Flash on the iPhone

There may be times when it is essential that a Flash animation is available to users on Apple devices such as the iPhone and the iPad. Here is a technique that addresses this requirement using Google’s rather wonderful open source project Swiffy.

Firstly, your Flash movie should be no larger than 1MB and ideally exported for Flash Player 5 although Swiffy supports most of the AS2 specification. For those of you who don’t remember, you can do a great deal with Flash 5 and AS2. Probably a great deal more than Safari on the iPhone will allow us to do.

Under the hood, Swiffy processes the SWF file and generates a JSON file. A client-side JavaScript runtime loads that JSON file and renders it using HTML, SVG and CSS which is supported by Webkit-based browsers such as Safari running on Apple devices.

When you process your swf, Swiffy outputs an html page that you can place on your page using an iFrame. I know, I know an iFrame! However we’re only using our iFrame to serve alternative content to less than 5% of our visitors. There’s nothing for Google to index so it makes very little difference to the end user. I’ve added an alternative version to the header of this page, making the animation, podman cursor follower and all, viewable to iPhone users, for what it’s worth. It’s pretty clunky, probably only making 8 frames a second on my iPhone, but it’s a pretty complex multilayered animation, with lots of bitmaps and transparency. While the animation in the header of this page may not have been designed for WebKit, it could probably be optimised quite easily. A little trial and error goes a long way. Maybe I’ll follow this article up with a sequel.

Installing an SSH key

If your developer passes you an SSH bundle containing a couple of files to give you access to a web server.


Don’t panic.

Open terminal type:
open ~/.ssh

drop the files into this directory.

Back in terminal type:
ssh-add ~/.ssh/webSSH

Now you can type:
ssh root@xxx.xxx.xxx.x


Joomla! Install: Display Errors: On / Off

This one always catches me out and I find myself looking up the same thing time and time again. So for future reference I thought I’d make a note.

When you install Joomla there’s an setting check that lists any problems with your set-up that may effect the running of Joomla! In my case (both on 1&1 AND on MediaTemple) the Recommended Settings have flagged Display Errors as “On” when it should be set to “Off” – The solution is pretty simple.

Open the htaccess.txt file installed with Joomla! add:

php_flag display_errors “0”

save it to your server and rename it .htaccess


My Flash strokes look blurry.

This is a tip that I’m sure most people who’ve used Flash will appreciate.  Try drawing a few strokes on the stage – all a pixel thick. They may look fine and dandy in the Flash IDE but try exporting the swf and prepare to be shocked. There’s a fair chance that one, some or all of your lines look blurred and fuzzy. How annoying!

Well here’s a few things you can try to ensure that your strokes remain crisp and perfect, just the way you intended.

First, check the X and Y co-ordinates of your strokes and round them up or down to a round number.

If things don’t improve go into your stroke width setting and change the number from 1 to 0.9

If thing’s still don’t improve try reducing the width of your stroke incrementally from 0.9 to 0.8, 0.7 etc.

It worked for me:

I swear that this is a genuine screen grab of the offending lines – before and after.

Good luck!

Glow filter clipping on text.

Ever noticed that a line of text in a movie clip gets clipped by about 3 pixels at the end of the line? Rather an annoying bug, I tried everything, rounding the positioning up to exact pixels, adjusting the glow, checking tweens but nothing worked. I finally solved the problem by changing the font display quality to ‘animation’ instead of ‘readability’ worked fine!

Anti-alias when scaling images and video in Flash

Here’s one of those tips that you stumble upon, and feel embarrassed that you didn’t know this years ago.

Notice when scaling a bitmap or video up and down the image is subject to serious aliasing. Especially with a transparent background. Everything looks pixelated and choppy. Right?

Here’s the solution. In the properties of your image in the Flash library you will see the following setting.


Note that “Allow smoothing” is checked. This allows Flash to re-sample the image when it is scaled up or down, naturally there is some quality  loss but essentially it solves your problem. Used sparingly it may help with your bitmap manipulation.

What about video? No problem. The same principle applies, but you have to use ActionScript.

var nc:NetConnection = new NetConnection();
var ns:NetStream = new NetStream(nc);


The last line is the killer!

