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In this course, author Dermot O' Connor introduces a variety of real-world issues that animators commonly encounter and offers practical solutions to them in Flash. The course covers how to apply gradients to create subtle texture and light characters, reducing the flat look of most cartoons; how to simulate natural phenomenon such as wind, fire, and clouds; how to mimic 3D space; and how to add fades and transitions to create custom cuts between scenes. The course also includes a look at staggers, which can be used to create camera shake, tremor effects, and extreme character reactions.
So here, from your Exercise Files folder, an example of the dreaded flashy look. And this is what happens in Flash, it's just a part of the program; you fill these vector areas with flat colors, and they look flat. So we do lots of little things to try to break it up, like we put little shadow lines under them, maybe highlight areas, sometimes the black line around the edge to give it a bit of dimension, although not in this case. But you get the idea. And we have the nice little cute animation; they are walking across the Stage.
But it all looks really flat, like there is one gigantic ball of light illuminating everything. So awhile back I began playing with a way of getting rid of this, and the solution I found was to use gradients, similar to the principles we have covered in the earlier sections. And here we have a much different looking scene from the one I showed you at the beginning: from here, to here. It's surprisingly simple to achieve this. We simply use three levels, three extra levels, that's all. One with a radial gradient, and the other two with linear.
I am going to show you how to achieve this. So if you don't have the Exercise Files, use any file of your own as long as you have some kind of physical space, maybe put a little cube or a box in the middle, just to have something there to focus your eye. You don't have to have little men walking across the screen, but I just thought it was cute to look at, and give you an idea about something maybe a little more dramatic. So let's double-click on the symbol with the Gradient layer, we want to move the Timeline window up a little to see all the layers, and let's dolly out a little to have a look at everything.
So the three layers in question that perform most of the work are Gradient layers. Now I did add some extra small touches; I put a slight gradient on the ground layer, and I did darken the chap walking in. That was a very simple operation. Let me click on him. That was done in the Properties panel, under Color Effect, Brightness down to 59%, and then brightening him up as he walks into the shot. So just bear that in mind; that was one little extra thing. But almost everything you saw that separates this from the first one is a radial gradient, and then a linear on the left, and a linear on the right.
And let's look at them close up. Here is the radial gradient, and again, to select that this button here, sometimes that says Free Transform tool, other times you might want Gradient Transform tool. So be sure you select Gradient Transform tool, or F on the keyboard. And now you can see and begin to engineer the radial on the ground. This would be the result of an imaginary spotlight above the Stage. So let's click to see the colors of this. And now as you can see it's a very simple gradient; it's only got 4 colors. And I would like you to be aware, too, that depending on how your program is set up, Flash now has different ways of selecting colors, and I like to select this one; it's a little more intuitive for me.
So when you see me modifying colors in Flash, just be aware that you have H selected, and you can then pick your color from this vertical column, and then you can modify the properties of that color by moving around the square in here. You have millions of colors at your disposal. So it goes from the center, which is here, to the outside, which is at the far right. The center point is out 0 opacity, and we can change it by clicking and dragging. The next one out is also set to 0. We then go to about 30% opacity; you can see the color value changing. So I was being probably a bit subtle with this. Going from red that's 0, to a yellow that's 0: that's kind of redundant. We can actually get rid of that one.
So we can go from 0% here, to about a third opacity that's slightly blue, and this very dark color here, that's about 50%, and that gives us a dropoff. We can change the dramatic value of the scene simply by changing the outer color's opacity setting. So let's have a look; see what that does. You can see it's a much more ominous sky that the little men are now walking under. So let me go back to the original one. I'm going to hit Undo a few times, and give you a quick look at the linear.
And probably easier if I switch off the others; it's a very subtle little linear gradient. So again, same basic controls. Of course, they are like a vertical, or a series of parallel lines, which you can then control by clicking and dragging, and then you can rotate the line by moving this widget here. So that is that; that is how we control it. So what I am going to do is walk you through the process instead of just demonstrating it, so you can follow along and have an idea of how it's done.
So I'm going to make a new layer, and I'm going to click and hold down the Alt key to duplicate this layer. And I like to do this when I'm experimenting with new effects and I maybe want to mess things up a little bit, so that I can not worry about the existing two scenes. So be sure you select the Selection tool. Select your new symbol on the Stage, right-click, and duplicate it, and we will just call it copy. Now if you double-click on that, we know we are going to need a new layer for that gradient, and two more up here. And let's label them properly: gradient, circle, we just call it C for circle; keep the name short. This will be gradient right side, and this will be gradient left side. L and R; keep it nice and short again.
