March 08, 2008

Flash moving to an XML-based authoring format

Well, I guess the cat is scratching its way out of the bag: as noted Flash author and developer Colin Moock reports on his blog, the Flash authoring tool is moving away from its binary FLA authoring format (undocumented & unreadable to the outside world) and towards an XML-based format.  Yeah!

Why the excitement?  I’ll admit, this seems like a pretty arcane subject, but the possible ramifications for workflow are great.  Colin writes,

Historically, interchanging source with the Flash authoring tool has been virtually impossible for third-party software because the specification for .fla has never been public… [Now, however,] in theory you might one day edit the images of an XFL file directly in Photoshop without disturbing the timeline information also contained in that file. Or you might be able to import a page from a word processing document into a Flash presentation.

I should add the obligatory caveat that plans are subject to change, none of this may happen, void where prohibited, professional driver on a closed course, etc.  Even so, I find the direction really exciting.

Back in 1999, long before I came to work here, I started lobbying my contacts at Macromedia and Adobe to create something I called the "Flash Interchange Format"–some XML representation of at least the basics of an animation (object name, position, scale, etc.) so that I could use Flash and After Effects together.  Unfortunately Flash remained locked to the inscrutable FLA format.  We did devise an XML interchange format that let LiveMotion and After Effects talk, and Dr. Woohoo has done terrific work enabling Flash and AE to exchange data, yet the tools continue to lack an out-of-the-box solution.

Now, however, I hear the sounds of a big door opening, and it’s a welcome sound indeed.

Posted by John Nack at 3:16 PM on March 08, 2008
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