Transitioning from Flash to After Effects


At Topic Simple we love Flash.  Always have.

But long before Apple began a small public dispute with Flash, there were some slight limitations to its power in terms of producing high quality animated videos.

Chiefly among them is that Flash is lacking a bit in its ability to render videos into a non-Flash (.swf) format.  This is important because a) iPads, iPhones, and many other mobile devices don’t support the .swf format, and b) video sharing sites like YouTube don’t accept .swf’s for uploads either, you must convert your movies into an acceptable video format first.

So while you can export an animated movie you make in Flash into other formats (like QuickTime) straight from within the application, its quality is not 100% spot on.  A Flash animation exported into a QuickTime Movie – even at the highest of settings – will often have small bugs that give the effect that the rendering process is skipping or delaying the odd frame.  Not enough to fool the average user, but for super duper animation professionals like ourselves, these things can drive you batty!

Enter After Effects.

After Effects, as its name implies, is a post-production editor often used within the video (as in good ol’ fashioned real-life film video) industry.  It can add effects (about a billion at the moment) to footage that is already been shot.  But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to some, After Effects can composite and create animations as well.  Transitioning to utilizing After Effects (especially when using Flash for soooo long) can be tricky, but we’ve done it.  Lots of the components of our animations are still drawn and even partially animated in Flash, but they are now all put together in After Effects.  After Effects just puts things together better.

Based on what we’ve learned along the way, here is our totally scientific synopsis of the pros and cons of each application, in terms of making high-quality animations of course:



  • Better for drawing.  Way better.
  • Ability to preview your animation within the timeline in (just about) real time
  • Easier to line up key frames on top of each other in order to sync various components of your animation
  • Simple animations can be published into a .swf within seconds


  • Slight ‘visual hiccups’ possible when publishing to a video format.
  • ‘Camera Movements’ (pans, zooms), transitions, simple drop shadows, motion blurs etc. are more complicated and look less professional than in After Effects



  • Transitions like fade ins/outs look much better
  • Pans and zooms look much better
  • Simple effects like drop shadows and motion blurs look much better


  • Comes with WAY MORE STUFF then you will ever need for animation purposes.  Green screens? Fireballs? Advanced lighting techniques? Not necessary (yet!) for the kind of animations that we do
  • Its ‘power’ comes with consequences in time efficiency, and it previewing (RAM preview) your animations within the timeline can take some time
  • Rendering a video into its final format can take quite a bit of time

If you are looking for some visual examples of the above,

Looking for more information?

– Here is an older but good forum discussion on this subject from Animation Nation.
– Here are some of Adobe’s thoughts on the subject.



Got something to say? Feel free, we want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. Ed Corpus says:

    Very nice summary. While still in graphic design school I leaned almost exclusively on After Effects to render 3D to 2D compositing and special effects in my projects. Given the steep learning curve to master multiple animating programs simultaneously, Flash went on the back burner. Now that I’m pounding the virtual pavement, I’ve had to crash learn Flash to be employable in animation jobs, whether 2D or 3D. Despite the truth in what you’ve summarized, I’ve observed that as of today Flash and Flash ActionScript are still the skills in greatest demands in the animation job market, while After Effects is in demand for what it’s name — applying spectacular effects in post-production.

    • Topic Simple says: (Author)

      Hey Ed,

      I think you are right. It’s interesting that everyone seems to go one way or the other when picking what animation application they are going to try and master.
      Thanks for commenting!

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