Pixel2life Reviews Total Training Macromedia Flash Professional 8

I've recently had the pleasure of receiving some of the Total Training tutorial products from the good folks at Total Training, who have been very generous sponsors of P2L for some time, and I would like to share with you my first experience with this professional training format. In this review, I'm going to be discussing the Total Training for Macromedia Professional 8 package, hosted by the very experienced and qualified John Ulliman. In case you've never heard of John, he's been designing advanced multimedia since 1985, so he's no stranger to design or the progression of Flash technology. I've been using Flash since 1996, so I was definitely interested in seeing what kind of lessons would be offered by Total Training and how John would present his teachings.

First off, the package is a large DVD case containing 3 DVDs LOADED with content and a "Getting Started" pamphlet that describes the content and how to install the required software and lesson packages and projects. The installation is a breeze with their interface and you're up and learning in less than a couple of minutes.

Package Breakdown

The package is MASSIVE and covers many areas of Flash, all of which are extremely useful tricks, not principals that you'll never have to use. Check out the breakdown of the DVDs, which includes some free downloads:

Disc 1

Part 1 – Graphics in Flash

Lesson 1: A Quick Flash Demo (48 min)

  1. Introducing the Flash Interface
  2. Adding Elements to the Stage
  3. Duplicating Library Items
  4. Introducing Keyframes, the Transform Tool & Tweening
  5. Creating Animations
  6. Adding Audio, Swapping Symbols & Testing a Movie
  7. Using Graphic Symbols
  8. Combining Animations into One Project
  9. Creating & Arranging Buttons
  10. Adding & Labeling Action Keyframes
  11. Adding Behaviors to Buttons
  12. Using the Publish Preview Command

Lesson 2: Meet Flash: Fundamentals (37 min)

  1. Navigating the Stage Area – Download (44.7 MB)
  2. Accessing & Organizing Panels – Download (67.4 MB)
  3. Saving, Exporting & Testing – Download (45.8 MB)
  4. Selecting a Flash Player Version for a New Project – Download (29.6 MB)
  5. Introducing Layers – Download (42.7 MB)
  6. Creating New Layers & Moving Items Between Layers – Download (38.6 MB)
  7. Customizing Keyboard Shortcuts & Locking Layers – Download (41.2 MB)
  8. Using Outline Mode, Layer Folders & Properties – Download (37.7 MB)

Lesson 3: Drawing with Vectors (28 min)

  1. Comparing Vectors & Bitmaps
  2. Working with the Pen Tool
  3. Drawing a Heart Shape with the Pen Tool
  4. Where to Put Points & How Far to Drag Handles
  5. Practicing Your Vector Drawing Skills

Lesson 4: Flash Natural Drawing Tools (45 min)

  1. Setting Up the Drawing Preferences
  2. Exploring the Pencil Tool Options
  3. Using the Line & Paint Bucket Tools
  4. Distinguishing Between Strokes & Fills
  5. Modifying Vectors Using the Selection Tool
  6. Snapping & Modifying Curves with the Selection Tool
  7. Altering Drawings with the Selection Options
  8. Using the Brush & Paint Bucket Tools to Fill
  9. Painting Using the Various Brush Modes
  10. Working with a Stylus & a Tablet
  11. Drawing with the Rectangle Tool
  12. Drawing with the Oval Tool
  13. Drawing with the PolyStar Tool
  14. Working with the Eye Dropper Tool
  15. Working with the Ink Bottle Tool
  16. Working with the Eraser Tool

Lesson 5: Advanced Vector Drawing (54 min)

  1. Intersecting Shapes within a Single Layer
  2. Using the Selection Tool
  3. Creating Complex Shapes with Intersecting Lines
  4. Combining Tools to Create Detailed Curves
  5. Vector Drawing Techniques
  6. Grouping Vector Shapes
  7. Editing the Contents of a Group
  8. Creating & Arranging Groups
  9. Object-Based Drawing

Lesson 6: Setting Colors in Flash (44 min)

  1. Introducing Advanced Color Selection – Download (40.9 MB)
  2. Working with the Color Mixer – Download (30.4 MB)
  3. Creating Transparency & Sampling Colors – Download (29.3 MB)
  4. Using the Color Swatches Palette – Download (43.3 MB)
  5. Applying & Stylizing Strokes
  6. Adjusting Cap, Join & Other Stroke Properties
  7. Applying & Transforming Gradients
  8. Saving & Locking Gradients
  9. Choosing a Gradient Overflow
  10. Adding Transparency to a Gradient

Lesson 7: Bitmaps in Flash (51 min)

