If you’re using Adobe After Effects and wondering how you can save your animations in the smallest file size that can then be natively imported into Flash.

This really does sound exciting indeed. Imagine being able to save your After Effects files as vectors that can then be imported in to Flash, modified if necessary and then exported as a super small .swf file. The XFL file format is ideologically and creatively a boon to developers, but is it too good to be true?

Now before you get too excited let me give you a file size comparison. An .FLV that was 460k came out as a 370k .SWF when the file was opened as an XLF file with the Flash IDE. So clearly there is some saving. As nice as this feature sounds, I really don’t think there’s any better way to getting quality animations in Flash other than hand coding in AS 3.0. The trouble is to be able to mimic the effects that After Effects can produce would involve more that just writing a simple particle system, it would involve writing a complete 3D animation sequencer that can accommodate transitioning between multiple property states and include as many of the features that After Effects uses as possible – not an easy task. Which is why the XFL format sounds like a God send.

However.

.XLV is a nice idea but matching the file size to a hand coded animation effect there’s basically no comparison.

Larger Animation Sequences.

This really was the final nail in the coffin for me. I’ve just saved a simple 30 second After Effects animation sequence and exported it to the .FLV format, the file size came out at 1,413k. The animation is smooth and crisp and the sound quality is reasonable.

I then exported the same animation to an XFL file and loaded it in to Flash CS4. Using the very same settings the file took ages to compile as a .SWF not in itself too much of a problem, but the .SWF file size came out at a whopping 2,163k – which really is a problem.

Not only that but the animation had it’s background missing, the fonts were blocky, the sound didn’t work at all and basically the entire animation sequence was of very very poor quality.

I do not believe for one second the the XFL file format was invented so that the animations it produces should be of maximum possible file size and of lowest possible quality rather to the contrary – the animations it should produce should be slick, fast and a huge time saving in development.

Sadly however the XFL file format has failed to deliver – Badly.

As nice an idea as XFL is, the rapid conversion of After Effects animations to a slick and fast Flash player still remains a pipe dream.

Maybe CS5 will do a better job of this, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Simon

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