ActionScript 3.0 Animation by Keith Peters

So, I get home from FITC 2007 expecting to let my mind melt into oblivion for a while and get back to a normal schedule with work and family. I’d like to thank Keith for ruining yet another fine plan for sleeping.

On my door step is a UPS sticker saying I’ve got a package and it’s waiting at the office. I’m thinking “I didn’t order anything…ahh maybe it’s Dream Theater live in New York” – you know, the one with the full Octavarium orchestra? Well, I get to the office, beat on the door, and the manager opens up and throws the package at me like she’s in a HUGE hurry back to her snack and “Days of our Lives”. So, I rip it open and what do I find? Keith FINALLY sends me a copy of his book.

See, I asked for one back in Hollywood, but never got it. I even reminded him, but well, he’s busy 😉

So, the first thing that catches my eye is the title and it has the words “actionscript 3.0” and “animation” in the title. Well, ok, that IS the title, but my excitement was hindered not. Lately, Papervision3D has taken up many an hour in my mind and ANIMATING PV3D objects has just become a really important issue that we’re dealing with right now. Knowing Keith’s work and abilities with 3D and math, I had an instant flash on (can I say that on the air??)

Ok down to business – why am I writing about a book?? I haven’t bought a flash based book in years. Mostly because I can bum answers and code off of friends for free 😉 ( don’t hate me! ) But for the first time, as I skimmed the TOC and chapters, I became more and more excited to keep reading. THEN all of the sudden, I found myself reaching for a highlighter and some torn pieces of paper – I WAS TAKING NOTES!!! Man, it was all over at that point. I was hooked from chapter to chapter. As you’ve guessed, I’m not that great at Trig/formulas but I’m VERY interested and try and read up on whatever I can – just hoping some of it sticks to my brain.

first, let me start off with the forward. I NEVER, and I do mean NEVER – read the forward. I don’t care who wrote it. But this time, I saw that Aral Balkan wrote it and he’s usually good with words blah blah blah – I read it. That’s the best forward I’ve ever read. I’m not kidding. Sounds ridiculous but Aral hit on some great points about our industry and what a “designer” or “developer” is perceived as. It actually was very inspiring, and I thought Aral deserved mention on that. VERY well done my friend.

Order the book here (

Favorite Chapters

Chapter 3: Trigonometry for Animation

This chapter was a fav from the start in that, I’m like Keith – I’ve not had any math beyond High school geometry and whenever I can, I’m trying to learn more about trig. The first paragraph on Degrees and Radians kills me (you’ll have to buy the book and read it for yourself). Just imagine Homer Simpson reading it to you. Then laugh. Maybe its because I can imagine Keith writing it, but I thought it was funny.

For anyone who wants a really nice foundational explanation of Trig as it relates to your work in Flash, you’ll love this chapter.

Quote from the chapter: “Pythagorus was a Greek guy who lived a long time ago.” – its “Pythagoras”, I love that I can correct his spelling when I can’t even remember how to convert radians to degrees right off the top of my head. But I DO love Pie.

Chapter 5: Velocity and Acceleration

In chapter 5, I think you’ll be happy to see how the chapter 3 trig functions are tied in. At one point, he threatens you to not forget to convert your degrees to radians ( fear seems to work well with math for some reason ). I really got into the sections on Gravity and Angular acceleration.

For me, i’m always hacking this sort of code – it’s never been my strong suit and this was great reading! It’s amazing how someone who knows what they’re doing can put your 20 lines of code into 4 lines. At one point, you feel a sense of “Yah BABY!”, and then, you feel stoopid 🙂 and if you were paying attention in Chapter 3 where he says that 90% of the math you’ll use is sin/cos, he backs it up yet again at the end of the chapter with the “Important Formulas” that you’re supposed to burn to the inside of yer eyelids.

Chapter 12: Particle Attraction and Gravity

I really liked this chapter from the start. Of course, I was attracted (HA, pun intended) to the topic because of course, Keith is known for flash/math and I was hoping to get some particle genius out of this chapter. The first thing I want to clarify is: He’s a genius. He says he’s not, but he’s lying.

I love how he tosses out “G” (gravity) in the equation like you’d discard the jello in a boxed lunch as not being necessary. See, its that sort of thing I love seeing someone do – you gotta have some mighty big apples to throw out “G”, yo 🙂

And MAN fate is weird – I WAS actually considering writing some space based (Saturn V Rocket/LEM) sim (I’m not kidding, I live just down the street from Johnson Space Center in Houston TX) – and there he references that sort of project in the book. Yeah, that’s a little freaky.

Well, that’s a basic low down on the stuff I’ve been spending time on in the book, but there’s a TON more that covers alot of 3D topics concerning everything from creating primitives, to animation, to lighting for 3D – the list goes on and on. I’ve only scratched the surface to be very honest. This review doesn’t even do it justice.

Keith’s writing is VERY easy to read, and he explains the formulas at the right time and in a way that I think is very easy to grasp and retain.

I haven’t handed out a RockOn Rating in a while, and this is a first for a book, but I’mma give it a 4. A 4 is REALLY high on the scale, I know I KNOW – but this is an extremely difficult subject to understand, much less write about in a coherent manner, AND it’s extremely timely with the advent of Flash CS3 and alot of ActionScript 3 projects that are going on right now both in the new IDE AND Flex2 worlds. We’re really seeing alot of emphasis on marrying Flex2/AS3/FlashIDE content together and this couldn’t have been better timed.

RockOn Rating:   RockOn voteRockOn voteRockOn voteRockOn vote

  1. I’m currently reading / using the AS2 version of this book!
    This one is going on my “Wish List”!

    • Nick
    • May 2nd, 2007

    Thanks for the headsup! Just placed my order now…

  2. I ordered this book 3 days ago, its supposed to be arrriving today! *Crosses fingers*

  3. That’s probably the most fun review I’ve read in a while. Thanks! 🙂

  4. I just love Keith’s writing style. Somehow it feels like we are on a same wave length or something. I’ve read tons of books, and they are still somewhere around. But Making things move 1st ed. didn’t leave my desk.

    I just got back from 5 days vacation in a little cabin in a deep forest without electricity. That didn’t stop me from taking the book (I got in the mail the day before the trip) with me. 🙂

    my new favorite book

  5. Man, I can’t agree more with your review John! A copy of it showed up on my doorstep last week too (Thanks Keith!), and I’ve not been able to stop reading it. It’s absolutely brilliant stuff. Kudos to Keith for producing this masterpiece. I cannot recommend a Flash book more than this one.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, John! 🙂 I can’t wait to get a copy and read through it again in final form.

  7. damn you for making me spend money this morning!

    • Chris Foster
    • July 21st, 2009

    Respect to all of you, but… uuuum…. Aral wrote the ‘foreword’ John, not the ‘forward’ 😉

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