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Flash on the Beach 2010

30 Sep

I just got back from FOTB last night. It is a flash conference held in brighton every year and has now been running for 5 years. Of course, it isn’t just about flash, but interactive development, design and art in general.

It was utterly fantastic. It really was, I’ve come back now with lots of ideas and new things to try. There were some guys there who made films or did graphic design for a living, but seeing them work gave me more inspiration than just looking at the flash guys.

Now, lets talk about the highlights.

The first thing we saw was a song performed by disturb media. They did a britains got talent parody staring steve jobs. Here’s some photos:

Photos by Marc Thiele.

The end point was stripping off steves clothes to reveal a flash costume. Very nice.

Next up was Grant Skinner, he was the first speaker on Monday morning. Grant does a mixture between flash development and physical computing integrated with flash.

Photo by Marc Thiele.

Grant showed off a number of things he created. This included Androideroids, a multi player asteroid game that is controlled by a number of android phones where each phone screen conveyed a first person view of the ship.

He also showed off his tilt controlled scalextric. This is scalextric controlled via tilting an android phone.

This then got followed up by the cars being controlled by sound. Of course not just any sound, but car noises being made by his colleagues.

He then finished up with a video of another audio controlled peice he made. Except this time it wasn’t little cars, but a vibrating rabbit. Unfortunately he hasn’t put up the video of that one…

The next interesting session that day was Hoss Gifford. His talk was about things he had learned while being in the industry and it seemed to be a very heartfelt talk. Last year, hoss gave a talk which got a lot of negative comments about it being sexist and offensive. It was interesting to see this new talk as hoss seemed quite conservative avout his presentation style. Whether or not this is how he presents I dont know but the presentation felt quite calm and personal.

His presentation included various pearls of wisdom such as No one ever reads the fucking manual, Don’t assume a woman is pregnant until you physically see the baby coming out of her and Always use monkey photos. He had to skim over that last point and didn’t explain it unfortunately, but the talk was quite enlightening and had lots of interesting points.

The next day, one of the first speakers after all the elevator pitches (all entertaining, and now I want to apply for giving an elevator talk next year, get a free pass to the week you know) was Branden Hall. He works with flash legend Joshua Davis. He was mainly talking about this new framework he made specificly for making generative art and lots of cool looking fun things easy to make in flash. His main point was that flash used to be fun and easy, it used to be super simple to make these cool looking fun things in flash, but now its not so simple. His framework, HYPE, solves that problem and it looks really fantastic.

He also made a HTML5 version called okapi.js, this is to be released soon. Can’t wait really. His tshirt, by the way, says Actually, do believe the HYPE.

Later on, we went to see Seb Lee-Delisle. He was giving a talk on if in fact flash is dead. He pointed out loads of great points that, yes HTML5 can do a lot of things that flash can, but flash can always do that but extra that keeps it in demand. It was humbling to see this presentation as it really highlighted problems in the industry. We need to learn all these other interactive languages because just knowing flash wont cut it anymore.

Every time he told some bad news, he played a clip from his iPhone app, Kitten Convayor belt. Just some pictures of kittens moving across the screen, cheered everyone up.

Half way through, he played a game of family fortunes, or flashy fortunes with questions that were relevant to our industry and current events within it. This is played in two teams of three and a wii mote. Unfortunately, everyone who was randomly chosen to play it wasn’t from this country and had no idea what family fortunes was. Still great to see though.

Next we saw Julien vallée, a film maker and artist from France. He is hugely creative and some of his work is amazing. Some concepts he liked to explore was the unexpected nature of what happens next. He used after effects to create unusual effects, and, well, this video will explain better.

And this one, well it just inspired me so much. This video technique could easily be applied to AR, and showing different images on the same marker but depending on how many times it’s been shown, well, the possibilities! It opened my eyes to how I can look at AR and how I can use it.

Later that night, there was an inspiration session with Brendan Dawes. Creator of unusual interfaces and awesome flashy things.

This presentation was about his life, how he started getting work, his flash origins and what he does now. He also talked about his ethos and what he thinks about various arguements going on about flash vs html5. it was truely wonderful seeing how he started out making fairly simple things, but back then, it was combining great design with this new platform, flash, to create things that got him up on stage at conferences. It started off with him just bothering someone in quite a nerdy way and as they say, it’s history.

On the final day, there were some great talks. It started off with “6 of the best”, 6, 10 minute talks from the more interesting speakers at the conference. Seb did a great tech demo using a webcam to record video and audio, assigning segments to keypresses and making a drum machine out of various noises, fantastic.

Later on, there was a very unusual talk from Cyriak Harris, an animator. He creates these insane animations that generally involve some of the most bizarre things he can think off. He created this power point presentation that used all the cliches in an obvious ironic way that, as he went through, just piled up into this bizarre, hillarious mix of graphs, animations, word art and one photo of him drinking tea. It was fantasic, it also showed us an insight into how he goes about creating his animations, through flowcharts, live demos and more animations. He also showed us a animation he did for blue peter that has never been seen before. Giant turtles eating everyone, robots and presenters turning into dogs only just starts to describe it.

Here’s some of his work to just show how brilliant and odd his work is.

Next, we went to see Joshua Hirsch, Minister of Technology at Big Spaceship, a really, really cool company based in NY. I’m very jealous of the people who work there.

He talked about a few projects his company has been working on and mainly about the idea of summer fridays. The idea that every friday, all employees down tools and work on their own projects to keep their ideas fresh and give them time to work on their own stuff. It was more or less a huge failure due to having to do real work, people being tied up in other projects and personal or team projects not getting finished.

But, he showed off two of the successful projects that did actually get finished. One is the website Most awesomest thing ever. Quite interesting to see a behind the scenes look at how that came about. Two designers came up with the idea and everyone said thats just really stupid, their answer was “yeah, I know, thats the point”, they pitched it to a client who turned it down and so they made it themselves. Now it’s hugely popular with over 3 millions hits.

Another project they made as Hope vs Despair. A physical object that displayed twitter results. It tracked the usage of 🙂 vs 😦 and displayed it as a result in a range between 1 and 12.

So, the middle part rotates based on the result. It checks twitter every 30 seconds and then adds up and takes an average of all the moods. Very interesting to show the worlds average mood like this.

The last talk was by Jared Tarbell. He creates art based on maths and code. He also works on etsy as their flash developer and now lives in the middle of nowhere creating physical cubes that are constructed through maths and algorithms. The such clean, complex, perfect art that can be created with maths and code is incredibly inspiring.

Here’s some of his work based on that process.

It was a great three days and I am definitely going back next year. As part of the three days they run an elevator pitch session where 20 people do a 3 min talk. I think I have some interesting things to say on that stage so I’m going to put my ideas forward and submit my request to pitch at next years talk. You get a free pass to the whole three days that way.