Flash On The Beach 2011

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Flash on the Beach

I did not know what to expect when my name was drawn out of a hat to go to the popular flash conference based in sunny Brighton from the 11th September to the 14th September. I first thought, well I do not do any Flash work and thought of myself sitting there desperate for the time to tick by so I could go for a beer but how wrong I was. What a conference it is !

The three days was inspiring and meeting so many great and clever people including speakers and attendees was brilliant.

12th September

At first we were in the Dome during the key note with the Adobe team. During this they talked about using Adobe Edge. This is basically an effort to build HTML 5 versions of Adobe Flash applications. Whilst being exciting to see its potential, I feel that Edge needs a bit more work which I will discuss later in my blog post. Another thing that was discussed was the use of Sprite Sheets in Flash which can be exported as XML files. I could see how this would be a great addition for Flash developers.

I already knew that I wanted to see the first presentation with Greg Rewis who is a Worldwide Evangelist for Adobe Systems in the Corn Exchange. With an obvious bias towards Dreamweaver he spoke about using the program to build websites optimised for mobile and tablets as well as your run of the mill websites. I have to say I was excited as soon as I was into the first 5 minutes, this was for me! CSS3, Javascript, Jquery & HTML – this is what I do! I have also been using the program Coda for quite some time as after many years of using Dreamweaver I was becoming increasing frustrated with the load times and the amount of bloat that comes with the program.

After seeing the new 5.5 version in action at the conference I was blown away by what can be achieved in this release. I know what you are thinking, he has been taken in by the sales pitch, but this was not the case as I already had an upgrade at work but I had not got round to upgrading my copy! The thing I really love about what Dreamweaver have done is integrate JQuery with its software. JQuery is currently the most popular Javascript library on the open source market and being able to directly integrate this has real appeal, I am now able to create a website with Dreamweaver giving me the tools straight away to get going rather than me having to set them up which can be time consuming.

A great presentation and my view of FOTB had changed within the first hour of being there!

Cbeebies Horrible Histories

My next presentation was with Jon Howard to talk about making games for kids. Whilst I am not a Flash developer first and foremost, I do, and have, worked alongside them to produce games for Ice Age and Rio so this was something that I was very keen to see. At first he talked about the development stages of producing and bringing the games to fruition but the presentation really came to life when he demonstrated some games to us and he even had his own game built aimed at the conference itself. Engaging and exciting.

My third and final presentation was learning about bringing and idea to interface. This was a great presentation that aimed at giving you that kick up the bum to say “Hey, you can do this” and if your idea does not work first time, go back to it at a later date and try again. This was strengthened by the video interview with Jack Dorsey who spoke about his original idea for the (little known!?!) social networking site Twitter!

The final presentations of the day were with Han Hoogerbrugge and Jon Burgerman. Both of these guys nearly had me in tears they were so funny. Han demonstrated his work as a illustrator and animator. Strange, lively and interesting. Brilliant. His demonstration of his work on the Pet Shop Boys ‘Love’ video was fantastic.

After this Jon Burgerman spoke about his work and I have to say it gave me a completely different view about the talent of illustration and art. I work and have worked with extremely talented illustrators but I have never really appreciated illustration as much as I should have.

I am constantly asked by Kevin Young to come out for lunch and illustrate with the guys. My drawing is awful. I can do a mean Hangman but that is as far as I go! This presentation, however, made me think that maybe it would be cool and relaxing just to try it out! I might only last one lunchtime but it would be worth a try nonetheless!

After this I spent the evening in great company with both colleagues, people I have met on various training workshops and even some new faces. Spending the evening with Robert Turrall, Paul King & Vickie Rettalick drinking beers and talking geek was great!

13th September

Adobe Edge

Again I found myself in the Corn Exchange (this was to be where I would spend a majority of the two days!) and first presentation was with Adobe man Mark Anders for his talk about Adobe Edge and what can be achieved using HTML 5 to create engaging content for your websites, and also so that it can be viewing on multiple platforms without the need for plugins. Whilst Adobe Edge is an exciting tool, there are big questions regarding its compression which cannot achieve (at the moment) anywhere near to what Flash can when delivering ads and banners. This is currently a big part of what my current employer Substance require as constantly we are asked that our ads and banners are only 40K in size and whilst I am sure Adobe will be working hard to export to smaller file sizes this will be extremely difficult.

I was not going to miss the next speaker. Seb Lee Delisle who has always impressed me, not only with his enthusiasm for all things web, but also for his vast knowledge of web technologies and Even though he has been a Flash man for many years, he is never reluctant to step into learning other technologies. He always seems to be ahead of technology and todays presentation was no exception! The whole hour was about how he has been looking at using WiFi and web sockets to achieve a collaborative event. We all had to use our mobile devices to connect to a WiFi point and from then on his application was used to control all of the devices. This was achieved by assigning ids which allowed the application to use a wide angle lens to see where each device was placed in the room. After Seb got all the devices recognised through the application he was able to get the crowd to play a game which involve trying to tap a cat running from device to device! It was extremely good fun but also very clever and innovating.

The Expressive Web

Mike Chambers talked about the development stages of the CSS3 heavy website The Expressive Web. He talked about the deployment practices that went in to such a large scale site and I have to say the site is so impressive rendering CSS3 and Javascript to produce such beautiful cubic effects.

The next hour was a long awaited session with the Javascript guru Remy Sharp. I had always wanted to see Remy speak after being such a fan of his work using Jquery and was not disappointed. Remy spoke about the video tag in HTML 5 and how a video can fall back on video codecs to support a different type of environment without the use of plugins. He also spoke about the issues surrounding full screen capabilities. I very much enjoyed also learning about web sockets. He also spoke about how ActionScript can be ported directly over to HTML 5 and I am sure pleased Flash developers with his insistence that they can easily transfer their skills to HTML 5. Excellent stuff.

14th September

The third and final day involved seeing 20 speakers in 1 hour. Yes I did say 20 speakers in 1 hour!?! Each speaker had 3 minutes to each to talk about their chosen topic. Every single speaker did extremely well and spoke about some very interesting topics from code reviews to augmented reality!

Keith Peters talk on building tools to automate development for which I can relate was also very good. I have built my own tools including an internal program in our office that tracks employee’s work time and also a program that builds my PHP classes and code base just by pointing it to a set of mysql database tables so I could see the importance of this presentation.

I then went into the Pavillion Theatre to see Paulo Fierro talk about his development of iPhone applications. His talk about developing and releasing an application through the app store was fantastic. He talked through his development of a Boris Bikes iPhone application for the Norwegian market and discussed the pit falls and also the excitement generated from building the application. Truly inspirational stuff and something that I would really love to look at, even if not from an Objective C application then from a html 5 website standpoint.

Jared Ficklin who builds physical solutions for technology. His inventions were incredible and whilst I am not totally into the physical development side of technology, Jared’s enthusiasm and expertise was fantastic. He even taught us something about Mustaches !

The video below shows Jared in action with his Smoke Vortex Cannon!

Overall I really enjoyed Flash on the Beach and I would recommend it to all designers and developers. The speakers talk with great enthusiasm and you cannot help but go away being totally inspired by everything you learn from the event.

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