I really enjoyed my first visit to Brighton, and Flash on the Beach 08. Some peeps at work have asked me what I saw at the conference and if I have any links to share, so I thought I’d post a diary of what I likes. Sorry about the text overload but I didn’t take any pictures of the presentations :(

Because of the competing time slots, I didn’t get to many of the presenters I would have liked to, apologies go out the speakers worthy of review who aren’t mentioned.

Monday

Dr Woohoo
blog.drwoohoo.com
www.inthemod.com
Dr Woohoo demonstrated something I’ve never seen before: mashing up CS3 applications with ‘ExtendScript’; which uses javascript for intercommunication between CS3 apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. Calling methods on the DOMs of CS3 apps to do various tricks. Opening custom swfs as panels in Photoshop. Automating the creation of layers and painting in them etc. Crazy stuff. Did you know that you could run a script to paint frames in the video layer in Photoshop? I didn’t. Not sure what the true potential of this stuff is but interesting in any case. Also showed some eye candy such as ‘The Enraptured Cranberry Jellyfish from Tokyo‘.

Andries Odendaal
www.sumona.com
kids.discovery.com/games/whizzball/whizzball.html
http://www.gamegecko.com/beetlebuggin.php
I remember Andries way back in the day when he blew everyone away with his IK (Inverse Kinematics) skeleton. I’m pretty sure that was built in Flash 4 which had the scripting capabilities of a toaster. Andries then showed a progression of his work since which included some stunning 3d Director work, which unfortunately never got published.

Chris Orwig
www.chrisorwig.com
I’m not a photography buff so I had never heard of Chris but was glad to have attended what was a engaging and well delivered presentation. He gave some great insights to budding photographers, reminding us that a good photo comes from avoiding distractions such as equipment and weather conditions but about experiencing life and capturing the moment.

Erik Natzke
jot.eriknatzke.com
play.natzke.com
Erik specializes in a fluid style of generative Flash art resulting in a abstract painterly style chaotic in movement and rich in detail. I find the work pretty chaotic and at times a bit overdone, but they look fantastic when you see them created. Erik also took the audience through his creative process and revealed some of the mechanics behind art.

Inspired session: James Paterson
www.presstube.com
So the inspired session in case you don’t know happens in the evening after everyone has taken a break for some dinner, and headed back for a quick beer or two before 8pm. There’s a palpable sense of anticipation amongst the crowd for these sessions and James didn’t disappoint. Beneath the exterior of what appears to be a pretty casual unassuming guy is the beating heart of a mentalist. Starting from his influences and experiences as a kid right through to recent work, James entertained the crowd thoroughly with his kooky ‘gonzo’ cartoons.

That was the end of Monday. Everyone headed down to the Audio bar which quickly became completely rammed. Subsidised 1 pound drinks did little to ease the pressure at the bar. Good fun tho, think I got back to the hotel at about 2.

Tuesday

Joa Ebert
www.hobnox.com
blog.joa-ebert.com
The most advanced session I saw, Joa took us through some of the challenges faced and solutions achieved in creating the hobnox audio tool, which I think may be the most technically impressive Flash site in the interworld. It turns out that if you want to provide seamless audio output from an application this complex, you have to do some serious optimisation, and Joa showed us some of the techniques used; Object Pooling, optimised Quad-Tree traversal, and effectively disabling Flash’s Garbage Collector by never creating or destroying objects at runtime. He also discussed the Event model they created, which Joa assures us cuts development time considerably.

Jam Session
André Michelle, Carlos Ulloa, Ralph Hauwert, Mario Klingemann, Joa Ebert, Keith Peters)

With only 10 minutes each to speak this was quite an intense session. All the presenters did well given such time slots.

Joa Ebert did 10 minutes of ‘live-coding’ in his session which started off with some pretty straight forward looking code and descended into some crazy bit shifting that resulted in a swirling particle system of pixels reminiscent of the flocking of birds.

After very trustingly passing his 303 into the crowd to play with André Michelle used his latest version of the hobnox application attempting to recreate a some quintessential german techno track the name of which I can’t remember. Techno is probably my least favourite type of electronic music, but it was nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable to see Andre assembling the necessary gadgets to bring it together.

Keith showed some generative line art that started off with simple formulas which over a number of iterations he tweaked to reveal surreal landscapes.

Carlos and Ralph in their respective sessions presented some PaperVision work with Carlos showing the ‘in an Absolut world‘ project (try dragging the blocks to see the underlying collision detection and physics at work) and amongst the things Ralph (I think?) showed was an impressive 3d motion tracking experiment in which he managed to composite a runtime-rendered interactive 3d teapot seamlessly onto a panning video image.

