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Flash Forward - Day 3



07/09/05, 03:22 PM

Sorry for the slight delay in this post, it's been a long, Flash-filled week. Same deal as yesterday with multiple seminars I wanted to attend at the same time, so for the ones I missed, I'll post some of the info included in the conference workbook.

Making Things Walk: Inverse Kinematics
Keith Peters, BIT-101

OK I'll admit it. Although I considered attending this session, the desire to catch an extra hour of sleep got the best of me and I missed it. As much as I'd like to learn programming kinematics in Flash, I don't see myself having much time to make use of it in the near future. However, I will say that the notes included in the conference workbook are very detailed. Luckily, Keith is writing a book on animation, with topics ranging from the basics to advanced motion based on physics and simulating 3D. I'm sure the book will include even more detail than his notes he provided for the conference, so we'll all have to buy it when it is released in August.

Flash Community: Perpetual Virtual Jam Session
Aral Balkan, Mike Chambers, Branden Hall, Peter Hall, Grant Skinner, Guy Watson, Christoph Wiese

For this seminar, each person discussed how they got to be where they are, and then took questions from the audience. The common theme seemed to be the "Flash community," with all speakers acknowledging that it was/is their involvement in the Flash community that enabled them to become as popular and successful as they are today.

One person asked a question about how in the world these guys can work their full time jobs, participate in the community, and still have any friends & semblance of a life. Everyone's answer was along the lines that since they have become successful, they don't have as much time to offer to the community as they once did, but they consider the time they do have to offer to be invaluable, because while they are primarily helping others, they're still learning themselves.

Hopefully, Flash Pearls is just the beginning of a long life of active involvement in the Flash community for myself.

Also, Branden made an announcement that he will be on the radio tonight from 9pm-midnight. New York listeners can tune in to WVOX 1460AM, and the rest of us can listen in at

Photoshop and Flash: Optimizing Pixels and Workflow
Michael Ninness,

This took place the same time as the Virtual Jam Session, so I did not attend, but flipping through the workbook notes I came across a few Photoshop tips I was not aware of:

  • - Bicubic Sharper: When downsampling an image (making it smaller), use the "Bicubic Sharper" option to resample the image instead of the default "Bicubic" option. I had no clue this even existed, but I am very happy to now know this because I often find myself manually sharpening images to some degree after shrinking them down. I also noticed there's a "Bicubic Smoother" option as well, which enhances image quality when increasing image size. These options were first available in Photoshop CS.
  • - Channel-Based Web Optimization: You can use a mask to increase the quality of parts of an image when exporting a JPEG using the "Save for Web" option. After creating your mask, save it, and then choose "Save for Web." Click the button next to the "Quality" slider. That will open up a box where you can select your mask from the "Channel" dropdown. Then use the black and white sliders to adjust the quality of the masked (white) and unmasked (black) areas. This option has apparently been around since Photoshop 6.0, so I've definitely missed the boat big time on this one :P

Extendng Flash within Rich Media Advertising
Dan Fradin, PointRoll

Yet another seminar offered at the same time as the Virtual Jam Session. While I could not attend, I did stop by their booth during their conference and picked up as much literature as I could on the company and spoke with one of their representatives. They offer a complete set of ad serving options for publishers and advertisers alike. For more information, visit their website.

Integrating Flash with HTML, Javascript, and AJAX
Mike Chambers, Christian Cantrell, Macromedia

Finally, we're back to a seminar I actually did attend. The primary focus of this was the Flash / JavaScript Integration Kit. Their presentation notes are available online at I'd highly recommend checking them out if you are not already familiar with the topics:

  • - AJAX and the MXNA (view the source of the page code to see how it all works)
  • - Flash / JavaScript Integration Kit
  • - Deep Linking (they didn't get a chance to discuss this, but Christian has blogged about this topic before)
  • - Implementing the View Source context menu option in Flash

One of the audience members pointed out that what they're doing with the Flash / JavaScript Integration Kit seems to be similar to JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). The existence of JSON was news to Mike (and others I'm sure, myself included), so he said he'd check it out.

