“Pretty Loaded” The History of Flash Pre-loaders

Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in Feature Articles | No Comments

Jamie Kosoy and Tyson Damman talk about pre-loader animations at the Museum of Moving Image.

Article by Tristian Goik.

My first pre-loader was an animated light-saber, which at 56k AOL speeds would have never activated quickly enough to save me from the Sith.  Flash pre-loaders are almost extinct now in 2012 and I don’t think there was ever one particular loader that triggered an emotional connection.  But I always did appreciate a clever twist that kept me paying attention.  So when I read about Pretty Loaded in my emails from the Museum of Moving Image I decided to check it out.  I would forgo the website which contains about half an hour of non repeating loaders and wait for the magical presentation at the museum itself.

Big Spaceship started off collecting its own pre-loaders over time.  At first just a small company specializing in Flash websites, they are now a large angel-headed hipster studio that promises to provide your company with a connected experience.  You may remember their widely distributed tutorial to make a Flash pre-loader, with a spinning circle (as seen in the Pretty Loaded logo).  Legend has it that the Disney website took the tutorial for its own website, back in the day.  As for the exhibit, nobody knows who first came up with the idea, but Michael Lebowitz decided to curate the loaders from the company and ask friendly competitors like Autopod and AgencyNet to join.  On the website, each loader loads the next loader, and now includes many global submissions.  They are still accepting new ones, although the latest works are from 2009, (which might mark the death of the Flash website?)

The crowd happened to be about 75% Big Spaceship employees, but Tyson Damman and Jamie Kosoy had plenty of advice and stories for the rest of us.  The purpose of a pre-loader is to trick the user into thinking it takes less time for the website to load than it actually does (debatable).  If you are animating a loader, make sure your outro is very quick compared to the beginning, which takes an N-amount of time. Your storyboards will be matched to certain cues, so designers and coders end up working closely together.  Tyson and Jamie like taking this creative freedom (from the client) at the end of a project, to fit a crazy amount of design into tiny constraints.  After all, the loader shouldn’t take too long to load, but it has to be interesting!

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, Pretty Loaded will be on an updated loop at the museum.  See if you can spot one that triggers a special memory.   Be careful waiting though, because you will never truly reach that 100 percent.