Flash and the City 2010

May 31, 2010

Flash and the City marked the return of flash conferences to New York City and the first one that I’ve attended in 3 years. When Elad Elrom started talking about the conference last year and announced that the super early bird price was $99, it was hard not to buy my ticket right away. I’m glad I did because in the end, I definitely got more than my money’s worth. In addition to seeing some awesome presentations, I met some cool people and left inspired to get better at what I do as well as open my horizons.

FATC proved to be a bit more techy and geeky than FITC, but still a great conference to attend. Of course it was very flash oriented and there were a lot of Flex specific talks as well. In addition to the things I highlight below, there was a bunch of more inspirational talks that are a bit tougher to distill but hopefully there will be enough here to get people pumped enough for next year’s conference.

So here’s the lowdown:

Adobe

  • Some of the Adobe Flash platform evangelists went up and talked about the “We  Choice campaign”. It’s here if you haven’t seen it.
  • Talked a bit about some of the cool new things in CS5, I’m sure the same things that were mentioned at FITC.
  • Some of the cool highlights were the ability to export FXG files for use in Flash, Flashbuilder, and Flash Catalyst right from Illustrator or Fireworks.
  • The ability to go between programs a bit more seamlessly (right click an asset in flash and choose “Edit in Photoshop” and having it update as soon as you save your changes).
  • The ability to add and edit cue points for your videos right in flash as an alternative to embedding them in the video file or reading them in separately.
  • Device Central was pretty cool to simulate some of the functionality of a mobile phone for an app that you might create using AIR 2.0.
  • Talked a bit about some of the new AIR 2.0 features:
    • Multi-touch and gesture support
    • API to access raw microphone data
    • global error handling
    • support for native code integration
    • For the full list, read more on the Adobe Labs blog, http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/air2/

Litl

(http://www.litl.com/)

Evangelists form the Boston based company, Litl, were there to hype up their Home-based device and platform which was built on Linux and not only supports Flash, but promotes the use of flash to make applications for it. Instead of apps, the litl has what are called “channels” that are all flash based. It’s also supposed to be good as a set top box that you can connect to your TV. Kind of cool, but not sure how useful it is in the real world. If you have kids, it’s supposed to be very family-friendly. They were also there to announce the release their developer API, found here: SDKdeveloper.litl.com

Yogurt 3D

(http://www.yogurt3d.com/)
This was the first time that I ever heard of this 3D engine, but what it is is another 3D engine for flash built specifically for building 3D games. Some of the demos are pretty incredible. Definitely worth looking at and considering next time you have to build a 3D environment for use in flash. It supports a lot of the same 3d formats that Papervision3D and Away3D use, such as collada dae files, but seems to have really good performance and texture mapping capabilities.

Decrap your Application

RIA Radio host, Garth Braithwait’s talk was aimed at Flex developers with no or an underdeveloped eye for design.  He talked about basic principles (Contrast Repetition Alignment Proximity) and emphasized the idea that if your Flex app looks like a Flex app, then you’ve failed.

Touch me Baby

Lee Brimelow showed off the mult-touch and gesture API in AIR 2.0. He demonstrated that flash can detect as many touchpoints as the touch device can handle. With the help of 6 people, he was able to get 60 individual touch points on one device (a new 3M multitouch monitor worth $1600). He also talked about playing with many touch devices admitting that the iPod still has the most responsive touch screen. Whether he’ll stick with the iPhone as his primary smart phone is another question.

These are the newly supported gestures discussed: rotate, zoom, double-tap, press and tap, and pan. He noted that the built-in gestures kind of suck and that it’s usually better to build your own or use some of the libraries that some other people have already created (such as gestureworks).

