If you were to draw the animation in Flash it would very likely be much much smaller. The Flash file will carry the weight of any bitmaps that are used within it, but Flash drawn graphics are normally very lightweight.
How do move the background at a contant speed between frames?
Also, in the hands of a competent flash devloper, how long would something like this take to create?
Let Flash do that for you. First you have to create a symbol out of the background image... a graphic symbol will suffice. A quick way to do that is to place the image on the stage, right click it, and select Convert To Symbol.
Then, place that symbol in a keyframe. Somewhere down the timeline, right click on another keyframe and select Insert Keyframe. The symbol should now extend from the first keyframe to the one you just added. But for the keyframe you just created, physically move the image to the slid over location you intend
Go back to the first keyframe, right click on it and select Create Motion Tween. An arrow should now be joining the two keyframes which should have blue-colored frames between them. Run the movie.
For a competent developer, maybe a half hour tops starting from scratch... it depends on how much content has to be added to the image(s).
So, to save space, really i want to create shapes as vectors where possible. So I should be creating some of the elements in Illustrator?
I'd use Flash, not Illustrator, but that's me.
OK. After may keyframes added, many keyframes deleted, and much confusion I have now a flash version of the banner which is some 100k smaller than the animated gif.
The flash banner is the bottom of the two here
What do you think?
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You can just animate your gif in photoshop. In photoshop go to the top toolbar and click "window" and a drop down will come down. Then look for "timeline" click and open timeline and you can edit/animate your gif by turn on and off layers. When done save fo the web.