Finally, in the last mini session, Mario used his 10 minutes to show some off the capabilities of the Peacock application he’s been working on. With a GUI that looked a bit like Quartz Composer Mario plugged quite a few bits together to ultimately repaint a web cam picture of the other presenters with a bird shaped brush that he’d made by manipulating a picture of his hand.

GMUNK (bradley Grosh)
www.gmunk.com
Bradley went through his background in film, pixel art and flash pieces, before taking us through his more recent projects getting right into his process, which included quite a lot of Maya work for broadcast motion graphics. Some really impressive results.

Inspired Session : Robert Hodgin
www.flight404.com
Robert took us back to a profound moment in his life during which he experienced synæsthesia for the first time which for him meant experiencing sound visually. Kind of makes sense when you see the direction of his work. Quite amazing stuff. Showed a number of processing examples including some recent unpublished work

Hoping to avoid the crush, we went to a quiet pub for a drink after the session finished. Headed down to the chosen venue HoneyClub some time later which at that time was pretty much empty. There were signs around the bar saying “beer is back on” so I guess it had been pretty mental earlier. Went to some other place down the road for more unecessary intoxication before battling against the gale force offshore wind with my late night pizza.

Wednesday

Rob Bateman
www.infiniteturtles.co.uk
Away3D
Robert showed off the latest release of Away3d. The Away3d team have added a number of features recently including improved depth sorting, reduced image distortion, phong-shading (makes objects look smooth and glossy) and surface caching. It looks like the team at Away3d might be concentrating on performance and rendering improvements over the PV3d guys which perhaps are more focussed on making their product accessible to new users. In any case, it’s great for the community that there are alternative solutions in this space.

Seb Lee-Delisle
www.pluginmedia.net
blog.papervision3d.org
Seb gave a tutorial style presentation showing how easy it is to get up and running with PaperVision3d. Aimed at users new to PV3D he stepped through a bunch of primer examples that more often than not included a floating cow. I would have liked to see him push the product to it’s limits rather than only show simple scenes. Nevertheless it was an entertaining presentation and there were some good tips to improve performance such as ‘baking’ shading onto models where possible. I was kind of expecting native 3d support in Flash 10 to diminish the need for developer 3d solutions, but it seems like this won’t be the case, as the demonstrations of Flash 10′s 3d capabilities appeared only to support moving 2d-sprites around in 3d space, as opposed to 3d meshes, lighting, etc.

André Michelle
blog.andre-michelle.com
www.hobnox.com
André talked about his background and some of the factors that had led him to the Hobnox project, before showing how to use the new sound features in Flash 10. He made sure to thank Tinic Uro for the inclusion of the new sound API a response to the ‘Adobe – MAKE SOME NOISE‘ campaign that André et al started. Beginning with the very basics of sound creation, the demonstration started with a basic tone and added processes to show how sound can be generated and controlled in Flash 10.

http://blog.andre-michelle.com/2008/fotb08-sildes-and-sources/

Rob Chiu
www.theronin.co.uk
There’s nothing better than sitting back to enjoy a visual feast of motion graphics. Helping Rob present was hecq (Ben Boysen), who has collaborated with Rob with providing audio and sound direction on a number of collaborations. Rob’s recent work showed a different more personal direction from is earlier work which was equally well received. Amongst other thing on Rob’s site, you can see the FOTB08 movie here.

Mario Klingeman
www.quasimondo.com
a.viary.com/blog/peacock
The start of Mario’s presentation was pretty oblique, with him trying to get his computer to recognise a QR code which he held up to his web cam. He had some trouble, something I’m sure to do with the thousands of watts of lighting he was standing under, but soon got underway revealing a process that he had used to get QR recognition working in Flash. Quite a feat given the jumble of pixel data generated from a web cam.

Jonathan Harris
http://number27.org
In the final session Jonathan, talked about his background in painting, entry into computer science, and early experiments in infographics design before showing of his well known ‘we feel fine‘ which by now has collected over 11 million feelings. He then showed other pieces such as ‘The whale hunt‘, ‘I want you to want me‘ and a more recent yet to be published project utilising interviews gathered in Butan. Jonathan finished by making a point that he thought some of the audience might find hard to take, suggesting that the industry, still in it’s adolescence, had focussed work on execution at the expense of having a meaningful message as it’s core. I think the point was valid, though perhaps made in a somewhat negative way.

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