Flash Catalyst Tutorial 101 – Creating an interactive video gallery (quickly!) without writing any code


Written by Bear Travis + Tara Feener exclusively for WebDesignDev.com.

Tara and Bear are both members of the Flash Catalyst development team at Adobe, and, along with Matthew Cannizzoro, author the FlashCats blog (flashcats.net)


First things first: we think it’s easiest to learn by example. So to introduce you to using Adobe® Flash® Catalyst™CS5, the newest member of the Adobe Creative Suite® family, we’ll quickly, (and we mean very quickly), show you how to create an interactive video gallery without writing any code.

What is Flash Catalyst? It’s the new interaction design tool from Adobe that lets you take your static Illustrator, Photoshop, and Fireworks artwork to expressive projects with interaction, audio, video, and animation.

Let’s start our project in Illustrator CS5. Although Flash Catalyst provides a panel of drawing tools, it’s not meant to trump its co-suite products with their fine-tuned array of advanced drawing tools. As a warning, we’re not super-skilled illustrator users, so no judging our quick illustrator video gallery mockup! In fact, I encourage you to quickly think about how you would like a video gallery to look before reading the rest of this article. And be creative.

Preparing your mockup for use in Flash Catalyst

Here’s a quick screenshot of the mockup we’re going to convert into a video gallery:


We created a simple symbol (the video reel), tweaked the title, and used the built-in Vector Pack Grunge Brushes in Illustrator CS5 to create the painted look for the video frame and the play button.

Tip: Be sure to rasterize any complex brushes before bringing your artwork into Flash Catalyst. Since the artwork will be used on the web ,the artwork can be rasterized at screen resolution (72 dpi). Flash Catalyst interprets artwork into a format called FXG (Flash XML Graphic format), so each one of those paths in a brush stroke is represented as an object in Flash Catalyst, and some of the complex brushes in Illustrator will end up creating an large number of paths. Optimizing your artwork before bringing it into Flash Catalyst will enhance your experience with the product.

Tip: Be a good citizen and name your layers in a logical manner Layer names are preserved on import into Flash Catalyst. The better job you do naming and breaking content into layers, the easier, and quicker, you’ll be able to work.

To bring your artwork into Flash Catalyst, from the Welcome Screen, under Create New Project from Design File, select the appropriate link depending upon where your artwork originated.


For this example, we’ll select From Adobe Illustrator AI File… This lets us load our artwork into Flash Catalyst, then dig right into converting each piece to an appropriate video gallery component. Our video gallery will consist of a main player, a thumbnail gallery of optional videos to play, and our custom play button.

Lets go ahead and start by converting our row of gray rectangle  — which are really just thumbnail placeholders  — into a gallery thumbnail list.

Creating your thumbnail list

To create the thumbnail list:

Using the Select tool, select the group of rectangles in the bottom section of the Illustrator comp.

We’ll then convert this group into a list component that repeats an item as a template, rather than a group of individual rectangles.

From the Flash Catalyst HUD (Heads-Up Display), select Convert Artwork to Component > Choose Component > Data List.


Next, double click on the newly created Data List to enter Edit-In Place mode.

Edit-In-Place lets you edit the data list in isolation, without affecting any of your other artwork or components. When we created the mockup in Illustrator we grouped all the rectangles to keep track of them. We will now ungroup them. Select the group, then from the Flash Catalyst Main Menu, choose Modify > Ungroup.

We now have nine individual rectangles where before we had a single group.


Next we’ll mark one of the rectangles as the “template” to repeat for each item in the list.

From the Main Menu select Edit > Deselect All. Next, select the leftmost rectangle, and from the HUD, choose Convert to Data List Part > Choose Part > Repeated Item (required).

Flash Catalyst converts the selected item into the repeated item part.


However, there are a couple of items to adjust here. The first is that we need a horizontal list of items, rather than the default vertical. list The second is that all the old rectangle placeholders are still in the project. But one thing at a time.

In the Properties panel in the lower right corner of Flash Catalyst workspace, choose Layout. This is where we can control how the Data List lays out its repeating items.


