Production Artist Learns Flash with Multimedia Products for Mac

Vic in Case Studies
02 Oct 2006, 10:00

jim_picture3A story from freelance production artist Jim who was greatly impressed by the capabilities of SWF to FLA Converter for Mac which allowed him to learn Flash deeper. To become more prepared for today’s job market he searched for other Flash products for Macintosh and also ordered Eltima’s Flash Optimizer for Mac…

industry: web design

Using SWF to FLA Converter for Mac in Web Design

Personal Background: Jim Carruth is a freelance production artist. He is new to Flash but is willing to learn it deeper which would make it possible for him to expand his activity area and thus earn higher profits. Besides he is a Mac user and thus Jim was searching for Mac applications which would help him to find out more on SWF files contents.

Janna Chelsy: What were your main challenges which made you searching for this kind of software?

Jim Carruth: I am a new Flash user, and one of the ways to learn Flash is to decompile SWFs into FLAs, which will allow you to see how the Flash file was made. Without knowing Flash, it won’t unlock every secret, but it can give you directions to go in if you see something in a file that you want to learn from. Then you pick up your Flash books, or online manual, start studying things, and pretty soon you are beginning to understand how certain things are done.

Janna Chelsy: How did you first know about Multimedia products for Mac by Eltima Software?

Jim Carruth: I had just started learning Flash at the beginning of September 2006. I was using the 30-day trial version of Flash, but after a week I ordered my own copy. I started looking online at the different Flash forums, and starting reading the posts on Adobe Flash Forum in the General Discussion Area. From that site I learned about the concept of Flash Decompilers. I also read a post from a forum member who wanted to know how to pull a SWF file down from the internet, and learned how to do this by searching my browser’s cache files.

I remember when I first started learning HTML, how that process was made easier for me by looking at other people’s code when I wanted to learn how to do something. The idea of pulling down a SWF file, decompiling it, and seeing how it was constructed appealed to me because of my past experience with HTML, so I started searching the internet to learn more about Flash Decompilers. [Janna: SWF Movie Player PRO for Mac which Jim got as a bonus now allows him to download and save any SWF or FLV movies he sees on the web, even from password-protected sites]

Janna Chelsy: Did you try using other products for the same task before choosing Eltima solution? What made you prefer our SWF to FLA Converter for Mac?

Jim Carruth: My search turned up two main products for the Macintosh: Gordon Flash and your SWF to FLA Converter for Mac by Eltima. I bought them both on the same day, and started finding interesting-looking Flash files to pull down from the internet. When I found one that I wanted to decompile, I used both decompilers to see what kind of results I got.

On one particular file, Gordon Flash produced a 1.8 MB Flash File, whereas SWF Converter produced a 19 MB file. It appeared to me that SWF Converter was getting 90% more of the Flash file than Gordon was. Then I opened both converted files in Flash. The 1.8 MB FLA from Gordon did not play very well compared to its SWF file, whereas the 19 MB FLA file I got from SWF Converter by Eltima ran almost identically to its original SWF.

Also, the decompiled file from Gordon Flash would not allow me to save it, or do a Save As. If I tried to do a Save As, or make any changes and save it, the file would not open again in Flash, and was not recognized as a valid Flash file. I had to view it exactly as it was originally decompiled, and could make no changes to it. This limitation led me to believe that the files that Gordon was decompiling were corrupt, in the sense that they did not act like regular FLA files. I did not have this problem with SWF Converter by Eltima.

Well, having been so impressed by the performance of your SWF to FLA Converter, I began to take interest in your other products, since the one I bought was a good experience for me and worked so well. While reading on the Adobe Flash Forum, I began to get the idea that SWF files can get very large, and so best practices has determined that you break up your SWF files into separate files, and then play them from an SWF “shell.” I thought if your Flash Optimizer was as good as your SWF Converter, perhaps this kind of working with large Flash files could be avoided if the compression size and quality was good enough.

Elmedia Player was just an added bonus that came with my Flash Optimizer for Mac purchase. [Janna: we actually grant all customers of Flash Optimizer for Mac with a free license of SWF Movie Player PRO for Mac] By now I knew I would want it anyway, so I got it free with Optimizer. I have played a few files on it, and it looks very interesting and useful, and much more flexible and feature-rich than the Flash 8 Player. I am sure as I begin to use Flash more and more, I will use your three products related to Flash for the Macintosh more and more as well.

Janna Chelsy: How are you using our Flash products for Mac now?

Jim Carruth: Mostly I have them at the ready for when I want to decompile or optimize a SWF file. I am currently working my way through the tutorial that came with the Flash Application, but if I want to be able to open a file and see how it was made, I now have the option to do this. As I go through the tutorials and the other two Flash books I bought, I am seeing and understanding more and more of the structure of a Flash file that the decompiled files reveal.

I posted a question to the Adobe Flash Forum about SWF files that are made up of many smaller SWF files, which was one of the things I discovered while pulling the files from the Web with SWF Movie Player PRO and playing them. The answer I got was that it had been common practice to make a large Flash movie out of several smaller movies, and dynamically load them into a parent shell. This, I was told, was a way to keep the download time shorter, especially for people with slow internet connections. I immediately thought about how HTML tables were used to break up large photos into smaller, faster-loading files for this very same reason.

I know that I will probably have to learn how to do this in Flash, but I also thought that since the Flash Optimizer for Mac worked as well as advertised, cutting a SWF file up to 70% of it’s original size, then it might be easier at first for me to keep all the elements of a movie in the same file, instead of having to break them up into smaller files. Since SWF Converter worked so well, I figured Flash Optimizer would too.

As for the SWF Movie Player Pro, I think that’s just a nice alternative way to view SWF files, giving you a lot more options, controls, and information about the files you are playing than the normal Flash Player. I haven’t worked with this one very much as yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far, and I am sure I will be using it in the future.

Janna Chelsy: How did you actually benefit from using Eltima software?

Jim Carruth: I feel more confident that my learning curve will be shorter and stronger than if I did not have the ability to reliably decompile and compress Flash SWF files. Although just a beginner, I am glad I bought these products at the start of learning Flash, because I already feel I know so much more about how a Flash file is constructed, and the need to get the file size down, than if I had not had the experience of using them. Flash is currently in such demand on so many job postings, I feel the way I am using the Eltima products to learn from and prepare files with will help to get me ready for the job market that much sooner. I highly recommend them to anyone on the Macintosh who is just starting out in Flash.

Janna Chelsy: Jim, thank you so much for your time!

Jim Carruth: Feel free to follow up with more if you wish.