It’s been eleven years since Steve Jobs revolutionised our back-pockets with the iPhone and dealt Flash what many thought would be a mortal blow. So why is it Flash refuses to die? The recent update of the same in-all-but-name Adobe Animate was incredible.
In banishing the humble SWF to the wilderness Steve broke something more fundamental, progress. With all the faults of the Flash player, the Flash communitiy tried new things, and challenged conventions. The conservative development community chose standards over tearing up the rule-book and in doing so may have stifled creative expression. The days of jaw dropping websites have gone.
I recently did a project for Coca-Cola, which required a dynamic flip clock to count-down to Christmas, but it involved an intricate transition involving Christmas wrapping paper tearing across the screen to reveal the dynamic element underneath. To complicate this still further, the whole scene was full of falling snow. As is often the case with Out of Home, so much of what we do is constrained by very archaic bandwidth considerations. So the only way to easily accomplish this kind of execution was to resurrect the trusty transparent FLV and create a multi-layered application using transparent video. I had to download an old version of Adobe Media Encoder CS6 because that was the last app in which Adobe included support for FLV. In the end, the project went off without a hitch although I’m still not sure how I might have accomplished this so easily in HTML.WebM didn’t seem to layer properly and .mov was just too big. So as Flash winds down, we’re left with a hole, but sadly not in our video.
If anyone out there has any tips on how I might layer-up transparent video, over a dynamic clock element in HTML5 I’d like to hear your thoughts.
As Flash has evolved over the years Adobe has continually jettisoned legacy technology. ActionScript 1 and 2, the bandwidth profiler, even projectors fell by the wayside (in CC at least). Sometimes these features re-surface in new releases, like the motion editor for example, but it seems that once the ability to target a specific Flash Player version is dropped, it remains dropped. In Flash Pro CC2014 the oldest targetable Flash Player is version 10.3.
Sadly, this has been causing me some headaches. There are still some advertising platforms out there which specifically reject anything more recent than Flash Player 10.2. This is a problem because the last time Flash supported this player was way back in Flash Professional CS5.5.
Finally, I decided enough was enough and resolved to solve this problem once and for all. Here’s how I did in.
Firstly download the playerglobal10_2.swc from Adobe’s archive
Rename it playerglobal.swc
Go to “Applications/Adobe Flash CC 2014.app”
Right-click the Adobe Flash CC 2014 application and select “Show package contents.”
Go to this folder:
/Applications/Adobe Flash CC 2014/Adobe Flash CC 2014.app/Contents/Common/Configuration/Players/ActionScript 3.0
Duplicate the directory FP10.3 and rename it FP10.2
Replace playerglobal.swc with the version you just downloaded. Remember to change the name from playerglobal10_2.swc to playerglobal.swc
Next you duplicate /Applications/Adobe Flash CC 2014/Adobe Flash CC 2014.app/Contents/Common/Configuration/Players/FlashPlayer10_3.xml and rename it FlashPlayer10_2.xml
Open FlashPlayer10_2.xml in a text editor delete everything and replace with the following:
Now relaunch Flash Pro CC 2014 and behold Flash10.2 has been added to the targetable Flash Player list.
Finally, if you want, you can delete Flash CS5.5 from your system (unless you want to run the Gaia Flash Framework for Flash – in which case your stuck with CS5.5 for a while longer.)
I’m currently going through the process of updating my Creative Cloud applications to CC 2014. I wasn’t aware that the release was even due until I received an email from Red Giant telling me that the latest update of their popular suite of After Effects plugins was fully compatible with the latest release of Adobe CC 2014 announced TODAY. Odd that. Given that I have a Creative Cloud panel, winking away in my task bar throughout the working day, Adobe appear reluctant to use it to actually promote their own products.
So I check out my CC panel and sure enough there’s a host of new software packages to update. First thing I thought I’d do was to check out After Effects’ release notes – I click the “What’s New” link under the After Effects CC 2014 icon in my Creative Cloud Panel and fire up a webpage. Hmmm. Not much to see so far. So I dig a little deeper and click “See full release notes”. At the bottom of a list of sections similar to what I’d just read I hit a tantalisingly tiny link titled “show all” and lo, a few more sections drop down, the last of which is called “Miscellaneous updates” – I can’t resist. Click! There, tucked away at the bottom, I read the following:
• You cannot export to the following formats in the 2014 version of After Effects CC. However, you can still import these file formats into After Effects.
