Bookpool are doing a nice deal where you can get 23% off Foundation Flash for Mobile Devices.

You can find out more info here (click the book cover on the right of this blog to visit the book’s website).

Joakim Carlgren, a colleague of mine at AKQA just pointed me to a site where you can convert many office, image, video and audio file formats to another for free, I think it’s well worth a look and might prove quite useful for one-offs unless they intend to offer this as an automated (server to server) service which would be great.

Here’s the link (Zamzar.com).

I’ve been thinking about video quite a bit recently. One thing that really bugs me is how people tend to treat video as this thing that sits in a box and plays from start to finish. When Flash 8 introduced alpha in video it opened up a whole new range of techniques, and I’ve just spent a little bit of time roughing out a simple (and rather crude) example:

(Warning, 1mb+ and no preloader)

This example is seemingly simple, but there are quite a few steps involved which I will explain below. What happens here is that you can click a colour, and the car’s surface will fill with that colour as it rotates, as if paint were splashing into its existing finish.

So just to explain how I went about this. I took a 3D model of a Nissan Accura into 3DS Max, and rendered out 3 alpha PNG sequences:

1. The specular map for the car body (this shows the highlights/reflections and lowlights), this doesn’t give the desired effect, so if you are a 3DS guru please get in touch, but anyway , we also have…

specular.jpg

2. The normal render of the body. This was used simply as an alpha channel later on, so I could create a solid colour fill that matched the outline of the body of the car as it rotates.

car.jpg

3. The entire model, but the body was assigned a “cartoon” red material along with the background, so that I can later remove the body, leaving just the wheels (as they would appear in situ, i.e. you can’t just render out the wheels because you’d see too much of them as they rotate)

carred.jpg

I took all of these into After Effects to render out some AVIs with alpha channel, and ran them through the Flash 8 video encoder to give me some FLVs.

Finally I downloaded some royalty free video footage of some red paint splattering and keyed it in After Effects so that I could knock out the white background leaving just the red paint.

paint

So with all the raw materials in place, I took it into Flash, and then went about the following steps:

1. Add render number 2 to a layer on top of the plaint splash video, and assign it as the mask, setting both to use bitmap caching. What this does is set one alpha video as an 8 bit mask for another, giving us a paint splash video that stays inside the boundaries of the car body work outline.

2. Add video number 3 to a layer above these, this simply adds shine, wheels and windows on top of our paint splash fill.

3. Add the spectrum graphic. All I do is check for mouse presses, and when I detect one I set the colour of the paint splash using Color.setRGB(). I also have a solid rectangle that I use to colour the body whilst the paint splash is animating (so that the car doesn’t just dissappear), this allows us to have the paint splash into the previous colour.

inflash

This was just a first attempt and not only is it ugly and glitchy, but the process can be streamlined, performance and quality increased (now I have some steps to build on), but hopefully it gets you thinking about using Flash Video in less obvious ways to create new experiences. I’m looking forward to combining some new techniques I’m working on with subtle usage of Papervision3D, it’s a pretty exciting time now that we have so many options and more opportunity to think outside of the box.

Apart from the speed here (it’s very slow). This is a very impressive emulation, showing images, videos, text and search works too. Click through the icons to see the app. Knowing that this would have been very difficult to do using JavaScript as it currently does, my hat goes off to whoever made this (via Mike Harsh).

http://www.vista.si/main.htm

Plugin for windows

Plugin for mac

I’ve just been informed we have another free full chapter from Foundation Flash for Mobile Devices (FoED) online on Adobe DevNet. This one is on Application Development using Flash Lite. If you are new to Flash or coding with ActionScript, I’d suggest first reading chapters 2 and 3 which cover in depth the nitty gritty of Flash Lite 1.1 – 2.1 and a primer on ActionScript 2.0 to boot.

Read the article and download the chapter.

I hope you enjoy this chapter, this one was a lot of fun (I mean it!), and of course I hope it spurs you on to buy the hardback or eBook version of the entire thing to get you going with Flash Lite 1 through 2.1.

What can I say? I’m blown away by Papervision3D. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve used Sandy (enter via UK/Europe), and although it wasn’t me who tried it personally I can see it is a fantastically full featured engine. However, for me, I wanna see enough polys for a full on game, and that’s the sort of speed you can expect with PV3D as it grows.

So here are some pretty basic initial tests I made to see just how fast it is. These examples are NOT optimized, nor are the models really. The Delorean car for example has over 800 polys.

Pv3d

(Flash 9 required – move your mouse around to rotate camera)

Don’t forget Carlos is presenting on Papervision3D at the LFPUG in London Thursday next week along with Mike who is doing component creation in Flex 2, so sign up, it should be great!

There used to be a time when everything tech wasn’t so “meta”, and things (mostly) worked in the way they were designed.

Whilst browsing the web just now using Internet Explorer 7 (normally I use Firefox 2), I get the following request for an ActiveX control to be installed:

This website wants to run the following add-on: ‘Microsoft HTML Viewer’ from ‘Microsoft Corporation’

MS HTML Viewer

(Click pic to enlarge)

HTML viewer plug-in… for a Web browser!? Well I guess now we can put both HTML and Flash in the same box as “plug-in” based technologies hey (just kidding) ;) Is this done on purpose to make IE look bad, or is it just plain insanity? I’m going to give a Mac and OSX a trial within a couple of months (been thinking about this for some time), coming from using Amiga which had a great OS, I prefer to be in more control of what I work on.

I particularly like the contrast of the subject matter displayed in the browser.

I’m a big fan of Nokia’s smartphones and have stuck to them for my last 3 handsets because I love that I don’t have any compatibility issues with files, programs or syncing to Outlook et al, they just work flawlessly. But I’ve been dissappointed that they just keep getting bigger and bigger (and slower!), so I almost decided to switch to Sony Ericsson as a result, no-one wants a slow chunk of silicon in their pocket.

It looks like things are changing, and finally Nokia are releasing some slimmed down series 60 devices. Here’s one that obviously takes some cues from the Razr:

nokia

Slimmed down Nokia smartphones

Well today I had a play at making a Flash game for the Wii using some rudimentary gesture recognition for the wand style of input. You can see a sneak peek of how the gesture recognition works here:

http://richardleggett.co.uk/wii/gestureRecogDemo.html

So Aral and Mario together have un-earthed some real gems the last couple of days, I think there could be a lot of fun to be had making some Wii games. It’s like Flash Lite, even simple games are much more fun when put on another type of device, and with the “wand” style input, it’s even more fun.

Anyway, here is my first example, will be uploading source for this when I get back from France in a weeks time. Just visit the following on your Wii (or desktop computer if you don’t have one)…

http://richardleggett.co.uk/wii

This is just a quick stab, I’d like to take some time to make it more responsive, I’m just using the 10×10 grid for pattern recognition, without up/downscaling user gestures, so it will be quite inaccurate on occasion, although it is possible to get used to how the game wants you to “gesture”, so it is possible to get good (beat my top score of 1800).

balloons wii

Note:
For best results, you must make the gesture (circle, slash or backslash) across the whole Flash movie, i.e. from one corner to another for the slashes, or reasonably large with the circle gesture).

Friends of ED is holding a competition where you could grab the top prize of an Apple Mac Book, 3 FoED books, Camtasia and SnagIT software and a copy of gProject (from gskinner.com). There are also runners up prizes so it’s worth having some fun here.

You just need to produce something cool that uses some of the provided assets, it looks pretty open to interpretation, just stick to the rules of coming under 2.5 minutes and 10mb.

Join in here.