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New Masters of Flash

New Masters of Flash

New Masters of Flash is the flagship release from the book world's new kids on the block, 'Friends of Ed'. In the relatively short period of time they have been around they have done much to endear themselves to the hardcore Flash community. From sponsoring much of the New Media Underground Festival to actively promoting 'design-friendly' sites such as freshfroot.com.

Authors: Thomas Jankowski, Todd Purgason, Ivo van de Grift, Luke Turner, Andries Odendaal, Eric Jordan, Manuel Clement, Brendan Dawes, Tony Ke, Irene Chan, Yugo Nakamura, Jayson Singe, Cut-and-paste.com, Olivier Besson, James Paterson, Vince Suriani, Joel Baumann, Yasuto Suga, Joshua Davis.
Title: New Masters of Flash
Publisher: Friends of Ed
ISBN: 1-903450-03-09
Pages: 540 colour
Get it now:  £43.99 UK / $59.99 US / $89.95 CAN

News filtered out about this book late last year and since then the expectation has been enormous. To say this book has been 'highly anticipated' is somewhat of an understatement. Demand was so high that when it launched on Amazon just before Christmas it was even out-selling 'Harry Potter'.

So after all this does it live up to the hype? Well frankly, yes it does...

Firstly it's a mammoth tome (over 500 pages) two inches thick and full colour throughout. This is Friends of Ed's first publication and is a major statement of intent. Its size doesn't make it cheap (£43.99 UK / $59.99 US) but then again design books and computer books rarely are. This though is a mixture of both: Part philosophy, part tech manual. It is split into 19 chapters - each one handled by a different designer.

At first sight some of the names may be unfamiliar but their site roll-call reads like a list of Flash developer 'required reading'. What is interesting is that very few of the sites selected are commercial ventures.

The Ed-itors have deliberately chosen to steer clear of commercial sites and instead present the most interesting and progressive pieces from the web's fringes.

Some of the usual suspects are in attendance (these are the New Masters of Flash after all) but each designer is given equal time and space to say their piece. Each chapter begins with a short prologue in which the designer discusses their influences and ideology and in the second half present a technical demonstration of the innovative ideas and techniques with which they made their name.

There is a lot of material here but to give you some of the highlights: Vince Suriani and Joel Baumann offer tutorials on Swift3D and Director respectively. There are definitive sound tutorials from Todd Purgason and Manuel Clement, as well as pioneering design and special effects from the designers behind mondo.com and rayoflight.com.

The books only female designer is Irene Chan. Her short introduction is further proof (if proof were needed) that a unique design perspective is ultimately more important than technical knowledge of the tools.

Both Brendan Dawes and Andries Odendaal comment on the rise of the programmer /artist, echoing many of my own sentiments about the development of Flash as a tool - namely, it has gone from animators play-thing to Web-Mindstorms-Dev-kit in just two releases.

Andries goes on to give some interesting examples of the use of mathematics in art and a crash course in 3D. In a similar vein Olivier Besson gets down to business with some useful formulae for the simulation of real time physics.

Eric Jordan and Yugo Nakamura offer up a solid introduction to the mindset that is Object Oriented Programming whilst James Paterson and Josh Davis remind us that the ride can be more fun than the destination. Josh also picks up the books outro with some thoughts and examples culled from his numerous conference speeches. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't heard them before but I guarantee you won't look at food colouring the same way again.

Screenshots are all in Flash 5, but many of the code examples will run quite happily in Flash 4. The code is not as clean as it could be (there is still a lot of Tell Targets and Set Property-ing going on) but all the source-code and a number of video interviews are included on a CD.

Most of all this is an inspiring book - The kind that makes you fire up your machine and start playing. This is not a dry text-book. Neither is it a pretentious design book. Yes there is stuff for designers. Yes there is stuff for programmers. There is stuff for designers who want to be programmers, and stuff for programmers that want to be designers. But most of all there is stuff for that new breed of Uber-designer: Ideas for the mind and food for the soul. Here's to the revolution.

STOP PRESS: Just as we went to press we have had confirmation from Friends of Ed that New Masters of Flash 2 is now in preparation. Start saving your pennies folks!

 

About John Dalziel

John Dalziel is a founding member of FlashMagazine and regularly reports from community events in the UK. He has also written for Macromedia, New Riders, Actionscript.com and Ultrashock.com.

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