Random
Motion for Flash 5
      by kirupa chinnathambi, code by sbeener

Before you begin, please not that for Flash MX, a different version of this tutorial can be found by clicking here.

One of the more difficult areas in Flash programming is programmatic movement! While it is easy to use a timeline and tween (animate) movies and objects around a screen, it takes an infinite amount of more skill to program motion. For those who think nothing cool can come out of programming and motion, I say, "Think again!"

The following animation speaks volumes as to the power of random programmatic motion:

 
 

[ would you believe that the above animation, including images, is only 2k in size ]

The source code for the above animation and the animation you will have created at the end of this tutorial can be found near the bottom of the page.

Here is how to program Random Motion:

  1. Create a new movie. Insert another layer in your timeline. You should have two layers right now. Label the first layer 'actions' and label the bottom layer 'objects':


 
[ your timeline should look like this image ]

  1. Instead of creating a movie clip first, you will add the ActionScript first. Right click on Frame 1 of the actions layer and select 'Actions'. The Frame Actions dialog box will appear. Press Ctrl + E or press the arrow pointing right and select Expert Mode. This is important. Failure to be in Expert Mode will cause problems when customizing the code!

[ it is important that you set the code to Expert Mode ]

  1. Copy the code from the menu box below. Once the code below has been copied, paste the code in the Frame Actions window.
     

[ copy and paste the above code in the Frame Actions window ]

  1. The most difficult part of creating random motion is over for you. You have the 'leader' code added. What is a leader code without any follower codes? Your animation haha! Seriously, you need to create movie clips in which a few more lines of code can be added.
     
  2. Select the first frame of your 'objects' layer. Draw a small circle. Select the circle and press F8 and select Movie Clip. If you are using a Mac, go to Insert | Convert New Symbol then select Movie clip. Your circle should look similar to the following image:

[ the circle after it was converted to a movie clip ]

  1. Once the circle has been converted to a movie clip, right click on the circle and select Actions. The Object Actions dialog will display for your circle. Copy and paste the following code:

  1. Now, copy the circle you created and paste it anywhere on your screen. Keep copying and pasting the same circle until you feel you have enough circles to make the animation cool. You can also modify the Tint and scale. For example, the following image represents how my animation looks after I copied and pasted the original circle several times and modified the tint and sizing (scale):


 

[ my movie after I copied, pasted, and modified the circles ]

  1. Preview the animation by pressing Ctrl + Enter or by going to File | Publish Preview | HTML. Notice that the movie does not go beyond a certain portion of your movie. The circles are contained within a fixed width and height.
     
  2. To smoothen the transition from one random location to another, go to Modify | Movie and set the animation's frame speed to 24.

Customizing the Code
While the movement is random, just like life, there are certain boundaries. If the movement was truly random, the movie clips would move beyond your movie's width and height. The movie could even move to a 15000 pixel distance while your movie is only about 550 pixels in width. The boundaries in the code keep the movie contained within your movie. Because no two movies are of the same width and height, the following section will help you to modify the dimensions and speed of the random movement.


// movie_height: refers to the height of your movie
// movie_width: refers to the width of your movie

//--------------------------------------------


movie_height = 150;
movie_width = 300;

//--------------------------------------------
 

The above code can be found deeply embedded within the source code you pasted in Frame 1 of the 'actions' layer. The height and width are in pixels in code, so you should modify the values to equal the width and height of your movie. Because you created a new movie, I am assuming your movie width and height equal 550 and 400 respectively. Therefore, your code mentioned above might look like the following:

//--------------------------------------------

movie_height = 550;
movie_width = 400;

//--------------------------------------------


// cycle: specifies the number of milliseconds waited
// between movements

//--------------------------------------------

cycle = 200;

//--------------------------------------------

 

This section of code controls the time at which the objects wait and switch paths. The smaller the number, the lesser the pause between movements.


Downloads
These two sentences
conclude the section on creating programmatic random movement. You can replace the circles with images as I did in my introduction example. Right click on File and select Save Target As and save to your hard drive before opening. The Actions window does not work properly when viewed without downloading the file to the hard drive first.

Final Source for this Tutorial
Final Source for Sample Animation

Conclusion
These two sentences
conclude the section on creating programmatic random movement. You can replace the circles with images as I did in my introduction example.

I'd like everyone to thank Suprabeener, who helps a lot of people with programming questions in the ActionScript forum. I posted a question in my Flash ActionScript forum asking if anyone knew how to create random movement. I had been gnashing my teeth after being unable to create random movement that worked. He was kind enough to reply back with a more complex version of the code you used on this tutorial. Read his post and you can also learn how to make an object randomly look like it is shaking: Supra's Post Thanks again supra!

If you have a question about this or any other topic, the easiest thing is to drop by our forums where a bunch of the friendliest people you'll ever run into will be happy to help you out!

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