Are There Alternatives To Flash Cartoon Animation On The Web?
November 9, 2004
Back by popular demand is our weekly feature on Flash cartoon animation. Most of you enjoyed the frank opinions shared in the first five articles. More of that on the way. We ended the last article by looking at storytelling for Flash cartoon animation. But one question that often comes up is if there are other ways to present cartoons on the Web as easy and vividly as with Flash?
An early mean of creating animations on the Web before Macromedia Flash became a standard were gif animations. Gif files are a proprietary image format used by most Webmasters and developers to create compressed files. The advantages of Gif files are that they can contain an invisible layer, masking their edge when applied on most backgrounds.
GIF files are also known for their ability to play simple animations. Unlike JPEG files, GIF files can include several images whose playback and speed animators can set. As most programs, including Macromedia Flash export graphic projects as GIF files, it's a very useful format, guaranteed to work everywhere. However, a major drawback is the lack of sound support.
Macromedia Shockwave, often confused with Macromedia Flash, because the file extension of Flash movies, SWF is almost an acronym for "shockwave file" is another plug in offered by Macromedia for viewing projects created with Macromedia Director. Macromedia Director is an authoring program that uses the Lingo language instead of ActionScript, which is used in Flash.
Macromedia created Director to handle multimedia projects delivered on CD-ROMs computer drives, and other external devices and media. The program was very popular in the 1990s before the Internet became so popular and the delivery of online contents took precedence over contents available on disks and similar devices.
Macromedia Flash handles a wider variety of source documents for authoring and has some control over the desktop and direct access to some functions of the computer systems where users view projects. In recent years, Macromedia has added a lot features to Macromedia Director, such as the ability to incorporate and script 3D contents.
Power and usability have drawbacks. The plug in for Macromedia Shockwave is larger than the Macromedia Flash Player. Shockwave plays more contents and easily handles large files, but unlike the Flash Player, Macromedia has not optimized it for Web delivery. Macromedia Shockwave is ideal for playing files locally, something the Flash Player often has problems doing.
Unless you're Flash developer, you probably don't have the independent Macromedia Flash Player installed on your system. If that's the case, you probably have to play Flash movies within a Web browser where you installed the plug in before. Even if you have the independent Flash Player installed, you will not gain much speed when playing complex files locally.
The Macromedia Shockwave plug in has a smaller installation rate than the Flash Player, installed on nearly 100% of personal computers connected to the Internet. Another drawback if offering Shockwave contents to users is that they will often confuse the plug in with Macromedia Flash's Player. This name issue Macromedia has repeatedly failed to address. It should.
Because of growing security concerns, many Web users may fear the Shockwave plug in. With Flash, many know that they can right click on the movie and that they remain in control of their Web browsers. With Macromedia Shockwave, there is no standard and developers can have direct access to a system's resources. Some security utilities as firewalls even block Shockwave.
Several other programs emulate Flash and allow you to export to that format or their own. Any program that uses a proprietary plug in to display contents will face adoption resistance from Web users, no matter how good they are. Even the World Wide Web's Authorities' Flash-like format, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) have met poor user conversion.
Since parts of the SWF format's architecture have become public, several vendors have created programs capable of exporting to Flash. Of those, several are useful for cartoon animation, others less so. In our next article, we will look at those so-called "Flash Killers" as many have dubbed them throughout the years. We will see which ones are great for Flash-like cartoon animation.
Coolstreak Cartoons Inc.