  1. Importing Files to the Stage & Library
  2. File Compression Settings, Size Report & Use Count
  3. Compressing Individual Files
  4. Importing an Image with a Transparent Background
  5. Using Trace Bitmap to Change a Background to Vectors
  6. Changing a Foreground Item to Vectors
  7. Using the Optimize Curves Command
  8. Grouping an Image & Using the Transform Tools
  9. Performing Transformations Numerically
  10. Working with the Free Transform Options
  11. Working with Bitmap Fills inside a Vector Shape
  12. Using the Break Apart Command & the Magic Wand Tool

Lesson 8: Using Text in Flash (55 min)

  1. Auto-Sizing, Auto-Wrapping & Selecting Text
  2. Changing a Font, Picking a Color & Checking Spelling
  3. Using Rulers, Guides, Grids & Snapping
  4. Aligning, Distributing & Spacing Text
  5. Working with Device Fonts
  6. Editing Files with Missing Fonts
  7. Anti-Aliasing Text for Better Quality & Readability
  8. Paragraph & Character Formatting
  9. Using Text as a Design Element
  10. Text on a Path, Guide Layers & the Transform Panel

Lesson 9: Symbols (41 min)

  1. Introducing Symbols
  2. Creating & Reusing a Symbol
  3. Editing a Symbol in Place
  4. Editing a Symbol in the Library
  5. Modifying an Instance of a Symbol
  6. Nesting Elements inside a Symbol
  7. Adjusting the Color & Opacity of a Symbol
  8. Deconstructing & Reordering Symbol Parts
  9. Taking Advantage of Logically Ordered Layers
  10. Organizing the Library
  11. Looking at Symbols as a Movie inside of a Movie

Lesson 10: Symbol Effects: Filters & Blends (65 min)

  1. Applying Fader Gradients
  2. Adding Text & Graphics to a Background
  3. Converting Text to Symbols
  4. Using Drop Shadows with Text
  5. Using Drop Shadows with Symbols
  6. Applying the Blur Filter to Text & Symbols
  7. Customizing Glow & Bevel
  8. Disabling Filters & Using the Gradient Bevel Filter
  9. Stacking Order & Other Filters & Settings
  10. Saving & Using Filter Presets
  11. Understanding Blend Modes
  12. Using the Normal, Darken & Multiply Blend Modes
  13. Using the Lighten & Screen Blend Modes
  14. Using the Overlay & Hard Light Blend Modes
  15. Using the Add, Subtract, Difference & Invert Blends
  16. Building a Mask without Blend Modes
  17. Building a Mask Using Alpha, Blend & Layer Modes

Disc 2

Part 2 – Animation in Flash

Lesson 1: Introduction to the Timeline (55 min)

  1. Introducing Frame-Based Animation
  2. The Timeline Window
  3. Understanding Keyframes
  4. Animating Your Elements Using Keyframes
  5. Practicing Your Animation Techniques
  6. Using Onion Skin View
  7. Facial Animation
  8. Replacement Animation
  9. Rotoscoping

Lesson 2: Shape Tweening (70 min)

  1. Doing a Simple Shape Tween
  2. Getting Your Tween to Behave Properly
  3. Distributive & Angular Blending
  4. Working with Shape Hints
  5. Modifying a Graphic for a Better Tween
  6. Choosing Shape Hint Location for a Complex Graphic
  7. Segmenting a Graphic for Smoother Tweening
  8. Tweening Facial Expressions
  9. Using Shape Hints for Sophisticated Tweening
  10. Fine-Tuning Facial Animation
  11. Setting Up a Tween with Text
  12. Adjusting a Text Tween & Making it Loop

Lesson 3: Motion Tweening (64 min)

  1. Differences in Structure of Shape & Motion Tweens
  2. Converting an Object to Symbol & Motion Tweening
  3. Scaling & Rotating Motion Tweening
  4. Adding a Background Color & Making a Cloud Layer
  5. The Problems with Motion Tweening a Shape
  6. Problems with Using the Create Motion Tween Option
  7. Setting Up the Traveling Cloud Animation
  8. Simulating the Camera Flying Down to the Ground
  9. Animating the Airship Landing
  10. Creating an Elastic Landing Effect
  11. Replacing Grouped Ship with Ship & Canopy
  12. Animating the Alien Hopping out of the Ship
  13. Motion Tweening Individual Text Characters
  14. Adding Randomness to Text Animations

Lesson 4: Advanced Animation Techniques (59 min)

  1. Fading In a Background
  2. Animating a Banner with Filters & Text
  3. Animating a Title with a Blur Effect
  4. Animating Navigation Buttons into View
  5. Fading In a Block of Text
  6. Tweaking the Timing of Animations
  7. Setting Up a Motion Guide Path
  8. Orienting an Object to a Motion Guide Path
  9. Controlling Speed, Snapping & Registration Point
  10. Reconfiguring Your Workspace
  11. Adding & Swapping Facial Expression Symbols
  12. Modifying Elements to React with One Another
  13. Creating a Stretch & Squash Effect
  14. Tweening & Shifting Keyframes to Exaggerate Motion