So let's do the circular gradient first, and what we want is an area of color that we are going to drop down that will cover the entire scene. Don't try to do one that will just cover a portion of it; it doesn't really buy you much. So I'm going to select the sky layer, because the sky layer covers everything. And hold on the Alt key and drag, or you can simply draw a new rectangle over everything, but this is quicker. Okay, so I am going to select that color area, and then select our Color tab, and under Solid color we switch to Radial.
Now, depending on how Flash is set up for you, and what you did last with Flash, you're going to see any number of different radial effects; some of them probably pretty horrible. So I am going to select a few colors at random so that I'm a little closer to seeing some of the strange combinations that different people out there might see. So you may see something like this, it's completely unusable. So let's select that new layer, and again, hit F on the keyboard or Gradient Transform tool, and let's start shaping it. First thing I like to do is to shape the geometry; that's the easiest thing to do. And it is nice sometimes to have really bright colors for this part so that you can absolutely get an idea.
So this widget here scales, this one squashes it and stretches it, and this one rotates it. But for now all we really need is a little ellipse, so let's do that. And make sure it tries to match the ground plane. If you notice the horizon there, it's nice if we can make it match that. You'll get a more realistic effect. So now we can go in and try to make it look a little more realistic. So as you can see the brown here matches the brown there. And easy to remember that this being the inside, it's closer to the inside of the screen. And this is the outside part of the gradient, being closer to the outside of the screen. That's how I remember. It can be confusing, like, which of these colors matches what on the Stage.
So let me select the outer one. I am going to darken it and immediately, that's instantaneous, you're starting to get a feeling of dark thunderclouds or something. So let's get rid of this green thing in the middle; we don't need anything really powerful or strong in there. So you can select whatever subtle shade of gray you like, and let's bring the opacity down to zero so that we see the original ground layer peeking through. And this blue color I am going to push closer. By pulling the shapes close together, like really close together, you can see where the join is; where the seam is. And then you can start going back from that and controlling the dropoff. And we are at 41% for this blue; it's a bit hot, looks far too bright. And may be we should darken it too; it's a little too bright as well.
So now we are getting something that's starting to feel a lot more like a real natural illumination from above. So again, I am going to check this again. We are at 0%; I am going to pull it in a little bit. As you can see, this position has a direct effect on the physical position of the light on the Stage. So I think that's not a million miles away. So that's pretty good; let's lock that. And now that the radial has been taken care of, we want two linears. So again, I am going to duplicate that flat sky layer, and hit F6, and drag to the top, and padlock here. And I am just going to fill it, and let's select the color swatches, and we'll fill it with a linear gradient.
And F for Gradient Transform tool. And just by pulling it and moving it and rotating it, you can get this closer to the conical shape that we want to match the original. Now the colors are obviously not final yet. They're the same colors that's defaulted; the previous colors that we used for the ground plane. You may not be able to see it on your screen, but there's a weird blue beam here. So what I want to do is to simplify this a little bit; maybe make it a little more neutral. Pull that down and darken it. Maybe sharpen this by pulling this color in and desaturating that a little bit.
And again, the effect is pretty quick. Let's bring the Alpha in just a little, so you don't notice this big corner here. And that's not too bad. So let's hit F6 to make a second version, drag it to the top, padlock the bottom one. And now we have two of them in the same space, we don't need that; we want this to be flipped to match the other side. So let's go Modify>Transform>Flip Horizontal, and then hit padlock again. I am going to zoom out just a little bit, and now you can see the bowl of light.
So I can control the opacity of these shafts to make the falloff darker or more extreme, and I can go in and control the colors and the strength of the light using only three layers. You can add more layers and I often have. But this is a very simple way of showing how much can be done with very few extra additions to a scene. So I strongly recommend if you have scenes lying around that you are not happy with, you start playing with them, and see where you might be able to add some of these layers to see if you can make them feel a little more dramatic, because light is one of the more important tools in setting the emotional tone of the scene, along with the color.
So I think we are ready to move on to the next step, which we will some lens flares.
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