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In Defense of Flash, Nick Cross responds to Steve Jobs'(and others’) criticisms

Reposted, with permission, from Nick’s blog:

Friday, April 30, 2010

In Defense of Flash

So, it seems that over the past year, more and more folks have been downgrading Adobe Flash as crap. The iPhone and iPads don’t support Flash and most recently, Steve Jobs has published an article defending Apple abandoning it. I realize that he is referring mainly to the use of Flash to design and build websites. I know very little (in fact nothing at all about CSS, HTML5 etc) so I can’t really comment on that. However, I’ve read comments on a few animation blogs by animators talking about how crappy Flash is as well and I figured I would chime in with my two cents on the topic.

Personally, I love using Flash. It has changed my life. It meets just about every criteria for an animation program. It is simple to use, doesn’t use up tons of RAM or slow down your computer-allowing you to do long complicated scenes without too many crashes or hang-ups.

The only thing I don’t like is that the drawing tools don’t produce a very elegant rough line that mimics pencil on paper in the same way that Toonboom software or Photoshop and Sketchbook Pro do. However, in order to get such a line you end up with giant file sizes and slowed performance which for me is a lot worse of a headache. Drawing with the brush tool in Flash is kind of like drawing with a fineline marker which I do on occasion anyway, so it’s not that outside of my comfort zone. The other negative to Flash is the lack of a “camera” which means camera moves have to be done in reverse-when you want to zoom in, you have to make the scene larger on the timeline. But, I’ve been using the program so long now that I’m used to it and it’s not really an issue for me.

Another thing that I like about Flash is that it is a relatively cheap program to buy. I am really disappointed with the fact that Toonboom Animate Pro, which I will admit is a great program, is $2000 to buy. That puts it out of reach of a lot of young artists just starting out. Flash costs about a third of that, putting it in the range of most independent artists and animators.

For me animation has always been about experimentation and finding the best tools to do the job and get the best results. I use Photoshop, Flash, Storyboard Pro, Final Cut Pro and After Effects to do my animation. None of these programs alone can give me everything. I use the best and most useful features from each and it I love it. I’ll never go back to pencil on paper again. And hopefully my work will be better because of it.


  1. Ron Ron May 1, 2010

    Wow, bang on!
    I feel mainly the same way, using the software for 12 years now to make animated series for broadcast. In fact I’ve often used it for storyboards and animatic creation as well. Though I hear Storyboard Pro is an amazing advancement, and that the new ToonBoom Animate has changed drastically from it’s clunky GUI from years before and that in fact it resembles and operates Like Flash version 4 (on steroids). So ToonBoom seems to be improving and slowly taking over. But like Nick, I’ve grown to be so comfortable and efficient with Flash that despite the lack of 3D camera and the feel that you’re animating with a sharpie, it’s so fast and intuitive, it’s hard to let it go.

  2. Greg Greg May 4, 2010

    I think the biggest problem with Flash is the object management system, it’s convoluted and unnecessarily complex. Flash was never designed as a character animation tool, just as a vector based web animation tool and the work flow suffers from this. Plus it’s not originally an Adobe product and rather than redesign it’s interface and object management system to something cleaner when they bought it back in the 90’s, like Director, they left it as it was. Flash does an okay job, obviously, but thats more because animators have gotten used to it and in the end animation is about the animator, not the tool.

    Toonboom on the other hand is designed to be a character animation tool, it is much easer to use and has a great range of features. Most, well nearly all, the people I know who have used TB hate having to go back and animate in Flash. The drawback with TB is the price. They should have used the Adobe sales model from the 90’s, make it easy to copy so students and amateurs use it and cheap enough so that every studio picks it up until it becomes the industry standard, then slowly raise the price over five or ten years when studios have no choice but to by it.


  3. Ariel Ariel May 4, 2010

    This topic is superfluous. Like asking what do you like more, Looney tunes or Anime?

    It’s just a tool! People choose to use it whichever way they want. I don’t know why people give Nick hate about what he chooses to use(*I guess that’s the reality of the face-less internet these days)

    And even though I generally don’t choose to animate in flash(*I’ll do Post on my PC) I certainly don’t have to defend myself to why I choose to animate traditionally.

    ANd neither should Nick I think.

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