“It’s about ideas. Fuck, technique, I can get a monkey to do
this shit for me.” James Victore
There’s been much talk of the death of Flash in the last 2 years. Pundits have been making sweeping, sensationalist statements from both sides of the aisle – fuelled by emotion and agendas – that has made the majority of the discussion read like a particularly partisan tabloid.
I’m not going to rehash those tired old arguments here, but spending the last 3 days at the inimitable Flash on the Beach conference in Brighton, it’s impossible not to consider where it’s all going.
6 years ago, John Davey launched FotB as a conference with a difference. Rather than just technical sessions by designers and developers from the Flash community, there’s always been a mix of artists and inspirational figures that are often at best tangentially associated with Adobe Flash, or even web technologies at all. This year was no exception, with the likes of Jon Burgerman, James Victore, Bradley Munkowitz and Cyriak Harris providing inspiration through their passion and creativity.
For years the Flash community has driven the growth of the web – pushing the boundaries of what can be done online, creating a template for browser developers to catch up with. When it was first created Flash (or Future Splash as it was originally titled) was simply for animation and gradually interaction and increasingly sophisticated code was introduced. By its very nature, it has grown out of a hybrid of design and code, the visual and the interactive, which has always attracted programmers with a creative streak and designers with a hacker mentality.
And that’s why I’m not worried about the future of the Flash community. Obviously, the type of inquisitive and innovative minds that were drawn to Flash when it was the only game in town, will experiment with new tools like Processing, HTML5, mobile development etc. Many may never use Flash again. We may not all use the same software anymore but it’s the same passion that drives us all, and ultimately is what unites a community.
Davey may need to come up with a new name for next year, but for my money, he’s already nailed it with the new conference he launched in New York this year, “Geeky by Nature”. It’s not the tool we use that defines our work; it’s the passion that drives the craftsman to create in the first place. And that’s something that’s just in our nature.
This is a continuation of Show & Tell #7′s round up. Check part one here.
So where are the HTML5 games? I thought the “Flash-killer” had arrived?
Actually, there have been some cool HTML5 based games knocking around recently. These are mostly proof of concept games though, and nowhere near the level of Zombie Tycoon etc. Come back in 10 years for that.
Here are a couple of nice ones though that are worth a look…
Really like this one. The game premise is bollocks but the attention to detail and the implementation of physics in a JS game is impressive.
One that’s been grabbing headlines this week is URL Hunter. This game is unique in that the whole game takes place in the address bar of the browser. Obviously, it has much more appropriate applications but this is a pretty inventive demo of how HTML5 exposes the browser history via an API. Access to this API should help as we see more complex sites and web-apps that require stateful behaviour without a new page request.
Another headline grabber from Adobe this week was the launch of codename ‘Wallaby‘. In a nutshell, Wallaby takes a Flash file (.fla) and converts it to a HTML5 version. It’s not quite a magic bullet yet as there are some pretty major features that aren’t supported yet but it shows some definite promise. I’ll hopefully do some experiments myself and report back.
Motion Graphics Design Lecture
We also had a chat about the Motion Graphics Design lecture that I’ve covered in detail already here, check it out.
Here’s a run-down of what we covered last night. It’s link heavy so you’ll find lots more info if you go exploring a bit more. If it doesn’t make sense shout out in the comments and I’ll catch you up on anything you missed.
This changes everything. Again.
This week Adobe released their pre-beta (they call it an ‘Incubator’) release of what will eventually be Flash Player 11. Codenamed ‘Molehill’ it caused massive excitement at Adobe Max (see previous Lab post here) and it’s making waves all over again because now we can play with it ourselves. So if you’re feeling adventurous (this is pre-beta software remember, I’m taking no responsibility if your machine melts down), download the Incubator Flash player and join in the fun.
If you’ve already got Flash Player 10.2, you should already be seeing performance boosts on video sites such as YouTube and BrightCove thanks to the new StageVideo API. StageVideo hands off the processing of video to the GPU so there’s less strain on the CPU. Get it? If not, trust me on this, utilising hardware acceleration like this dramatically improves performance. PixelBender was a start, and 10.2 continues this approach.
Molehill is taking the focus on improving performance on to the next logical step, 3D. You can see the performance in this video with some pretty hardcore environment mapping and interactive reflective surfaces.
One of the areas that I’m expecting to see some really exciting innovation is in web-based gaming. The Max Racer demo that I featured in the previous post looks really incredible and I love this one… Zombie Tycoon.
