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Flash on the beach 2009 - Day 3

Flash on the beach 2009 - Day 3

Even after two days of sessions and parties there was still an impressive turnout for the 9am sessions on day 3 at Flash on the beach. The day was filled with great sessions, but "the bomb" was certainly Ralph Hauwert announcing that he has quit the Papervision3D team to pursue personal goals. This means that PapervisionX is up in the air, but not entirely.

Day 3 held the conference's biggest surprise. As the second last Ralph Hauwert surprised us all - he quit the Papervision3D Team. You'll find our writeup from Ralphs session at the end of this article.

Kling Klang: Flash Audio DSP
Andre Michelle

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To wake us all up the nice people from Influxis had organised a live web link between Andre's room and Koen's. The sound wasn't great but it was a fun way to get everyone going again. Sitting right next to the speakers meant not have been the best plan in the world but we got some great photos.

Andre is as I'm sure you know, is one of the creators of the HobNox audio tool, a Flash player based music application. After a quick demo of Hobnox, Andre spoke a little about their plans for the tool. He's currently working on a Timeline system that will allow you to automate everything in the system. They want to add a lot more community features like Save, Load and remix, and even run time collaboration.

The key feature of Hobnox is that it doesn't rely on samples. All the audio is generated using audio digital signal processing, and it was this that filled the remainder of his session. Using simple applications he explained how simple waveforms sound, how they can be sequenced and how various effects are produced.

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One app in particular (something he built for his daughter in a few hours) has so far received around 3 million hits. Using simple mouse tracking demos he explained how Low Pass and High pass filters work. The highlight of the talk was a Granular Synthesis tool that created similar to Autechre. Amazing.

Can play well with others
Stacey Mulcahy

Having spent some time partying with Stacey this FOTB, but never heard her talk had to check this session out. Stacy is so much fun at a party and her sessions certainly are so as well. Starting off with "I don't necessarily agree with everything I say", you knew this session would be special. If you follow her Twitter feed, you'll know it's full of weird and funny links and the images in her slidedeck is just so much fun!

Working with someone a lot like a relationship. This relationship will never end, so we might as well learn to communicate with each other. According to Stacey's experience there's many problems in this communication and she made a whole series of really good points. Starting off with the basics - Designers "feel", Developers "knows". This is a major difference and cause of problems in a team.

Design is communication - not decoration, and programmers should know better than dismissing designers by saying "we'll need to skin this up". Their job is more than just that. Developers also tend to overcomplicate things when communicating with designers. Independency injection is not understandable for a designer, but if you just say "it's like plugging in the meter" or giving it what it needs, they'll get it instantly.

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Designers need programmers, but programmers certainly need designers as well. Stacey showed some of the worst examples I've ever seen of User Interfaces. This was lot's of fun and the entire room was laughing hard! Stacey also touched upon the upcoming new Adobe Catalyst and said it won't solve things by separation (code/design). Focusing on Integration would be so much better. Software generally does not solve communication issues. It's often more of a problem since it abstracts you from the communication that could have solved things.

This session was so full of good info and fun images and this was the first session I didn't see anyone sneak out of.

Connecting the dots
Mario Klingemann

Mario's talks are always popular and this year he was speaking from the main hall. Mario is a self confessed "Maths groupie" and his talk this year revolved around the ideas, patterns, beauty and universal truths to be found in Mathematics.

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In planning for the talk he spent two weeks on the beach with a stack of Mathematics books. Like many of us though he's easily distracted and after starting with geometry he very quickly ended up far far away.

Taking Islamic tiling as an initial inspiration he used some simple Actionscript to recreate the geometry. Getting into Number theory he investigated the visualisation of primes. To do this he built a series of apps to go hunting for patterns in prime numbers by applying filters and transforms to Ulam and Sacks spirals.

With Cellular Automata he took Conways classic Game of Life as a starting point, and playing with the rules of the system he built some interactive visualization tools using Flash and PixelBender that allowed him to look for patterns. The results were both beautiful and surprising.

