Thinking about learning Flash?

There’s a discussion over at that started when someone asked a question about Flash. The answers to the question (posted there) are good, but they got me thinking about something that bugs me a little.

A lot of people think they can learn a little Flash and then build a project right away.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it might not be the most effective approach for you to take.

What happens to a lot of people who do that: They get into a mess, and then — they quit.

That’s why I’m writing this. I don’t want you to quit, to give up on Flash, because you think it’s too demanding or too hard to learn.

I also don’t want you to pick up a sledgehammer to use on a thumbtack. If all you want is a slideshow with audio, for heaven’s sake, download Soundslides and use that.

If you want to build a project with Flash, and you’ve never used Flash before, the first step is to storyboard the heck out of the thing. Sketch little rough thumbnails of every single thing you think might be in the package. Write notes to yourself. Your sketches should look like these.

You now have a roadmap for the project. Use it. Figure out which assets you will need. Figure out which piece to build first. Figure out what you need to learn to make it all work.

You can’t really jump-start a Flash project. That would be your first mistake. Take 10 minutes to complete a tutorial first, and get your feet planted firmly on the ground. I realize I’m mixing my metaphors like crazy here (sorry!), but in the martial arts, your stance is everything. If your stance is wrong, you’ll be defeated. Flash is like that. The mistakes will mount on top of each other, and you’ll be crushed under them.

I’m suggesting that you set yourself up to succeed, not fail. And that means maybe you shouldn’t plan to finish that project on deadline, and then rush and gnash your teeth and feel stupid — and quit. If you’re a photographer — was your first roll of film worthy of Page One? If you’re a designer — was your first information graphic suitable for a section front? And if you’re a reporter — surely your first story was completely rewritten by your editor?

Why should learning Flash be any different from other storytelling practices?

9 Comments on “Thinking about learning Flash?

  1. Pingback: Innovation in College Media » Blog Archive » McAdams: Set yourself up for success

  2. Great advice – like any web/multimedia content, start with good old fashioned paper and a pencil.

    And never assume just because the software is so advanced that it won’t take some hard graft to get that finished product.

  3. Your right. It is daunting. I have about 20 community tutorial sites bookmarked for reference. I even have content that I know what I want but getting the actionscript or correct depth placement in the project has made me more than a little crazy. Learning actionscript 2.0 or the new one 3.0 is terrible. I come from an engineering background and I still have a difficult time with advance actionscript. I can only imagine what a photographer would be going through. I actually surprised noone has made a actionscript cheat sheet for photojournalists learning flash. I wouldn’t be to hard just stuff like gotoAndplay, movie clip as buttons or listener scripts. Seems like that is all they would need in the simplest of production in flash. Well I hope no one gives up. One day you will get the great feeling of accomplishment when you conquer your first flash hurdle. Good stuff Mindy,

  4. One of the best investments you can make is the $15 a month subscription to O’Reilly’s Safari service. You put a couple of the best ActionScript books (such as Moock’s) on your shelf, and then you can search the full text easily and fast — no matter where you are. It is much more efficient than using ActionScript forums. You get the right code very quickly.

  5. “Maybe you shouldn’t plan to finish that project on deadline, and then rush and gnash your teeth and feel stupid.”

    Ah, I’m having flashbacks of Monday mornings arriving 5 minutes late to class and getting my points docked…. sigh.

  6. Pingback: Journalistopia » Visualize your news graphics’ possibilities

  7. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » The role of Flash in a news organization (Part 1)

  8. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » The role of Flash in a news organization (Part 2)

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