Now that was news! No FLV export from After Effects. Adobe are killing off FLV. Surely not. They must be passing that over to Adobe Media Encoder CC 2014. So I head back to my task bar and rummage around for the necessary link in my CC panel. I arrive at a page listing various features and notice a refreshingly optimistic bullet point.
• Broad format support
Sounds good, but it didn’t have any further information. I noticed in the “Learn Media Encoder” panel a blue button labelled “LEARN NOW”. Half expecting a broken link, I chanced my arm and hit my mouse button. I arrived at fresh page, headed by a thumbnail and the line: “New features summary (2014)” CLICK! I arrived at a page containing the following:
Removal of FLV and F4V export formats
Starting with the June 2014 release, Adobe Media Encoder will not include Flash export capabilities, and thus you will not be able to export projects to FLV or F4V formats.
You can use previous versions of Adobe Media Encoder if you want to export to FLV and F4V formats.
You can however still import FLV and F4V files into Adobe Media Encoder.
Well, that settles it. Adobe are killing off the FLV, they’ve buried it away in the small print, but the world’s most ubiquitous video format is no more. At least as far as Adobe are concerned.
The meaning of this? Search me! Admittedly, Flash is dead on the desktop, but it’s very much alive off-line. Digital signage, touchscreen kiosks, even app development using Adobe Air. It’s not unusual especially in quite locked down or content managed situations to be asked to embed small videos on Flash’s timeline. Not anymore though. Only FLVs can be embedded on the timeline.
I’m particularly lamenting the demise of the embedded cue point. Although other formats may offer superior compression, they don’t support cue points!
I guess there are a million online utilities and applications available to help me convert video to FLV if I really need to. YouTube for instance, but it does beggar belief that Adobe should stop supporting such a widely used format without even a hint of a press release. Unless…
Since Adobe switched to the cloud as a means of distributing products, an interesting thing has happened. Software pirates can’t be arsed updating their cracks and warez along with Adobe’s regular releases. Effectively making it very difficult for people to maintain the latest version of software illegally. There have been a couple of really significant features released recently that weren’t saved for a full version release but were instead pushed out through an automatic Creative Cloud update. For example:
Illustrator – Rounded corner editing – very cool feature.
Edge Animate – JS code embedding, Audio support
Flash – Mobile Device Packaging
Scanning through the various feature updates released across the platform today, either Adobe are out of ideas or are releasing as few new features as possible with full version releases of software, in an attempt to foil pirates and more regularly push exciting new product features directly to their customers via the CC panel.
Adobe certainly have a history of dropping features only to re-instate them further down the line. Remember animated gif support being dropped from Photoshop? Outrageous! What about Flash’s Motion Tween Panel and Projector export, both dropped recently – both reinstated in CC 2014.
Either way, I can’t help but feel annoyed. I remember looking forward to software releases. Nowadays I dread them, I could lose as much as I gain.
Talk of the Devil! A little red notification panel just winked up in the top right corner of my monitor. Apparently I have eight software updates to make in order to get my Adobe products up-to-date. Must dash!
This Medea Award nominated learning application, was designed to help the hard of hearing gain access to the broadcasting profession. It allows the potential applicant to practice their English language skills within a mock-broadcasting environment. The application uses hundreds of videos in multiple languages to guide the student through a variety of tasks and tests. From arriving at the office, ringing the doorbell and loggin in the your virtual desktop computer the visitor is immersed in a virtual world, where they experience first hand the demands of working within a busy production department. Involvment: A fourteen month development cycle, from initial concepts, information architecture, Flash design, AS3 development using the Gaia Framework, XML, PHP and MySQL. User account management and version testing.
Sometimes I think we threw the baby out with the bathwater. An animation that weighs in at less than 100KB in Flash, currently weighs in at around 8MB in Processing. Admittedly it's made using pngs rather than vectors but that does seem a little huge. I used 122 pngs to make the animation above, in Processing. It turns out that each frame in the Podman animation weighs in at around 20KB, work it out for yourself, that's pretty huge. So I had a look at how I could compress the pngs to their smallest possible size. I turned to the two big hitters Photoshop and Fireworks but they have next to no PNG24 compression control. If my Podman is to have a nice fluffy drop shadow and a soft edge, I needed the semi-transparency available in the PNG24 format, with some extra control over the compression. PNG24 is billed as a lossless format, meaning it doesn't throw away any information, it just tries to compress the file, with no data loss. I remembered dealing with IE6 and it's buggy handling of transparent pngs. I stumbled upon a tool called ImageAlpha written by a clever bloke called Kornel Lesi?ski. This brilliant free application adds a whole suite of extra compression options to those that ship with Photoshop and Fireworks. You can specify the number of colours, choose from range of compression algorithms, toggle dither and specifically ensure that the exported image is IE6 compatible. Pretty amazing if you ask me. Why these features aren't in either of Adobe's products is beyond me.
