This week I was fortunate enough to attend Flash on the Beach in Brighton. The sessions there ranged from super technical code demonstrations to game development taxonomy, from project management to creative thought processes.
Of the tech stuff
Since my blog is mostly about technical stuff (i.e. code tips, tutorials), it goes without saying that the technical side of the conference is quite important.
Speakers such as Mario Klingemann, Branden Hall, Joa Ebert and Ralph Hauwert presented quite interesting technical talks about impressive mathematical and code creations and prowesses. I'm not gonna explain them here, you can read about it in details on their blog.
Evidently, Adobe had their representatives there. At the beginning of the conference, they boasted some updates on Flash Builder, but the more I look at it, the more it feels like they are simply trying to catch up with FDT.
As an attendee, I was lucky enough to receive a free version of FDT Pure. I will look into it in the coming weeks and most probably will talk about it in future posts.
IntelliJ also had their booth set up to promote their IDE, although I have to say i have not looked much into it.
Some speakers, like André Michelle, were making their code available. Being a musician myself, I will probably look into his library for sound manipulation and creation. Branden Hall presented a JS framework that uses the same logic as AS3's bitmaps to draw. He dubbed it Okapi, and I believe that this is the blog-to-be for it. He also presented the HYPE framework, which has a really interesting simplified approach to timing.
On Tuesday morning, there was a session called the Elevator Pitch, which is basically an hour made up of three minutes presentation of all sorts. Not all of these were interesting (most were not actually), but some caught my eye. I will definitely look into xJSFL, a jQuery-like syntax to write JSFL. There was also this concept of a console to aid development, just like game devs have. Well worth a look. But to all of those who try to create a new AS3 IDE with AIR, please let it go. That is not worth your efforts.
There were two people who touched quickly on tangible computing with microcontrollers and MIDI controllers. I believe that there should be a bigger space given to that world in conferences like this one, as the world of physical computing is huge and I believe way more creative than the interactive screen-based works.
One thing I was not quite prepared for was how blown away I was by the creativity of some people!
Nando Costa and his team created the titles for this year's edition of Flash on the Beach. He also presented the impressive quality of his agency's work, Süperfad, which revolves a lot around motion design.
Grant Skinner is one of the rare public figures that makes me proud to be Canadian. He presented some of his works obviously, but I really liked how he chose to harness moments of short attention span into efficient creative moments. I have been interested in physical computing for quite some time now, I find it fascinating that such a guy is having fun with those things with projects such as his multiplayer Androideroids and the Nexus One Gas Pedal.
Robert Hodgin's efforts are quite commendable, the results of his creations are impressively beautiful and mesmerizing, but I have to say I find myself puzzled as to what to think of his generative art–which by the way is used for the iTunes visualizer. People like Joshua Davis and Jared Tarbell turn these pieces into prints, maybe he does as well, but I guess all that coding creativity is not reaching me much.
Cyriak presented a lot of his wacky animations and videos. That man's mind is impressively twisted! Funny to see that since a lot of his works were refused, he started working on personal projects, and then got noticed! That's a good lesson really.
One man really impressed me. I come from the indie rock and the media art world, so public figures in design and publicity are quite foreign to me. Stefan Sagmeister is well known I found out. His thoughts, his approach to work and life are equally impressive. He balances defines balanced moments in one's life between work and sabbaticals, which he explains refuels creativity.
The last session was Jared Tarbell. He explained how he turned his work into physical pieces, either prints or laser cuts. The work is nice, but I have to say the passion that this man conveys and puts into his work are far more impressive. Once you hear him talk about his environment and process, you can't help but feel all that passion emanating from the small pieces of wood and cardboard he created.
Of the human side
Some sessions were also about other things than code or creativity, but also about subjects like management, presentation and work environments. During the Elevator Pitch, Trine Falbe gave tips on how to better one's presentations.
Chris Pelsor did a good presentation on how to properly manage teams. The simple question of "how often do you share a drink with a colleague?" is quite revealing. I have to admit that some things that I take for granted may indeed be improved upon in other work environments. Creating team spirit is always important.
Joshua Hirsh, of NYC's Big Spaceship presented an experiment him and his agency conducted. As summers are usually a bit less busy, they decided to try and reserve fridays for internal and personal projects. It turned out it kinda worked and kinda didn't work, obviously due to all sorts of commercial and professional reasons. I have to say that organizing downtime is indeed not easy, but providing the opportunity for employees is important. Working at Sid Lee give me that opportunity and allowed me during this summer to try and play with some technologies.
If there is one thing that this conference made me realize is that I am not a PR person at all, but then again I wasn't the only one.
Many of us were hanging out in the lounge area, next to each other but looking at our mobile phones. I am in no way blaming people, I was doing the same, unfortunately. I guess that is a skill that I should develop. That said, I was quite happy to meet freelancers and technical directors from Paris, I will have to force myself to keep contact better.
On a side note, I was quite happy that I got to see my good friend James Paterson! He was giving a workshop on Sunday and was leaving on Monday, so I managed to catch a glimpse of him Monday morning.
Of the future
Now that this event is over, what to do with all this inspiration and motivation?
Well I for one will list all the projects I have started, personal or professional, and see what I want to do with them and where I want to lead them. I am not going to do this here in full extent, but you may interested to know that I have such things as a personal Facebook app project and a pixel-based fangame in the works.
This blog is by no means changing it's vocation. As stated before, I started writing this as guides and notes for when I started giving AS workshops in Montréal. I may commit to write more often about more technologies and creative uses for them though.
And who knows what else?
As for Flash on the Beach, there are some minor things I could see would make it better. The bar section where everybody meets could have benefited from a DJ, whether it's an actual one or simply a playlist, it would have greatly improved on the mood. As I understand there was a Spotify collaborative playlist to which people contributed a lot, this could have played there.
I also believe that there could have been more cross pollination. It is indeed important that Flash on the Beach promotes the Flash ecosystem, that is a big part of its existence, but I believe that there should more and more presence of interactive works that come from other environments and languages. I would love to see some installations and touch screen in the lobby for people to enjoy what else the computer has to bring than just screen based works.