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Top Techniques for Creating Animation in Adobe Flash CS3 Professional

#44 Working with Scenes

Scenes are a prominent part of the Flash interface. There's a Scene panel; there's an Edit Scene menu (identified by a clapper board icon) right above the Timeline; and whenever you're in group- or symbol-editing mode, you follow the breadcrumb trail back to Scene 1. Naturally, you probably want to know what scenes are and how to use them.

There's one catch: Nobody uses scenes anymore. Even Adobe recommends that you not use them.

The original idea was that scenes would be a convenient way to organize the Timeline. If you were working with a long movie, you wouldn't have to scroll through thousands of frames; you could just divide the movie into short, manageable scenes. The default, when you opened a new document in Flash, was Scene 1; you then had the option of adding Scene 2, Scene 3, and so on. When you played the movie's SWF file, Flash would concatenate the scenes into a single movie, in numerical order. (If you wanted to, you could even give the scenes descriptive names and rearrange their order; that's what the Scene panel is for.)

There are, however, several drawbacks to using scenes:

  • No matter how efficiently you divide your movie into scenes, they still add up to one very long SWF file. Anyone who accesses your movie from the Web has to download that large file, even if they don't intend to watch the whole movie.
  • Scenes are confusing in collaborative environments. If you give someone a FLA file to edit, and it's divided into scenes, that person has no way of getting a bird's-eye view of the structure and organization of your movie. Instead of setting the Timeline's cell size to Tiny and seeing most or all of the Timeline at once, the person has to go through the movie scene by scene.
  • People tend to write their ActionScript scripts as if the current scene is the entire movie, introducing coding errors that are sometimes difficult to debug. In theory, ActionScript works fine with scenes, but keeping track of scene names and numbers adds an unnecessary level of complexity to scripts.

A good alternative to using scenes is to structure your movie as a series of short, individual FLA files. With a line of simple ActionScript, you can instruct each movie to start playing the next one when it ends, so the end result looks the same to the user. But the user gets to download several small SWF files instead of one large one. In fact, you could post individual links to each file in the series, so users need only download the parts of your movie that they want to see.

A collection of FLA files doesn't solve the problem of working in a collaborative environment, where what's in each FLA file is no more apparent than what's in each scene. However, you can have several FLA files open and visible at the same time. With a single FLA file, you can only see one scene at a time.

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