March 26, 2008

fitc toronto 08 in one month

there is just under a month left until fitc toronto, one of the Flash industry's premier events. this year I'll be talking about the new features planned for the next version of ActionScript (i.e., features in ECMAScript 4). my lecture notes are already available online.

if you are interested in attending, you can register here. (get 10% off with this discount code: moock55)

as usual, there's a great list of speakers and presentations, but I'm particularly excited to see that Adobe is sending a real, live Flash Player engineer, Jim Corbett. if you are a programmer, you definitely will not want to miss Jim's presentation: Flash Player Internals.

also, this year, multiple attendees from one company can share a single ticket (called a "flex pass" *cough*). that should definitely make the cost of attending more approachable for smaller agencies. cool stuff.

i'm definitely looking forward to the heavy dose of education and inspiration that's always found at fitc!

Posted by moock at 09:23 PM

March 24, 2008

flex builder 3 now free for students

just thought i'd help spread the word that Flex Builder 3 is now free for students and faculty of eligible educational institutions.

>> students: get your free flex builder here

(Flex Builder 3 is a code editor and visual layout tool for making Flash applications using either pure ActionScript or MXML.)

Posted by moock at 07:07 PM

March 07, 2008

New Flash Apps: Aviary, Hobnox Audio

Now that Adobe's new desktop runtime AIR has been released, the Flash industry is eagerly waiting for the first real killer AIR app. At least one potential contender comes from a company in New York called Aviary. Aviary is making a suite of graphics tools with some very interesting interactions for generating designs. German mad scientist Mario Klingeman is producing one of the tools, known as Peacock. Peacock dynamically produces patterns (output) based on input sources and a series of filters and distortions applied through an interface reminiscent of an audio mixer. Mario has a collection of results on flickr.

Though the Aviary suite is not yet public, there is a beta program now accepting applications. Mario demonstrated Peacock to me in Munich, and I can say it's definitely worth keeping an eye on. More press on Aviary below:

>> Ryan Stewart's Aviary Review (zdnet)
>> Alan Stern's Aviary Launch Impressions

Also in Germany, André Michelle and Joa Ebert are working on a sophisticated mixer/synthesizer audio tool in Flash that might find its way to AIR if Adobe ever makes some noise.

Posted by moock at 09:28 PM

March 06, 2008

XFL: Flash's New Source Format

I recently met with Flash authoring product-manager, Richard Galvan, to talk about Diesel, the next version of Flash (i.e., Flash CS4, or version 10 for those counting). Adobe has already demonstrated a bunch of high-impact features for Diesel, including inverse kinematics, a new tweening model, 3D "postcards in space", and advanced text components (see MAX 07 keynote, FOTB 07 keynote, and FITC Amsterdam 08 keynote). But Richard was keen to talk about a lesser known feature quietly percolating behind the scenes: XFL.

Richard Galvan and an XFL Document

Since its inception, the Flash authoring tool has stored documents in a binary source-file called .fla. Historically, interchanging source with the Flash authoring tool has been virtually impossible for third-party software because the specification for .fla has never been public. But things are changing in the next version of Flash. Flash CS4 will be able to export *and* import a new source format called XFL. An XFL file is a .zip file that contains the source material for a Flash document. Within the .zip file resides an XML file describing the structure of the document and a folder with the document's assets (graphics, sounds, etc). The exact details of the XFL format are not yet available, but Richard assures me that Adobe intends to document them publicly, allowing third-party tools to import and export XFL.

So in theory, you might one day edit the images of an XFL file directly in Photoshop without disturbing the timeline information also contained in that file. Or you might be able to import a page from a word processing document into a Flash presentation.

But perhaps even more exciting is the potential for the smaller, grass-roots community. Being XML-based, the new XFL format should be fairly easy to understand and generate. That means any small tool company, web agency, or even independent developer will be able to create a purpose-built authoring tool that can output XFL. Of course, the XFL file would then need to be opened in the Flash authoring tool for final .swf export. But a .jsfl script should be able to ease the workflow between an XFL-generating tool and the Flash-authoring .swf-compilation process.

The natural next step in the evolution of XFL authoring would be to take the Flash authoring tool out of the equation altogether. If Adobe were to offer a command-line XFL-to-SWF compiler along with XFL, nearly any decent programmer would be able to create a .swf-authoring tool, even in ActionScript. The Flash developer community itself would finally be able to create its own custom Flash-authoring tools. I wonder who would be the first to nostalgically make Flash 4 for AIR in ActionScript?

XFL might not have the instant appeal of inverse kinematics, but it could eventually prove to be the feature in Flash CS4 that has the greatest impact on the Flash industry. After all, its name has an "X' in it.

Posted by moock at 11:39 AM