3D gaming in the browser has come on loads in recent years, the main players being Unity3D and Shockwave (and possibly Virtools) but they’ve all struggled to gain widespread penetration. Others like Quake Live have developed their own bespoke browser plug-ins that have some pretty impressive performance but have stubbornly remained stuck in their niche. Flash has lagged behind with 3D performance but Molehill has changed all that. Combine that with Flash’s 99% penetration and super-fast upgrade adoption and you’ve got a perfect storm for game developers.
If you fancy playing with some more demos, check out Lee Brimelow’s collection of links to lots more cool Molehill demos. Hours of fun!
This is a part one of Show & Tell #7′s round up. Check part two here.
After the fun of Ignite Bristol‘s recent SS Great Britain event (this one was hilarious!) we had another great event for the creative-minded of Bristol – this time in the form of an evening of talks by some pretty amazing motion graphics designers that gave some valuable insight in to the minds and creative processes behind their work. The West of England Design Forum did a great job lining up the formidable talents of Jack Laurence (Moving Brands), Shane Walter (onedotzero), Charlie Mawer (Red Bee Media) and Matthew Rudd (Rudd Studio). Unfortunately, The Mill had to pull out due to “unforeseen client complications” (we’ve all been there!) but it was a sell-out event nonetheless.
Personally, I think W of E Design Forum missed a trick not having at least one of their speakers from the interactive side of motion graphics design. Here’s a snapshot of what they were talking about.
Jack talked through some of the work that Moving Brands do and mainly focused on the rebrand of Nokia they did that swapped the old “hand-in-hand” schmaltz for the more modern style you’ll recognise from anything post-2007. Still conveying the core message “Connecting People” but giving it a much more up-to-date feel.
Moving Brands created a ‘living identity’ that uses Processing to generate 3d visuals dynamically. This way they created tools that could be given to all the brand managers internationally. Tweaking a few settings they could create animated or static artwork that was unique and fitting for their uses and also stayed consistent with the overall brand identity. Smart stuff.
Processing, if you haven’t come across it before, is an open framework based on Java that allows for some pretty rapid experimentation with generative art, without getting you bogged down in the complexity of Java programming. Check it out here.
Also nice in his talk was a mood video Moving Brands made for Nokia, not for public consumption, but just as their response to the brief and to show their interpretation of the brand. Lovely stuff.
Shane is something of a rock-star of the motion graphics world. CEO & Creative Director of onedotzero, he’s a busy guy and it’s not surprising when you see the scale and number of festivals and events that onedotzero run worldwide. Adventures in Motion 2010 was a big success this year and you can check it out here. He was just back from their latest festival in St Petersburg that looked pretty cool. I’ll definitely be marking Adventures in Motion in my calendar for next year!
Charlie gave us a brief intro to what Red Bee Media do, and they do a lot… rebranding BBC1, BBC3, Dave, Virgin1, Disney, Discovery, ESPN, Canal+… pretty much every TV station has had the Red Bee treatment. On the night, Charlie took us through the work they’d done for Belgian children’s broadcaster KetNet. They did a great job of creating reusable and adaptable stings and idents for KetNet that allowed them to keep the visuals fresh and interactive by integrating programme trailers, live action presenters and also user generated content. The case study is on their site here.
And finally we had Matthew Rudd, of the eponymous Rudd Studios. When he walked out first I thought he was a recent art-school graduate but it became quickly apparent he’s an insanely accomplished and talented visual artist.
Matthew’s session was an inspirational meander through his background as an artist and how he applies that thinking to his work. Along with some of his own photography, Matthew showed how art informs his thought process. For example, the way that Picasso’s cubist paintings and also David Hockney’s photo montages (pictured) capture the same moment from different angles led directly to his recent work for Channel 4.
Given that the existing Channel 4 idents were so still popular, Rudd came up with the elegant solution you can see in the video above. Using this simple device of splitting the screen to show the same animation from different perspectives managed to breathe a whole new life in to their idents without clashing with the existing ones.
The best ideas are often the simplest. Inspirational stuff.
As Russell pointed out, we spend a huge amount of time at Show & Tell talking about Facebook. The truth is though, with a user-base of 500 million and some of the most aggressively pursued ambitions in the sector, it’s impossible to ignore the moves they make.
Last week Google announced they were cutting off Facebook’s ability to import Gmail contacts, calling Facebook’s system a one-way street of data – Facebook encourage users to pull contact lists from all the major email providers to find your contacts, yet they don’t allow you to do the reverse and export a list of your Facebook contacts. And Google have a valid point about Facebook’s hypocrisy; we’ve seen the exact same move when Facebook shut down Twitter’s ability to find contacts through your Facebook profile. Not only that, they do allow certain partners to access this data – just not their users.
