May 02nd 2009 | Jens C Brynildsen
It's that time of the year again. The largest German Flash conference kicks off and this one is bound to be quite special for me as I'm not only attending as I usually do. With more than 500 attendees this is by far the largest regional conference we know of and this is our report from the event.
Situated in the Cologne Mediapark, the FlashForum Konferenz runs over two full days with 26 speakers. There are also five workshops the day before as well as five the day after the main conference and this year I actually did one of these workshops on the day before the main conference as well as a presentation on Day 2. Preparing for that made me not attend as many sessions as I did the last time I was at FFK in 2007, but I had 4 great days in Cologne!
The day before the conference started, I hosted a full day workshop about Away3D. I've done lots of training and quite a few workshops before, but never at a conference so this was really an exciting experience. Having focused a lot on the Away3D engine this year, it was also my topic and the workshop was based around the Flashmagazine tutorial series I've already done.
It's always hard to know how a workshop will run, but I timed it quite correctly. I wanted the attendees to be productive when they came home so everyone brought their own machine and authoring tool (IDE). It was interesting to see the spread of IDEs used - FDT (2), FlashDevelop (5), Flash (2) and the rest used Flex Builder. I started out looking at the various engines and explained why it's very difficult compare them in a fair way. I looked at the features they offered and then went on to talk about why I use Away3D over the other engines. I've recently done a commercial project using Papervision3D, so I felt that I had enough background on this.
After that, the workshop progressed in a more hands-on manner where the attendees went through all they needed to use Away3D in their projects. In closing, I had made a quick prototype with CoolIris functionality that I deconstructed. The idea is that the students themselves can take this to a fully featured image gallery by themselves. Among the 18 attendees were also a community friend of mine, Peter Elst, that has massive training experience. I'm really glad that he liked it!
From my workshop. Image by Marc Thiele/FlashForum.
I got in a little late for this presentation, but Frank showed some really nice visual effects using Pixel Bender. From metablobs to image manipulation, this was a nice start to the day. Frank just published one of the examples from this session at his blog.
I had the opportunity to see this session once before and but I missed it since the session was filled up. This time I got the chance and Joa started off by showing briefly two personal projects, the Actionscript Wiki and PBDT (a Pixel Bender client for Eclipse). Joa works together with André Michelle in the company Hobnox, creating what you'd probably call an online music studio. The Hobnox AudioTool is free to use and even if you don't feel like a musician it's really fun!
In Flash Player 10, there were a few "hooks" for creating sounds based on just code, just as it's happening inside a real synthesizer. The AudioTool is using this to the fullest to create a series of synths where you create music in realtime. The project is really pushing the limits of what Flash applications can do. Just think about this - CD quality sound plays 44100 samples per second in two channels. Just the basic features requires doing eighty-eight thousand calculations per second, but that's just for playing back a single sound. The AudioTool allows you to use several synths and beatboxes at once and you can also add several effects such as compression/delay/mixing to your sound.
Based on his work at Hobnox, Joa has learned a lot about intensive computing with Flash and this session sums up a lot of what he's learned. The main problems has been the Flash garbage collection, threading, the Actionscript compiler as well as Actionscript itself.
The Flash Players garbage collection runs when it is required. This is very convenient for the average Flash movie, but not Object Pools to overcome garbage collection problems. By maintaining a pool of objects you're forcing Flash to not run it's garbage collection, thus keeping the memory usage constant. If you have problems with Flash garbage collection, make sure you drop by Joa's ASWiki for examples on how to overcome this. Joa has also deviced classes for simulating threading to overcome execution problems as well as the Actionscript related problems.
In the AudioTool, you can play with and mix more than 50 different sound sources in real time, so this code is absolutely optimized in all possible ways. Joa also announced opensource.hobnox.com, a new open source initiative from Hobnox. The site will not contain the advanced audio parts of the AudioTool, but rather classes that are useful to many. The first class published is UIEvent that replaces the standard DOM3 event system and makes it easier to work with. It does not require you to add listeners, you just add a "process hook" and setup a single method to process any events for the class. At the moment, only the code is up but Joa will soon add examples as well. The plan is to publish more code soon.
Saban is like a moving entertainment system! He's full of energy and has great contact with the audience. His session went over some of the new features in Flash Player 10, delivered in a highly entertaining way. Local file access, the new text layout framework, 3D features, PixelBender, the new parts of the drawing API - all with good examples to show the features. This session turned out to be a great way for attendees to ask all the questions they'd been wondering about new features. Despite containing lots of code examples, Saban had the audience absolutely cracked up on many occasions and everyone walked away from the session smiling.
Saban presenting at FFK09. Image by Marc Thiele/FlashForum.
In the evening, Hobnox put on a great party where the music was a mix between the AudioTool and records. This has to be one of the more successful conference parties I've been to. The music was really good (though no geeks were dancing), the place was packed from start to end, everybody was chatting and it seemed that very few were left out - everyone had good conversations going. I ended the evening early since my own presentation is up in the morning tomorrow.
Jens has been working with Flash since version 3 came out. Since then, he's been an active member of the Flash community. He's created more than a hundred Flash games (thus the name of his blog) but he also creates web/standalone applications, does workshops and other consulting. He loves playing with new technology and he is convinced that the moment you stop learning you die (creatively speaking). Jens is also the Editor of this website.