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Hack 29 alt-Flash: Motion Graphics Alternatives
As much as we love Flash, it isn't the only game in town. Create motion graphics with some of the alternatives to Flash.
Flash is the number one motion graphics and multimedia delivery platform for the Web, but it is not the only one available. Putting aside the mainstream applications, such as Toonboom (http://www.toonboom.com) and Macromedia Director (http:///www.macromedia.com/software/director), and specialized applications, such as text effect generators and Swift 3D (http://www.swift3d.com), there are a few notable stand-outs. Processing (http://www.processing.org) is interesting because it is geared toward scripted animation without the historical baggage of Flash's timeline-based approach. KoolMoves (http://www.koolmoves.com) is a more specialized tool with character animation features not found in Flash. Both are possible alternatives to Flash for developers and animators interested in those more specialized areas.
Flash is moving in the same direction as the rest of the Web, with Macromedia pushing Rich Internet Application (RIA) development, Flash ubiquity, ease of deployment, and increasing usability. It wasn't always like that, of course-Flash used to be the underground web tool of choice, and I remember attending the first few Flash Forward conferences (http://www.flashforward2004.com) and coming away with all the cool, creative, and totally noncommercial stuff that was being shown.
It hurts to say it, but Flash is no longer the unchallenged underground digital media king. That crown may soon move over to Processing (http://www.processing.org), a graphic programming API that is a cinch to learn for ActionScript programmers. Some example images created by Alessandro Capozzo (http://www.ghostagency.net) are shown in Figure 4-5.
Figure 4-5. Images created in Processing
Based around Java, Processing is a programming language and environment designed with two purposes in mind:
The best thing about Processing is that it is fast, free, and runs in any Java-enabled browser. For noncommercial web art and math exploration pieces, it's looking to be a Flash-beater.
If you aren't convinced that this is going to be big, check out the notable names in the Flash world that are already into Processing:
As you can see, Processing is appearing on more than a few Flash radars in 2004.
On the surface, KoolMoves (http://www.koolmoves.com) is a cut-down and low-cost Flash authoring tool with a feature set somewhere between Flash 3 and 4, except that it has a number of animation tools not available anywhere else.
Of particular interest is the bones feature, shown in Figure 4-6. This allows you to create advanced hierarchical soft-bodied animation, something that is very difficult in Flash. At only $49 and with a free trial version (which doesn't allow saves but is otherwise fully functional), it's worth a look, especially if you do a lot of scriptless tweens. It is not as highly recommended for script junkies (who have probably put down the book and are downloading Processing even as we speak).
Figure 4-6. KoolMoves supports bones for soft-bodied animation
There are many alternatives to the Flash authoring tool, some of which use the SWF format (and require the Flash Player for playback) and others that don't. Adobe LiveMotion is no longer available and no longer supported. Other alternatives include:
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