But then I noticed that YouTube engineer Geoff Stearns (a friend who you may know as the original creator of swfobject) tweeted that they had actually wanted to use HTML5 video but the YouTube HTML5 video player wasn’t ready yet.
HTML5 or Flash video?
For online video, there are often personal and political reasons (some valid, some less so) to use HTML5 video rather than Flash. But I’m thinking that Google would probably rather show off the video capabilities of their Chrome browser, and fall back to Flash.
But I didn’t want this post to be all about video, which I covered in more detail in my What the Flux!? talk. I wanted to talk about something that Flash was made for. Something that it’s really, really good at. And something that it seems to be almost forgotten:
Flash is an amazing tool for producing light-weight animated vector graphics.
The John Lennon video is actually a line drawn animation. In other words, it’s the perfect use case for a Flash swf. For all I know, it may even have originally been made in Flash. And I’ve seen many examples of Flash animation rendered to video. The utterly charming Simon’s Cat films were all created by Simon Tofield in Flash. But I have never ever seen a single one of them delivered on the web in swf format. They’ve all been videos.
Is it really the situation now where an animation ideally suited to the swf vector format is better delivered as a heavy-weight rasterised video?
Vectors or video?
If that’s true then that’s a shame. I love animated vector graphics and it’s what Flash was built on. A few years ago we’d see groundbreaking vector animation from the likes of biteycastle, but now there’s a trend for pixel graphics, particularly in games. I love the indie Flash games community but I would like to see more vector art. And many “rich” internet experiences seem to be made with bitmaps and videos.
If you want to make content for mobile FlashPlayer (or iPhone packager/AIR for Android), even Adobe themselves recommend that you use bitmaps, or at least make good use of the cacheAsBitmap technique.
We still need a vector animation tool
Don’t get me wrong, bitmap graphics have their place, but isn’t there still the need for a tool that allows you to create beautiful hand crafted vector animation? And not just one that can only deploy to the Flash platform, but one that can produce animations in a format that can be played back in many ways. And I don’t just mean HTML5 and SVG.
Ah yes! SVG! There’s a blast from the past. Just when we thought it was dead and gone, SVG could again be a serious option for vector graphics. The only browser that didn’t support it was MSIE, which in typical fashion, has been ruining the fun for years. However, IE9 supports SVG with hardware acceleration so it’s becoming a realistic option, especially if you use a library like Raphael.js (which reverts back to VML for older versions of MSIE).
But anyway, I digress. Although SVG is cool, we have few if any decent tools to build animated stuff with it. Which brings me back to Flash.
Light-weight vector graphics format
So, an export to SVG could be good. But also, I’d like to see Flash exporting to a format that we could then play back as part of our native Android or iOS application. It could even be a lighter ActionScript-less swf. Considering all the different screen sizes and resolutions that these devices have, the ability to scale up or down without any loss of quality would be really useful.
iPhone developers now need to create two sets of graphics, one for retina displays and one for the older screens. And it’s going to get even worse for Android as the market fragments into a huge variety of different screen sizes and resolutions.
But not just in mobile, what about in Windows or OSX apps? Or with art tools like Processing and openFrameworks? I would love to see a variety of native libraries that can parse Flash graphics data and render it with hardware acceleration.
Flash tool competing with Flash platform
I wouldn’t be surprised if Adobe have a few features like this up their sleeve for MAX, but do they have the guts to go as far as they could? If you could export to a format usable by native mobile apps, it would compete with AIR for Android and the iPhone packager. If you could export to HTML5 or SVG it would compete with the FlashPlayer.
It’s a slightly bizarre situation where if Adobe gave Flash (the tool) these additional export options, they would be competing with Flash (the platform).
Maybe I’m in the minority of people that love to use vector animation in their projects, but I really hope that Adobe will introduce exciting Flash export targets. Because if there is a demand for this kind of graphics, and Flash can’t target any other platforms, you can be sure that someone else will bring out a tool that can.