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Flash on the Beach 08 / Day 1 / Sessions and Adobe Keynote

Flash on the Beach 2008, Brighton, UK - Day One
September 29, 2008

Richard Galvan - Keynote/Flash New and in the Future
Carlos Ulloa - The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Invent It
Branden Hall - Brilliant Ideas that I've Blatantly Stolen
Mark Anders - A Preview of Flex 4 and "Thermo"
Tink (Stephen Downs) - Flex Effects: Transitions as Design Elements
Erik Natzke - Beyond the Knowledge: The Art of Play
James Paterson - Modulating a Lot

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Richard Galvan - Keynote/Flash New and in the Future

As with the previous FOTBs, Adobe kicked off the conference with their keynote. This year the keynote was titled "Flash New and in the Future" and as could have been guessed, focused mainly on the upcoming CS4 release.

Just before the keynote, John Davey (the conference organizer) kicked everything off with an opening video by Rob Chiu highlighting the city of Brighton and all of the amazing speakers we would see that week:

Richard started off the keynote by providing some context for the upcoming CS4 and Flash Player 10 releases.

Next, AIR was demoed by Serge Jespers, a European Platform Evangelist for Adobe. Serge got the crowd going early in the morning by showing off AIR demos such as Desktop Keeley from The Sun. He also noted that South Africans are using AIR to file their taxes - something that made me think about how far behind the US government can be when it comes to user-friendly technology.

Richard then came back up to give some walk-throughs of the new features in the upcoming Flash CS4 release. No new information was really divulged here, but it was nice to see some of the CS4 features such as IK, new GUI enhancements, the new spray brush and more demoed live.

You can watch a video of the entire keynote below, courtesy of Peter Elst:


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Carlos Ulloa - The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Invent It

Haven seen Carlos' session last year, when Papervision3D was just gaining momentum, I was excited to see what was possible with the engine in its current state. Carlos has certainly pushed the boundaries of PV3D, and used his new (future) company's website as an example wherein they recreated the Monte Carlo racetrack and allow users to race the entire track using a Mini Cooper.

Most of Carlos' presentation was about process in innovating and working with PV3D, not PV3D itself. I found this refreshing - especially since I had been to PV3D training earlier this year and didn't care to sit through another presentation on how to use or optimize PV3D.

Following with the theme of inventing the future, Carlos spoke about how research leads to innovation:

1. Plan and Budget: Your designers should work with your development team to research together.
2. Define and Narrow: Define your objective and topic/area
3. Fine Tuning: Work across your teams to product mock-ups
4. Inspiration

Overall, a good session. Carlos has his thoughts about FOTB on his blog.

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Branden Hall - Brilliant Ideas that I've Blatantly Stolen

Branden's presentations are always worth the time spent, so naturally I was excited to see him speak again. As one of the true developers on the speaking circuit who has been working with ActionScript since 1.0 his perspective is fairly unique.

The main takeaway of this presentation was to "be a selective thief" - use open source projects, look over the source code and learn from it, and pull out what you need to create your own masterpiece. I'm actually surprised, with the current large promotion of several open source Flash projects (think: PaperVision3D) that this even needs to be said anymore. But, it is always a good reminder and an even better lesson for those who are unaware of all the plug-and-play possibilities at their fingertips.

In addition, Branden made one really good point that I'd be remiss not to mention: no language exists in a vacuum. Going back to his prior point of "being a selective thief", Branden suggested that Flash and Flex developers start looking at other programming languages as sources of inspiration. Find out how they implemented a certain programming methodology and try to apply it to your daily coding where you can. It'll make you a more rounded, more aware and more experienced developer.

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Mark Anders - A Preview of Flex 4 and "Thermo"

This is one session I was really looking forward to. Development on "Thermo" seems to be coming to a head, and they must be getting close to releasing a beta... or at least providing more details. I was really expecting to learn something new in this session, but unfortunately not much new was said about either Flex 4 or "Thermo" that hadn't previously been revealed.

Mark mentioned a few key points about the upcoming file format FXG, which enables the collaboration between Flex 4 and "Thermo", as well as between a good deal of the CS4 toolset. FXG is basically an XML file that defines Flash (and other) graphics in a Flash-indepent format. Mark showed off an FXG viewer app, written in AIR, that allowed you to edit the XML and preview the changes it made.

Next up was a discussion on states and how they are changing in Flex 4. Nothing new here as you can find information about this all over the web, so instead I'll just show you very blurry photo I took of the "new" Flex 4 application icon, in all its Gumbo-esque glory:

Lastly, Mark spoke a few minutes on "Thermo" noting that it is built as an Eclipe plugin just like Flex, and then he gave a brief demo of the application showing the process from static artwork to working scrollbar. I believe this is the same demo that Adobe has been giving of the application for months now, but the crowd seemed to be pleased anyways. I'd have to agree -- "Thermo" is a step in the right direction. Now cough it up already, Adobe!

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Tink (Stephen Downs) - Flex Effects: Transitions as Design Elements

Tink has been a proponent of changing Flex from its standard skin or design since well... last year when I saw him speak at FOTB 07 about including Flash elements in Flex (which inheriently makes it looks 10x better).

This year Tink was showing off his work-in-progress transition library for Flex. The library does some of the heavy lifting for you and even includes some PaperVision3D effects. You can view more about the Efflex library on the project's website, or in this blog post about the FOTB presentation and recent developments with Efflex.

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Erik Natzke - Beyond the Knowledge: The Art of Play

posters for sale

Every year since I have been attending Flash conferences I have seen Erik speak at least once, and every time I walk away inspired and wishing I owned some of his artwork (more on this in a second). Erik's session is always one where I can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the art show in front of me.

Erik always starts off talking about his process, which almost always starts with hand sketches:

Then he almost immediately jumps into a short reel of some of his amazing work:

After the talk, Erik laid out a few of his prints and immediately had over a hundred people hovering around the table trying to get a sneak peak. Unfortunately he wasn't selling any of his works at the conference, but here's a hint for you that I had to email Erik to get: the http://store.natzke.com URL Erik refers to in his slides wasn't working for over a week after his talk (it is now), so he sent me a link to the Flickr photo set he created showing all of the prints available for sale. Some great work there -- check it out, but be prepared to get lost in the artwork for an hour or so...

I also recorded a few videos during the talk. In this video Erik talks about his process and shows a short reel of his work:

In this video Natzke talks more process while showing another reel of work:

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James Paterson - Modulating a Lot

I'll be honest, I hadn't heard of James Paterson by name before this conference. But I had certainly seen his work and website, http://www.presstube.com. If you don't know who James is, this photo pretty much sums up his uniquely irreverent style:

James got his start doing funky animations in Flash, but over the years has evolved to taking his style to different venues such as this live modern dance performance where his animations were projected really large onto the ground as a interactive backdrop to the performance:

James is a really funny, talented guy, and the only way to really get a feel for his work and the work as a result of his collaborations is through video. So, I took some during his presentation.

This first video is a clip where James talks about his "virtual zit popping" via Flash. This is a great example of James' fun style:

In this video James shows a 3D sound engine that was developed by his long-time collaborator Amit Pitaru. The video shows a song being created on the fly by Amit using the application:

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You can follow/view my semi-consistent #fotb twittering throughout the conference by following this link to twitter search.

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