With Swish users have been able to create nothing short of fabulous
animations and effects. Its like being in the Photoshop plugins
candy store or the JavaBeans express line. Does Swish have animation
effects ? Can you say Surfin Pistons, Jump for Joy or Flag Waving
Flag ? And 200 plus equally graphically-named animation effects.
And the ability for users to customize and save their own Swish
special effects for reuse.. And the ability to can special effects
as Sprites. And to apply multiple effects to the same object
in several ways. In short, the Swish team has had three versions
to get the packaging and componentizing of animation effects right.
And it shows
Macromedia Plays Catchup in its own Backyard
Macromedia is now forced to play catch up in its own backyard
of animating rich media.
Only in the recent Flash MX 2004 has Macromedia caught the whiff
of what Swish can do by having MX 2004 package the Motion Tween
and Shape Tween capabilities into commands. But hands down it is
much easier to develop from simple to serious text, sprite,
shape or groups of shape animations in SwishMax than Flash. This
is the same phenomena that has
happened with Java. Others are filling
in the details faster than the inventors. Swift 3D is an example
in the 3D world and ToonBoom in the area of animation and cell drawing.
And to its credit, Macromedia has recognized that it has not and
cannot do all the innovation around Flash. Thus, with its corps
of extensions it has made it more practical for 3rd parties like
Swishzone to plugin add-ons into the Macromedia Flash developer
tool directly. Swish PowerFx allows Flash MX2004 users to apply
over 50 basic but very customizable animation effects to static
text directly within Flash.
But those same effects plus over 150 more can be applied
to not just text but also images, shapes, sprites(subset of Flash's
MovieClips)and all the other objects within Swish. Notable for
their absence are video and 3D objects which Swish does not support
But as one can see from the top screenshot, Swish has a full bodied
development environ to animate in.
The Swish IDE
Now that SwishMax supports scripting, the IDE resembles Flash
pretty closely. The drawing tools and options are similar. The
timeline also looks familiar although Swish does not have nesting
of layers but does have sophisticated grouping of objects. This
reviewer like the standard layout with the Outline panel showing
all scenes and objects/resources in them. On the right side of
the screen is a super-properties panel with many tabbed property
panels including This has all the bustle and clutter of say Borland
JBuilder or Microsoft Visual Studio - and so the learning curve
for Swish, like Flash is relatively high.
But the the Swish team have done a superb job of making animation
effects easy to apply, test and change. Just point to/select an object,
right click, choose Effects and then pick from the over 200 available
and it is automatically added to the timeline (and starting at the
particular frame if you choose it). Swish has prerecorded settings
for each effect. But right click on the effect name in the timeline,
select properties and a whole gamut of effect options are available
for user customization. In
addition it is dead simple to move, shorten or lengthen an effect
or replace an animation effect by drag and drop motions. This is
the basic animation interface that Swish has and Flash needs.
SwishMax adds two more ingredients to the IDE, a much more bug free
core and scripting. Lest Flash designers run amuck(curses, scripting
ruined Flash), the scripting does not overwhelm Swish as its Team
has worked overtime to make scripting and its event programming understandable
and approachable. Check the tutorials accessible from the Help system
for a good introduction to scripting. Realize though that SwishScript
is a direct subset of ActionScript - it has to be in order for Swish
to work in the Flash Player. So Flashers will not find all the latest
and greatest scripting command. methods, and object that are familiar
with from MX. But that may be a good thing because the coding and
programming demand (including rapid changes) has left Flash developers
a bit winded.
Whither Swish ?
Swish,like Flash 4, is on the brink of the Siren lure - programming
versus designing features. The current SwishScript
does allow users to integrate and co-ordinate sound, sprites/movieclips,
and other animation objects more effectively. But the key to Swish
success has been the fact that baseline animation has been fastidiously
preserved as a deep design option. Macromedia started to get at this
with Flash components; but the early emphasis on components has been
towards data processing - tree structures, database grids, pull down
list as much as buttons and shapes. The new ActionScript 2 almost
requires that much of that code be re-written. Will Swish follow
suit and become more a programmer than a designers tool ? Nonetheless,
at $80, SwishMax is truly a very, very useful addition to your Flash