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Creating and editing symbols

If you’re going to go to the trouble to animate something in FreeHand, then you’re going to be using it in a symbol.

In Macromedia Flash MX, choose Insert > New Symbol. When you import the FreeHand file, the vectors are going to go directly into the symbol, so you don’t have to move them later. In most cases this symbol is going to be a movie clip, but it might be a graphic symbol too. It’s your choice.

Now that you’re in the symbol editor, the first key frame is automatically selected so you can go straight to the importing. Choose File > Import and select the FreeHand file. Macromedia Flash MX brings up the FreeHand Import dialog box:

FreeHand Import dialog box

Check out the Layers option. Remember how back in FreeHand you released all those blend steps to layers? Well, in Macromedia Flash you really don’t want everything coming in on one layer, at least not for this type of animation. You want the images to come in as a series of key frames so you can animate the blend in your Flash movie. For this example, choose to import each separate layer to a new key frame in Flash (all of which will be on the same layer). Also turn off Include Background Layer at the bottom of the dialog box.

That’s it! After you complete the import, Macromedia Flash will add key frames to the symbol’s timeline, one key frame for each layer in the FreeHand file. Unfortunately it starts with a new key frame, so if you’ve followed my steps precisely, frame 1 will be blank. Choose Insert > Remove Frames to delete frame 1.

Close the Symbol Editor and use this new symbol in your movie. What you should see is an interesting morph between the original spiral and the final spiral:

I realize that this isn’t a particularly beautiful piece of art, but it gives you an idea of where to begin in FreeHand.

Of course, a “shape tween” in Macromedia Flash might look similar, but it would be significantly more difficult to build a composite spiral shape with Flash’s drawing tools. Through experimentation you can develop some interesting effects with FreeHand that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.