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Adobe Flash
A vector graphics animation software program developed by Macromedia (based on an earlier program by Macromedia purchase FutureWave) and later added to Adobe's series of professional graphic applications under their merger. Initially called Shockwave Flash, it was designed to create smooth line-art animations and interactivity for web-based projects (basically, Illustrator, but with the 4th dimension added). It introduced its own coding language, Actionscript, and has its own standalone player software as well.

The "Shockwave" brand was something of an Artifact Title even from the beginning. See, Macromedia had an existing product called "Director" that was more mature and did some of the same things, and they had developed a browser plugin called "Shockwave" to let people view Director movies directly in their browser. After Macromedia bought FutureWave, they positioned Flash as something of a "Director Lite", most likely to protect Director sales. Flash proved popular, however, and eventually they dropped the Shockwave branding.

Since its introduction, Flash has gained more and more features. Due to the shortcuts that it offers that aren't available in normal animation, combined with steady improvement in computer performance and decreasing budgets from cable networks, it's started to branch from animations made for the Web into television and even movie animation (this article mainly covers these titles). Not everything made in it is good, but the standouts tend to be excellent. Also, Flash has been a key component in the rise of Web-based TV, owing to its installed base and features that make playback easy to implement.

Flash has not been without its competitors, or critics.
  • From the start Flash has been a CPU and memory hog, but with increase of computer speeds and memory volumes, it's become less of a problem. Still, it's not unknown for browsers to freeze for minutes while processing a poorly written flash game.
  • Flash browser plugin is a popular target for viruses, being no better than other common plugins.
  • Flash started on x86 Windows and support of other platforms is poor to non-existent.
    • It took Adobe years to port it to very similar x86_64 processors.
    • Plugins for Linux and Mac OS X habitually lag behind. Adobe was happy to start phasing out old GNU/Linux plugin and offload developing its replacement on Google (as part of Chrome/Chromium browser).
    • Despite being the major target for other Adobe software, Apple has a turbulent relationship with Flash due to its rudimentary video performance — their iPad originally could not play Flash Player videos, and Flash games are nowhere to be found in the games that are available for their hardware.
    • In November 2011 Adobe promised to drop mobile Flash in favor of HTML 5. That includes mobile Chrome.
  • From the start Flash's been competing with Java in browsers. Flash won thanks to its browser plugin actually being less resource-hungry and having tools more convenient for novice developers. Microsoft developing incompatible Javanote  also helped.
  • Toon Boom has been competing against Flash in the entertainment industry for years now, and has actually been used in big-scale feature films. Both programs have developed to the point where it is nearly impossible to determine which show was made with which program just by watching them.
  • Silverlight is a direct competitor to Flash on the Web, developed by Microsoft and based on .NET classes. The technology isn't as mature yet, shares all major problems of Flash (being an unstable resource hog and a security hole, with poor support outside Windows) and is already being phased out.
  • HTML 5 adds video capability to the HTML standard and some nifty features specifically added for browser games. Though all new browsers support it (or so they claim), it may not work in older versions people are likely to keep around for the next few years. And again, Flash had better development tools until Adobe Edge appeared (see below).

On a related note, Flash's player is now commonly used by web designers for tasks it wasn't originally intended to perform well, such as banner ads, bitmapped video, games, complex interactive applications and, as of Flash 11, full on 3D rendered games. Its adoption for those uses can be traced to the Microsoft vs. Netscape wars of the late 1990s, which kept equivalent functionality from being standardized in HTML while the two sides duked it out. Now that the browser landscape has improved and most browsers at least try to follow the relevant standards, complex forms and applications using “AJAX” have gained in popularity; this also makes them attractive for use on smartphones, which often don't have the CPU power to run a full-featured Flash plugin.

In November 2011, Adobe announced it will no longer develop Flash software for iOS games past the most current version. In September 2012, Adobe released a software application called Adobe Edge, which is basically Adobe Flash for HTML 5, with the aim of making this technology more accessible to designers, artists and people without a technical background. It is predicted to finally spell the end of Adobe Flash, but Adobe hasn't stopped development of Flash and Air, new features are still being added.

Not to be confused with the brick-walled superhero of the same name.

See also Web Animation and Thickline Animation.

Series/Films that used this program:

Shows That Switched To Flash

  • Arthur - Season 16 switched to this due to being given a new studio. Likely because it's PBS, it was to save money.
  • Caillou - Later episodes switched to Flash competitor Toon Boom due to being sublet out to a new studio.
  • Cyberchase - Season 6 switched to it.
  • Drawn Together - For it's Direct-to-Video Grand Finale movie, due to the fact that Comedy Central refused to fund it and this was the only option the creators had.
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law - The first nine episodes were traditionally animated, until they promptly moved to Flash to have more fluidity and to save production time.
  • Home Movies - Season one was done in Squigglevision (a style where the outlines on the characters were constantly moving) but it limited movement on the characters. Thus when the show moved to [adult swim], they switched to this to avoid this problem.
  • Johnny Test - Season two and beyond were made in Flash due to moving to a new studio (the former Cookie Jar) after Warner Bros shut down their animation department.
  • The Powerpuff Girls used it for the final episode, The Powerpuff Girls Rule!, which was also a 10th anniversary special. Mostly a decision by the series creator since he had switched to flash by that point for his animations. This episode was noticeably different from the entire rest of the series, partly because of the animation, and partly because of the fast-paced, random gags.
  • Wayside - like Johnny Test, the later episodes were made in Flash.
  • Winx Club - Started at Season 5 and been using it since in conjunction with its CGI animated segments (A rather odd contrast really).

Webcomics drawn in Flash:

  • Cat Nine is all drawn in Flash.
  • Awkward Zombie
  • Burning Stickman Presents...Something! was a Sprite Comic made in Flash, with animated comics occasionally, typically on 100 comic milestones.
  • Most of the Dumm Comics
  • GastroPhobia
  • Keychain of Creation
  • Knite
  • Homestuck, which releases Flash animations every 50 comics or so. (Originally the writer planned for every panel to be a Flash comic, but it was deemed to be too time consuming.)
  • VG Cats used Flash to smooth its line art earlier in its run.
  • Bob and George occasionally incorporated Flash segments.
  • Newheimburg has made the transition from hand-drawn to fully Flash-based drawing recently.
  • morphE is presented as a Visual Novel with interactive elements and is programmed in Flash. The artwork is drawn in Sai and edited in Photoshop.
  • Prequel has several flash animations and minigames.
  • Sacred Pie: Some pages are flash animation; some chapters are entirely flash animation. Usually they are action-packed, with little to no dialogs. However, flash pages only amount to several percent of the comic.

Web Series made in Flash:


    Photography and Illustration"Before" and "After" Pictures
3-D MovieThe Millennium Age of AnimationAll Animation Is Disney
Wheel of DecisionsAnimation TropesAnimation Lead Time
Ad HocAdministrivia/Useful Notes Pages in MainAethelflaed

alternative title(s): Flash Animation; Macromedia Flash
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