Select Horizontal, and adjust the spacing until your repeating items have the same spacing as the rectangle placeholders. The spacing that worked best for us was 11-12 pixels. Note that the default number of items for a Data List is five, so be aware that you want to line up the Data List to just the first five of the nine rectangles. You’ll also want to adjust the blue bounding box to snugly fit it to the area where your thumbnails will display.

To make this Repeated Item the same in all states of the Data List, from the HUD, select Make Same in All Other States.

Next we’ll clean up those pesky rectangle placeholders. From the Layers panel, highlight them (there should only be eight, since we converted one of them to our template item), and select the Delete icon at the lower right corner of the Layers panel to delete them.


Adding Image Thumbnails

What we’ve created so far is a placeholder for each video thumbnail, and we’d like to show a custom image in each thumbnail to identify each video clip.

First, you’ll need thumbnails for each of the clips. Create eight images to represent your movie clips, and make sure each image is roughly the size of the rectangle. Too much larger and you’ll be consuming valuable bytes, too much smaller and the images will look bad when they scale up to fill the rectangle. For this project, the thumbnail rectangles are 47 pixels high by 36 pixels wide. You can see this by selecting a rectangle and viewing the size in the Properties panel.

Import the images by choosing File > Import > Image. The imported images will show up in the Library panel, on the right side of the Flash Catalyst workspace.

While in Edit-In-Place mode, double click on the rectangles to edit the List Item template, which Flash Catalyst calls the Repeated Item.


Drag out one of your thumbnail images from the Library panel, and adjust it to cover and fill the rectangle. The easiest way to do this is to manually set the image’s x, y position and the width and height to match the rectangle’s. This information is available in the Properties panel when the rectangle is selected.

Next, select the image, then right click to choose Share to State > All States. This will make the image visible in the Over and Selected states, which display when mouse hovers over or selects an item in the list. You can see this by looking at the Pages/States panel at the top of the workspace.

With the image selected, from the HUD, select Add Image to Design-Time Data. This will allow you to manually set the image source for each item in the list using the Design Time Data Panel.


Double click outside the image to go back to editing the list.

In the Design-Time Data Panel, you should now see a preview of your image for each item in the list. You may need to select the Design-Time Data tab in the bottom of Flash Catalyst to get the panel to pop up.

We’re starting out with only five items in our list, but we want nine. Select + Add Row at the bottom of the Design-Time Data panel until you have nine thumbnails. Note that the numbering starts from “0,” so although the highest number shown in the image below is 4, we actually have five items.


Now, to select the thumbnail image for an item in the list, click its thumbnail in the Design-Time Data panel. The Select Asset dialog will display all the image assets in your library. Select the one you want, and click OK.


If you repeat this for each item, you should see nine different image thumbnails in your Data List.


We’ve been editing the list or its template item in Edit-In-Place mode this entire time. You can exit Edit-In-Place mode by pressing Escape or clicking the name of the application in the Breadcrumb bar above the artboard. You can also click in the dimmed area on the artboard or choose Modify > Edit Editing to exit Edit-In-Place mode.


Creating your main video player

Let’s now create our main video player. We’d like the user to be able to select a thumbnail, and then play the selected video clip in a larger video player. Also, we’d like our video player to sit behind the brush-stroke border and the Play button, but in front of the black chrome of our gallery.

To place a video player in Flash Catalyst, you first need to import an actual video file. To import a video file, from the Main Menu choose File > Import > Video/Sound File.


Our main video player now appears on the Flash Catalyst artboard. You’ll notice all imported video files appear with what we call the “chrome,” which is the design of scroll bars, window borders and other user interface elements on screen. This video-player chrome includes a border, a play/pause button, volume control, and  a full-screen button.


But for this project, we we don’t want these default video controls to appear. So we’ll need to create our own custom controls, and will use only the video display “part” of the default video player.

To change the appearance of the video player, select the player on the artboard.

From the Properties panel > Video controls:, select None.


The ‘none’ option removes all the default controls, giving us just the video player.