Although I was well on my way to success. My woes weren't over yet. I had 122 pngs to re-export and ImageAlpha, doesn't seem to support batch processing of multiple files. After consulting the ImageAlpha website I stumbled across this tantalising statement:
ImageAlpha is mostly based on pngquant. You'll find compiled pngquant executable in ImageAlpha.app/Contents/Resources directory."
This was music to my ears. After visiting the GitHub link, I realised that png heaven was close.
Follow these steps.
1) Do a test export of a .png using the ImageAlpha application. Make a note of the number of colours etc.
2) Select the ImageAlpha application in the Applications directory, right click / ctrl+click the application icon and select "Show Package Contents".
3) In the "Resources" directory you will find a magical executable file called "pngquant" the path to this files will be something like: "/Applications/ImageAlpha.app/Contents/Resources/pngquant" right click / ctrl+click and select "Get Info" to be sure. You will find the path under the "General" drop down arrow. Copy down the path, including the name of the application itself "pngquant".
4) Open Terminal.
5) Paste in the path to "pngquant" adding "-h" immediately afterwards, in my case it looked like this:
This will print out some information onto your Terminal window. It's actually a set of instructions on how to use pngquant, and to perform the batch processing of our 122 pngs.
This is the most useful part of what gets printed out on the Terminal window.
usage: pngquant [options] [ncolors] [pngfile [pngfile ...]]
--force overwrite existing output files (synonym: -f)
--nofs disable Floyd-Steinberg dithering
--ext new.png set custom suffix/extension for output filename
--speed N speed/quality trade-off. 1=slow, 3=default, 10=fast & rough
--quality min-max don't save below min, use less colors below max (0-100)
--verbose print status messages (synonym: -v)
--iebug increase opacity to work around Internet Explorer 6 bug
--transbug transparent color will be placed at the end of the palette
I know it looks complex, displayed there on a spooky Terminal window, but it's really simple honest. Each one of these options is an instruction, that gets sent to "pngquant"
6) Finally I constructed the following line to complete my task: /Applications/ImageAlpha.app/Contents/Resources/pngquant --nofs --iebug 64 Documents/Processing/Podland/Podland/test/*.png
it breaks down as follows:
[Path to "pngquant"] [--nofs = no dithering] [--iebug = fix the ie bug] [number of colours] [path to my directory ending in the wildcard "/*.png" to process all images ending with the ".png" extension at this location]
7) Hit return.
8) Check out your directory and enjoy your freshly exported images.
NOTE: My animation is still 1MB though. Next stop: SVG.
I’ve been fiddling around with Processing for a couple of months. It’s quite honestly the most excited I’ve been about any technology since ActionScript arrived in Flash 5. Here’s a little embedding experiment using Keyvan Minoukadeh’s excellent Processing JS plugin for WordPress. Make sure your get the right one!
These are the first, rather rubbish, Processing Sketches I ever wrote; saved here for posterity and encouraging me to pull my finger out and post the recent stuff, when it’s finished.
I went to boarding school between the age of eleven and thirteen. Although essentially a comprehensive school with a tagged-on boarding house in the car park, it held onto many of the old grammar school traditions, including a culture in which prefects would mete out time-consuming punishments for minor misdemeanours. For example: for drawing comics when I should have been doing homework, I was instructed to describe in not less than 1,000 words: “WHITE“, thus preventing me from finishing either my comic or my homework. It is with some surprise that I find myself, half a lifetime later, sitting down to write the 2013 version. The title may be a little different, but it is essentially the same subject. “WHITE“, or to be more specific, the fear of it.
Do you ever feel afraid of the white page, the blank canvas or the empty Photoshop™ document? A lot of people do. There’s even a word for it: vacansopapurosophobia. It’s a common complaint among creatives, similar to writers’ block. It is the inability to get the ball rolling, a crippling lack of confidence at the outset of a project or a sense that anything you try, will fail. Where do I start? How do I start? Should I bother starting at all?