All of this was precursor to Facebook’s big announcement at … that they’re rolling out @facebook.com addresses to their users. However, this isn’t just email – the new Facebook messaging combines email, IM & SMS communication into one conversation. The idea is that we shouldn’t have to try to figure out what communication method to use when there are so many available. Send a message through Facebook and the recipient can set their preferred mode and your message gets automatically routed to mobile phone or inbox for you.
Sound good to you? Me neither. This really feels to me like Facebook are solving a problem that doesn’t exist – except for them. More data = better advertising revenue for Facebook and they know that any communication out of their ecosystem is lost to them.
The blogosphere has been full of the same ‘Gmail killer’ narrative that fits so conveniently with all of the recent clashes between Google & Facebook. Gmail is the most rapidly growing email services, mainly because it’s excellent. Google were the first to set virtually unlimited storage limits and threaded email conversations have spread from Gmail to other email systems the way tabs did to browsers. My problem with the notion that Facebook mail will damage Gmail is that they’re different user-bases – the average Gmail user is the more tech-savvy email user while Facebook’s demographic trends toward students, teens and “soccer moms”. Facebook does infringe on Google’s data monopoly but realistically I expect to see more of an impact on Hotmail and Yahoo!’s numbers than Gmail’s.
It remains to be seen whether Facebook can attract people to their system as their primary email provider but I’d predict the real market is the under-20s. If you haven’t left school or university yet, odds are that most of your communication will fit quite easily to the channels of your existing social graph through Facebook. But the real obstacle is the corporate perception of Facebook as a time-waster, not a productivity tool. Huge numbers of workplaces block Facebook and realistically that will make an @facebook.com email address unworkable for millions of people.
Personally, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I’d have any sensitive information dependent on Facebook. How long will it be until Zuckerberg decides that email privacy is something only old people and squares worry about and exposes everyone’s inboxes to 3rd-party marketing?
Another regular topic for us is Apple’s iOS platform. This week we had a look at the Apple’s iAds system that allows full-screen, interactive, HTML5 ads right inside an app.
Launched with iOS4, the iAd platform is Apple’s first foray into the advertising market and yet another front in their ongoing war with Google (spotting a trend?). Check out this video to see what they can do…
Essentially you can build an app inside an app. iAds give huge scope to advertisers to do create interesting engaging content, capture data, play video and more, without having to kick the user out of the app to the browser.
So, where’s the catch? Well, first off there’s the 60:40 split with Apple. That’s right, 40% of all advertising revenue through their platform goes to Apple and the remaining 60% to the app developer. And as ever, Apple retain final control over the ads served on their platform and that’s ruffled a few feathers.
Last month Adidas cancelled their $10m campaign, with sources quoted as saying “Apple CEO Steve Jobs was being too much of a control freak.” Earlier in the year, Chanel also pulled a similar sized campaign from the network for similar reasons. Apple claim to have signed up over half of the top 25 of the top advertisers but it remains to be seen whether this the Adidases and Chanels they lose are worth losing to maintain that high-quality ‘Apple experience’.
“Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
That was the tweet that (five days later by the way) was picked up by the authorities and led to the eventual arrest and trial of Paul Chambers in what’s become known as the ‘twitter joke trial’. The judge however, didn’t see the funny side and viewing it as “clearly menacing” has resulted in Chambers losing his job, a criminal conviction and fines and legal costs of over £3,000.
The twitterverse, predictably, has erupted in outrage over the ruling. 1,000s have retweeted and made their own similarly ridiculous threats using the hash-tag #IAmSpartacus in Kubrickian solidarity. Stephen Fry has offered to pay Chambers’ fine and numerous fund-raising efforts.
On a similar note, a Chinese woman who retweeted a satirical call to attack the Japanese Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo was summarily snatched up by the Chinese authorities. She’s been sentenced to a year of ‘Re-education Through Labour’ by the Chinese authorities, which I’m sure is every bit as scary as it sounds. As if being sentenced to a year’s hard-labour without trial wasn’t bad enough, she was arrested on what was supposed to be her wedding day and no-one knew what had happened to her until this week. Let’s see how many tweets this story gets.
And finally, we watched this TED talk about Mr Splashy Pants the whale.
It’s a great story about the importance of realising you can’t control the Internet. The web is by its very nature distributed, anarchic and organic. Putting your message out online requires a certain amount of faith that your message will survive, no matter what social networks do with it. This is a scary prospect to any brand but it’s a core part of any viral success.
