Posts Tagged: actionscript


14
Sep 11

A Splash of the Future

“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.

One indicator is that this is very probably the last Flash on the Beach. As you’d expect, the theme and subject matter of a lot of the talks this year reflected the new digital landscape and focussed on HTML5, JavaScript and mobile devices. It was even pointed out on Twitter that in session titles, “HTML” beat “Flash” by 3:2. Not exactly scientific, but even the organiser admitted that next year will probably see a rebrand that I suspect won’t feature the word “Flash”.

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.

But while the sessions may have had more JavaScript and less Actionscript than ever before, there was still plenty of amazing stuff being done in Flash by the likes of Eugene Zapetyakin, David Lenaerts and one of the most impressive Elevator Pitch sessions I’ve seen yet. Sure it’s cool that you can now do in HTML5 what only Flash could do a few years ago, but for me it’s always been more impressive seeing something that could never have been done before.

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.

Follow Shane on Twitter: @shane_casey

11
Mar 11

Show & Tell #7: Mission to Molehill

i can has hardware accelerashun?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.

 

Molehill

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.

If you’re playing along at home, you can try out the rippling water and the reflective figure yourself.

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.

Follow Shane on Twitter: @shane_casey

26
Oct 10

Takin’ it to the MAX

Short of a couple of sneak peeks, the Adobe keynote at this year’s Flash on the Beach really didn’t give much away… they save the good stuff for MAX. Yesterday, they certainly delivered on that.

One recurring theme though, throughout the Flash on the Beach, was that no matter what happens with HTML5, Flash will always be ahead of the curve.

HTML5/CSS3 may be moving in as heir apparent to take over basic video content delivery, prettier fonts, basic animation etc but Flash has always been doing things that couldn’t be done without the use of a plug-in. In many ways, it’s responsible for pushing the boundaries of what people expect from the web and this week they’ve been pushing that even further.

Anyway, back to the cool new stuff…

Real 3D in Flash

Check this out.

Introducing the new Molehill 3D API. Molehill means full-textured 3D models, made of hundreds of thousands of triangles rendered on the fly in Flash with hardware DirectX & OpenGL 3D acceleration. And these capabilities are available to use with existing 3D libraries like Away3D and Alternativa3D.

Not only that, this will be available in the browser too, not just through Air on the desktop. Awesome.

Air 2.5 – Coming to a screen near you

Also revealed at MAX was the new release of the Air run-time. Air 2.5 is really mobile focused, with support for Android 2.2, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry Tablet OS, – and obviously, it’s running on Windows, OSX and Linux – but the new version is also compatible with set-top boxes and works with Google TV.

That’s right, Flash on your TV and the results look pretty impressive so far. Adobe’s aiming to have Flash/Air on every screen and they’ve made lots of enhancements to APIs to help account for the lower-processing power of mobile devices and set-top boxes.

The desktop run-time has also moved on with greater support for CSS in HTML-based Air apps. You can use TypeKit now and newer CSS features like drop-shadow and @font-face.

For further reading, you can check out all the details are in the Air 2.5 release notes.

So, where’s it all going?

All of these are really positive steps for Adobe, in my opinion. They may have been late to the party on mobile but everything we’re seeing here is right on the money. A lot of people have been really quick to write off Adobe but all of this is adding up to:

  • a solid offering on mobile/tablet/set-top platforms;
  • packaging of ActionScript based apps for iOS devices;
  • increased support and integration with HTML5/CSS3;
  • hardware acceleration cross-platform;
  • and still more features that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Even InDesign is pulling its weight in digital with the Digital Publishing Suite! (Mashable has a good overview here)

I have to say, I’m impressed with what’s coming out of Adobe at the moment. Innovative solutions, in all the right areas. Long may it last.

Postscript: From the Bleeding Edge

Also, you’ve gotta check this out. Adobe have been working on a visual prototyping tool for HTML5/CSS/JavaScript powered animations. Codenamed “Edge” it looks pretty damn handy and Adobe was always the logical place that this kind of a solution would come from. Watch the video from the Adobe DevNet anyway and let me know what you think.