To finish he talked about his attempts to send the Mona Lisa over Twitter. After using various encoding hacks to reduce the size he then applied some crazy bit manipulation and Vornoi diagram voodoo to hunt for the best fit image. Great stuff.

Work / Play
Seb Lee Delisle

Those who follow his blog will know that Seb has recently taken to randomly paying parking tickets. It's not clear if there was alcohol involved but the idea came to him after a particularly good FlashBelt speakers dinner. Through the wonders of Django (and Jamie Mathews) he built iwillpayyorparkingticket.com, an app that scans Twitter for the words "Parking Ticket" and allows visitors to vote on who's he should pay.

Another personal project was a 3D version of the arcade classic Lunar Lander. With a  3D engine built in about 1.5k and landscape data generated from Perlin Noise, the whole game came in under 5k. He also built a special edition with extra levels to commemorate the recent Apollo 11 landing. And just for kicks a version in HTML5.

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Sadly though, the recession has hit hard though this year. A 3D version of Pong, controlled by light and a crowd armed with glowsticks sounds awesome... until you realise the glow sticks were the size of a Twiglet. The source of the problem turned out to be a somewhat "loose" product description on eBay. An Anaglyphic 3D demo (complete with 3D glasses) proved more successful.

To finish he showed a sneak peak of the new garden area for their award winning children's microsite 'Big and Small'. The animation is very smooth, and even the custom motion editor received applause from the crowd. 

Jam Throwdown

The format for the Jam Throwdown was a big success at last years event: Six speakers, ten minutes each, and little to no warning. In the ring this years were Grant Skinner, Mario Kilngermann, Julian Dolce, Andre Michelle, Jeremy Thorpe and Joa Ebert.

Grant Skinner gave a short history of his balls. It ranged from early vector balls through to his recent experimentation in 3D. Mario Kilngermann showed a tool he had built for generating collage, by applying various filters and mappings to a source image and iterating towards the best result. Julian Dolce (deleteaso.com) showed how you use ANT to link FlexBuilder 3 and Flash.

Andre Michelle showed how you can use the Karplus Strong algorithm to generate stunningly accurate guitar noise. Jeremy Thorpe's showed some recent work for tangible interaction where he evolved a design for an accessible playground using Pelin noise and generative tools. Joa Ebert finished up by live coding a 3D audio toy from scratch in under 9 minutes 50 seconds.

Flashed Fashion
Andy McDonald

I met Andy at FOTB last year and he was this odd guy that walked around with loads of scarfs that he showed and gave out to people. Quite exotic really? I only got parts of what he was saying due to all the noise at The Old Ship that night and I thought "What's that got to do with a Flash conference?" This year, Andy returned as a FOTB speaker and now I got it.

He's now working on a PHD at Centre for Advanced Textiles (CAT) at the Glasgow School of Art and his focus is on using textile printers to create new things. He sees textile printing as a possible solution to environmental problems since goods can be produced locally. He showed a couple Flash apps for generating textures using patterns, the process of creating a pattern using the app and then printing a real Kimono directly on linen.

Textile printing opens up new kinds of business models where the product is made locally and only when required. Think about this - if you could go into a shop, find a nice shirt/dress and then have it printed and sown right there, this is kind of going back to the roots, but there's loads of advantages as well. Andy called this model "Sell before making" and it has loads of benefits: no storage, transportation, discounts, shoplifting, counterfeiting, low rent (less storage), better cash flow (less "shelve-warmers") and last but not least - you have an infinite stock of any model.

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The next showcase was a kiosk that offered in-store textile customization. This was done for Beasties LAB using WiiFlash and RFID chips woven into textiles. By dragging the textile you wanted to use across a sensor, you'd start the design process. Using a Flash interface with drag and drop, Andy designed a pillow live on stage and could order it right away. He had a workflow that produced XML that could then be opened in Adobe Illustrator and used to generate the a professional AI file. The illustrator file was then printed, the product sown and shipped. He brought a sample with him and it looked really good.