I felt the most exciting news from this was that they are currently developing an AWESOME command line utility that will make the Flash "View Source" incredibly easy to implement AND it's wonderfully organized and includes a color-coded source view. To see what I'm talking about, visit the MXNA and choose "View Source" from the context menu of the chart.

While the utility is not released yet (although they hope to release it soon), they did explain how it works. You basically just put all the source files you wish to include in a directory, run the utility, and it creates all the necessary files for you to upload. For those that don't want to include all their source code, it will offer the option to not include specific files if you wish. I'll be anxiously awaiting the release of this utility and I'll be sure to post about it as soon as it is available.

Some Rights Reserved
Paula Le Dieu, Creative Commons

Basically, all you need to know from this is that you can automatically generate a Creative Commons license, and do a host of other things related to licensing, at the Creative Commons website. If you haven't taken advantage of this yet, you should. Right now. Go!

Flash Games as Advertising
Jose R. Rodriguez, JRVisuals LLC

Jose's presentation and files will be available online for the next few months, so go check them out now while you can. Here are some of the more important points from the presentation:

  • - Build your games with reusable parts. He showed us a game (with a similar concept to Chip's Challenge) that was originally created as a promotional piece to send to clients. He ended up reskinning it and modifying it for 2 clients as a result, and his original setup allowed that to be an easy process
  • - make the game simple (assume no one will read the instructions)
  • - bitmaps will run faster than vectors
  • - use as few strokes and gradients as possible to inprove performance
  • - dynamically change quality settings to increase gameplay when needed
  • - use SWF Wrapper Applications to add additional features (i.e. FTP, Screen Resolution options, and more) when creating executables from Flash SWFs
  • - Sound effects & music can greatly enhance a game, but be sure to include a mute button as well
  • - A High Score board and a "Send to a Friend" feature can help to increase the popularity of your games

For anyone looking to purchase a book on game theory, he highly recommends Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals by Eric Zimmerman.

He also showed us a preview of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game in Flash that he's developing for that looks similar to the classic TMNT adventure arcade games. Look for that to be online in the near future.

How to Get Hired

This focused on tips on how to obtain clients. R/GA has been in business since 1977 and has worked with some of the world's most high-profile clients, including Nike, Verizon, Nokia, and Target, so they were perfect presenters for this seminar. Their presentation can best be summarized by their tips for success:

  • - Know your client's business
  • - Know your client's clients
  • - Be a Flash Evangelist (by calming any fears they have about using Flash and promoting its unique and powerful abilities)
  • - Be curious and open
  • - Have enthusiasm and passion
  • - Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate (both with the client and within the office)

Overall, I'd say Flash Forward NYC 2005 was a huge success, and I hope to be in attendance again next year. There were lots of great Flash sites highlighted in peoples' presentations, which I'll be showcasing on Flash Pearls next week, so keep checking back!

For more information on Day 3 of the conference, be sure to check out Michael Raichelson's podcast.

Additional Wrap-Ups:

Flash Forward - Day 2



07/08/05, 01:05 AM

Another good day at Flash Forward. There were more presentations I wanted to check out today, which resulted in schedule conflicts. So I ended up basing which seminars/workshops I attended based on the amount of presentation notes that were included in the conference workbook. So in this post I'll also be including links to presentations I did not attend so we can all learn together.

Macromedia Keynote
Kevin Lynch, Macromedia

Nothing really newsworthy from the presentation that hasn't already been reported from previous conferences (better performance, cleaner text, new video codec, graphic effects, tabbed panels, etc.), but it was pretty cool to see the new graphic effects in action, especially the animation of the dog and its dropshadow animating with ease. There were a few things to note though:

  • - Kevin is encouraging developers to add a "View Source" and "View License" option to the context menu of our Flash movies. That concept seemed to pop up often today, usually pointing to Mike Chambers' weblog post on the technique.
  • - The 8ball Flash mobile emulator was demoed and is quite awesome. It loads in a graphic of the actual phone/pda/mobile device and the profile of the screen resolution, as well as the button functions, so you can see exactly how it will perform on that device. They also plan to release frequent updates as new devices ship with Flash Lite.