All of us struggle with a sense of worth. Is it the fear of failure that makes us feel uneasy or, as Franklin D Roosevelt said, fear itself? Perhaps those who manifest these feelings into a pathological fear of the colour white may be extreme cases, but ultimately their fear is no more irrational than the fear of failure.
The psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” proposed that human desire can be divided into a hierarchy of needs. Maslow argued that once we have achieved the baser needs and desires of life, we strive to achieve a state of self-actualisation; the psychical manifestation of all our potential. Effectively the metamorphosis from what is possible, to what is.
Maslow placed “self-actualisation” at the pinnacle of his pyramid. His critics point out that the penniless painter, slapping paint onto canvas, may be pre-occupied with self-actualisation above all else. The tortured artist may forgo food and drink to buy the paint he needs or more blank canvases.
“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh’s coping strategy appears to have been immediate eradication of the offending blank canvas. Anyone who has watched children play will recognise this technique. The first thing a child does when settling down to play is to empty their toy box all over the floor.
The child revels in choice. They instinctively recognise the importance of inspirational resources. A pile of toys is like a pile of ideas. Unrelated and disparate thoughts, building blocks to be assembled into a meaningful pattern. They do not start with nothing, they organise the chaos.
“The blankness of a new page never fails to intrigue and terrify me. Sometimes, in fact, I think my habit of writing on long yellow sheets comes from an atavistic fear of the writer’s stereotypic “blank white page.” At least when I begin writing, my page isn’t utterly blank; at least it has a wash of color on it, even if the absence of words must finally be faced on a yellow sheet as truly as on a blank white one. Well, we all have our own ways of whistling in the dark.”
Memoirist Patricia Hampl, in an essay called “Memory and Imagination.”
Although many artists and writers combat this fear of the blank page by spoiling or filling the page as quickly as possible, there are a considerable number of artists who practice the exact opposite; instead of adding to the canvas, they subtract.
Hergés, the celebrated creator of Tintin, was plagued by recurring nightmares, filled with whiteness. He consulted a Swiss psychoanalyst, who advised him to give up working on Tintin. Instead, he finished Tintin in Tibet, started the year before. Hergés, actually transformed the white from his nightmares into snow, literally revealing the potential of the fear itself. Converting it into minimalist scenes, of tremendous power, with economy and clarity. We are transported to another world, a world of Hergés’ creation; something that may never have existed if the author had not struggled, and ultimately triumphed, over his fear. Hergés made a choice to continue and in so doing exorcised his phobia forever.
The blank canvas or document is a portal into another world. Potential manifest. The artist, as the creator of this world, must make choices. Every brush stroke, key press or movement makes the world more solid, for better or worse. A single brush stroke in the wrong place can subvert or transform that world. Every choice is a doorway to another reality but beware, for every door that opens an infinite number of alternate doors close.
It is said that Michelangelo stared at a single 18-foot block of marble for four months. When asked what he was doing he calmly answered ‘sto lavorando,‘ (I’m working). Three years later that block of marble was the statue of David. Michelangelo held a belief that a sculpture already exists inside every block of marble. He believed that it was the sculptor’s job to chip away the superfluous, in order to free the idea inside.
Did Michelangelo ever feel afraid during those long months spent gazing at that virgin block of marble? I’m sure he did.
‘A sculptor is chiseling a statue out of a raw stone when he is asked “What are you making? Is it Ganesh? Is it Lakshmi? Is it a man? Is it an elephant?” He replied ”I do not know; there is already a statue inside and I am only removing the extraneous material. It will come out on its own!”’
You could describe the coping strategies of Michelangelo and Hergés as ‘subtractive’. Their creative process sets about revealing the idea by subtracting the extraneous white space.
Alternatively, Van Gogh adopts an ‘additive” approach by slapping on the paint, as carelessly as possible in order to avoid confronting the blank canvas at all.
Whether we choose to embrace or eradicate the white page, we must avoid becoming consumed by it. The blank page is a Mirror of Erised, reflecting idealised versions of our ideas back at ourselves, ultimately transfixing us into inactivity.
Ideas can be blinding and dazzling but they can also consume us. We should view them with caution; as a child peers at an eclipse through a pin-hole in a piece of card.
Yesterday I read, to my bewilderment, that England is to get a high speed rail network. What will that mean to me? Mancunian’s can revel that their journey time to London will be cut by an hour! Well, half an hour because you’ll have to get yourself to Stockport first. How much will the luxury of this extra half hour cost? A mere £33 Billion! Let’s write that in full. £33,000,000,000!
