ActionScript 3.0: A Dynamic Frame Rate Switching Class to Lower CPU Usage

Flash gets a lot of negative press because it’s seen as using a heap of CPU time and bogging everything down. And it’s a fair cop. Most flash will eat up your CPU cycles even when it’s sitting there doing nothing. But this isn’t a fault of flash, but rather of flash developers. Let me explain…

When you start a piece of flash work, you assign it a frame rate at which you want it to run, so it’ll update the screen, say, 30 times a second. This is all fine and good for when you’re animating things on the stage. But what about when you’re not? Well, it’s still running at 30 frames per second and chewing up your CPU like a crazy melon farmer. This is Not A Good Thing. So, anyhow, I’m watching this video about SWF Framerate Optimisation, and the guy’s showing how you can modify your code to lower the frame rate when there’s not a lot happening, and bring it back up when you’re animating. So I had a crack at it, and lo & behold, it works fine for the specific piece of flash I’d coded it into, so I wondered if I couldn’t just go and make a RateController class. This way, I could add a RateController object to any project to dynamically change the project’s frame rate depending on whether the mouse was over the stage or not.

And after much swearing about not having global access to the stage properties, I found that I COULD!!!

Here’s a working example placed into the attracting particles code I wrote yesterday:

Note: The animation starts at full speed for two seconds on startup. It’ll drop to the sleeping rate (5 fps) two seconds after the mouse leaves the stage, and then ramps back up to its waking rate (30 fps) instantly when the cursor is back over the stage. The FPSCounter shows intermediate numbers because it’s based on an average.

To add a RateController to any flash project, you can just use something like:

Not bad, eh?

Full class code & file downloads after the jump…

Behold the RateController Class in all its over-commented glory!:

There’s a lot of debug code in there at the moment so you can see what it’s doing while it’s doing it, but the version you can download below has all that stripped out.

RateController Class source file: RateController.as

Now for a beer, debugging that thing’s given me a headache…

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