Breathing Life into Flash Graphics
Josh Ott, Freedom Interactive

For Josh's presentation, he basically ran through a bunch of techniques that he has used through the years as a Flash designer/developer/animator. I'd expect to see some of his work popping up in the Flash Pearls gallery in the future. Techniques he touched on included sliding, masking, zoom transitions, and simulated typing of text (a la Strong Bad emails).

Effective Flash Navigation
Guy Watson, FlashGuru

Seemed like a useful presentation, but there were a good deal of notes in the workbook, hence why I attended Josh Ott's presentation instead. Apparently notes/files/other useful info will be posted at his website.

Playing Nice with XHTML &Flash
Matt Richmond & Geoff Stearns, The Chopping Block

Basically, you should be using Geoff's FlashObject whenever you embed a .swf. If you're not, go learn about it now.

ActionScript 2.0: A Visual Introduction for Right-Brainers
Aral Balkan, Ariaware

I missed the beginning of Aral's presentation because I was out to lunch with Matt & Geoff from The Chopping Block (who were introduced to me by Micheal Raichelson), but I was still able to catch the majority of it. Aral did an excellent job at explaining AS2.0 as best you can in one hour. If you're lucky enough to live in his neck of the woods (somewhere in the UK), definitely check out his classes on Flash, he's a great teacher. And then, as he says, go read a couple books and you'll be an expert before you know it :p

Macromedia Town Hall Meeting
Doug Benson, Christian Cantrell, Mike Chambers, Kevin Lynch

As with the keynote speech, nothing extremely new and noteworthy to report. Questions about the Adobe's purchase of Macromedia were asked early but quickly subdued because Macromedia still cannot really comment on the situation until the whole legalness (is that a word?) of the deal gets sorted out and the 2 companies are actually working as one. They did point out that they acknowledge that many of the Abobe and Macromedia products have a strong community backing them and will do their best not to upset them. Let's hope that holds true.

A few other minor notes:

  • - The download for Flash Player 8 will be less than 1MB. Tests with a 1.5MB download have shown no major issues of user rejection to download it because of the size, so they feel a file size of less than 1MB will result in yet another quick version penetration of the Flash Player update.
  • - Meta Data in .swf's will be searchable by the Flash Search Engine SDK.
  • - There are no current plans to add a 3D rendering engine to the Flash Player. Reason being it will add significant file size to the download, and they do not see a large demand for it right now. Kevin commented that when Director added that capability, he was very excited, but it ended up not being as widely utilized as he had hoped. They did say that once they see the demand for it, they will build that feature into it. That was followed by a quick "show of hands" survey to see who wants that now, and I'd estimate about half the room felt that was the case.
  • - The only improvement to the built-in Flash components for 8ball is a new video component, which they were fairly excited about, but did not demo for us.

Veronique Brossier

This presentation took place during the Macromedia Town Hall meeting, so I did not get to check it out, but the Flash Workbook states that all notes from the presentation can be found at That link isn't live yet, but I'd expect an updated link on her homepage once it is available. From what I overheard at the Pre-Film Festival reception, it's definitely worth checking out.

Flash Film Festival Winners:

For more information on Day 2 of the conference, be sure to check out Michael Raichelson's podcast.

Additional Wrap-Ups:

Flash Forward - Day 1



07/06/05, 11:33 PM

Long first day at Flash Forward 2005 in New York City. Lots of useful information from the Flash community, which I've compiled here:

Actionscript as a Toolbox
Branden Hall

Tips for increasing performance of SWFs:
* Branden's tips, as well as Jacob Correia's (which are listed later), are based on that fact that even though Flash is vector based, for every frame it displays, it must first create a raster version of the stage before it can display it. So having no vector graphics will improve performance, but will obviously bloat the file size. So the key is to find a balance between the two.