Lesson 5: Simulating Speed in your Animations (62 min)

  1. Understanding Speed in Flash
  2. Introducing Ease
  3. Easing In & Out of Motion Tweens
  4. Improving Animations with Subtle Ease
  5. Using the Custom Ease In / Ease Out Dialog Box
  6. Easing within a Motion Guide Layer
  7. Customizing Ease for Position
  8. Customizing Ease for Rotation & Color
  9. Using a Gradient to Simulate Speed
  10. Applying a Motion Blur to Simulate Speed

Lesson 6: Nesting Symbols for Complex Animation (61 min)

  1. Introducing Timeline Effects
  2. Reviewing & Preparing for Animation
  3. Working with Groups & Symbols
  4. Symbols, Nesting & Motion Tweening
  5. Creating Nested Animations
  6. Building Multi-Layered Animations
  7. Creating Motion along a Path
  8. Packaging Symbols
  9. Understanding Graphic & Movie Clip Symbols
  10. Creating Character Animations
  11. Managing Character Animations with Nesting & Symbols

Lesson 7: Animated Masks & Filters (54 min)

  1. Using Open External Library to Copy Assets
  2. Animating a Mask Using a Shape Tween
  3. Creating a Magnifying Glass Effect
  4. Animating a Signature Using Stage Reveal
  5. Working with Complex, Layered Vector Artwork
  6. Reproducing an Adobe® Illustrator® Gradient
  7. Animating a Gradient to Create a Shimmer Effect
  8. Combining Filters, Blends & Motion Tweening
  9. Creating a Kaleidoscope Effect
  10. Creating a Realistic Drop Shadow
  11. Using Blend Options to Create a Soft Mask

Lesson 8: Sound & Video (85 min)

  1. Importing & Adding Sound to the Timeline
  2. Working with Audio File Sizes
  3. Adding Effects to Sound & Customizing Settings
  4. Syncing Up the Sound with the Action
  5. Working with Speech Compression
  6. Streaming Audio
  7. Working with Frame Labels
  8. Adjusting the Animation to the Voice Over Track
  9. Setting Up Audio for Lip Sync
  10. Adding a Looping Mouth Movie
  11. Fine-Tuning Specific Mouth Movements
  12. Changing Facial Expressions to Match Words
  13. Importing Video
  14. Editing Video Prior to Bringing it into the Timeline
  15. Selecting Video Compression Settings
  16. Adding Effects & Motion Tweens to Video
  17. Using Progressive Download & Selecting the Skin
  18. Using the Flash 8 Video Encoder

Disc 3

Part 3 – Making Interactive Movies with Flash

Lesson 1: Flash Buttons (54 min)

  1. Making a Simple Button
  2. Using a Hit State
  3. Making Animated Buttons
  4. Adding Sounds to Buttons
  5. Applying a Drop Shadow
  6. Making Buttons Using Bitmaps
  7. Using Blend Effects to Spice Up Your Buttons
  8. Adding a Message with the Status Bar Feature
  9. Using Buttons from the Common Libraries
  10. Using Rollovers to Display Images & Text

Lesson 2: Scripting Basics (51 min)

  1. Setting Up to Use Action Script – Download (34.9 MB)
  2. Introducing the Actions Window & Script Assist – Download (64.1 MB)
  3. Creating Buttons to Activate Action Script – Download (34.5 MB)
  4. Labeling Buttons in the Properties Window – Download (19.9 MB)
  5. Assigning Play & Stop Actions to Buttons – Download (44.2 MB)
  6. Organizing & Arranging Buttons – Download (19.3 MB)
  7. Using the Behaviors Window to Stop All Sounds
  8. Using the Goto and Play Behavior
  9. Modifying a Behavior & Adding an Action Layer
  10. Duplicating & Modifying Sequences in the Timeline
  11. Using Advanced Goto Behavior Options
  12. Linking a Button to a Website

Lesson 3: Basic Navigation Systems (64 min)

  1. Dividing Movies into Scenes
  2. Arranging & Adding Scenes in the Scene Panel
  3. Creating a New Scene from a Copy
  4. Adding Stop Action Scripts to Flash Scenes
  5. Setting Up a Basic Navigation System
  6. Using a Generic Action Script for More Flexible Navigation
  7. Creating a Non-Linear Navigation System
  8. Navigating with Keyframe Labels
  9. Navigating with Separate Flash Files
  10. Loading an External Movie inside of a Symbol
  11. Loading External Images inside of a Symbol

