The Code Behind the Planets

Most of the code resides in the custom AS3 class BitmapSphereBasic in the package com.flashandmath.cs4. The class is included in the zip file. Below, we emphasize the most important parts of the code. The code on the Timeline of cs4planets.fla creates instances of the class (our planets) and sets up listeners that make it possible for the user to rotate planets with the mouse as well as to create the auto rotation effect. Both tasks are easily accomplished by calling public methods of the class: rotateSphere(rotx,roty,rotz) and autoSpin(roty).

Before we present the code, here is an overview of the ideas that we use to create our textured sphere. The 3D sphere will be represented by a mesh of adjacent 30*30=900 quadrangles in 3D defined by 961 vertices. ('30' is the value of the variable 'nMesh' set in the constructor.) The points (vectors) in 3D that made up our spherical mesh correspond to a division of a 2*PI by PI planar rectangle into a 30 by 30 mesh of adjacent planar subrectangles. The vertices of the division (organized in rows and columns) are mapped onto the points on the sphere of radius 'rad' using the parametric equations of the sphere. The mapping is done in the function 'setVertsVec'. The value of 'rad' is calculated in the constructor based on the dimensions of the BitmapData object passed to the constructor. With each rotation, the function 'transformSphere' recalculates the coordinates of the vertices of the 3D mesh of quadrangles, and then projects them onto the 2D plane. We obtain a 2D mesh of quadrangles. Before applying the 'drawTriangles' method that will paste our bitmap over the image of the sphere, we divide each of the quadrangles into two triangles. For each such triangle, the original position of its vertices within the 2*PI by PI rectangle is logged in as elements of the uvtData Vector. For each triangle, the corresponding triangle within our BitmapData will be mapped onto it by the 'drawTriangle' method. The 'drawTriangle' method locates the positon of the corresponding triangle within the BitmapData based on the uvtData. The 'drawTriangles' method is applied within the 'transformSphere' function as well.

You can find explanation of the 'drawTriangles' method in 'The drawTriangle method in Flash Player 10 for 2D Image Transformations'

The mesh of subrectangles is illustrated at 'Texture Mapping in Flash CS3 and AS3: a BitmapSphere'. In the latter version, though, we use the BitmapTransformer to map pieces of the image onto the pieces of the sphere. Here, this task is performed by the 'drawTriangles' method and we do not have to 'cut' the bitmap into pieces.

package com.flashandmath.cs4 {


import flash.display.*;

import flash.geom.*;


public class BitmapSphereBasic extends Sprite {


private var bdPic:BitmapData;

private var vertsVec:Array;

private var picWidth:Number;

private var picHeight:Number;

private var spSphere:Sprite;

private var spSphereImage:Sprite;

private var rad:Number;

private var nMesh:Number;

private var tilesNum:Number;

The constructor takes one parameter: a BitmapData object, 'b', corresponding to the picture to be pasted over a sphere. Typically, it will be a BitmapData object corresponding to an image imported to the Library in a fla file and linked to AS3 or an image loaded at runtime. The radius of the sphere is calculated based on the dimensions of 'b'. 'b' should have dimension ratio 2 to 1 for best results.

public function BitmapSphereBasic(b:BitmapData) {


//bdPic holds all the pixels information about the image

//that will be pasted over a sphere.




//The width of the main image is set to the width of the BitmapData

//object passed to the constructor. Its height is set to the half

// of the width. If the image passed to the constructor is taller,

//the bottom will be cropped. If you change picHeight to bdPic.height,

//the image will be distorted rather than cropped.





//The width of the picture has to be equal to the circumference

//of the sphere. Thus, the radius, rad, is set accordingly.

//Choosing a different radius will distort the image.




//The Sprite spSphere is an abstract 3D construct.

//spSphere is never added to the Display List. It

//serves as a holder for 3D vertices on the sphere,

//coordinates of their 2D projections, and the current

//transformation matrix. After all the vertex calculations

//are perfomed and the coordinates of all 2D points necessary

//for drawing an image of the sphere are obtained,

//the actual image is drawn in the Sprite spSphereImage.


spSphere=new Sprite();


//After we evoke a 3D property like rotationX on spSphere,

//it becomes a 3D object from the AS3 point of view and it gains

//access to all the AS3 3D methods.






