Being a little slow of the mark with my promotion this time around (apologies Shawn!) i thought it would be a good idea to do something of a write-up for the recent FITC Toronto conference by way of compensation. As this was my second time presenting Simulating the Real, i actually had a chance to see some of the other presentations and take in a bit of conference atmosphere in place of the usual mad rush to finish slides.
The conference venue itself was a divvied-up nightclub with a rabbit-warren of corridors and rooms and some fairly impressive looking murals & decor on the walls. It did feel quite cocooned from the outside world, which was no bad thing considering the outside world for the duration of the conference decided to do a very good impression of a typical British summer. The slightly gaudy surroundings if anything added to the feeling of detachment, and once inside the WiFi did its bit to assist with a sporadic connection speed. But in many ways this didn’t really matter, and I was more than cheered up by the goodies we got on arrival which included a selection of sweets you could actually eat! I can’t remember the last time I had a candy necklace…
As a kick-off to the event, we were treated to the now legendary MK12 opening titles sequence, which used a 50′s drive-in theater style to get across some kind of unholy underlying pop-corn themed blood-lust. Well that was my interpretation anyway – make you own judgment below.
(note to vimeo – stop making your movie player so hard to embed in wordpress blogs!)
The first presentation i saw was Veronique Brossier’s Video Tapestry – the application of which i had first witnessed at Adobe Max last year. It focuses on the idea that a video timeline control can take on key images of the points in the film they represent, and i really hope we end up seeing this in some sort of Adobe component in future as the resulting application provides a much more intuitive navigation method than traditional controls. Rather than sticking to a standard film-strip of screenshots, the tapestry approach allows blending between images to create a seamless transition between scenes, adding to the overall appeal. Another trick is to allow for realtime temporal zooming, which looks frankly amazing the first time you see it. Veronique is author of the recently published book Developing Android Applications with Adobe AIR, and the finale in her talk was a demonstration of the video tapestry application running seamlessly in AIR on a Samsung Galaxy Tab. You can view more on the Video Tapestry effect by watching this Adobe Labs Video that summarises the key ingredients of the technology.
Next was the Adobe Keynote, which this year has been uploaded to Adobe TV and can be veiwed in its entirety here. Things kicked off with David Wadhwani talking about Flash’s past & present covering fairly run-of-the-mill ground (ie. Flash has gone from animation tool to Enterprise runtime application etc etc). All the usual culprits such as video and games-based Flash applications were present, but it felt that at least some of the more wild claims were for effect more than accuracy (I think the quote “Flash has inspired web standards” is a little overstepping the mark frankly!) and possibly only done to dig one in the ribs of HTML5 advocates. While it is no doubt that Flash has been a trailblazer in many areas of the web, Adobe could potentially do with a more introspective look at Flash’s past glories… but what do i know.
After some cool hardware-accelerated demos showing Flash video playing seamlessly in 1080p first on the desktop and then on a Blackberry Playbook hooked up to a Hi-def TV (!), David then handed over to Richard Galvan with some new features in Flash Pro for publishing to mobile, Deepa Subramaniam with some suspiciously FDT-looking new features in Flash Builder (templates, anyone?), and finally Lee Brimelow talking about Molehill. Of course, i have to mention the 3D demo that Lee showcased (after declaring Away3D “A solid 3D engine with an easy to learn API” – Thanx Lee!) – the molehill-enabled game Delta Strike courtesy of our friends at Pro3games, running with the latest Away3D 4.0 alpha codebase. If you have the incubator build of Flash 11 installed on your machine, you can check out the demo for yourself here.
The following day, my presentation was unfortunately the main distraction of the morning, complemented by some hurried last minute changes to get a selection of fur demos into the talk after seeing the state of the walls in my room. These were a recent set of experiments produced by one of our core team members Greg Caldwell, and you can find an online preview here. The effects shown was first pioneered by a PS2 game Shadow of the Colossus, and it is interesting to think that soon over 90% of web users will have a PS2-like 3D engine at their disposal, courtesy of the Flash 11 Molehill API. I will be posting an online version of my presentation slides hopefully within the next week for anyone who is interested in actually following the Shallow Water Equation walkthrough to its conclusion – its not for everyone and i feel now that if I’d honestly given it the time it deserved we’d have all been there for another hour! At least the ridiculously complex-looking final equation got a laugh, even if i didn’t complete what I’d set out to do.
As a nice way to wind down after a frenetic morning, I got a chance to catch Tali Krakowsky and Branden Hall’s Bloom talk, which fittingly featured a series of hippy-trippy animated mural installations. Branden seems to make a habit of creating design tools with which animators and artists can create beautiful interactive pieces, and the Bloom project appeared to be no different – aside from the setting, which in this case turned out to be huge billboards in LA Plaza. From that to the contrastingly sterile world of lightcycles and blue skintight suits, TRON GFX by Bradley Munkowitz provided an incredible insight into the process behind film effects production. I have to say I’m a sucker for any kind of ‘behind the scenes’ retrospective of a film, but there were some great moments in Bradley’s pres that provided more than just a glimpse of the creative thought process behind certain scenes – in particular the ‘ISO brain-surgery’ scene where Jeff Bridges does his obligatory stoner impression.
The final day started a little slow for me as i had some catching up to do at work, but I managed to make it down to see Lee Brimelow’s Don’t Hate the Player – a snapshot of what is currently being done across platforms with the Flash Player, and where things are going. There are some truly exciting times ahead with the whole approach Adobe is taking to multiscreening, and i sincerely hope they continue down this path as one of the most positive outcomes we can expect for the Flash Platform in the short term is in its cross-platform gaming potential. Lee demoed several nicely done Flash games on Android and iOS platforms, as well as yet another Away3D demo – this time the preview from the Jiglibflash team of their implementation of the Bullet physics engine in Molehill. Expect to hear more on that in the coming weeks…
I also got a chance to drop in on Seb’s What the Flux talk, in which he goes through the various reasons why Flash hasn’t always had the best press in the web world, and how the anti-Flash brigade have some valid points on how the web is evolving. Its a difficult subject to get across, certainly, but Seb’s dry-witted performance gives the whole thing an energy beyond its subject matter, while keeping to the main points of the talk – a general consensus that Flash is not the last word in web development! The pre-recorded interviews were especially great (although Jer Thorp looked like he was wrapped inside a bin liner for some reason) and the ‘Flashy Fortunes’ gameshow played out halfway through the session is an inspired piece – one that gets the relevant information across in a truly engaging way. I think if Seb ever gets tired of the world of web, he has another career as a gameshow host waiting in the wings…
Overall, the FITC hometown experience was a pretty interesting affair – a huge crowd of eager creatives and a collection of great speakers made it pretty special, and it was great to see everyone involved once more. Cheers to Shawn and Lisa for the show & hospitality, cheers to Adobe for buying us Gyros (with chips!), cheers to the other speakers for being awesome, and cheers to the attendees for making me feel so welcome! Reboot next year