An Animators thoughts on Flash and the new open web

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An Animators thoughts on Flash and the new open web

As a flash designer and ActionScript developer with 12 years in flash sins flash 5 – i have chosen my direction in the field to be animation – this is what I feel I’m good at, and this is what i have been delivering in alot of differend shapes and sizes in flash, AfterEffects or 3D – either through handcrafted frame-by-frame or shape tweening animation to advanced bitmapdata pixel displacement or math based scripted motion – or even use of 3D animations both rendered or runtime..

Pardon my limited knowledge of hands-on work with HTML5 and JavaScript – i can only speak of the facts i have read, heard and know of – so please do correct me if im wrong

Alot of cool flash websites came not only from developers but also mainly from creatives being involved in the development process – way more than web designers when they deliver a Photoshop file to a web developer hoping for the best outcome across browsers and that developers mindset and animation skillset – this type of web development just doesn’t have the same kind of collaboration that we have seen in flash where designers and developers work together hands-on on the project from a-z.

– im gonna miss .swc files and as a designer and animator being able to hand over finished parts of the work, just to be plugged in… im shure its gonna be like that sometime in the future but it will most likely not be one single file – but alot of assets and snippets of code – that the developer is going to take is best shot at. and now with no filters and less effects we will have to go back to the time 5 years ago when we had to make a motion blurred version of things moving fast and add that to the kilobyte intensive stack of assets… –

Im gonna miss being able to render a cool animation in 3D or aftereffects and just drop it into flash as a transparent kilobyte optimized FLV video clip – no-sweat – correct me if Im wrong this has to be done with PNG(lossless) spritesheets and json parson now ? – json…!? im an animator – adobe did exactly what I needed as a designer – drag and drop – and it works everywhere – no sweat – they even gave me the option to sort out which clip should render with speed or performance …

so now all our transparent bitmap assets is going to be lossless 32bit transparent png’s ? gee wonder how that will explode the data sizes of tomorrows rich web sites – for thoes who dont know it. Flash converts transparent png’s to xjpeg optimized 16bit transparent images – this lowers the kilobyte size to almost nothing compared to lossless 32bit png’s with alphachannel but it also delivers improved rendering performance –  flash even removes underlying image content from the display stack automatically if they match in size to improve rendering performance, will we ever see this in javascript without having to code our own rendering optimizations – or “plugin” extra snippets of code – maybe when adobe takes the lead in tooling for javascript animators

– alot of good is gonna come out of this in the end – but for now and the near future we will still see crossbrowser hell in HTML5/JS, blue boxes and poor animations (from an Animators perspective) – so pixelperfect designers and animators are being left behind with all these opensource techs, that takes their design and animation standard 5 years back in time.

another sad thing among alot others, is that features like antialiasing text and being able to tweak the antialiasing on it is just a part of all the things that will be missed in flash among designers and animators that care about how the final rendering looks like, my bet is that we have to wait along time untill we see stuff like this in html5/css – and when we get it, it will look completely differend in each browser – so when my art director comes and tells me to tweak that font so it looks a little more crisp – wich browser should we aim for… I know art directors who would never settler for a solution where only half the audience can see the right design – but i guess the careless decision makers is ready to throw this kind of pixelperfect concern into the trash in order to reach broader audience with less detail – this is truly sad because at the end of the day these guys are the ones who turned the boat around

(remember flash has 1 rendering engine 100% what-you-see-is-what-you-get – now HTML5/JSS/CSS has 5+ different independent rendering engines for each browser that will tare unoptimized content apart)

we embrace the change – god wills it… (your god – not mine) – the true rich animation end user experience as we knew it in 2010 – is going away for a time – replaced by what i would call software in the beta stage – it will become as cool – but the next year or two will show a gap in cool animations in the browser, more than position scale and alpha animation… mostly not because of tech but also because of tooling… when the better animation minded creative people have ported to HTML5/JS/CSS – then we will see some cool results – “with limited means comes creativity in its purest form” – but my bet is that if we need to use 32bit alpha png spritesheets with all crafted animations we are going into an era of long preloading times

what about 2010’s- big hype that was all over the news as being “new tech” – “Augmented Reality” – it had wow factor – but now the tech behind is being flamed by the masses – (last i heard no webcam support in html5 yet)

as i see it… It is opensource new tech, developed by the people for the people – its not quiet ready to completely replace all that is requested from flash – but the people wants it – and they want it NOW! …

admit it… all you tech guys wants this change now really really hard – maybe abit too hard ?

its like a too early released software with a limited feature set…

metaphor: how this probably would have gone down in the real world outside this cyberwar amongst developers –

(bear in mind flash is representing old combustion engine driven cars – HTML5/JS/CSS is new electric cars and “getting rid of plugins” is their way of saving the environment)

why not buy a new car that runs on new green eco-friendly electric power – the tech is there to replace todays modern cars (almost – like HTML5)…

I bet its because there are pro’s and con’s and at the moment there are more con’s so people still choose to buy the normal old cars until the electric cars and the ecosystem around them are just as good all in all – but everyone should care about the environment right? and buy one now… – well as most people probably don’t care about their part of polluting the ecosystem when choosing a new car these days (its actually not even fair to compare polluting natures ecosystem with plugins polluting the browsers ecosystem – its actually funny how little it matters at the end of the day… compared to the efforts being set against it))