Tip: In case you’re interested in showing the chrome around the video player, here’s the difference between the wireframe and standard options:

“Wireframe” exposes a blue-themed set of controls, resembling a blueprint for mocking up and prototyping applications. If you were doing a quick mockup for a customer in Flash Catalyst, Wireframe is the way to go. “Standard” is the default look and feel used by the video player. It’s a nice, grayscale theme with black icons. You could imagine placing the standard chrome in a final design.

index.017To achieve the layering effect, so the video player sits under (or behind) the brush stroke and play button artwork but above (or on top of) the black gallery frame, we will use the Flash Catalyst Layers panel.

The Layers panel is located in a grouping of panels in the top-right most section of the Flash Catalyst workspace. At first glance, you’ll find it looks similar to and contains much of the same functionality you’re used to in the Layers panel found in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Lets take a look at the Layers panel.


As you can see, our Video Player is the top most item in the list. This means it sits on top of all the other artwork. To get it to sit nicely under the grunge brush border and the Play button, drag the Video Player from the top of the list, so that it sits underneath layer that has the Playbutton image.

In the screenshot below, you can see we’ve successfully added our video player, removed the default controls, and arranged it at the correct layer position in our project.


Now that our main video player and thumbnails are set up, lets add some interaction.

Adding Thumbnail Interactions

We created thumbnails so the user could choose different video clips to play. In order to make this work, we need to add interactions so that clicking on a thumbnail changes the video clip. Interactions encompass all kinds of different behaviors, from mouse events, like clicking and mouse hovering, to behaviors that happen when video clips complete playback.

Select your thumbnail list. We’re going to add an interaction so that whenever a thumbnail is selected, the source property on the Video Player is set to the video clip corresponding to that thumbnail.

From the Interactions panel, choose + Add Interaction. Set up the interaction as follows:


First, choose the event that triggers the interaction. In this case, choose On Select.

Next, choose the response to that event: select Play Action Sequence.

Then select “When a specific item is selected,” which opens the Item dialog.

The Item number is the position of the thumbnail in your list. The leftmost thumbnail is 0, the next leftmost thumbnail is 1, etc.

Entering “0” in the Item dialog will play an action sequence whenever the first item in your Data List is selected. Now we just have to make the action sequence do what we want, which is change the video clip.

First, make sure that the Video Player is selected on the artboard. Next, from the Timelines panel in the lower left of Flash Catalyst workspace, under Action Sequences, select Data List On Select. Then select + Add Action > Set Property.


Now, in the Properties panel, under Common select Source, and select  “Choose source…”


The Select Asset dialog opens, where you can select the source of the video clip to play. For the first thumbnail (item number 0), set the source property to your first video. For the second (item number 1), select the second, and so on. You will need to repeat this set of steps for each thumbnail in the list.

Adding Video Player Interactions

Now we need to add some interactivity to the Video Player. When “Play” is clicked, we want the “Play” component to fade away, the movie clip to play, and then the “Play” component to reappear when the movie clip has finished playing.

To make this happen, we must convert the “Play” image to a Button. Select the Play image on the artboard, and from the HUD, select Convert Artwork to Component > Button.

Later, we’ll define mouse interactions to our new button to play the movie clip.

We also need to create another “Playing” state where the Play button isn’t visible. To do this, click Duplicate State in the States Panel. We’ve renamed the states to “Ready” and “Playing” by double clicking each state and giving it a custom name.


We don’t want the Play button to be visible in the “Playing” state, so select the “Playing” state and delete the Play button. This will only remove it from the currently selected state.

Now to add the interactivity that will make your movie clip play, select the Ready state and select the Play button. In the Interactions panel, click “Add interaction” to create a new Button interaction, and set it up as follows.


When the Play button is clicked, this interaction will cause the application to transition to the “Playing” state, but only if the application is currently in the Ready state.

Transitioning to the “Playing” state should also be the cue for the application to play the Movie clip. To make this happen, select the “Ready > Playing” state transition in the timeline.


We want to add an action to the Video Player, so select the Video Player as well. Choose Add Action > Video Control > Play.


Finally, we need to transition back to the Ready state once the movie clip finishes playing. With the Video Player still selected, in the Interactions panel click Add Interaction, and set it up as follows.


This will bring the application back to the Ready state once the movie clip finishes playing.