According to the The Independent on Monday 28 January 2013, the tickets will cost us as much as £1,000. Other sources suggest that ministers have ruled out price hikes but given that it currently costs around £441 for a First Class Open Return with Virgin, we can bet that it will be at least 10% more expensive. So let’s recap. For an investment of £33 Billion and a 10-50% increase on ticket prices, we will get a half hour reduction in our journey time.
How long do we have to wait for this boon? What’s that? Twenty years!
As a self employed digital designer who works for clients all over the country, you might expect me to do a great deal of travelling? Actually, about 80% of the work I do is from my office. Mostly, my clients are happy using Skype and Video conferencing technology to manage projects remotely. Thanks to these technologies I can demo projects, make presentations, exchange documents and enjoy instant connectivity with remote colleagues without ever having to leave my chair. We only have to glance at the products emerging from the audio visual technology sectors to realise that these new channels of communication will play a big part in the future of commerce. Huge online gaming communities already exist and what’s more, our children are already engaging with them. As the internet and wireless networks continue to improve and the attitude of the general population towards technology continue to mature, the shape of our companies will evolve too. Why would a business suffer the overhead of a large premises when they could downsize and manage a high percentage of their staff remotely? We accept that the high street will have to evolve quickly to survive, why not business too? In a world where the consumer can scan a barcode with their iPhone and instantly purchase the item at the cheapest possible price, the high street must change. In a world where an HD video conferencing wall, could potentially double the size of a boardroom table and connect you to any member of staff anywhere in the world instantaneously, business will have to adapt too.
Of course physical collaboration will still need to happen, especially in manufacturing, but as technology and video conferencing suites become cheaper and a greater part of our lives is spent within these virtual environments, it will become more and more commonplace to conduct our business online.
Environmentally, as the price of fuel climbs the pressure to work remotely will increase too. As the cost of running cars will make it more expensive to travel, the radius we will be prepared to commute will contract.
If you think I’m beginning to sound like Arthur C. Clarke, can I remind you that twenty years is a long time and that even politicians would point out that investment in bringing high speed broadband to rural communities is part of this reality; although personally I think an improved wireless network infrastructure, would have been an investment in the future.
Maybe I’m just cynical but I continue to note with interest how little IT or computer studies is being mentioned in the current debate raging over the English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs) being introduced to replace GSCEs from 2015. Maybe a computer savvy workforce isn’t a good thing? If we all worked from home as self-employed sole-traders, what implications would that have on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs? It might make it difficult to pay for those high speed trains. You know, the shiny new trains, the ones with nobody on them.
I recently took up the Google Chrome challenge and ditched Safari to see if the habit took. Sure enough I’m loving Chrome, although I noticed that some sites displayed type incorrectly. Replacing fonts with peculiar glyphs and generally screwing up.
I checked the sites in Safari and Firefox, and the type displayed perfectly. So, what do I do?
Well, I noticed that the typeface in question was Arial, common enough. So I thought, maybe Chrome is looking in the wrong place? I use Font Explorer to manage my fonts, so I tried deactivating every Arial font on my system. Then I closed Chrome and reactivated all the Arial fonts again. Effectively re-setting the Font Explorer library entry for Arial. Guess what? It worked!
However a day later the same thing happened again. I successfully went through the same rigmarole again, but now, two weeks later, I’m beginning to ignore the display error, which is hardly ideal.
Seems a bit rubbish to me.
Here’s a picture of the offending bug. If anyone can suggest a more permanent solution I would be grateful.
After scrabbling about I finally I found a solution. It turns out that it’s actually an issue with FontExplorer X Pro. You need to make sure that it is set up to answer font requests from Chrome.
Here’s how you do it.
FONT EXPLORER X PRO > PREFERENCES > FONT REQUESTS and add Google Chrome to the list and ENABLE (or Allow) the PERMISSION.
I hope this brief post is of some use to someone out there.
These successful specialists in Information Technology and Audio Visual solutions integration were aware that in order to compete in a highly competitive market they needed to stand out from the crowd. It was felt that the existing website was too corporate to convey the exciting products and services that Vdotcom had to offer. By employing 3D renderings, video widgets and a variety of colourful elements throughout the site, we were able to transform Vdotcom’s online identity. We also implemented a content management system to enable the client to easily blog and post special offers. Involvement: Concept, Design, Cinema 4D, After Effects, Flash, HTML5, Perch CMS.