• 5:52 am, 10th December 2006
  • events, flash
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Flash on the Beach 2006

Last week saw the first Flash conference in the UK for 6 years, and instead of a second-rate Flashforward wannabe, Flash on the Beach has been hailed as possibly the best conference of its kind.

The conference was held in a wet and windy Brighton at the impressive Brighton Dome. Mike Downy and Mike Chambers presented the keynote, commenting on Flash’s 10th birthday and the fact that 100 million portable devices now have Flash Player installed. Chambers demonstrated Apollo, Adobe‘s standalone desktop engine for Flash, HTML, JavaScript and PDF with an impressive illustration of rendering HTML content through Flash’s display stack. Apollo is an interesting proposition and will allow fast development of cross-platform standalone applications utilising well known technologies. It is slated for release some time in 2007. Downy ended with a sneak peak at the Flash 9 IDE. As more of a developer it is clear that I am being steered towards using Flex to develop ActionScript 3 applications while Flash 9 will include more for the designer with a redesigned Pen tool, Photoshop and Illustrator import and a new lightweight component set with much simplified skinning. Flash 9 will be released in summer 2007.

The conference gave a choice of three sessions as any one time and for the most part it was hard to choose between them. First up I decided to see Craig Swann talk about taking Flash outside the computer using Making Things boards, web cams, microphones and sensors. We have an opportunity to play with this stuff at work at the moment and it was great to see it used in anger. Branden Hall took presented a session on the very basics of ActionScript 3. This was a very basic session on the major difference between AS2 and AS3 and while I have only had a short experience with AS3 it helped to back up what I was already practicing. Like Branden (and all the other speakers who talked about it) I feel that As3 is hugely important to the Flash Platform. Flash finally incorporates a strongly typed, well structured language which does not make compromises in order to attempt to fit with the display architecture.

The second day saw the first of the inspirational rather than technical sessions. David Dunkley Gyimah discussed video journalism and while it was interesting with a strong go-out-and-do-it-for-yourself message, it served mainly as hour-long marketing exercise for himself and his portfolio. In a return to the technical, Joey Lott‘s session on AS3 design patterns once more underlined Flash’s move to encompass more traditional programming structure. Rich Shupe and Keith Peters both took sessions focusing on manipulating the display using ActionScript. They both aimed at the basics but served as excellent grounding in the use of some complex and powerful techniques. The last session of the day was Richard Leggett talking about Flash Lite development, something I am really interested in. Flash Lite Player 2.1 is equivalent to Flash Player 7 and is now on my Nokia N80 ready for me to write something for it. The latest version incorporates the XMLSocket class which means we could port our SMS tag cloud to it…

The last day started in style with Seb Lee-Delisle presenting a tutorial on 3D in Flash. Seb is a brilliant speaker and his session was a perfect introduction to rendering 3D objects and even touched on texture mapping. His techniques will be making an appearance on this site very soon. I recommend checking out his work on the Plug-in Media site. Genius. The last day proved to be very strong with two really inspiring sessions from Hoss Gifford and Neville Brody. Hoss managed to use the word ‘c*nt’ three times during his talk and demonstrated his orgasm interface. I could describe it but I think you just had to be there.

Overall, Flash on the Beach succeeded in serving the needs of the broad range of attendees. There was something for designers, developers, producers and artists. My only criticism of the sessions would be that they mainly targeted the basics of a subject and I would like to see some devoted to more advanced subjects. My first Flash conference was thoroughly enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the inevitable Flash on the Beach 2007.

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