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No Hands - Flash

Contrary to what you might think, Flash isn't just all tweensand motion blurs. The application comes with powerful data-retrievalcapabilities, which allow you to hook your Flash movie clips up to adatabase (or any other external data source) and dynamically build movieclips that are easy to update and modify. Find out more, in this roughguide to the data-driven Flash universe.

  1. Building Data-Driven Flash Movies
  2. Message In A Bottle
  3. No Hands
  4. No News Is Good News
  5. Alien Invasion
  6. What's On The Menu?
  7. Splitting Up
  8. Linkzone
By: The Disenchanted Developer, (c) Melonfire
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 71
July 23, 2002

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Obviously, that was a very primitive example, though one that did demonstrate the concept of integrating data from an external source with a Flash movie. Now, how about a twist?

Let's suppose I modify the Flash file above so that the call to loadVariables() loads variables from a server-side script ("message.php"), rather than a static text file.

loadVariablesNum ("http://localhost/message.php", 0);
This "message.php" script contains code to retrieve a message (either from a database or other data source) and output it in the format Flash needs. Here's what the script looks like:

<? // message.php // open connection to database $connection = mysql_connect("localhost", "root", "secret") or die ("Unable to connect!"); mysql_select_db("data") or die ("Unable to select database!"); // formulate and execute query $query = "SELECT message FROM message_table"; $result = mysql_query($query) or die("Error in query: " . mysql_error()); // get row $row = mysql_fetch_object($result); // print output as form-encoded data echo "msg=" . urlencode($row->FirstName); // close connection mysql_close($connection); ?>
This should be fairly simple to understand, even if you've never programmed in PHP before. Very simply, I'm opening a connection to a MySQL database, running an SQL query to retrieve the contents of the "message" table, and displaying that content as form-encoded data.

Here's an example of what this script might output:

Now, when you run the Flash movie, it will access the specified URL, retrieve the form-encoded variable-value pair, parse it, and insert the variable values into the movie. Which is why the Flash movie will look like this:

Any change to the database record will be immediately reflected in the Flash file - with zero changes required to the Flash source.

In case you don't want to use a database as your data source, you can even run a shell command and send the output of the command to the Flash movie for display. Consider this variant of the script above, which displays the output of the "fortune" program (a new message every time) whenever the Flash movie is played back in your browser.

<? $output = `/usr/games/fortune`; echo "msg=" . urlencode($output); ?>

>>> More Flash Articles          >>> More By The Disenchanted Developer, (c) Melonfire

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- An Overview of Flash and ActionScript
- Building Web Forms In Flash
- Building Data-Driven Flash Movies
- Flash 101 (part 6): The Final Countdown
- Flash 101 (part 5): Spiralling Out Of Control
- Flash 101 (Part 4): Don't Touch Me!
- Flash 101 (part 3): Bouncing Around

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