.

Nodelman: For online, we produced the last two seasons of The Gotham Girls for Warner Bros. Online as well as our original Oh Shoot for WBs Cartoon Monsoon. We also produced all of the award-winning animation for the General Mills kids Website, You Rule School!

For broadcast we did the pilot for The Venture Brothers on Cartoon Networks Adult Swim, as well as our original Omega Dome for FOX Sports Net.

We have been very lucky as both client and public reactions have been very positive across the board. Venture Brothers is now in series production. All of our shorts have won a wide variety of awards, and we are waiting on word from FOX.

Schwarz: We are using Flash for broadcast and the Web. Weve just completed 20 episodes of two original online series (Princess Natasha and Kung Fu Academy) for AOL. The client is happy with the turnaround time, the cost and the ability to make changes. Kids are hooked on the shows and are leaving tons of positive feedback on the AOL message boards. Weve even gotten really positive reviews in USA Today and The New York Times.

Were also completing a broadcast pilot for MTV. It combines traditional ink-and-paint techniques with Flash and it looks absolutely terrific. Its a great show and were really proud of it.

Some clients like Flash because they see it as a low cost alternative to other methods of animation. Were joint venture partners with Mainframe, Canadas largest CGI studio. Our partnership enables Mainframe to offer alternative means of production to its clients.

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Elephant Eggs Andy Wyatt happily uses Flash to produce Animal School for CBBC in the U.K.

Wyatt: Our principle Flash animation series are Animal School (CBBC), Pop Skool (inserts in Top Of The Pops Saturday BBC1), The State Were In (BBC3), Walkies with Lola (for Union Jack, Channel 4). The clients reaction has always been good, as has the public. [Editors Note: Theresa Plummer-Andrews, programming head for CBBC, reports Animal School is the channels first Flash series and was sold on the excellent work by Elephant on the Show.]

4. What advantages does Flash give you over other animation techniques?

Chin & Mort: Flash enables us to streamline the whole process of production. When you compare it to the traditional animation system, what you have is a more efficient and creative way of producing animation. The whole show is in the computer from animatic to final product. There is no need for voicetracks to be broken down Flash supports audio files, which can be directly animated to (in sync).

In Flash, we can create libraries of drawn elements, which can be reused throughout the series, to keep characters on model and to cut back on redrawing time. Retakes are fast and easy animation can be tweaked and modified up until the last minute and reviewed instantly. Basically, you can achieve quality animation in less time and with a smaller crew. The end product is vector-based, and so can be scaled and formatted for different platforms without any loss of quality.

Crown: We can work with final broadcast color and resolution in almost realtime. There is virtually no rendering time needed and we have the ability to do revisions and retakes very easily. The ease of reusing animations is also a big plus during production.

Howard: We decided on Flash because of speed. We wanted to create a show that could be fairly topical. We tackle subjects like Kim Jong Il and Martha Stewart so though we dont aim to be day-in-date like South Park, we do want our shows content to reflect what is current.

Lyons: It has a fresh look. It is resolution independent, which means that, properly organized, it can be cost effective. It also allows the animator to do more of the process himself. They dont always like that! Used properly, on the right projects, it can reduce costs. A lot of Flash animation, though, is inexpensive simply because its very limited.

Meza & Markowitz: Its diversity. We can work on a couple of scenes, render them in quicktime form, and have the animation director look at them for approval. Any changes can be made in a matter of minutes. This of course depends on the changes. But if the change is something like resizing, reframing, cutting frames, adding frames, etc., we can change our scene in a matter of minutes.

Now, if you had those same scenes that went overseas, you would have to wait about a month before you saw the outcome. And even then, some translation might be lost. Additionally, lets say after we finished the scenes above, the director told us to make our broadcast animation web ready and to print frame 36 and 109 for an advertisement. We would simply change our frame rate, adjust our dimension and adjust our animation for the slower frame rate. For the advertisement, we would just go to the frame, render it as a jpeg (Photoshop ready) and drop into the art directors folder for tweaking.

