Maelstrom

Wednesday, 9 March 2005

The highlight for the afternoon was definitely the sneak preview of Flash Player 8 (codenamed 'Maelstrom'). Greg was taking us through the platform roadmap for Flash, highlighting the milestones of Flash's early adoption trends and where Flash is today. Mostly marketing evangelism for a product which I felt could do without so much gratuitous self-praise--Flash Player 7 achieved an 80% penetration rate in less than 12 Months! How amazing is that?!--maybe in a marketing event but not in a developer’s conference IMHO.

So, Flash is now in every browser on every OS platform on planet earth. Macromedia is making huge advances in getting the Flash Player embedded into every mobile device, white-goods, automobiles and even the network enabled kitchen sink. What's next? True to form, the company has gone back to improve on what’s already a good thing-- make the Flash Player better.

Without going into the specifics of implementation, Greg showed us some of Maelstrom's key capabilities:

Bitmap Caching

Developments in visual programming and motion graphics will benefit from this. Consider a recursive, dynamic function (Something like Yugop) that draws a large amount of dynamic artifacts on the screen. As the sum of dynamic objects increase, the rendering performance suffers exponentially.

Bitmap caching forces the dynamic components into bitmap objects (similar to being pre-rendered) so that they do not need to be re-rendered with every successive frame iteration. Bitmap caching will also benefit animation of interface components.

In laymen's term, complicated recursive animations and dynamic interfaces will experience a noticeable performance increase in it’s visual presentation. In one example, the improvement of bitmap caching is 6 times the frame-rate without bitmap caching (an improvement from 20fps to 120fps).

Advance Gradients

Not much details about this, but it is assumed that you'll now be able to control the direction of radial gradients, thus creating transparent gradients akin to realistic spotlight effects.

Graphic Filters

This was the single most impressive feature of Maelstrom. Advanced graphics filters such as bevel, drop-shadows and blurring (all alpha blended with full set of control points) to name a few, all native to the player through a few lines of Actionscript!

Imagine animating a 2D cartoon character and applying the drop-shadow filter, and voila! Instant soft-edged drop-shadows rendered in real-time! You can even change every property of the drop shadow dynamically if you want to! These filters are applicable to every object in Flash, including videos.

Enhanced Video

Finally, the new Flash Player will feature an improved video codec which promises higher quality encoding, support for an alpha channel and combined composition with interactive elements. Powerful features if you work with video.

Designers and animators will have a field day when the new Flash Player is unleashed. Greg assured us, the imminent release was going to be 'soon'. The catch? We’ll need to upgrade the authoring tool to take advantage of the new features--Flash MX 2005 perhaps?

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One Comment

#1Gravatar imageLigeirim says:

> “In laymen’s term, complicated recursive animations and dynamic interfaces will experience a noticeable performance increase in it’s visual presentation.”

I wonder where the laymen’s term came in? :p

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