Editor’s note: It was an epic Show & Tell this week. The first part was Marine’s presentation on the use of animation in advertising. Stay tuned for part 2 with all the rest of the headlines and discussion.
I have a certain passion for animation and whilst doing some research on the use of animation in advertising, Here are a few great ads that I thought I would share with you. I was really struck by the fact that animation is actually a very efficient element/tool for brands that wish to communicate. In fact, animation develops consumers’ imagination, it can be adaptable and become top of mind in consumers’ mind and has also a strong capacity to touch an audience by approaching serious matters in a sympathetic way…
Enough about the theory, here are three ads I have chosen to share:
Amnesty International: Signatures
The first one is an ad done by TBWA for Amnesty International called “Signatures” which speaks from itself, which I found stunning and moving just by using a nice stylish illustration. When interviewing the artistic director Stéphane Gaubert he explained that their choice went towards black and white animation because they thought a simple but fresh illustration would have a great impact on people’s mind, reaching their sympathy. In terms of results the charity got great reviews with 600,000 views on YouTube and €1.8 millions of free diffusions and press articles.
AIDS: Zizi graffitis
The next ad is also one from TBWA for AIDS this time called “Zizi graffitis” which is really sweet and funny. When I interviewed Ingrid Varetz, the creative director who worked on the ad, she explained that animation was the base of their concept, she said “it seemed to me appropriate to use sexual graffiti which is usually found in schools in order to talk to the youth and encourage them to wear condoms. The results for this ad were amazing with 1 million views in a week, 8.5 millions in September so for those who will tell me, this ad is so French, I say, ‘well it worked!’”
Now another way of approaching the same subject but in a very different direction and I personally didn’t like it at all but I will let you judge from yourselves. I just thought it’s a bit wrong to associate mass murderers with people who are HIV-positive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnQLClo9sME&feature=fvw
Facebook: Unfriend Coal
The last one I would like to share is an ad from Greenpeace which came out strategically a few weeks before the film “The Social Network”. Light, funny and entertaining it shows you how Facebook’s creator is not doing the right choice by using coal instead of wind farms.
Show & Tell yesterday covered everything from blancmange to viruses so let’s get stuck in and re-cap some of what you missed…
Are you human? Have you been paying attention to our ad?
First off was a novel solution to “banner blindness” from the clever folks at Solve Media, called TYPE-IN. Skyscrapers, MPUs, leaderboards – standard banner formats are all so played out at this stage that we don’t even see them when browsing the web. TYPE-IN forces the user to actually process the ad before they continue.
They’ve put together a lovely animation that explains the concept nicely, check it out.
Sure, it’s much more aggressive than a standard banner and places a barrier between the user and the content but we’ve seen time and time again that users are willing to tolerate interruptions as long as they’re getting something in return. Solutions like this could be a step towards solving that pesky paywall problem.
Following on from that we had a brief discussion about the “Captcha” technology that TYPE-IN is based on. ReCAPTCHA is an initiative from Google in their quest to digitise (and index!) the world’s books – one poorly scanned word at a time.
Oh, the irony
What’s cool about it is that of the two words shown to you, one is giving their character recognition software problems and by typing them in you’re helping preserve knowledge. I guess humans still have a purpose after all.
Speaking of Google, the search giant has been making waves again this week with the introduction of their latest feature – Google Instant.
Not content with suggesting what you’re trying to type, Google has taken it a step further and is now performing searches for you as you type. The technology behind indexing all that information and serving it up faster than you can type is impressive, to say the least.
“It’s the internet on fast-forward, and it’s aggressive – like trying to order from a waiter who keeps finishing your sentences while ramming spoonfuls of what he thinks you want directly into your mouth, so you can’t even enjoy your blancmange without chewing a gobful of black pudding first.”
Whether you find it a time-saver (really? that busy?) or irritating, there are bigger considerations here too. Google’s drive to predict what we’re looking for can have only one outcome. The most popular search results appear more frequently and higher up meaning search results will get ever more homogeneous and dominated by the larger players (read: payers). Even “God” comes second to “Godaddy” now in Google Instant search results.
Praise be to GoDaddy
In other search news – Yahoo! search is now powered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine – putting Bing up to 28% of US market share. Not too shabby.
Once a giant among search engines, Yahoo! have said this move will allow them to focus their efforts more on the direction they want be developing the company in a last-ditch struggle for relevance. If only they could get a bit more crap on their homepage, it might all turn round for them.
