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New Features in Flash 8 ProfessionalPart One: Fun with Filters
Now that Flash 8 has formally been announced, there's no better way to kill time until the September release than by highlighting some of the new features the soon-to-be-Adobe Flash has in store. While Flash 8 packs numerous improvements for just about every type of Flash user, it's probably not a stretch to say that designers will be especially pleased. And since that's as good a place as any to start, today we'll be taking a gander at an addition that designers have been coveting for ages: filters.
Welcome to the family
It's only fitting for Flash to adopt some of the features found in programs like Photoshop and After Effects, since they'll all be roomies soon enough (if the Adobe takeover of Macromedia is allowed to go through, that is). Users of the aforementioned Adobe products take filters for granted, but Flash folk have traditionally had to jump through more than a few hoops in order to approximate even the most basic of filters. No longer. If you're a veteran Flash user, one of the first things you'll notice is the Filters tab built right in to the Properties panel (fig. 1). From this panel, you can apply any number of filters (fig. 2) to a movie clip. You're not limited to a single filter, either ? you can stack multiple filters on top of each other (fig. 3), tweak and reorder to your heart's content, enable and disable filters without deleting, and even save presets for easy reuse later, all through the Filters panel.
Anatomy of a filter
So far, so good, but let's dig a little deeper into what you can actually do with Flash's filters. As you may have been able to glean from the earlier screenshots, filters are applied by selecting a movie clip, navigating to the Filters tab, and then adding the desired filter from the popup list. Simple enough. Once the filter is attached to the clip, there are some pretty self-explanatory options to play with. For example, in the case of the drop shadow filter, you've got blur, distance, color, angle, and strength (which stands in for opacity, for Photoshop and After Effects folks). Fig. 4 shows some basic settings as applied to my new friend, Mr. Monkey, whom Macromedia has been kind enough to include in the set of sample clips that come with Flash 8.
All of Flash's other filters have variations on these settings that are relevant to whatever effect they provide. Again, simple enough. There's also a quality setting, so if any filter starts to degrade the performance of your movie you have the option of dialing things down a bit. And depending on the filter, you'll get some nice compositing options as well. Again, using the drop shadow filter as an example, there are options for Knockout, Inner Shadow, and Hide Object. I'll let Fig. 5 speak for itself here:
From left to right, I've ticked the Knockout, Inner Shadow, and Hide Object options. Of course, these can also be combined to customize things even further. You get the idea here: there are a lot of different options that can be combined to make a lot of different effects, all applied live and in real time to any movie clip you've made. Pretty powerful stuff. But even more so once we add ActionScript into the mix.
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