Book review
 ISSUE 22   June 2001 |  updated 10/30/01   


New MastersNew Masters of Flash
Tomasz Jankowski et al, Friends of ED, Ltd., 2000
550 pages, CD-ROM included. $59.99
ISBN 1903450039

read about it, buy it.

  You're going to love it or hate it
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If you want a straightforward, comprehensive book of techniques and tutorials, look elsewhere. If you like the idea of learning about the people and ideas behind about 20 Flash-intensive websites, keep reading.

New Masters of Flash is exactly what it claims to be:

a book of highly individual essays about design...and a compendium of well-paced, advanced tutorials in the art of Flash design.

Of the two, I found the essays to be the most interesting. Tutorials and how-tos are a dime a dozen. Understanding why a designer works in a particular style, who/what inspires his or her design, and what his/her goals were for a site are much harder to come by, unless you sit around and talk with other designers. That's the feel of the essays and the interview videos included on the CD-ROM.

The Masters
The 19 "masters" are award-winning designers from the U.S., Japan, Europe and Africa. Why and how they were chosen isn't explained, other than that they are "legendary." Hmm. I recognized some from their websites: Praystation, Tomato Interactive, the Saul Bass site, MONO*crafts; others I hadn't heard of. The full list is on the right.

Authors were asked to explain their own design approach, with answers ranging from the intriguing:
    "capturing layers of visual drama"
    "having an emotional impact on [site] visitors"
    "bringing users into a short adventure"

to the obvious:
    "remember that the best ideas are in your own head."

They mention a similar wide range of influences, from David Carson, videogames, and movie title sequences to musicians and artists of all genres.

The tutorials
The work shown and described in the accompanying tutorials includes, predictably, a lot of animation, but also covers sound, 3D, and ActionScripting. Each author explains a technique or effect from his/her site which is illustrated in detail using screen shots of the Flash interface. To get a feel for this approach, the publisher Friends of ED has a sample chapter you can download from their website. The site has much more detailed information about the book, and is well worth a visit so you don't have to shell out $60 sight unseen.

When you launch the CD you can choose to view interviews or step-by-step video demos with text alongside. The interface is elegant and clear, allowing you to see the full contents at a glance. The section labelled "Download" didn't work on my Macintosh, but it's easy enough to find the folder called "FLASH-ORIGINALS" to get at the sample files. There are .fla files from 12 of the authors in both Flash 4 and Flash 5 format. Others can be downloaded from the website.

Buy or not?
This is a tough call. There's a lot I like about the book, but price is steep. Since I'm not a big Flash fan, I can't give as informed an opinion as I'd like, but you can learn plenty more about the book from the publishers site and/or by reading the reviews at

My rule of thumb when buying software books is that if I learn one good technique that I never could figure out before, it's probably worth it (think about how much it would cost to hire a free-lancer or consultant to teach you the technique).

In the case of New Masters of Flash it's like hanging out with some pretty interesting Flash hotshots, shooting the breeze and trading favorite tips.



Joel Baumann

Olivier Besson

Irene Chan

Manuel Clement

Joshua Davis

Brendan Dawes

Ivo van der Grift

Tomasz Jankowski

Eric Jordan

Tony Ke

Yugo Nakamura

Andries Odendaal

James Paterson

Todd Purgason

Jayson Singe

Yasuto Suga

Vince Suriani

Luke Turner


















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