Seamless Flash audio loops.

Here’s a tricky little issue that I’m sure a few of you Flashers have come across on your travels.

Problem: You have an audio loop, like a clock ticking. You produce a perfect loop in your sound editor of choice and export it out as an MP3. You then import the sound onto your timeline in Flash and no matter what you do, you can’t get it to loop properly. It’s as if Flash has somehow added a fraction of a second of silence to the start and end of the sound clip, making it impossible to loop seamlessly.

Solution: Export a wave file instead of an MP3 – Not sure why, but MP3s behave differently to wave files in Flash. Wave files loop perfectly. Don’t worry about compression because there’s an MP3 compression option inside Flash anyway, so you still get the compression benefits that the MP3 format has to offer without the loop problems. Loop perfection!

Masks in Flash

Ever tried to animate the masking of multiple areas of an image and found that everything goes wrong?

Well here’s a simple tip.

Flash hates a mask that’s in pieces. Sometimes it’s fine but sometimes it messes up, for example if you have an animation of eyes blinking, using masks to hide / show the pupils, either use one mask that is connected out of the area of interest or two separate masks for each eye.

Note: Beware of strokes or the remains of partially deleted strokes in masks. Select the entire mask frame and switch of all strokes from the selected vectors to ensure that those pesky bits of corners or minuscule remnants don’t get in the way of your masking genius!

Default Publish Settings – SwfObject

It’s been bugging me for a while that I can export HTML with the AC_RunActiveContent.js embedding method directly from Flash CS3. I can replace the RunActiveContent HTML with a SwfObject Template but I can’t get the Flash IDE to export a copy of the swfObject.js file.

Here’s the solution.

Navigate to:

Library>Application Support>Abode>CS3>en>configuration>HTML>Active Content Files
Backup AC_RunActiveContent.js by renaming it or moving it somewhere else. Paste in a copy of the latest swfobject.js and rename it AC_RunActiveContent.js.

Annoying that it has to be called something else, so I add the following comment after the tag:

//re-named swfObject default export

I’d love to find out how I can use swfObject without having to rename it first.

Pixel Aspect Ratio (PAR)

I had an unpleasant experience recently with a director who told me too late that the fine composition I’d done was too small.

I’d worked to 1024×576 (SD) but he’d filmed in 1920×1080 (HD)

Here’s some info about how to manage this kind of problem – thanks to Artbeats for two very useful PDFs

Because video often uses rectangular pixels and computer monitors use square ones circles and peoples faces look fatter on your monitor in NTSC and skinny in PAL.

In After Effects there are two places where you need to set the pixel aspect ratio: for the source, and for the composition where you are combining layers. To set the pixel aspect ratio (PAR) for a source, select it in the After Effects Project panel, and type Command+F on Mac (Control+F on Windows) to open the Interpret Footage panel. In the Other Options section is a popup for Pixel Aspect Ratio: Set it to match the format of your source. After Effects does a reasonably good job at auto-sensing the correct PAR for a footage item when you import it, but it is always good to double-check this popup – especially when using widescreen footage.

To set PAR for a composition in After Effects, select the comp and type Command+K (Control+K) to open the Composition Settings dialog. It too has a Pixel Aspect Ratio popup; set it to match your intended output format. This happens automatically when you pick a Preset in the Composition Settings, but is easy to miss when you manually set up a comp. As long as you set the PAR popups for every footage item and composition correctly, programs like After Effects will then know which images to stretch and which to squash to correct everything as needed for your final video.


You may know that there is an option in Photoshop to change PAR to rectangular. This is not advised because changing the PAR tag on a file does not re-scale an image; it just changes the tag! To give an example: If your photo started out with square pixels, changing the PAR tag to DV will not give your photo non-square pixels – it will just give your photo an incorrect tag.
Therefore, many advise creating all of your non-video elements using square pixels. Rather than try to match any particular size, the safest approach is create the element 25–100% larger than you need it to be; that way, you can also scale it down or reposition it as needed in your video program.


If you create still images at these sizes, and tag them as having square pixels in a program like After Effects, After Effects will automatically adjust them to be the same size as their corresponding video frame.

Hope that helps!