Andy's process is all tied together with the ExtendScript toolkit that can automate most of the CS4 tools. He had gotten some help from Dr Woohoo getting this up and running. Next he showed an app for designing a custom FOTB laptop bag. He gave the bag away to one of the lucky attendees and noted that it was sown by himself and that one of the seams was a little crappy :)

Andy was kind of unlucky - steady stream of ppl leaving. He could certainly have wrapped the presentation better to prevent this, but it was interesting stuff altogether. I have a feeling that artists like Joshua Davis would have enjoyed this session as well as anyone interested in creating physical output from artwork in Flash.

Research Realtime graphics with Flash 10
Ralph Hauwert

I've never seen Ralph this nervous before a session and the reason was simple. He had an accident some weeks ago where he lost all the content he was going to present and just to make things worse, he was also a little sick. Despite this and thanks to some Adobe sponsored Aspirin, he kicked off in classic style. Ralph started out by talking about how he had gotten to where he now was, from the Commodore 64, to the Amiga and on to PCs. He then went on to a series of tips and tricks such as the ArcBall way to apply rotation to 3D objects. He talked about inspiration and mentioned Tom Beddard's SubBlue.com - well worth checking out!

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A constant source of fun was that to be able to run his examples, he had created a Flash based application. Once in a while, he'd forget himself and close this and he had to find his way back to the slide he left off on - a source to much fun throughout the presentation (Maybe add a lastSlide SharedObject? :). Every new platform is a new challenge, but it had occurred to him that many things were repeating and he wanted to take this further. His income comes from Flash, but he now explores other technologies such as Open Frameworks (OF) to do things Flash cannot. After playing with 3D in OF, Ralph wanted to take this to Flash and after a lot of experimenting, he came up with the Waterball demo we got to see in the Keynote day 1. Great insight into this process! He also showed several demos using Per vertex Normals that offers very interesting shading. One demo was a 13000 polygon head and the other was a 16000 polygon moose rendering at wild speeds with beautiful shading! I've simply never seen such quailty Flash 3D!

"Flash is like a box of crayons to me" Ralph said. It's this really great tool to create things and making tools for others to express themselves is what he wants to focus on from now on. Over the years he's worked on many 3D engines and not all have been released to the public (Papervision3D, Tiny3D, Mini3D, PapervisionX, Triangle3D). He has joined the Rhonda team, working on the artistic 3D drawing software created by Amit Pitaru and James Paterson. He said he'll take this further with other projects and then put on a slide that shocked a lot of people - he's quit the Papervision team.

He still has the Papervision X source and he might pass the code on to the Papervision Team for them to extend and publish. As the core developer this will certainly have somesome impact on Papervision3D. What impact this will be, only time will tell but we fully see Ralph's decition - there was even some idiot that called him up at night one day and insisted he'd get the Papervision X source and the pressure must have been enormous. He'll continue to do commercial grade 3D in Flash but he will now focus on personal projects and he finished off showing some amazing work done for the Anne Frank Foundation. It's easily the richest realtime 3D environments I've ever seen done in Flash - all based on a custom 3D engine he's written.

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Space
Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis is one of the pioneers of the Flash community. He was one of the first to open source his code and helped shape the maker/sharer culture we all now take for granted. Although much of the work was probably familiar to attendees he's a natural storyteller with an infectious high energy and a great finish to the conference.

The topic for this session was 'Space' but there didn't seem to be much reference to it after the first few minutes. Instead it was largely a retrospective, and like many of the inspirational talks this year it was peppered with anecdotes. His observation that "You can't innovate unless you fuck around." proved very popular on Twitter.

He talked about the iterative and branching process used to create his art, and how he works to make contained generative systems. It doesn't often get mentioned but he has a great eye for colour and it's often this that elevates the work from being just generative noise.

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This will be one of his last speaking engagements for the next few years. He announced he's taking some time out to consider his direction and give himself some space. Maybe the title was significant after all.

 

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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Comments


Posted by daviddoull on 09/28 at 12:16 PM

Hi,
just wanted to let you guys know how much I’ve enjoyed reading your coverage of FOTB.
I’m about as far from Brighton as you can get - in Adelaide, Australia, but really felt the excitement of the conference through your articles.
Keep up the good work.

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