This can be done all in one day, which, to us, makes Flash a VERY powerful tool for animation.

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Nodelman: Speed and archiving efficiencies. One of the neat tricks of Flash is splitting up the workload between man and machine. If composed properly, a shot can have hand-animated stuff going on, combined with a whole lot of Flash tricks filling out the frame. This saves manpower, which saves money. Archiving is also key. The more reuse, the less cost, but the old Hanna-Barbara gag of running past a tree, then a rock, then a tree, then a rock gets old quick. With Flash, you can change the tree into a barber pole or a T-rex, or change the hues to turn day into night.

Schwarz: Flash is fast. We spend time building up files, but then we can keep re-using them. Once we start animating, it flows so quickly. It also gives us the ability to go in and make quick changes without a lot of work.

Watts: It is a major advantage to produce in Flash because the ratio of minutes that a crew can produce is incomparable to traditional techniques.

Wyatt: Flash animation CAN be very quick and CAN be very economical, but this is not its defining feature. Its main advantage is simplicity and versatility.

5. When did you see Flash animation start turning up in animation production for broadcast? Did you make any of the pioneering productions?

Chin & Mort: As far as we know, Flash has been used in professional animation production for a long time now. ¡Mucha Lucha! may be the FIRST Flash series on American broadcast TV, but overseas studios have been using Flash to produce TV commercials and series for a couple of years now. For instance, Quads (a Canadian series which was animated in Australia) was produced using Flash. Back in 1998, we were using Flash to produce broadcast interstitials for the Nickelodeon Channel (Twisted Telly).

When ¡Mucha Lucha! was in development three years ago, Warner Bros. Animation commissioned a pitch (two-minutes) from us, and they requested this in the Flash format. They were impressed with the results and embraced Flash as a means of producing the series.

Crown: If by professional you mean television broadcast then I first saw it turn up here with The Mr. Dink Show. Since then all the shows weve worked on have been part of the pioneering of professional Flash productions, at least for us.

Lyons: I think a lot of people, like us, started using Flash for the Web. It is, after all, a web tool. When they realized that Web animation is not really viable commercially, they started using it for television. We unfortunately did not make any of the pioneering professional productions.

Nodelman: As soon as the first producer heard the words cheaper to use. Whether we made any of the first Flash productions depends on who you ask. We are very proud of Venture Brothers and Omega Dome. Venture just has a great classic look about it, and Omega is able to combine live-action and Flash animation so quickly that we can do an animated show that is actually topical.

Flash offers Noodlesoup the ability to attack topical subjects quickly on Omega Dome.

Flash offers Noodlesoup the ability to attack topical subjects quickly on Omega Dome.

Schwarz: Were proud that at Rumpus Toys, my old company, our animators were responsible for Herschel Hopper: New York Rabbit, the first online Flash movie [April 2000]. At 38 minutes, it was the longest piece of Flash content produced for the Web. That was until the following year when we released The Day I Saved America at 52 minutes. We even premiered The Day I Saved America in a movie theater that could project digitally. We just came and plugged our box in and projected it. Since its all vector based, it blew up great.

Both movies recently completed a yearlong broadcast cycle on the Showtime Family channel. We were really pushing the limits of the program back then, when people were doing few second shorts. We continue to innovate by combining Flash with traditional ink-and-paint techniques. With our joint venture partner, Mainframe Ent., were developing better ways to approximate the look of CGI.

Wyatt: We were using Flash in professional production in 1998, both for web and TV broadcast. We produced the U.K.s first Flash series for the Web, Tommy Sausage in 1998.

6. Do you find that Flash animation is becoming more acceptable for broadcast TV production? If so, when did this start? If not, do you think that it will become acceptable soon?

Chin & Mort: We think that with ¡Mucha Lucha!s success, the wider industry is being made more aware of Flash as a viable broadcast production method.

Crown: I think that the recent success of a Flash series like ¡Mucha Lucha! shows its acceptability.