//spSphereImage is the Sprite in which the sphere will be drawn.


spSphereImage=new Sprite();



//We set our mesh, 'nMesh', to 30. Hence, the number

//of rectangles will be 900 and the number of triangles 1800.

//The mesh values less than 20 produce a sphere

//which is not smooth enough. Higher meshes slow

//things down without much improvement in image quality.





//vertsVec is an array of arrays of instances of the Vector3D class.

//Each Vector3D holds 3D coordinates of a vertex in our 3D mesh.

//Each element of this array corresponds to a row of vertices in

//our subdivision of 2*Pi by PI rectangle.

//This way vertices are well organized and do not repeat.




//Defining initial coordinates of 3D vertices that made up our sphere.




//Calling a function that produces an initial view of the sphere.




End of the constructor.

private function setVertsVec():void {

var i:int;

var j:int;

var istep:Number;

var jstep:Number;







//We are setting 3D coordinates of our mesh vertices on the sphere

//using parametric equation of the sphere of radius 'rad'.


vertsVec[i][j]=new Vector3D(rad*Math.sin(istep*i)*Math.sin(jstep*j),





The function 'rotateSphere' is evoked when the user rotates the sphere with the mouse. Note that we are 'appending' rotations. That is, to already existing transformation of our sphere (defined by the current spSphere.transform.matrix3D) we are adding the rotations to be perfomed next. It produces rotations about the stationary x, y and z axes unlike 'prepending' rotations as in the function 'autoSpin' that follows. The actual transformation and drawing is perfomed by the 'transformSphere' function.

public function rotateSphere(rotx:Number,roty:Number,rotz:Number):void {

var paramMat:Matrix3D;







In 'autoSpin' we are 'prepending' a rotation about the vertical axes. That means the rotation will be performed before the current transformations of the sphere. It will produce the effect of the sphere revolving about its north pole - south pole axis rather than the stationary y axis.

public function autoSpin(roty:Number):void {

var paramMat:Matrix3D;





The function 'transformSphere' calculates the 3D positions of all the vertices in the mesh, sorts the rectangles based on the z coordinate of their middles, and projects them onto 2D plane. We do not use any perspective projection as it doesn't do much for a sphere. Only after all those calculations are done, the vertices are organized into an array 'vertices' with their corresponding 'indices' and 'uvtData'. In the array 'vertices' there are many repetitions but it is hard to organize them otherwise in a way suitable for the 'drawRectangles' method. We then apply 'drawRectangles' to our BitmapData, bdPic, 'vertices', 'indices' and 'uvtData'. See our tutorial 'The drawTriangle method in Flash Player 10 for 2D Image Transformations' for an explanation of the method.

private function transformSphere(mat:Matrix3D):void {

var i:int;

var j:int;

var n:int;

var distArray=[];

var dispPoints=[];

var newVertsVec=[];

var zAverage:Number;

var dist:Number;

var curVertsNum:int=0;

var vertices:Vector.<Number>=new Vector.<Number>();

var indices:Vector.<int>=new Vector.<int>();

var uvtData:Vector.<Number>=new Vector.<Number>();

var curv0:Point=new Point();

var curv1:Point=new Point();

var curv2:Point=new Point();

var curv3:Point=new Point();

var curObjMat:Matrix3D=mat.clone();;



















dispPoints[i][j]=new Point(newVertsVec[i][j].x,newVertsVec[i][j].y);



















private function byDist(v:Array,w:Array):Number {

if (v[0]>w[0]){

return -1;

} else if (v[0]<w[0]){

return 1;

} else {

return 0;




//The public method that should be called before

//an instance of BitmapSphere is removed.


public function destroy():void {;








  • Download all files corresponding to the applet above:

Back to Flash CS4 Tutorials              Back to Flash and Math Home

We welcome your comments, suggestions, and contributions. Click the Contact Us link below and email one of us.

Adobe®, Flash®, ActionScript®, Flex® are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated.