by kirupa  |  1 April 2004

A very cool defect I notice on older movies and films is the film grain effect caused by the aging of the actual film reels. While most would consider that to be a flaw, I take the converse of that view and think it is a really nifty effect. After all, one person's perception of a flaw is another person's idea for a Flash MX 2004 tutorial.

The following animation shows the film grain effect (or defect?) applied to a picture from Easter Island:

[ the film grain effect ]

The tutorial isn't too complicated, but it does require one to pay attention to minor details to help make a really convincing film grain effect. Here's how:

  1. Create a new document in Flash MX 2004. Set your movie's width and height to 300 by 200.
  2. For the sake of simplicity, set your movie's background to a dark color such as black or gray as opposed to using a image.
  3. Now, select your Pencil Tool from your toolbox on the left. Below the toolbox, you will notice a small section marked Options. Click that and select Ink:

[ select the Ink option for the Pencil Tool]

  1. Once you have selected the Pencil Tool and set its options to Ink, take a gander at your Properties panel and make sure the Stroke color is a pale gray color.
  2. With all of the above done, using your mouse, draw small, random dots and dashes in your drawing area:

[ random dots and dashes ]

  1. Now, select all of the dots you made and press F8. The Convert to Symbol dialog box will appear. Select Movie Clip and press OK (the symbol name doesn't really matter).
  2. Right click on your dots - now a giant movie clip - and select Edit in Place. You should now be in your movie clip's timeline. Now, insert a new keyframe on Frame 2 by right clicking on Frame 2 in your timeline and selecting "Insert Keyframe."
  3. Make sure your timeline slider is over the Frame 2 keyframe. Now, move the dots and dashes around a little bit to create the illusion of movement. After you have moved your dots and dashes around quite a bit, right click on Frame 3 and select "Insert Keyframe."
  4. In Frame 3, shuffle the dots and dashes around a little bit. You can also delete all of your dots and dashes and draw new ones to make it truly random. Keep adding keyframes and moving the dots and dashes around. About 9 or 10 keyframes' worth of random movements should be good.
  5. Save your file and preview it in a browser. The film grains you drew should appear and continue looping once they reach their end.

 Drawing the Vertical Lines
Foreseeing questions about the topic of the vertical lines, I will briefly mention the tricks behind the moving vertical lines that occur randomly. What I did was create another movie clip and draw a thin, vertical white line. Once the line was drawn, I simply created a motion tween where the line changed position.

I created about 5 or 6 sequences of motion tweens where the line was oscillated around the screen in an erratic fashion. I inserted blank keyframes between the motion sequences to create a slight blinking effect:

[ my timeline: notice the blank keyframes between the tween sequences ]

You can copy and paste the frames in random sequences throughout your movie clip. For more info, take a look at my FLA provided below.

Well that's all there is to this effect. Adding an actual image would make the effect stand out even more. If file size is no concern, you may even want to incorporate actual video files.

I have provided the source files for your use:

download fla

If you have a question about this or any other topic, the easiest thing is to comment below or 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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