Hardman: What new ones are coming up? Nothing we can speak to at this time, but we will keep Animation World Magazine posted in the future.

Lyons: I think its always been acceptable. What isnt acceptable is bad animation, and that doesnt depend on the tool, but the artist. Normally the broadcaster is unaware of the software used. In the early days of CG, animators used to create films traditionally and claim they were CG, and clients were none the wiser. Many productions that look like Flash are created using other software.

Alex Meza & Dave Markowitz figured out how to tweak Flash to give Kid Notorious a distinctive look for Comedy Central. © Comedy Central.

Alex Meza & Dave Markowitz figured out how to tweak Flash to give Kid Notorious a distinctive look for Comedy Central. © Comedy Central.

Meza & Markowitz: We think that, within the past couple of years, Flash animation has become a viable option to a few animation broadcasters. For Kids WB!, ¡Mucha Lucha! for the Disney Channel, the Proud Family shorts; for Spike TV, Gary the Rat and for Comedy Central, Kid Notorious. We believe that within the next few years, Flash will be a standard medium for broadcast television.

Nodelman: Flash has taken a bad rap in the industry because of its earlier primitive look and its effects on production budgets being slashed. After the inevitable learning curve on what is possible with Flash is over, it will become a more acceptable way of delivering television animation because it is already proven, in some ways, it cuts costs. There have been some moderate successes to date, but there is still some considerable growing to do.

Schwarz: When we first started using Flash for the Web, everyone laughed at us when we said we wanted to use it for television. Now, there are several shows on the air done in Flash, including the Kids WB!s highly successful ¡Mucha Lucha! Weve just sold an original series that we are going to be doing in Flash.

Watts: Its been accepted already to a degree, but my guess is that if they developed the Flash program to be more suitable for broadcast animation, the increase in quality would broaden the audience.

Wyatt: Absolutely, we have been using Flash for broadcasting TV production for several years. It is ideal for short series and stings and we are about to start a long form series.

7. Flash has been through several versions. Do you foresee future improvements? What would you like to see Flash make possible that it cannot do yet?

Chin & Mort: Every version of Flash seems to bring improvements for web designers and developers, but not really for animation producers/animators. We would love to see a new version of Flash, which takes the needs of broadcast animation into account for instance; more powerful processing/rendering power to handle longer animation formats.

Crown: In the newest version of Flash, I didnt find a single new tool that will help with the way we produce our shows, so its hard to foresee future improvements. Macromedia could add many features to Flash that would allow us to up the level of animation we create. Just look at any 3D animation program and you can find the tools we need. Function curves, constraints, bones, kinematics etc., etc., would all be awesome additions. Id even settle for the ability to animate a bend into an object. But in the end, Flash isnt an animation program, its just one of the tools animators use.

Meza & Markowitz: We have worked with several versions of Flash, creating different styles of animation. Each new version seems to get better, with its diversity and improvements. We have not tried their newest version, but during our off time we plan to give it a try.

One thing we would like to say is that Flash is an excellent tool. It can be used for many different platforms. But it is just a tool. The person behind the screen and keyboard giving the inanimate character life, through emotion and acting, is more valuable than any tool.

Nodelman: Each version of Flash has been worlds stronger than its predecessor. I fully expect that trend to continue. I would love to see the program more paint and color friendly, with better brushes and textures; a better way to edit sound in the timelines; and of course a button that I can press that will just do everything so I can go fishing.

Schwarz: Wed like to see an improved ability to do blurs and to be able to better do kinematics. Right now we use After Effects for both.

Wyatt: We have always found a way to do virtually anything in Flash especially when used in conjunction with other software. I would like to see however, a more animation friendly interface perhaps, with camera controls, multi-plane or focus controls.

Fred Patten has written on anime for fan and professional magazines since the late 1970s. He wrote the liner notes for Rhino Entertainments The Best of Anime music CD (1998), and was a contributor to The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, 2nd Edition, ed. by Maurice Horn (1999) and Animation in Asia and the Pacific, ed. by John A. Lent (2001).

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