Ludicrous Software

Create a Movie From a SWF Using After Effects

For a recent client gig, I needed to create what was essentially a two- to three-minute animated slideshow that needed to be exported to video. My skills with After Effects are pretty limited, so Flash was my tool of choice for creating the slideshow. The problem was how to create a movie from the slideshow that could then be encoded as an f4v file for use with the Flash video player.

Now, Flash has the ‘export movie’ option, which may work for you. If so, that’s certainly the easiest route to take. For my situation, I found that this didn’t work terribly well: the slideshow was pushing some large bitmaps around, scaling them up/down by quite a bit. When exporting a swf, this worked just fine, but it created some stuttering in the animation when I used the “export movie” option to generate a QuickTime file. So this is the workaround I came up with.

(Note that this method only works if your animation is entirely on the timeline in Flash. After Effects doesn’t interpret any ActionScript-based animation, so if that what you’re using, this method won’t work for you.)

The basic steps involved are:

  1. Create your timeline animation in Flash and publish to a swf file as you normally would.
  2. Open up After Effects, and in a new project (one should be created by default), hit Command/Control-i to import assets. Find your swf file and import it. It will show up in the “Project” tab.
  3. Drag the swf from the Project panel and drop it on the Timeline. When you do this, After Effects will automatically create a new composition that will have the swf on the timeline. You can preview it in the Composition panel/make any further tweaks in After Effects, etc. At this point it’s basically just like a movie clip that you’ve imported, I think.
  4. When you’re ready to render, select “Composition” from the menu bar, and then select “Add to Render Queue”. This will open up the Render Queue panel, where you can make any changes to how you want to render your movie. Once it’s set up the way you want, just click the “Render” button in that panel, and you’ll have a movie from your swf.

One proviso about this method: it seems like After Effects caches items that you import, which makes it a bit of a hassle to round-trip between Flash and After Effects. So, if you import a swf, then go back to Flash and make changes, when you return to After Effects, there seems to be no easy way to make After Effects pick up those changes, except to save the project, close it, and re-open it. Although bear in mind my initial disclaimer: I know very, very little about After Effects, so perhaps there is a way to accomplish this without having to close and re-open the project.