Archive for category Flash

Flash’s future ain’t so bad after all

Back in February I wrote a post in which I stated that the future of Flash wasn’t so bright, well if you ask me what I think about that right now, I would say that it ain’t so bad. Why? Well, the roadmap for new features seems pretty exciting and also the array of stuff you can do with Flash is astonishing.

Molehill API (Hardware accelerated 3D)

After AdobeMax, I wanted to write a post just about this topic but I continually postponed it… but now it seems to fit perfectly with my second point so here it is. Molehill is some new low level API that enables some function calls to be hardware accelerated. Basically it permits some code to be sent to the video card instead of the processor, thus enabling us to do more crazy 3D stuff. Here is an example of what has been done with it and it is not even released yet:

If you’re a Flash Developer and this doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will. Actually, I don’t think I looked forward so much for the next version of the player since I started using Flash. I started at FlashMX 2004, so Flash 8 gave us the filters and BitmapData; computers weren’t powerful enough to do the cool stuff with filters at the time, and I don’t know, BitmapData is pretty useful but I kinda didn’t know what I could do with it then. After that came Flash 9 with ActionScript 3, well that was nice but it took so much time for people to switch from ActionScript 2 to 3 that the excitement was kinda mitigated. Flash 10 was to follow with nothing really to offer… maybe Vectors are cool but they didn’t really impact anything. Flash 10.1? supposedly it is faster, doesn’t seem to be a game changer, the mobile stuff is cool but I wanted more for the web. Now Molehill is a very different ball game. Molehill will allow us to do way more than what we could before, both on the web and on the mobile. Gaming wise it is very easy to foresee how it will be used, but what I am mostly interested in is how it will be used for rich experiences, for rich internet applications or for data-visualization. It is the possibilities of this new technology to be used in unsuspected ways that makes it very exciting. Now, all we have to do is wait for it to come out. I bet you that the adoption rate will be very fast.

Flash everywhere

Maybe one of the good consequence of Apple saying no to Flash is everybody else saying yes to it to differentiate themselves. So yeah, Flash on a shit load of mobile ( Android, BlackBerry (PlayBook), Windows Phone 7), Flash on the TV (GoogleTV) and now Flash on the cloud (ChromeOS). It is seeing how easy it was to add a Flash app to the Google Chrome Web Store that made me realize that I was lucky to have liked Flash and have made it my job. I have so many possibilities now, from gaming to advertising (banner ads, ok I never want to do this again even if you threaten me with a gun), from website to mobile application, from your TV to the cloud. If you ever get bored as a Flash Developer there is still so many things you can do. So yeah, that did put a smile on my face and made me realize that Flash’s future wasn’t so bleak.

And to those who said that Flash would die, well it’s going to be goddamn hard to kill now on all these media… Cheers!

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Why Flash is not disappearing

All the debate about Apple vs Adobe really got me thinking lately. Last night , I woke up at 4 in the morning with the idea for this post. It suddenly hit me. Most of the latest trends on the web happened because it was allowed by Flash. If you think about 3D, Augmented Reality and ChatRoulette; all of those could not have happened if Flash didn’t exist and are currently not possible to implement using HTML5.

3D

3D really picked up when Papervision3D ported there library from ActionScript 2 to ActionScript 3. ActionScript 3 made it faster so you could actually do some interesting 3D without automatically killing the user’s CPU. Right after that we saw a wave of Flash website all using 3D in them. I’m not saying that was good; plenty of sites used the 3D for no reason at all except for the fact that it was cool. Now that the hype on 3D as dimmed down, we see better uses of the library. My point is that Flash opened up new possibilities. There are now a few more libraries for 3D (Away3D, Sandy3D, Five3D, etc) and I don’t think those would be possible with the current state of javascript. Right now everybody speaks about HTML5 and the Canvas but, boy, JavaScript is so not on par with ActionScript 3. jQuery makes it better but still. Here is a good example of a site that uses 3D.

3D models in Flash

Augmented Reality

AR was all the buzz last year and 3D is what really made it possible in the browser. AR is a concept that has been around since the 90s but it never picked up until it came to Flash because it made it accessible. For AR you mostly need 3D and a camera. The webcam is easily accessible in Flash and since Flash is so ubiquitous. Now video is possible with HTML5 but webcam won’t happen; maybe HTML6. So as AR evolve we will see tons of new applications coming our way.

GE augmented reality

ChatRoulette

Now ChatRoulette is really interesting. I don’t know if it is going to last or if it is going to disappear or change, but it definitely showed an interesting facet of the internet ( not talking about the impressing number of male exhibitionists out there). ChatRoulette could use the webcam and a media streaming server, but that is not what is happening here. Already all that is not possible in HTML5. What ChatRoulette is using is the new P2P service Stratus by Adobe integrated FlashPlayer 10. That is a new feature in the Flash player that most people are not aware of. What it does is that it connects users directly to send the video without going through the server ( in this case the ChatRoulette server) so it save a lot of money in bandwidth. Is this a cool feature? fuck yeah. Is this close to being included in HTML5? Not in years.

