Explaining Flash and Web Animation


Tom Fulp (@TomFulp) from NewGrounds posted that

Explaining Flash and Web Animation

There’s a lot of ongoing confusion about Flash’s role in web animation so I’ve made this blog post as a reference point when it comes up in the future.

Flash was created in the late 1990s as a tool for animation and interactive media. Projects were exported as SWF files, which could be played in a desktop application or in a web browser, via the ubiquitous Flash plugin.

In 2010, Steve Jobs penned his Thoughts on Flash. Steve wanted to explain why iPhones would not be adding support for Flash but to avoid making it about computing power or competition with the app store, Steve went scorched earth. He had plenty of valid points, though; the Flash plugin was increasingly out of place as part of the open web.

One of the main points was that nothing the Flash plugin offers can’t be replaced by HTML5, which is an open standard vs a closed system controlled by Adobe. This has lead to a lot of long-term confusion about Flash animation, however. For the past decade, I’ve continued to see people say how animators need to stop making animation in Flash and start making it with HTML5.

It is actually fine that animators continue to animate with Flash (now re-branded Adobe Animate). The only difference is now their animations must be shared in a video format (like MP4), rather than SWF.

So Flash animation never actually died, it just had to export to a format that doesn’t require the Flash browser plugin.

On Newgrounds, we created Swivel and have made an ongoing effort to convert classic SWF animation to MP4 format. This is why you can view a lot of the animation on Newgrounds via your iPhone.

We more recently unveiled Newgrounds Player (Supporter only beta at the moment), a desktop player that integrates with the NG website to launch SWF files. You still earn medals and high scores in games, too!

Long-term we hope to emulate Flash in-browser but we wanted to have a solution ready in the near-term, since Flash plugin access is expected to become more hidden this July, before being removed from browsers completely in 2020.

In summary: It is 100% fine that animators are still animating in Flash. Don’t tell them they need to animate in HTML5 because that doesn’t make much sense. Most of the animation you enjoy on the web and even on TV is made with Flash / Adobe Animate.

so here few comments

First, the SWF format is not going anywhere, you do not need the Flash Player plugin to use/play/re-use SWF files.

Second, yeah just export your animations to .mp4 instead of .swf and you’re good to publish on the web, even Twitter re-encode .gif to .mp4 (see Those GIFs on Twitter Aren’t Actually GIFs).

Now the real problem is that

Long-term we hope to emulate Flash in-browser but we wanted to have a solution ready in the near-term, since Flash plugin access is expected to become more hidden this July, before being removed from browsers completely in 2020.

the problem is when your SWF is not just an animation that can be converted
but when your SWF is an actual program that need code and logic and API etc.

see an older post Some Thoughts on the HTML Target for AIR

I don’t want to discourage anyone but … when you see the amount of big companies who have tried to replicate the Flash Player runtime with HTML tech and “failed” or “abandoned” or “did not pursue”, and those companies are Adobe (project Wallaby), Mozilla (project Shumway), Google (project Swiffy), etc.

You do know that the the bar is pretty high to accomplish such thing.

And even if you could reuse something like Apache Royale to compile AS3 to JS, implement a big part of the Flash API, and add on top a display list renderer based on Canvas 2D… well… even that would not necessarily succeed


because HTML Canvas suck at rendering 2D

just sayin’ : don’t underestimate such big task

Anyway, for the rest, the animation part, yes Tom is right SWF is not going anywhere.


Can’t agree more on that. One of our recent clients wanted to convert hours of corporate, internal tutorials from Flash to HTML Video.

We wrote a wrapper in AS3 as a .fla file and… just rendered it out as a set of videos in a sequence provided in XML file.
…with 4K sharp as a blade vector graphics, perfectly synced voice overs and SFX, a lot of custom AS3 logic like: whole player, closed captions manager, layout branding, fluid animations and so on.

You just can’t go wrong with the Flash (now Animate) production pipeline if you do multimedia these days. In combination with the rest of CreativeCloud programs, you have a media powerhouse.

Don’t forget that Flash was invented in the times of 11kBps modems, where you couldn’t JUST turn FullHD or 4K mode, and enjoy multimedia or “interactivity” with a web browser. Every click meant the whole page to refresh!

YouTube was born as one of the Flash killer apps, because it could handle vector graphics transcription, which weights almost nothing and stream video. They were called RIAs these days :wink:
Facebook’s initial, critical revenue pipe was what? Farming anyone?

The whole Internet monetization Free2Play model was enabled (diamonds, gems, subscriptions) rebuilt thanks to Flash player: ease of use, performance, reach, backwards compatibility and the best implementation of “run once, deploy everywhere” paradigm…

Current PWAs have to still catch up with a couple of “features”…

It is simple overall. FLASH NOT DEAD :wink:


Hi, welcome to the forum

I’m less experienced with the animation part, I did some but I’m no virtuoso
but here what I know: hand-made animation is an art which is very hard to duplicate with code

with code you can do the basic stuff like some fade in / fade out, little shaking this, little bounce that, but there is no way you can program the more advanced stuff, and worst, there is no way you can program it faster and smoother than an animator doing it manually

my point here is the tool, wether you call it Flash MX, Flash CC, Flash Pro, Animate CC, etc.
this tool is first and foremost an animation tool

all the concepts of timeline, layers, onion skinning, frames, empty frame, etc.
are there to help people animate stuff

so sure you can find those same concepts in the code and the Flash API
but it is more to “make the glue” between animators and programmers
“oh let me take that nice animation and add a bit of code so we can play, pause, reverse play, etc.”

that’s also why HTML5 is struggling so much to match what was done with Flash
there is no proper tools either for design or animation

From the lengthy history of Flash, even if people mainly remember a Flash Player that is a browser plugin, it was at the same time and before that an animation tool, an IDE that help you animate stuff around

Flash 3 era, even without actionscript, you could pretty much know nothing about programming,
fire the Flash editor, create things on the timeline, animate them, add sound, bit of “actions” stop(),play(),gotoAndPlay()` etc. and produce really nice sharp and compact work

Olivier Besson (@gludion) built that literally 20 years ago
and I’m pretty sure it can not be reproduced by HTML5 tech of today

also see Flash dancer, 10 years ago :wink: (2008)

Edit: actually, I created the dancer in sept 1997. The (very cool) music used in this video version was a Julien Jabre (unautorized ) sample. Like many people at this time, he received the dancing creature by e-mail and recognized his music !!. Finally we got an agreement with his label to use the sample for non-commercial use.