Running Your Project

To take your project for a test drive, choose File > Run Project (or Cmd/Ctl + Enter). You can do this often when creating your project to see how it behaves when it’s run. You can also publish a final version of your project by choosing File > Publish to SWF / AIR.


We hope this has given you a good introduction into one of the many things you can do with Flash Catalyst. You can imagine other enhancements that could be added to this video gallery, such as interactive tooltips when a user hovers over the video thumbnails, additional video controls, a full-screen mode, and so on. Try making your own video gallery artwork in Illustrator, Photoshop, or Fireworks, and follow these steps.  Feel free to post comments/questions/suggestions below… we’ll be replying to them!


Iggy’s personal rant: for those of you who are struggling with this tutorial, you can create a free  flash website with Wix that will look like a very professional website.

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18 thoughts on “Flash Catalyst Tutorial 101 – Creating an interactive video gallery (quickly!) without writing any code”

  1. which option are you not seeing? The interaction part (On Select > Play Action Sequence > When Item is Selected), action sequence part (Add Action > Set Property), or setting the specific property (Source > movie file).

    Make sure you are editing your main application. There should be only one item in your breadcrumb bar (otherwise click the left arrow until you have only your main application).

    Make sure the thumbnail list is selected for the interaction part (added from the interactions panel, mid right).

    Make sure the video player list is selected for the add action / action sequence part (added in the bottom Timelines panel).

    You need to look in the properties panel (lower right) to choose the actual property and property value for your action.

  2. So what is the deal. I’m able to add a video, and get it to play when I run the project in Catalyst. However, when I publish for web it does not work. I’ve tried copying the assets from the assets folder to the same directly as the main.swf but that does not work either.

    I’ve checked for setting when importing and checked in the library as well. But there is nothing to change.

    When it works it shows a small video player and then it expands to normal size. When I publish for web it stays at the small size, I’ve even waited for 10 min and tried in different browsers.

    Any help on how to make this work?

    1. Hey Vyzdom!

      I had the same problem, exactly like what you describe! I tried to search for the answer, but it seems to be no one really meets this situation?!

      If you ever find out how to make it work, can you please share some idea with me? I am desperate! ;_;

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  3. Hey Vyzdom!

    I had the same problem, exactly like what you describe! I tried to search for the answer, but it seems to be no one really meets this situation?!

    If you ever find out how to make it work, can you please share some idea with me? I am desperate! ;_;

  4. This needs to be way more step by step. I can get one video to play but it is not clear how you assign certain thumnails to certain video tracks.

  5. Think I solved my problem but am wondering how you use this video player. If I build a site using flash catalyst, can I use this within it?

  6. Hey,
    I did the tutorial, but mine doesn’t look as good as your. Can you guys email me your source files so I can use them on my charities website?


    – Webmaster of Grand Valley Zoological Quest
    gvzooquest.org/index2.html <—- new version of website

  7. Did anyone ever resolve why when you deploy-to-web it doesn’t work? The video stays small? I am using the run-local version and it is fine.


  8. I am unable to get the controls to work for my video in a custom component “sub-state”. It will play with the “auto play” setting on, but I would rather have the wire-frame controls work. Any thoughts?


    – Nate

  9. I got the local only deployment work on the web. I use sharepoint. I uploaded all the local deployment objects into a shared docs folder on sharepoint and from there both the swf html files work perfectly. BTW, Thanks Bear for this excellent tutorial !

  10. Great! That is really usefull. Though I can’t find a way to combine it with scrollbar…Action Sequence can’t add to video – it’s grayed out. Any ideas?

  11. i hope to create my own web site itis going to be a entertaiment base web side.i i have already studied flash at my it college.but i feel this tutorial more you useful to me.i hope to know how adobe photoshop help to while i make my website.

  12. Hi !

    First Thanks for this tutorial !

    I’m creating a player witch would play several videos like that :

    auto play > video 1 > video 2 > video 3 > video 4 > video 5 > video 1 …

    How can i do playing the next video after playing the previous, and so on, and looping the entire cycle…?
    And how can i get the same cycle when clicking on one of 5 buttons of my data list while an another video is playing ?
    Am i clear ? (english is not my language)

    Thanks for giving me an idea.


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