Chatroulette interface

The general conception is tying Flash to video, but that is not all that Flash does right. 3D, AR, and P2P are just some examples I took to illustrate the fact that Flash is pushing the web forward; I can easily think of many more: microphone access, Pixel Bender, ActionScript 3 (so much more fun to work with than JavaScript), AIR, etc. And that is just what is available right now in Flash Player 10. I can’t wait to see what will be available in the future.

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Online Awards for Flash Websites

I compiled a small list of award websites at work and I tought it would be usefull to share it here too. I didn’t test any of those yet, so I don’t know which give the best results in term of traffic and visibility but here is what I have right now:

Favorite website awards (you have to pay) (25 words desc)
http://www.thefwa.com/

Dope awards (35 words desc)
http://www.dopeawards.com/

Design Licks
http://www.designlicks.com/

Best Web Gallery
http://bestwebgallery.com/category/flash/

Design Flavr (needs a screenshot of at least 523px)
http://www.designflavr.com/category/flash/

Design Snack (needs a screenshot 389 x 180px)
http://www.designsnack.com/

101 best websites (requires login)
http://101bestwebsites.com/category/flash

Inspiration Up
http://inspirationup.com

Website Design Awards
http://websitedesignawards.com/index.php/category/flash-gallery/

Spyline
http://spyline.de/section/flash

Creative Website Awards
http://www.creativewebsiteawards.com/

Mowsnet Web Awards
http://www.mows.sk/awards/index.php

iBlog
http://iblog.chubzz.com/

Another Bookmark
http://anotherbookmark.com/

Refresh links (nothing new since may 2008)
http://refreshlinks.org.uk/

Flash in the pan (seems outdated nov 2008)
http://www.flash-in-the-pan.org/

Flash Blasted (seems outdated nov 2008)
http://flashblasted.com/

Flash Galleria (seems outdated)
http://www.flashgalleria.com/

New Web Pick (requires a login and does not seem so relevant)
http://www.newwebpick.com/

I classified them by relevance from my first impression,  so as you go down the list, the less relevant and usefull becomes the link. This list will have to be updated as  I compile results from them.

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What Steve Jobs really means about the iPhone and Flash

It’s been a hot topic these days and I thought I would add my two bits to it all.

I didn’t think I would write about this but then something struck me. It’s funny the angle this story took because when you step back a bit you knida see something else. The first thing you have to look at is the fact that the iPhone displays a website in its original version (not flash website) not the mobile one. I think that is a really nice feature that the iPhone has. I think that it is because of that fact that the whole story about Flash not being on the iPhone started. Steve Jobs doesn’t want is iPhone to deliver disminished web content, we get that. That rules out FlashLite from being used; also it wouldn’t fit well with HTML content being rendered normally and rich content being rendered with FlashLite instead of Flash. No developper would want to have yet another platform to develop for. Now here is the point I find funny; Steve Jobs says that “the version of Flash formatted to personal computers is too slow on the iPhone” but what that really mean is that the iPhone is not powerfull enough to output Flash content fast enough. From the angle that the media puts it, Flash is not good enough but Flash as nothing to do with it, what it should trully say is that the iPhone is not powerfull enough to render Flash at a decent pace. But I think I would have made the same thing if I was in his shoes, put the finger at somebody else, no one in is rigthfull mind would say is product is not strong enough…

Well that was it, it all came from the fact that the iPhone stands in the middle point, too strong for mobile content but not enough for full web content. I don’t know if will come soon, but I sure hope so

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Flash CS3 extension to compress bitmap faster

Have you ever had to import a sequence of images in Flash and then had to change the compression by hand for each of the images imported? It’s really boring to do and also time consuming. I mean for each image, you have to select it in the library, right click, go in properties, choose the compression and than click apply. I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t any better way to do this. This week I saw a video by Lee Brimelow on how to create custom panel in the Flash IDE and decided to take the matter in my own hands.

So at the bottom of this post is the link to download my extension. It’s not perfect, I think I could still had some options, but it does pretty much what I wanted.  Basically, it lets you select multiple bitmaps in your library and change the compression setting once for all of them. The zip file also contains the source code of the package if you want to play with it. If you just want to see how it is done, I will simply paste the code here. There is 2 kind of language in there: ActionScript 3 and JSFL. The JSFL is the string that the MMExecute function takes. Here is all of it:

[as]

compress.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, manageClick);
function manageClick(e:MouseEvent):void{
if (numCompress.text != “”){
var myNum:int = int(numCompress.text);
if (myNum < 0){
myNum = 0;
}
if (myNum > 100){
myNum = 100;
}
var jsfl:String = “var selItems = fl.getDocumentDOM().library.getSelectedItems();for (var i = 0; i < selItems.length; i++){if (selItems[i].itemType == 'bitmap'){selItems[i].allowSmoothing = " + mySmooth.selected + ";selItems[i].compressionType = 'photo';selItems[i].useImportedJPEGQuality = false;selItems[i].quality = " + myNum + ";}}"
MMExecute(jsfl);
}
}

[/as]

Here is the JSFL formatted in an understandable kinda way:

[as]

var selItems = fl.getDocumentDOM().library.getSelectedItems();
for (var i = 0; i < selItems.length; i++){
if (selItems[i].itemType == 'bitmap'){
selItems[i].allowSmoothing = " + mySmooth.selected + ";
selItems[i].compressionType = 'photo';
selItems[i].useImportedJPEGQuality = false;
selItems[i].quality = " + myNum + ";
}
}

[/as]

It was pretty simple to do, but it seems strange how you use the JSFL since you have to put it all on one line in order to call the MMExecute function. Well here it is, have fun with it.

