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Macromedia Flash MX 2004 - First Look

Macromedia takes Flash to new levels By Adam Bell
Macromedia Flash MX 2004
Professional $699 ($299 Upgrade)
Regular $499 ($199 Upgrade)
Yep, it's time to go back to school.......

No, really. While all the kids go back to school to learn their ABC's this week, we're about to learn more about our FLA's, SWF's, FLV's, and let's add some new tools like FLP's and JSFL's,

And no, JSFL is not a new Vince McMahon produced football league......

No doubt, Flash has been one of the few successful tools for creating web animation and dynamic content for some time now. Now in it's seventh incarnation, Macromedia has taken Flash to new levels that none ever imagined when it was just a cool tooning tool in 1996.

Today, Flash is used for connecting to databases, presenting dynamic content, live audio and video, chat rooms and some of the most incredible organic artwork you've ever seen.

With this new release, Flash has yet gone into another new direction. Some of it very good, some of it very questionable.

The biggest change is that Flash has essentially split into two. Much Photoshop begat Photoshop Elements and Final Cut Pro begat Final Cut Express, Macromedia has decided to try a somewhat similar route. Offer a lite product for those who just want to use the tool for motion graphics, simple interactivity and the ability to add audio and video. Then offer a full-featured product with the ability to connect to Web Services, XML documents, live video and a ton of other new interactive features.

My first big problem is the name Macromedia is giving the full-featured version of Flash.

(breathe in) Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004 (breathe out)

This is one of my big problems with the new Flash and all of the new Macromedia products is the lengthy product names and also the now plain vanilla packaging. Remember when Macromedia had the flashy boxes with the Neville Brody designs? Now it's just a white box with and 'F' on it. (Enter your 'F' word joke here.) Whereas Macromedia should continue to be the creative company it is, it's such a shame to see MM leave it's distinctive packaging for this almost Microsoft like look. (Now that's scary.)

Fortunately, what is inside the box is what really matters and there have been a ton of changes in this new version of MX 2004 (That does sound like a new Mazda, doesn't it?) So where do I start?
Well, considering this site is mainly for videophiles, let's start there. There is some excellent news involving video with Flash this go-around. In the past there were two ways to create video for Flash. Either you made an .swf directly in Flash by using a conversion tool like Sorenson Squeeze or Wildform Flix. That or create an .flv file (using any of the options mentioned previously) for connecting to a host that has the Flash Communications Server for presenting streaming video and audio. Unfortunately, FlashComm is a very expensive proposition. And so very few web hosts offered it.

Video Export
With Flash 2004 you can now create an .flv file, upload them and either using an object in ActionScript called 'NetConnection' or using one of the new Media Components for connecting to these FLV's for progressive download. Progressive Download means you'll still need FlashComm for Live Streams but in many cases, this will not be necessary. These Media components are only available for Pro users, as is also another new tool called the FLV Exporter which allows to export .flv video files directly from apps like Premiere, Final Cut and even Quicktime! This is something that many video pros have been waiting for some time. The FLV Exporter is very easy to use and the only bad things I can find about it that I dislike is the fact you cannot do 2-Pass VBR using the Exporter which you can do in Flix and Squeeze. However, even with 1-Pass VBR, the video quality has definitely improved from MX.

In addition, in Flash 2004 itself you will be able to import video files and edit them and compress them directly in Flash. You can even create export settings and save them much as you can in Flix and Squeeze. While this still isn't a complete solution for exporting video, most amateur Flash-heads will probably be very satisfied with this and will probably cut into the sales of Flix and Squeeze which should mainly go after the Pro market.

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Related Keywords:Macromedia, Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004 , Flash MX 2004, Adam Bell, Flash


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