He made the point that current sites (for the most part) should still work on touch devices because of the way they build 10.1 to dispatch the appropriate mouse events when touch events are dispatched by the device. Here’s a link of flash sites working on a touch device (no recoding necessary): http://theflashblog.com/?p=2027

Quick as a Flash

Grant Skinner went over ways to make your code more efficient and how to test your code effectively. It was a really good presentation and worth looking at for every Flash dev, especially since Flash is getting all this flack about it being a processor hog and the such. He stated that it’s now our job to give flash a good name by making our programs as efficient as possible. The slides from his talk are here: http://gskinner.com/talks/quickTO/. This sentiment was echoed throughout the conference and has made an impact on how I approach programming. It’s our responsibility to give Flash as good a name as possible if we want to continued programming for it in the future.

Hacking Robots for Fun and Profit

This was one of my favorite presentations. It was really just a case study presentation of how The Iona Group created a remote controlled rover game using Rovio Robots and Flash (as well as other technologies in between). Chad Udell Discussed the hardware used as well as some of the techniques in flash to make this project come to life. Very cool stuff. His slides and some more info are here: http://ionagroup.com/labs/2010/05/20/hacking-robots-for-fun-and-profit/

Devices for Flash Panel

Not too much new, but good to hear some experts in the community talk about the current state as well as the future state of flash on mobile devices. Again, there was an emphasis on making your programs as efficient as possible to help move flash on devices forward.

Some resources:

Space Invaders

Seb Lee-Delisle talked about motion capture in flash, how to build your own basic 3d engine, and showed off some fun papervision projects that he worked on with Plug-In Media including the Big and Small house and ZingZillas. Also showed how he created this Lunar Lander game at less than 5K (http://sebleedelisle.com/2009/04/lunar-lander-3d-in-5k/). A lot of his presentation echoed what he had talked about at the flashcodersNY meeting that he made an appearance at earlier in the week, but I was glad I attended both. Really inspiring work from a pretty down-to-earth guy using techniques that are not impossible to learn for the average flash dev.

Getting Git

Simeon Bateman talked about what Git is and why it’s so awesome. He mentioned progit.org as a great resource for learning Git. He had a lot of good info, so I’m hoping he put his slides online. This presentation made Git seem a bit less intimidating to use for newbies.

He mentioned the following tools as decent GUIs for Git:

Robotlegs in the Real World

Joel Hooks talked about what Robotlegs is, how to use it, and why it’s becoming so popular. Throughout the conference, everyone was talking about Robotlegs. I’ve used it and it IS awesome. His slides are at http://joelhooks.com/2010/05/18/slides-from-flash-and-the-city-presentation-on-robotlegs-as3/.

For newbies getting started, one of the main concepts to understand is Dependency Injection. Once you have that down and understand what MVC is you should be off and running relatively quickly.

In addition to seeing Joel do his thing, I scored a kick-ass Robotlegs Sticker and T-Shirt.

Gaia Flash Framework

Jesse Warden talked about the Gaia framework and how to use it in correlation to Robotlegs. He has a blog post about this topic here http://jessewarden.com/2010/05/how-to-use-robotlegs-on-top-of-gaia-part-deux.html. His talk was energetic and fun to watch. I didn’t take any notes, but now I’m interested enough in Gaia and realized that my next project would be a perfect opportunity to start using it.

The only thing I didn’t like about his presentation was how he was knocking how someone had inappropriately used the PureMVC framework on a seat selector project as he heard from one of his friends recently. Putting the pieces together, I think he was making fun of my code. I think I know which friend he was talking about, as it was the same guy that started working at Iomedia the week after I left. I got a little red in the face, but in the end I was kind of honored that anyone even knew about my work.

FDT Workshop

Alan Klement from Night Agency along with Bruno Fonzi from Powerflasher demonstrated some of the crazy cool new features in FDT4 in this last minute workshop. I have to say, I’m impressed and I can’t wait till it’s released and out there. I think it’s going to be very hard for companies not to spring to buy FDT for their flash devs. Hopefully they bring the price down a bit (tough I can’t complain about a free FDT Pure license just for attending FITC).

So that was FATC this year. Definitely different than what I was expecting, but well worth it. Can’t wait till next year, especially since the Flash world is changing so quickly now. Who knows what will be relevant a year from now.