SWFSheet – create sprite sheets from SWFs

[EDIT: Just released a beta of SWFSheet 1.1 here: http://www.bit-101.com/blog/?p=2948]
[EDIT: Version 1.1 final released: http://www.bit-101.com/blog/?p=2977]

SWFSheet is a program I created in most of a day back in late December. I finally polished it up this week and it’s now ready for release. The idea is to take an animation created in Flash, and generate a sprite sheet from it. A sprite sheet, for those of you who may not be familiar, is a single large bitmap containing several frames of an animation, usually layed out in a grid. These can be loaded in very efficiently by games, and each frame shown to recreate the animation.

I had the idea for this program while attempting to port some Flash stuff to the iPhone. And later while making other mobile games, I found that Flash was still the best tool to create animations. It has a powerful time line, easy to use drawing tools, tweens, 3D, and of course, powerful scripting with ActionScript. However, getting a nice looking Flash animation into a sprite sheet that could be used with cocos2d on the iPhone/iPad or with XNA for Windows Phone 7 was not so easy. I did it by hand a couple of times, and it wasn’t very fun. Thus, SWFSheet was born.

SWFSheet is an AIR application and has been tested on Windows and Mac. You create your SWF however you want. Flash CS5 or earlier, Flash Builder, or anything else that outputs a SWF. It doesn’t matter how it’s created. Then you load the SWF into SWFSheet.

swfsheet screenshot

Immediately, you’ll see the live loaded SWF running in the upper left panel. The program will then capture an image of the SWF on each frame for the number of frames you have specified (default 15) and arrange them in a grid on the bitmap. Once that is done, it will then animate this bitmap using the same techniques you would use to animate a sprite sheet in a real game. This is seen in the lower left panel. You can adjust how many frames you want to capture to make sure you get your whole animation and have it loop smoothly. And you can adjust the frame of exactly how much area is captured in each frame, to maximize space on the bitmap. If there is not enough space to capture all frames, you can choose a larger bitmap. After any changes, you need to click “Capture” to re-capture the frames based on the new settings.

Often when scripting animations, you will have various transformations or other changes happening in an onEnterFrame type of loop. This can sometimes cause a glitch, as the first frame is captured before the first enterFrame handler fires, and thus does not have the initial transformations applied. There is a “Skip first frame” checkbox which handles this situation. There are also options for smoothing, which may or may not make any difference in a specific animation, and for transparency. By default, a loaded in SWF will have a transparent background, but you can override this to make an opaque bitmap with any color background you want. And you can change the preview frame rate – of course this doesn’t change the bitmap at all, but can give you an idea what your animation will look like at your target frame rate.

Note that there are a limited number of sized of bitmaps. Sprite sheets can almost always take advantage of extra efficiency when created in power-of-two sized squares – 64×64, 128×128, 256×256, etc. Thus, these are the only choices. A future version may make possible custom sizes if enough people ask for it.

Here’s the AIR installer:

SWFSheet Installer

And here are some test files to get started with:

Test Files


ps. Another tool you might be interested in is Mike Jones’ Sprite Sheet Maker, which is more geared to making sprite sheets from a series of separate image files. Similar outcome, different use cases, depending on what kind of input you are starting from.

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