I’m on the train home from 2 solid days of being inspired, amazed and baffled at Flash on the Beach in Brighton. I was very impressed with the quality of the talks and the organisation of the event. So here’s a rundown of my favourite talks.
Visualising Voice: Using the Flash Microphone for Advanced Interaction – Chuck freedman
Good start to the conference. Chuck discussed his quest to persuade Adobe to extend the microphone feature in Flash. One of his main demands is for the ability to record audio in stereo. Sign the petition and find out more at getmicrophone.com. He showed some great examples of what people are doing in this area alongside his current research which can be seen on his blog.
Cybernetic Art Revisited – Dr Woohoo!
I’m a great admirer of Dr Woohoo’s work and was looking forward to his presentation. He didn’t disappoint. Some of the work this guy is doing is truly remarkable. In addition to taking us through some of his inspirations he stunned us all with his ribbon generator which makes use of face tracking, his experiments with the ZCam (the 3D webcam used in Microsoft’s Project Natal) and much more. I don’t know where he finds the time.
Epiphany – Joel Gethin Lewis
This was right up my street. Joel introduced us to his impressive body of installation work. This included the Massive Attack sound reactive light shows, the world’s first interactive Christmas lights on Regent St and the breathtaking interactive multi-screen floor, Contact.
Joel talked about his passion for working with computer vision and his experiences using openCV in openFrameworks. I took a great deal from this this talk and it was one of my highlights of the conference.
Quick as a Flash – Grant Skinner
I struggle daily to squeeze as much fps out of Flash as I can so this talk was priceless. Not only did Grant supply a huge list of tips to optimise AS3, he has also written a class called PerformanceTest.as which makes comparing the speed of different code a simple affair.
Leaving the Sandbox – Joa Ebert
I had heard about Joa’s legendary sessions and was aware of his Actionscript prowess so I knew I was in for another great session on optimisation. I don’t think anyone in the audience was quite prepared for what he had to show us.
The guy is working on some truly intense frameworks including a plugin for eclipse that checks code for any possible optimisation and a library to manipulate and optimise ActionScript Bytecode. He also showed us his AS3 decompiler which automatically generates UML diagrams and class hierarchies. He finished off by compiling a swf from C# and then another from Java! He nonchalantly mentioned that he knocked it up in his room the day before. Wild. He was rightfully given a standing ovation.
Hacking the newsroom – Jeremy Thorp
This was a great talk on a subject that I love. Data Visualisation. Jeremy guided us through his experiments that came from toying with the New York Times API and Processing. His work was both beautiful and informative. I found it fascinating how his his visualisations would reveal trends of public thought in relation to events and periods of time.
This is very exciting stuff for me.
Contrast – Unconventional Web Applications
These guys don’t use Flash but their talk was a brilliant discussion on the importance of designing unconventional web experiences. It was an inspirational story of a new company who dared to be different.
Craig Swan – Choose your own adventure
This was just the most awe-enspiring talk and one of the best of the conference (tied with Joel). Craig took us on a personal journey explaining his philosophy and the main turning points in his life that lead him to where he is today. During this history he would discuss his research, most of which utterly blew me away.
We were introduced to the phenomena that is Cymatics, the formation of fractals and patterns from sound waves vibrating a substance.
One of the most fascinating topics he discussed was the power of intention. He played a clip from The Secret Lives of Plants that astounded me. It appeared that positive or negative thoughts were having an influence on the plants (I’m remaining fairly sceptical about this but it’s an awsome concept).
His multi-directional speaker was a truly strange experience. This is a very creepy device from which he was playing a haunting chanting sound. It seems to project this sound to wherever it was pointing. As he rotated it across the room the sound would appear to move to the different corners. He then ran it across the front row where I was sitting and the feeling of the sound travelling past us all like that sent shivers through me. Chilling stuff.
This is only my second Flash conference, the first was FITC Amsterdam last year. FITC was very well put together but from my perspective FOTB was far better both in terms of the quality of the talks and the professionalism of the setup. John Davey (the organiser) has a lot to be proud of.
I think it’s worth saying that although it can be an expensive endeavour to send away a team of actionscripters/designers to conferences such as this, it really does pay for itself in the long run. In my experience the whole team always comes back full of ideas and inspired to learn and create. As a vehicle for developing not only the team but also the business, these events should be taken very seriously indeed.