– oh yes we forgot about the money argument – new electric cars is way more expensive –

cost wise just like, html5/js websites build in the same scale as current flash sites, in “time to market” due to harder integration of crafted animations and crossbrowser optimization and god knows what else is lurking around the opensource tech bend

– unless the client is ready to do some major cut backs…

funny thing is – we will probably see a lot of clients willingly giving up on details and features they would have killed for 2 years ago just because of the fact that its not made in flash – ok they get it on the iPad too… that is most likely the flash killing argument of the week… – but at the end of the day most animated html5 sites doesnt show animations on the ipad version they are either cut out totally or shipped in a more mobile friendly format – so what is it good for – I still belive you get more value for the money when buying a fancy rich media site – if you go with a fancy flash version for desktop and get a standard html fallback for mobile browsers – this would practically go up one to one in development time and cost – compared to a full blown animated/responsive html5 site optimized for IE8, firefox, safari, and chrome…

just like the fact that flash is a plug-in that was preinstalled on your computers ages ago, would make it a bad experience for the end-user – is b***s*** if you ask me – most people don’t give a ****or doesn’t even know what tech is behind the shiny animated website… “pixels are pixels”

– flash developers and designers opinions scale little compared to web developers and apple fans (many of them in the public press) all together when people google this stur – so the pressure is on… and its harder than ever

no doubt this was gonna come, Im fine with that -but i had hoped that it would come in a ordinarily demand and request manner – instead of this “flash is a plague” way… – this is a tech developer fight that has taken its turns on the public to take a stand – what for? now clients wants to publicly state that they have a flash free website !? just like buying green power – for what ? is flash polluting the web – in some people opinions – yes… the end user doesn’t care. For most people pixels are pixels!

– all web browsed on mobile devices is information – if they want to se a cool campaign or Rich experience site the phone is not the place – never been – thats what apps are for and desktop browsers

– which brings me to this metaphor :

just like playing an indie/mobile game on iOS/android – compared to playing a big game on PC/XboX its two seperate markets that both have hi demands in each separate ways.

browser wise just like desktop flash websites (as pc games) vs pretty informational html/5 webites (as mobile game apps)

both hi demand in each seperate way – (too bad clients refuse to pay for both and often goes with the cheapest solution – as of indie games on iOS android mac store and chrome store (all platforms) instead of the big shot like pc games as of a shiny flash site)

and now as long as people need to do work among other things on the desktop computer, the desktop will not lose this fight…

so saying flash is dead is the same as saying that we dont need pc/xbox games anymore because of iOS/android games – people will go with differend expectations on each platform – including browser expectations…

moving forward abit…

As an ActionScript developer knowing nothing about JS – i can only hope someday it will be looking like OOP AS3 and not what we have heard, that is just like going back to AS2

I am truly looking forward to the next gen plugin free webspace – for whatever reason – but i am very concerned about the crossbrowser hell we are going into…

+5 differend render engines – rendering at different performances and different feature sets…

Leading companies driving their own competition in each direction – I must say it keeps me up at night. Compared to the single spaced world we use to know called AS3 – does it work or doesn’t it work – its that simple with flash – now we might need to review all browsers every single debug round, and review hi’s and low’s when optimizing … compared to render animations in a game engine or rendering animation for video or even animation with the flash engine, this new opensource thing seems a bit hard –

Have anyone thought this free opensource hype completely through when they complain that flash content runs like shit – the html, that people know of, is one static render state – now with js/html5 – runtime renderloops are introduced – simply handing this kind of power for free with no 1000$ licence to the masses might take some responsibility, without it I bet we are going to see alot of people trying their best on javascript and html5 without a care about optimizing render loops – and now that the software is free we are gonna see this being turned into a toy for the less engaging crowd – publishing their tryouts on the web like crappy coded apps on android marked – i am an android fan but i hate the way the marked is flooded with crap because its free and mismanaged – dont be fooled opensource is not all good – living in denmark under a red state, literarely managing every second penny i earn – we still have a reputation of being the most happy people on the planet – sometimes I do wish for more liberal ways, where i can keep most of my own money – but I’ve seen how it goes in the land of the free and i would much rather raise my family in this safe “walled garden” of state controlled economic resources… I hope some of you can see the resemblance from the closed proprietary adobe flash and the opensource liberal way of html and javascript.

Even android and apple fits into this metaphor… I do love the opensourceness in Android, its my product i do with it what i like – but I cant help loving Apple’s strict control over their own products and software –  – a bit like how Adobe have full control over Flash – sometimes it just gives a better product if someone is taking care of it…

This new change from Flash to HTML5/JS .. it is just like in a sci-fi movie from the future – comming from a closed protected nice environment with rules and regulations to a cold barren lawless wasteland of everyman for him self – where alot of players is trying to set the standard and each region having its own rules and regulations… im not shure wich to like the most

I started in Flash5 – now 6 version down the road i see my self changing to HTML5
lets try not to have this debate when i need to change from HTML11 to C+++++ in about 12 years – (i feel the irony of going forward into an older technology)

I do feel a little excitement about this new change – and as an animation designer I still want to hold hands with Adobe stepping into this new era:

I do have alot of faith in Adobe – I truely hope that Adobe and the entire actionscript community can and will contribute to js html css svg in anyway to improve the crossbrowser nightmare we know nothing of in flash

*edit* I had to add this article: the most winning top creative agencies in the world say whats on their minds right now in the tech debate:
http://www.thefwa.com/article/the-industry-thoughts-on-flash

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