Lesson 4: Flash Screens (61 min)

  1. Setting Up a Slide Presentation
  2. Adding Content & Creating New Slides
  3. Nesting, Navigating, Arranging & Naming Slides
  4. Adding Filters & Text to Slides
  5. Adding & Resizing Navigation Buttons from the Library
  6. Assigning Behaviors to Screen Buttons
  7. Exploring & Editing Button Layers
  8. Using Transitions with Screens
  9. Screens vs. Forms
  10. Setting Form Parameters & Navigation
  11. Introducing Templates
  12. Using the Quiz Style Template

Lesson 5: Advanced Navigation Systems (69 min)

  1. Adding Slides & a Reference Guide Layer
  2. Rebuilding the Home Page & Adding Placeholders
  3. Setting Up a Movie Clip to Act Like a Button
  4. Adding Rollover States
  5. Using an Invisible Button
  6. Duplicating & Modifying Button Properties
  7. Adding Text & Navigation to Buttons
  8. Creating a Sub-Navigation System
  9. Looping, Adding Content & Using Scripts
  10. Nesting a Sub-Navigation System
  11. Setting Sub-Navigation System Links
  12. Pasting Frames, Swapping Content & Transitioning

Lesson 6: Data Entry Forms & Components (74 min)

  1. Creating Input Text Fields
  2. Creating Check Boxes
  3. Introducing Components & Dynamic Text
  4. Building a Form with Components
  5. Adjusting the Parameters of Components
  6. Adding Radio Buttons
  7. Setting Alignment & Adding a Text Area
  8. Adding Component Buttons & Themes
  9. Changing Component Themes Using the Library Panel
  10. Using Action Scripts to Send Information
  11. Setting Up Trace Actions
  12. Referencing Action Scripts
  13. Setting Up & Reviewing a Completed Action Script
  14. Using the Flash Exchange & Extension Manager

Lesson 7: Publishing your Movies (46 min)

  1. Looking at the Generate Size Report Option
  2. Exploring Test Movie Options
  3. Adding a Preloader
  4. Adding Animated Graphics to a Preloader
  5. Looking at the Publish Settings Options
  6. Viewing Published Files
  7. Exploring HTML Settings
  8. Centering an HTML Page Horizontally in Dreamweaver®
  9. Centering an HTML Page Vertically in Dreamweaver
  10. Copying the Correct Files to a Server

Lesson 8: Developing for Mobile & PDA (25 min)

  1. Exploring Publish & Device Settings
  2. Creating a Slideshow Document
  3. Setting Up Action Scripts
  4. Previewing with a Test Movie
  5. Animating a Movie Clip
  6. Creating a Navigation System with Action Scripts
  7. Tips & Resources for Developing Mobile Content


So once the CD install process is done, you're ready to launch the lessons, so pop in a DVD and away we go! I went through all the DVDs, so I started with Disc 1 and up popped John for a personal introduction and an explanation of what we're going to be learning. John is a great presenter with a good voice that keeps you interested rather than puts you to sleep. He's articulate and well spoken, so listening to him for hours on end isn't bothersome in the slightest.

One of the biggest issues I have with video based tutorials is the absolute HORRENDOUS compression or the resolution of the video is so small that you can barely make out what the presenter is clicking on. Definitely a non-issue here, as you can clearly see everything on the Flash workspace and the overall interface for the video is fantastic. Here's a shot of a video lesson in progress:

Here you can see how you can jump around within the Lesson areas on the fly… very easy drop-downs let you zip around between lessons and the sections of each lesson area. I love how you can jump around from anywhere in the lesson area rather than having to exit to a main menu.

Final Word

As someone that has been using Flash products for over 10 years, I can honestly say that these lessons are absolutely fantastic and I would recommend them to anyone looking to start learning to use Flash, or to a seasoned user looking to improve their animation skills. I personally REALLY enjoyed the Advanced Navigation Systems area on disc 3 (hey you know me… I'm a sucker for interface design) and the vector drawing and rotoscoping lessons were brilliant. Any of you "Scanner Darkly" fanatics should check that lesson out if you dug that movie's rotoscoping vector film effect.

The Total Training products are absolutely top notch learning tools, and I highly recommend them based on the hands-on use I've been able to experience with their product. If you're even mildly curious about Total Training lessons, you have GOT to check out their site at www.totaltraining.com and just browse through their free samples and you'll see this is nop-notch material. If you would like to pick up the Flash 8 series I just reviewed in this article, visit this page for more info!

A huge thanks to Total Training for sending me this awesome package and I look forward to sharing another review of some additional product I was able to pick out and we'll be looking at giving away some Total Training goodies in the very near future!

Thanks again and if you have any questions about this review, just drop me a note!


Leave a Reply