What's the Difference Between Flash Graphics and Movie Clips?

Tips for animating in Flash

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Both movie clips and graphics are a type of symbol within Flash, and they each have unique attributes about them. Graphic symbols and movie symbols are generally the two types you'll use most when animating within Flash.

What's the Difference?

The difference between a graphic symbol and a movie clip is that a movie clip behaves much more like a GIF than it does a controllable aspect of your animation. A movie clip has its own timeline within the symbol, but you don't have much control over it once it's placed into your main project. A movie clip will run on its own as you can move it around and animate it, but it will play out independently of your other animation.

Think of it like putting a GIF into a project and animate that moving around. While you animate it and move it, it will be playing the GIF, similar to how a movie clip works.

Graphic Symbol

A graphic symbol we have found comes in handy much more often. They too have their own timeline within their symbol, only the benefit of them is you can have complete control if you want it to play out the animation or if you want it to be a still frame, or jump around the frame to frame within the symbol's timeline.

The best example of how useful graphics are is in things like lip syncing, where you have each frame of the mouth a different frame within the symbol and can pick and choose which one you wanted to be displayed when.

Movie Clips

So in a nutshell, movie clips are like a separate flip book within your animation, and a graphic symbol is a more versatile symbol that can both be a still or an animated flip book. We say start using graphic symbols before movie clips, movie clips are weird monsters who are unwieldy and graphics are nice little friendship bunnies.