slideshowI’ve spent the day working my way through the introductory tutorial to Flash Catalyst and then using what I learned to create a very small photo piece, which you’ll find here. (I had to link to the file, because I made it too big to be embedded. Go ahead and look; I trust you to come back to read the rest.)

Flash Catalyst, at beta 2.0, is an interesting Adobe product that allows you to build Flash projects in layered Photoshop or Illustrator documents. Once designed, you bring the .psd or .ai file into Catalyst and then break it into its constituent pages (each on a separate layer), and add interactivity. It’s all very push-button. (The free Flash Catalyst beta is available here.)

As a way of producing interactive Flash documents, it’s fairly painless, although it did take me four tries to successfully complete the tutorial. Once the basic concepts are understood, building simple projects is easy and quick.

Going in, I was thinking that Flash Catalyst, while it remains a free beta product, would be something I could teach to my students. They like free, after all, and while Catalyst has some limits (apparently, you can only do 20 transitions or interactions), it could be used to produce a small photo portfolio, an interactive graphic that could be embed with an article, or a small piece of storytelling.

Some things I’ve concluded:

1. The Flash Catalyst learning curve is steepish, but not as steep as the one for Flash. If you want dig deeply into the possibilities of Flash Catalyst, conversely, knowledge of Flash really helps.

2. Flash Catalyst will probably will be a good pre-Flash intro to interactivity for some students, particularly in beginning semesters.

3. Because it produces .swf files, I suspect that Flash Catalyst could be used to build bits and pieces of a larger Flash multimedia piece. Having it freely available (at least for now) means students could do work outside the classroom, without needing the full, expensive Flash package.

4. Finally, as the linked slideshow demonstrates, my design skills and sense are rusty as hell.

Update: I’ve just added a tutorial to the site about Adobe Catalyst.

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