Follow Shane on Twitter:
@shane_casey


17
Jun 10

Flashing forward

Just come across the MultiDraggable set of classes for implementing multi-touch with Flash, via The Flash Blog.

Tim Kukulski’s classes do an amazing job of providing proper multi-touch support by accessing the raw touch events instead of those reported by the OS, allowing for more responsive events and smoother control – which let’s face it, is key to any touch gesture controlled interface. It also gets round the biggest weakness in Windows 7′s implementation of touch support: only handling one gesture at a time.

This, to me, is exactly why Flash isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The Flash developer community routinely release open-source, innovative solutions like this… blowing native functionality out of the water. It’s why developers have always been able to do more – better and easier – with Flash.

Sequence 01 from Lee Brimelow on Vimeo.


19
Mar 10

Captiva is a go!

Screenshot of EMC Captiva site

Oooh, light trails

After months of hard work and (a few!) late nights, our Captiva site for EMC is live. It was a huge team effort so massive thanks to Claire, Tyrone, Chris, Dave, the White Balance crew and especially Russell for getting me through.

For those interested in the behind-the-scenes – the site’s built on our evolving AS3 development framework that Russ and I have been fine-tuning. At this stage it’s got the PureMVC framework at its core, with SWFAddress, LongTail Video Player, Google Analytics tracking, XML-based localisation and sequential background asset-loading as optional components that do most of the heavy lifting. We’re expecting it to be sentient by 2012.

Check it out at http://uk.emc.com/campaign/global/captiva/


9
Nov 09

Adventures in Lip-sync: Part 2

This post follows on from Adventures in Lip-sync: Part 1

So, at this stage, we’ve got a string of gibberish from Repeat After Me and not much else. To get this working there’s four key ingredients:

  • the audio soundtrack;
  • the phoneme info from Repeat After Me;
  • the graphic representations of the mouth shapes (visemes);
  • and a dictionary to translate one to the other.

All I need to do is hook them up.

Continue reading →


29
Oct 09

Club Greensock

So, we’re now card-carrying members of Club GreenSock. After a lot of hopping around from Tweener to Fuse Kit and lots in between, we’d pretty much settled on TweenMax (and its siblings) as the tweening engine of choice a little while ago. The release of v11 has even more treats in store, particularly with the bonus classes.

Continue reading →


28
Oct 09

Adventures in Lip-sync: Part 1

Recently I’ve been working on an animation for the pharma division of Harte-Hanks. It’s in our classic MZ-stylee and it’s been fun doing some old-school 2d Flash animation. Zoe’s given me some great illustrations to work with and Charlie’s imagination has been running riot with karate-chopping leaps and flabby men on treadmills. Lots of tweens, lots of Graphic symbols, lots and lots of keyframes. I’ve also gotten to play with CS4′s new IK bones for some of the sequences too but that’s a whole other post.

From the outset though, I’ve been procrastinating about lip-syncing the narrator’s voice-over with the character. My rationale was that any edits to the timing would mean re-doing work… always fun, so best leave it til last, but really it just seemed like it’d be an arduous time-consuming manual task. In all the years I’ve been doing animation in Flash I’ve never found an easy way of doing this. Animation is a craft and it seems the only solution to most tasks is put some time and love into it. That said, code is your friend (and a cruel, cruel mistress) that has often helped avoid the monkey work.

So I went looking for a pre-existing solution… First port of call, as always, was “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams (if you don’t own it, get it!). Then some Googling that rapidly disappeared down the rabbit hole of visemes, phonemes and natural language simulation dissertations. Whew! No easy answers there either.

At the last Bristol FUG, I had a good chat with master-animator Dave Cropley (from Evans & Finch) about how he does it. He pointed me towards software called Magpie that seems to be the standard in the 3d animation world. Nothing seemed to exist in the Flash/ActionScript world though so I decided to roll my own.

Here’s how I did it…

Continue reading →


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