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Flash Player 10 feature: Pixel Bender

Flash Player 10 feature: Pixel Bender

Pixel Bender was formerly called Hydra and it has been shown publicly on several occasions. You can think of Hydra as a filter factory, a way to create cool effects in realtime. The trick here is to use the graphics card to do the calculations and not the processor.

Most modern machines have a powerful graphics card with dedicated chips (GPU) for pushing and manipulating pixels. The price of graphics chips have fallen the last years and the competition is fierce, enabling even inexpensive computers to have accelerated graphics. By letting the GPU do anything related to graphical effects, you'll be able to use the processor for other things. In resource-intensive Flash-games, this means that you can add richer textures at almost no extra cost. Pixel Bender is not limited to just pixels. Anything you can shove through it will be calculated at amazing speeds.

The early beginnings of Pixel Bender was revealed at the MAX conference in September 2007. Here, the Adobe Imaging Foundation (AIF) was revealed and the public release of the AIF toolkit allowing some initial experimentation. Warping images, calculating advanced math, adding effects to video and audio - all in realtime. This may seem like a dream to some developers, but it's not.  Today, we got the same effects in the Flash Player itself enabling realtime image manipulation on live video as on the image below.

 

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One limitation we heard about Pixel Bender was that it was limited to 3 channels with 8 bits of info, practically rendering it useless for things like Audio effects, so we asked Justin about this. "Pixel Bender always works with 32-bit floating point channels. No matter what data type is used with Pixel Bender, it will be converted into a 32-bit floating point and on output will be scaled back to the appropriate data size. It only appears to be 8-bit because all current examples of passing data to Pixel Bender so far have been bitmaps which use 8-bit channels." he answers, so we guess that Hobnox can really flourish now!

"We are of course curious to see what the community does with it, beyond just manipulations of pixels" says Tom Barclay of Adobe. Click here to see Pixel Bender in motion.

 

Click here to visit Adobe Labs to download and play with the new Player. This article is part of an interview with Justin Everett-Church (Flash Player product manager) and Tom Barclay (senior product marketing manager) from the Adobe Platform Business Unit.

 

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