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Author: Scott Manning | Website: http://www.scottmanning.com/

Grade: 3 out of 5
Date Reviewed: June 6, 2002
Company: Magnet Media, Inc.
Price: $149.00
Availability: Magnet Media's online store
System details: Windows XP, 1200 Mhz Celeron, 512 MB, IE 6, DVD, CD-RW.

Magnet Media, Inc. offers video tutorials for some of the most popular software today. Although I've never been a big fan of video tutorials, I wasn't too disappointed by Magnet Media's tutorials for Flash MX.

Getting Started
Inside Flash MX: Production Essentials came inside a DVD sized case. Installing the CD was a piece of cake. Two plug-ins are required, but it takes less than a minute to install both. All lessons and associated source files are included in the CD.

One of my first complaints is that the full screen option didn't work on my computer. It gave me a black screen and changed my resolution to 800 X 600. After waiting a few minutes, nothing happened. I had to hit ctrl+alt+delete to turn the program off and start it up again. Even though the full screen option didn't work for my computer, it wasn't really needed anyway - the video is big enough by itself.

The Instructor
The instructor for the entire CD is MD Dundon. She seems like a nice lady and sure knows plenty about Flash MX. You only see her here and there throughout the CD, but she narrates the entire time.

What the CD covers
There are nine lessons. One of these lessons is a tutorial on using the CD itself (not that it's too confusing). The lessons run as follows:

CD Intro: How to use this thing
Lesson 1: Interface and document set-up
Lesson 2: Illustration
Lesson 3: Symbols and layers
Lesson 4: Animation
Lesson 5: Animation special effects
Lesson 6: User controls
Lesson 7: Go to structures
Lesson 8: Publishing and optimizing

From the main navigation of the CD, the lesson titles are labeled numerically (Lesson 1, Lesson 2, etc.) as opposed by topic (Interface set-up, Illustration, etc.). This makes it a little annoying to figure out which tutorial covers which topic from an overview glance. The listing above was actually taken from the inside cover of the CD case.

Inside Flash MX teaches Flash for a newbie. Dundon starts at the very beginning explaining what exactly Flash is and what it should be used for. When I say "very beginning", I mean she even talks about the difference between pixel and vector art. I only wish I would have understood this stuff when I first began using Flash.

Dundon does a great job of going piece-by-piece through Flash's features and reiterating actions as she's doing them on your screen. She takes all the technical terms and breaks them down into plain English that anyone can understand.

Only for Newbies
Although this CD is great for newbies, it can be frustrating to developers who have been using Flash for years. All the new features in Flash MX are mixed in with all Flash's regular features. Long-time users of Flash will wish there was a "What's new in Flash MX" section.

The CD also stops short of covering advanced ActionScripting, any video features, dynamic loading, and components. These features are definitely for the advanced user, but these features are also what differentiates Flash MX from Flash 5.

But I guess that's why they call it "Production Essentials". Those who are new to Flash or who have only been using Flash for a short time will find this CD to be extremely helpful for learning the very basics of using Flash.

Inside Flash MX in Action

Navigation
The navigation bar stays to the left of the videos the entire time. Although the actual lesson titles aren't that descriptive, the sub-titles are. The navigation also does a great job making sure the user knows where they are in the tutorials.

A downside to the navigation is that it only remembers which tutorials you've viewed during that particular session. So when you close Inside Flash MX, it won't remember which ones you've already viewed the next time you start it up again.

Video Controls
The video controls work just like that on any digital video player and give the viewer plenty of control over the videos. The main problem was the fullscreen did not work on my machine. It also would be nice to have a timer to see how long a video is and how much time is left for the video.

The tutorials in action
One of the great parts about video tutorials is you can see the instructions visually as opposed to just trying to picture it in your mind. Everything Dundon tells you about, she also shows you.

Conclusion
Get Inside Flash MX, if you are new to Flash. You'll be happy you did. If you're not new to Flash, wait until Magnet Media comes out with a CD that covers more advanced features.

-Scott Manning

» Level Basic

Added: 2002-06-20
Rating: 5 Votes: 15
(10 being the highest)
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