Compress Images custom panel

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How many times do you compile in a day?

Well I’m working on the AS2 project right now so I don’t really have stuff to blog about these days (that and the fact that I start too many projects at the same time). I did this little experiment today; I was curious about how many time I was compiling in a day so I counted it today. I compiled 68 times in 7 hours. I don’t know what to think about this number, but at least now I know…

How many times do you compile in a day?

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ActionScript 3 and Events

I originally thought that dispatching events in ActionScript 3 would be more complicated than in ActionScript 2. But I was wrong, I wasn’t very complicated to dispatch events in ActionScript 2, well, it’s even less complicated to do so in ActionScript 3. The thing is that version 3 of ActionScript is built around the event model. Another interesting thing is that usually your class that you’d want to dispatch an event from would have to extend EventDispatcher in order to do so, but if this class already extends Sprite or MovieClip you don’t have to extend EventDispatcher; Sprite and MovieClip are already descendant of the EventDispatcher class.  What this means is that you can call the dispatchEvent method from inside a Sprite or MovieClip extending class with no other code to write.

What is a bit more complicated is when you want to create a custom event. It’s not really harder but the thing you have to know is that you have to override the clone and toString method. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to dispatch your own events. I’ll post an example about that soon.

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More 3D, but from Alternativa Games

You can see a really cool demo of a 3D engine all in flash here. It runs nicely when you lower the settings a bit and doesn’t seems too slow. The sprites need some touch-ups but it’s only a demo so we can hope for the best. I don’t think they are going to release the code for us to play with it, but it’s nice to see that this can be done with flash. It confirms that being a flash programmer is really a good career choice because there is going to be a lot of good jobs in that domain in the future. As the computers get better and better, we will be allowed to program more complex stuff and no designers will be able to do it.

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9-slices scaling, Papervision 3D, Tweener and FlashDevelop

I am currently working on a website with tons of rounded corners, so I’m pretty happy they added 9-slices scaling in Flash 8. The only problem I had today, was that I wanted to apply 9-slices scaling on a mask and it happens that you just can’t. You can’t do it using ActionScript and you can’t use it using the Flash Authoring tool. I don’t know about flash 9, but I sure hope they will get that to work.

I also stumbled upon something that looks pretty cool: Papervision 3D . The name says it, you can use it to do 3D in flash, haven’t tried it yet but it looks sweet. And while browsing their website I found a nice example using Tweener which I spoke off recently. They’ll both deserve more investigation.

Finally, on the same project I am working with all those rounded corner I am using FlashDevelop. I use it because I find the Flash Authoring tool to be really bad (Flash 8 ) for ActionScript. Well I said FlashDevelop was good, but I would rectify what I said, and now say that it is still experimental. I had all sort of problems with it, mostly with the auto-completion tool completing things all the time which I didn’t ask for . Just thought I’d share that with you.

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Flash IDE, FlashDevelop, SE|PY

While searching around for answers, I stumbled a couple of time on developers who didn’t use the actionScript editor that comes with Flash. As a matter of fact, before Flash CS3, the default editor wasn’t packed with options and was kinda simplistic. I was working on a project where I was up to 1000 lines of code so I said to myself, that’s right I need something that has more options. So here are the options I found:

SE|PY: It’s the first one I found, I guess it’s been around the longest. It’s kinda cool, and really easy to customize. It was made by Alessandro Crugnola from http://www.sephiroth.it/ . If you’ve done Flash for some time, you surely ended up on this site one day. This is a good interface, but it has two major down sides: it looks kinda old and it is not in development anymore.

FlashDevelop: I think FlashDevelop is the most promising interface out there. It looks great and has most of the feature that SE|PY has. It’s kinda hard to change the syntax color of the code, but that’s mostly it. It has a great structure for adding plugin so it might become really good in time. Another point I didn’t like was that for help about actionScript code it sends you to adobe liveDocs on the web which is awfully slow.

Flash IDE: This is the default interface that comes with Flash. Up to Flash 8 I would say that you need another interface if you do a lot of actionScript coding. The thing is, that in Flash CS3 Adobe really put some time on the ActionScript editor and made it the better than even FlashDevelop. It now has code folding, and can fold mostly anywhere, not just functions (like in FlashDevelop). Help is easy and fast and it is integrated with the rest of the Flash interface.

So there it is, my review of the ActionScrip editors out there. My big winner is the Flash CS3 editor, but you have to watch closely for FlashDevelop development because it might become really interesting.

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