Is Flash dead? A Flash designer’s perspective.

Is Flash dead? Even though I, as a flash designer, hate to admit it: Yes.

While non-flash animation has certainly come a long way and can produce quite remarkable results, most of them seem like child’s play, compared to the possibilities flash offers – especially when considering the ease-of-implementation and platform independency. Flash’s Stage3D-update further widened the gap with the possibility to use Flash to produce console level 3D graphics on the internet, increasing Flash’s previous 3D performance a thousand-fold – literally. But even though the new Flash is interesting from a technological point of view, the marvel of being able to animate millions of polygons means nothing, if there’s no demand.

1.

That the era of Flash ends because another era ends: That of stationary PCs. Smartphones and tables will get continuously more common and it’s only a matter of time, before mobile traffic exceeds that of stationary PCs. In the light of this development, Adobe’s recent announcement that they’d stop updating their mobile version of Flash seems like the platform’s final nail in the coffin. Who in their right mind would nowadays build or even recommend to build a website that doesn’t run on mobile devices? Especially, if the audiences using those devices are the same people who were previously susceptible to rich media websites?

2.

Another factor is the web’s change from monolithic and self-sufficient websites to a strongly interconnected, social and above all things content driven web. The current HTML(5) Microsites do quite well and while I really loved building highly complex Flash websites, even I’ve come to doubt their necessity: Was it really that effective, when lacking content, to just explode into the people’s faces with animations and sounds and all kinds of miracles? The times have changed and the loss of Flash and its ability to hide one’s lack of ‘things to say’ will result in people having to concentrate on their content – which is beneficial to everyone. Of course you still can just use the technological flavour of the month just for the sake of using it, but it’s far less awe-inspiring.

Forking roads

In any case, speaking from my personal experience: I haven’t been booked for any larger flash projects in almost a year and the very few Flash projects that I did get were online adverts – something that only those few people would miss, live on them. And I don’t expect that to change.

So where to go from now on? Luckily, the learned skills are only remotely lost: Programming languages are all very similar – know one, know all. Or as someone else put it: What did designers of VHS-Covers do, when DVDs emerged? Most Flash developers should be able to switch to HTML5 within days while retaining an abundance of knowledge as backup, due to AS3′s potenially greater complexity. And then there’s always the possibility to switch from web-applications away to iOS and Android, which should go just as smoothly.

So while the loss of a whole platform may seem drastic at first, it is not. The internet is in constant flux, and it is so by design. New technologies will always emerge and vanish again – and we, those who make it and those who use it, will adapt. That’s just the way it is :)

Tweener vs. TweenLite / TweenMax

This should be basic, but I still want to express my love for it: Nowadays, unless it’s small or especially detailed stuff, most of the animation I show is scripted and I suppose non of the more advanced websites around could do without. Flash’s internal Tween-Class has been around for a few years, but it’s rather cumbersome to use and not exactly fast.

Two alternative tweening-engines are widely popular: TweenLite and Tweener, with Tweener being the by far most mentioned one. Both are extremely similar, though. To e.g. set a movieclips alpha to 0 in 2 seconds, you’d write:

TweenLite.to(myMovieClip, 2, {alpha:0}); // or:
Tweener.addTween(myMovieClip, {time:2, alpha:0});

The differences are so small, that, even in larger projects, it should be possible to switch between both within minutes. If it were only a matter of preference, I’d choose Tweener because of it’s slightly nicer syntax – but TweenLite’s speed is superior by far. Their speed test shows it quite clearly, but even in rather simple environments where I thought performance was no issue, when using Tweener, I’ve continuously gotten to dead ends I just couldn’t understand and which were solved instantly, when trying the same with TweenLite.

And one of the greatest functions in recent history (at least for me) is TweenLite’s delayedCall. As the name suggests it delays the calling of a function; which is absolutely essential, when scripting animation – and a lot less messy than using the usual onComplete parameter. I really couldn’t imagine working without it anymore. So show TweenLite some love! :)

Papervision3D vs. Away3D – Part 2: Well, maybe not.

Meh, I gave up on my idea of switching to Away 3D, mainly because it’s stupid. While it would certainly make sense considering how papervision is most likely dead, Away3D is probably not that much more productive and better.

Considering how hard it has already been to figure out things like 2D/3D projection, dynamic materials and the insanely god damn uber-annoying animated dae models – besides countless mathematical problems – it would be a ton of wasted effort. I suppose there are solutions for of those most problems, but finding them is probably even more of a royal pain than it was to find them for Papervision3D. I don’t really understand why, but in general there seems to be a bit less blogs and tutorials around and since Away3D uses an archaic mailing list, there’s tons of hardly usable duplicates of every thread. And reaching dead ends means that you have to ask the question yourself, possibly waiting for several days before you get an answer.

While it would certainly make sense on the long run, the idea of having to figure all of these things out AGAIN, before I can continue with even the most basic tasks, completely killed my mood for months. So I’ll better continue with what I have, keep up the speed and maybe consider changing engines once I’m done. Which would probably be best, because molehill is at the horizon and will most likely change everything anyway…

Fresh start

I’ve gotten pretty far in terms of the redesign but decided to scrap it all, haha. I got into papervision and planned to make a website that’s a mixture of 2D and 3D, which would’ve allowed the use of fancy effects while still maintaining good usability. On first glance the website would look as if it’s a normal, two-dimensinal website, but during transitions and movement it’s revealed that everything is in fact just a projection of more complex three-dimensional objects (I suppose that exceeds the possibilities of written explanation).

The sitemap would’ve been rather minimal, with only a few pages, but each with a distinct look and feel and with all the effects and playfulness I could probably cramp into them. That sounded nice at first, but in the end also turned out to be the idea’s biggest flaw:

While the 2D/3D-mixture is a nice effect, it’s also “only an effect“. The whole website would have been nothing more than a compilation of what I’m able to do, much less a true idea. Still that could have maybe, maybe, maybe been enough for the Site of the Day award (just as mindless, effect-filled blockbusters like “Transformers” can be successful movies), but it would have lacked in spirit. Hence I gave up on it.

I’ve gotten a better idea in the meantime, one that involves that 3D-modeling I’ve written about earlier and which at least until now seems to be much better and much more funny and engaging. I’ve also decided to set up a new domain, to get an even more consistent package and to finally separate my professional work from my private life. After all I’ve used the the old blackspell domain since my schooldays and using it to to advertise my professional work wouldn’t feel right at all.

The new domain will be: —————–

Oh, how this alone opens up a whole new world full of ideas and possibilities… Well, I didn’t start working yet, but I will. Probably!