I attended FlashCamp this weekend (except Sunday) at Adobe’s San Francisco offices. It was really cool of Adobe to create a free event filled with tons of goodies, great food (including free beer), free massages(!) and even free licenses for Flash CS4! I admit I think I ate too many cookies and rice krispie treats… I couldn’t resist. (FYI Gordon Biersch’s Marzen lager doesn’t go very well with rice krispie treats.)
Everyone seemed to have a great time. It was a nice mix of people; I thought I’d feel very out-of-my-league, but there were all kinds of people there, including regular Joes like me, many designer/developer industry-types, and lots of Adobe peeps, including key members of the Flash authoring and Flash Player product teams. Even ran into Geoff from SWFObject/YouTube. Kudos to Dom Sagolla for putting it all together; apparently they whipped the whole thing together in about 2 weeks, which is pretty amazing considering the turnout and number of goodies provided.
As for Flash CS4 (aka Flash Professional 10), it definitely has some major enhancements worth checking out. Most of the advancements are designer-oriented (as opposed to coder/developer-oriented), but they touch on AS3, too. I didn’t take notes and can’t tell you about every new feature (I doubt I heard about all of them), but here are my favorites based on what I saw in the live demos: the Bones tool (WAY cool), the changes to working with tweening in the timeline (also WAY cool and a huge improvement), and most importantly (and probably most controversial or overlooked): the CS4 interface itself. It takes a while to get used to, but I really like it, especially on a Mac. I wasn’t enjoying all those floating windows in earlier versions of Flash Professional… I prefer docked panels like those available in CS4. (I believe docking can be toggled off if you don’t like it.)
Flash Player 10 was also demoed, and it looks good, except for a few security changes that make great sense but may also break sites (again).
We were told Flash CS4 would be shipping very soon (a week maybe?); I assume they’ll have demo versions online around that time. I strongly suggest downloading it and trying it out, it’s pretty cool.
Oh, one thing that hasn’t changed: the ActionScript editor. Still bare-bones with no new features that I know of.
Most telling part of the experience? Dom was trying to partner up people for the hackathon projects. One particular guy was interested in working with Flash Lite (used for mobile devices) and was looking for people to work with. Dom asked the crowd — probably over 100 people — if anyone in the house had experience with Flash Lite. Not a single person raised their hands. Mind you, people raised their hands for all kinds of other stuff, ranging from writing AS3 classes to PixelBender to Subversion to graphic design, but no Flash Lite. Hmm…
In closing I think it’s safe to say this event raised my opinion on Flash and the direction(s) Adobe is heading with it. When you read blog entries or news articles about Flash, it really doesn’t give you a great sense of what’s going on, but when you hear from the employees themselves, things are much more exciting than I realized, and it sounds like some pretty interesting (and still undisclosed) features are in the works for Flash 11 (or CS5, whatever they choose to call it).
I’ve played a lot with Flash Lite in the last few months. In theory, it’s awesome — but many phones have real performance issues with even Flash Lite. Maybe this new generation of smartphones will approach the processing power needed to run small Flash apps, but anything pretty, I’ve found, needs more power.
That said — there’s a wide open space for Flash in embedded devices that even the guys who do Flash lite aren’t thinking about.
And Flash Lite doesn’t run on the all-important iPhone… yet. 😉
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