Another one that slipped quietly into the ether this week is Cuil. Once heralded as the “Google-killer”, Cuil’s search results were so bizarrely unrelated that the Cuil has now become the Internet’s unit for measuring abstraction from reality. Do yourself a favour and read what I’m talking about here. Hilarious.
So as one star fades, another is rising. As more and more of our information is stored in the cloud, there’s no central point for us to find what we’re looking for. How often have you thought to yourself: “Now, where did I see that? In my email? Or was it on Facebook? Twitter?”
Enter Greplin. Greplin fills a gap in the search space that amazingly no-one has previously addressed: personal search. Create an account on Greplin and you can add all your favourite services for it to index. Gmail, Google Docs and Calendar, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, EverNote, BaseCamp and more are supported already and I’m sure more services will be added.
One handy search bar will let you find what you’re looking for, quickly and easily.
Your passwords stay secure, as the site uses OAuth, the open authentication protocol, to allow access to your data but not your log-in details. OAuth is going from strength to strength (all Twitter applications, for example, now have to use OAuth and Google are looking at adopting the protocol across their services) but to index your data, Greplin still has access to your data. Not sure how the security and privacy issues here will pan out yet but they seem to be approaching it the right way.
Developed by an 18 year-old, Greplin is already looking good to make a huge impact on the web – having already secured $700,000 in venture capital. It’s in private beta at the moment but create an account and they’ll notify you when they let you in.
Thankfully, Twitter’s tech team closed the hole within a few hours but even the White House’s Twitter feed fell prey to it. Most abuses of the vulnerability were pretty harmless but it was an embarrassing lesson for Twitter to learn.
Adobe built apps on iPhone
And finally, Apple announced a dramatic relaxation of their app approval terms, allowing apps developed on non-Apple software to be approved.
“We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.”(Full statement here)
Apple famously pulled the rug out from under Adobe, 3 days before their launch of CS5, including the Packager for iPhone feature of Flash CS5. We wrote about it here back in April and I’m glad to see this unexpected reversal from Apple. It’s still not Flash on the iPhone but giving developers the freedom to use their tools of choice and utilise their existing expertise can only be a good thing.
Russell and I are off to Flash on the Beach next week and I’m sure we’ll see lots of happy faces there after this announcement! We’ll definitely have lots of cool stuff to report from there too, so watch this space.
Aesthetically and technologically spellbinding, The Wilderness Downtown is an interactive visualisation of Arcade Fire’s new single, We Used to Wait.
Personally, I couldn’t be more delighted the wait is over. This bleeding edge mash-up of HTML5, Google Maps and music gives wider audiences a glimpse of just what is possible using the latest web technologies.
Now let’s not split hairs here, yes it does take a little while to load and it only fully works in Google Chrome and Safari. But as this is one of the first attempts at mainstream promotion using advanced technologies specific to HTML5, I think we can forgive them.
For those of us who have been keeping a close eye on the advancements and inclusions of HTML5, The Wilderness Downtown is a welcome demonstration of the possibilities opened up by this emerging web standard. The audio, video and canvas tags are synchronised brilliantly. The HTML5 Canvas 3D engine renders flocks of birds that react to the music, and the new HTML5 audio tag manages the track and keeps record of key points to synchronise both canvas effects and HTML5 video windows. This, combined with the Google Maps API used for generating different street view perspectives, creates a truly immersive and memorable user experience.
Arcade Fire are not exactly new to using the latest web technologies for self-promotion, on August 3rd 2010, the band teamed up with YouTube to put on a live-streamed show at Madison Square Garden, the stream was watch by 3.7 million users and included loads of cutting-edge interactive features including ‘Choose your Cam’ and fan-provided photos. In support of this, Amazon advertised the band’s album The Suburbs at the discounted price of $3.99 during the week of release. A week later, it held the number one spot on Billboard’s album chart.
From a marketing perspective, are these bleeding-edge technologies a good way to draw attention? Clearly, it’s an effective tactic to attract word-of-mouth promotion. And even though HTML5 is not yet universally supported by all browsers, the chatter around The Wilderness Downtown is largely pro-HTML5 rather than “Why isn’t this working in IE???”
Just finished my presentation on “Emergence & The Semantic Web”.
Needless to say there was a stunned silence, until gradually the crowd built to a tumultuous applause. Flowers were thrown and a chant of “MORE! MORE! MORE!” echoed through MZ as they carried me from the room on their shoulders.
That’s how I remember it anyway.
Here’s the Prezi if you fancy a look… although it won’t make much sense without me babbling over it. My first experiment with Prezi too, thumbs-up from me. It’s pretty big though so let it load before clicking through.