  • - If a movie clip's _alpha is 0, set _visible to false (this prevents Flash from having to use resources to render it and then hide it)
  • - Use AS2.0 variable typing (improves your code and speeds up debugging)
  • - Do not use lexical scoping (yeah, I didn't know what that was either, and I'm still not sure I do, but this helps)
  • - When using "for" loops, do not continually evaluate a condition that will not change, i.e. instead of
    for(var i = 1; i < myArray.length; i++) {
    	// do stuff

    var myVar = myArray.length;
    for(var i = 1; i < myVar; i++) {
    	// do stuff
Tips for Flash Ads:
  • - Use local shared objects (which are like cookies for Flash, see Tech Note) to force an obtrusive Flash ad to only annoy the user once.
Additional Tips:
  • - Use external .as files for code (allows for more efficient user control and prevents disaster when an .fla is corrupted)
  • - Use "frame breaking," which is basically instead of doing a ton of stuff on one frame, run the function for x seconds on one frame, and then move to the next frame and continue the function from where you left off (see for a detailed run down on the technique)
  • - Make movieClipLoader and the Delegate class your best friends.

Google, Where's My Flash Site?
Peter Hall

Peter's presentation explained his work on Ripple, which is "is an open-source framework, whose primary objective is to make Flash content searchable by search engines." Check out the project page at to learn more.

Ripple makes use of XPath for Flash, which can be downloaded from

Game Workshop: Designing Online Flash Games
Jacob Correia & John Say from Say Design

The focus of the presentation was on Flash game development, but Jacob's tips expand to other uses of Flash. His presentation and other related files are online.

Topics in the presentation include:

  • - Choosing Frame Rate
  • - Performance and Optimization
  • - Preloaders
  • - Bitmap Smoothing
  • - JSFL (Javascript Flash)
  • - 3rd Party Flash-to-.EXE tools

Jacob also will be posting a useful Frame Rate Counter Component (provides a numeric and graphic representation of the current Frame Rate of the SWF)

Sound Ideas
Craig Swann, Crash!Media

Amazingly awesome presentation on using sound with Flash. Unforunately I didn't get a chance to speak with Craig because he had to leave immediately when his presentation ended at 5pm so he could haul ass to JFK airport to make a 7:30 flight to Barcelona for a wedding. I'm glad he kept his commitment to Flash Foward. Rather than explain here, just check out his files and presentation notes.

Then came the free (as in beer) hors d'oeuvres and alcohol. Yea for sponsors who know how to please.

For more information on Day 1 of the conference, be sure to check out Michael Raichelson's podcast.

Additional Wrap-Ups:

Optimizing SWFs



07/01/05, 04:42 PM

Luis from has compiled a set of links of best practices for optimizing your SWF files. Nothing earth shattering, but a good refresher nonetheless.

Freeroll Poker Tourney



06/22/05, 01:06 PM

Josh Dura has organized the 2005 Designer/Developer No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament. It takes place at UltimateBet on July 13th, 2005 at 9pm EST and is free to enter. For details and registration info, check out the announcement post.

Macromedia MAX 2005



06/21/05, 02:16 PM

Registration is now open for the conference, which takes place October 16-19, 2005 in Anaheim, CA. There are a large amount of seminar sessions related to Flash this year.

Register before August 26 and save $200!

Preloader Shuffle



06/16/05, 11:41 AM

Mike from Nectarine has posted a useful Flash Extension for solving the problem of creating a preloader when you have the "Export in first frame" option checked for a symbol. Your preloader won't actually display until all those elements on the first frame have loaded, which could effectively render your preloader completely useless. The Preloader Shuffle fixes this problem quickly by taking all of the symbols set to export in the first frame and placing them on the timeline in an invisible clip, either by creating a new preloader scene or adding 2 extra frames to the beginning and placing them on frame 2. A huge timesaver.

Flash/JS Integration Kit



06/14/05, 03:52 PM

Mike Chambers announced today that the Flash / JavaScript Integration Kit is being licensed under an open license (based on the Apache 1.1 Software license). The kit allows you to call functions from Flash to JavaScript and JavaScript to Flash. It supports today's most recent browsers and the passing of complex data types (Object, Array, String, Number, Boolean, Date, null, undefined). Further information is available at Macromedia and

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