FlashLoaded
HotFlashVideo Component

Adding to their already extensive array of Flash components, Flashloaded have just released their new hotFlashVideo component.
In a nutshell, this new plug-in allows developers to create custom-shaped, invisible, clickable areas on top of FLV video that users can interact with while the video plays. These clickable areas can be animated to follow movement within the video and can have actions assigned to them just like any normal button.

The component installs simply as an extension, providing an extra panel within the Flash IDE and is accompanied by a comprehensive package of support files, including an installation guide, example source files and a link to an online user guide. It’s pretty obvious that the guys at FlashLoaded have put some time and effort into this one as, in addition to the support files, there is the option of a Flash 8 installer that utilises the Flash 8 video importer.

Using it for the first time can be a bit of an unsettling experience if you’re not used to seeing automated JSFL (flash javascript) scripts running, as this component relies heavily on creating library items, frames, timelines and even the document itself via JSFL. On the other hand though, it is great to just sit back and watch the script doing all the hard work. In fact all you have to do is draw shapes on the provided timelines to fill in where and when you want your hotspots.

On successfull creation of your project file, you are presented with the option to ‘Edit Hotspots’ and a button click takes you directly to the hotspot editor, freshly created with three empty layers (for your first three hotspots) and sitting above a locked preview layer of your FLV.
Using this editor, it is extremely simple to fill in the blank layers with your hotspots – each of which must exist on it’s own, individual layer – and tracking motion within your video is as straight forward as creating a shape tween and ensuring that its movement corresponds to the movement in the FLV’s preview layer.

One of the nice features of creating the hotspot timelines this way is that they are synched to the FLV as it plays, so even if the FLV is streamed from Flash Communication Server (or Flash Media Server as its successor is now called) and suffers from slow bandwidth, forcing it to stop and re-buffer, your hotspot layer will always remain in-step with the video playback.

Assigning actions to your hotspots is also a breeze, as this is also taken care of via FlashLoaded’s custom JSFL. On installing the component, a number of Commands are also installed, giving you basic interactions to add to your hotspots. These interactions are named “Display Captions”, “Launch URL”, “Load External SWF” and “Movieclip Loader”. To add one of these interactions to a hotspot, select a frame on the appropriate hotspot layer that you wish to have the interaction and choose the command from Flash’s Commands menu. Adding your own interactions is just a case of defining your own button actions in the appropriate frames.

All in all, any developer wanting to add hotspots to a video would save themselves a huge amount of time and effort by using this component in a project. FlashLoaded have made the effort to make the creation process as simple and streamlined as possible and this really comes to light when re-opening a project for editing.
Clicking the ‘Generate’ button completely re-renders all of your hotspot layers and their movement/interactions all ready to be re-published and uploaded.

A great timesaver.