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Full list of limitations when exporting to SWF from AE CS6?

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Robert Headrick
Full list of limitations when exporting to SWF from AE CS6?
on Feb 25, 2015 at 7:52:27 pm

Hi all, bothersome and weird question ahead.

For reasons related to extreme file-size limitations, I'm trying to figure out a workflow for animating in AE CS6 and exporting to a SWF file. Basically we're building a CBL (computer-based learning) module for a client using Adobe Captivate.

The client wants something way cooler and flashier than the typical modules they get, which are essentially interactive powerpoint presentations with bulleted text, static images, etc. Unfortunately, the client's systems are shackled by some absolutely absurd file-size limitations. To deliver what the client wants to *see* in an animation without the video being crunched down to an almost unrecognizable image would be basically impossible.

I had the idea that we might try animating in CS6 and using the now-deprecated SWF export option. Captivate can import the SWF, which would keep everything vector and keep the file-size of the deliverable to an absolute minimum.

I'm aware that sending an AE comp to a SWF file is generally a terrible idea and that there's all sorts of limitations involved, and that's the point of my question here, because I've thus far been unable to locate a full, comprehensive list of what I can and can't do in my animation if I'm intending to export to a SWF file. It seems like no matter how much I simplify and remove features from what I'm doing, I'm still not successful.

Happy to answer any questions about what's in the project. Won't go into detail at the moment because I have other deadlines to attend to and I want to get this out there as quick as I can just in case someone happens to just have a link handy that will answer everything without the need to hash out details.

TL;DR Trying to limit my animation techniques to satisfy the draconian SWF requirements, and I'm not succeeding. Trying to locate a full, comprehensive list of what does and does not transfer.

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Todd Kopriva
Re: Full list of limitations when exporting to SWF from AE CS6?
on Feb 25, 2015 at 11:38:57 pm

Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects product manager and curmudgeon
After Effects team blog

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Robert Headrick
Re: Full list of limitations when exporting to SWF from AE CS6?
on Feb 26, 2015 at 3:31:56 pm

Oh man... as usual Todd, you're on top of it. I had read that page, but apparently I only gave it cursory attention. I was in the process of exhaustively pointing out that I'd followed every single restriction listed on that page, and gradually started uncovering various things that weren't quite right!

It seems like what's been killing my file is something related to this paragraph:

The exported SWF file includes each unchanged item in the After Effects composition once, and then references it for each use. If a layer is used in multiple frames, each use refers to the same object, even if the layer’s transform properties (such as Position) are animated. However, if the content of the layer changes—for example, if a mask on the layer is animated or if the source footage item for the layer is video—a new object is created for each frame in which the layer is visible. If multiple layers in the composition share the same source footage item, the source is added once and is then referenced for every additional layer that shares the source. If the source is an Illustrator file, a SWF movie clip is created and referenced.

I don't fully grasp exactly why, but for whatever reason the export was failing whenever it encountered a place where I had duplicated an Illustrator layer. When I read the text here it seems to me that it shouldn't have a problem (it doesn't say it can't support duplicated layers, just that they'll all be referencing the same flash object), but from my testing it's very clear that it can't do it. I tried a test where I duplicated a layer one time and added a mask to the second layer (based on my interpretation of the above to mean that this would force it to create a new object), but that didn't work either.

I'm also confused by something, but since it's not actually holding anything up it's not nearly as big of an issue. In the unsupported features report it calls out "clipping path" on almost all, but not quite all, of my Illustrator layers. I'm not sure what that means because I didn't use a clipping mask in the Illustrator file (not sure what the difference between mask and path is in this situation), and although it lists it under unsupported features, the layers in question still show up in the completed SWF file. Weird.

Any thoughts on that last point? Any way you can clarify the multiple objects issue so I understand why it's not working? If I understand why it's failing, then there's a chance I can find a way around it. As it stands, I think I have a better grasp on what I can and can't do, and I think I can at least rebuild most, if not all, of my animation in a way that satisfies the stringent requirements.

Thanks for your time! Always appreciate your commitment to the AE community.

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