1 February 2010
On the Adobe side: Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash, Flex, and AIR. I also dabble in iPhone development using Ansca Corona and Unity 3D.
We normally have multiple projects going on at once, a few of the most recent are ChessJam, an online chess game; Dr. Skully's Mirror of Misfortune, an augmented reality psychic; and a few augmented reality projects for Valpak. All of these projects were primarily built in Flex Builder 3 using Illustrator, Photoshop, and Flash to develop assets. For the augmented reality projects, we are working with Papervison, FLARToolKit, and FLARManager.
Would it be kissing up to say Tour de Flex was one of our successes? It was a success because of the great team. We had a clear objective and a very talented team working to achieve it. Tour de Flex is the foundation product of Tour de LiveCycle and Tour de ColdFusion. I would call it a success because of how it's been received by the community; It also has contributed to a few new business opportunities for us at HD Interactive.
One of the largest non-Adobe projects I can remember is building three Flash games for the Superman Returns movie/game promotion with Pepsi and Electronic Arts. We created two games for Pepsi's Catch Lex campaign and one promotional game for EA's Superman Returns the Game. HD Interactive was hired as a contractor on the games and we collaborated with some of EA's game developers on the concepts and direction. It was gratifying having a creative contribution from the very beginning of a project instead of just being told what to build.
Unfortunately, failures do happen from time to time. It would be inappropriate to publicly name any, but there is normally a pattern associated with them. First, limitations of technologies and expectations are not clearly defined. Second, direction and processes start fluctuating. Third, the old want vs. need battle: the client wants x but to accomplish the goals of the project, we really need y, causing things to become very complicated.
One of my greatest challenges was learning ActionScript 3. I started out my career as an illustrator and got into Flash as a way to practice animation. It was a cool thing to add some interactivity here and there with ActionScript 2 and I became very good at it. To advance my thinking process beyond a Rube Goldberg–type programming approach to an object-oriented one took much trial, error, and Google searching.
Skinning Flex components was challenging until I fell into a groove of combining Flash graphic elements to create custom components. We are always looking to make more innovative UIs and the traditional approach of skinning just doesn't cut it.
A recent challenge was getting sound loops to work in Flex. Using MP3s—the only sound format Flex will embed—produces a noticeable gap in the loop. Come to find out, it is the nature of MP3s to have a bit of silence at the beginning and end of the file. After experimenting with writing a sound loop class that worked with MP4 (AAC) audio, I found out that all compressed audio files share the same gap at the beginning and end. So, working with uncompressed files is the only option. By importing an AIFF or WAV file into Flash, and then exporting it to ActionScript (SWC), you get a new class that can be used in Flex without the gaps.
We are not pros at the app magnetization thing yet, but a few things are have learned on are journey are:
Large touch-screens are really cool, seeing and interacting with a project you built on a large touch-screen mounted in a public place is super cool.
Seeing different devices communicating and becoming extensions of each other is also cool. I love updating something on my desktop computer, walking out the door without going though a syncing ritual, and have the update reflected on my phone or laptop.
I am constantly inspired by everything that is going on with the web, in games, and in film. I would have to say that great UI and industrial design inspire me the most.
E-mails from friends, TechCrunch, MacNN (and affiliates), Yahoo! News, Wired, and lots of Google.
Hulu.com, MacNN.com, Touch Arcade, MacOSXHints.com, Drawn!, GoToAndLearn.com, FlexExamples, Wikipedia, all the Google apps, Adobe Labs, documentation, and the literally hundreds of other blogs/sites I search through every week. I am a web junkie, working on my doctorate from the University of Google.
The short answer is movies, music, and video games.
The long answer is movies are where the money is. Movie productions have access to all the resources in the world, plus people collectively pay millions of dollars a day to see a good movie. Movies are the most consumable form of entertainment today. All of our projects have some form of entertainment value, so that's the bar for how compelling our applications can become, within our budgets of course.
I love music; it gets me through the day. Something with plenty of raw emotion can really set a tone or get you in the right mood to create awesome stuff.
I hardly ever get to play video games, unless I am building and testing them. If there is ever a good weekend, it is one that involves an Xbox 360, large screen, surround sound, and a great deal of mayhem.
I almost forgot comics. I started all this because of my boyhood dreams of drawing comics one day. I have come to terms with that dream, but still enjoy a good comic book.
Want specific properties? Gears of War, GTA, Avatar, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Master and Commander, Batman, Spawn, Deftones, Tiger Army, RX Bandits, and Flogging Molly, just to name a few.
Besides Flash on the iPhone? More device and content sharing. I want Hulu on my big screen without having to run a PC all the time.
I have always dreamed that instead of being a member of this social network or that social network, everyone had their own presence and/or their own spiders that crawled the web searching for information that is most pertinent to them, such as an avatar that knew what you liked and was able to learn new things and how those things would affect you—a virtual clone that could travel the web as an emissary for you across all social sites and report the most up-to-date information. Right now, we have a widget for this and an application for that. It would be awesome to have one interface to the web that interacted with all these widgets and applications for you. Even cooler: have that interface work the same at home, in the car, and on a portable device.
As I mentioned earlier, my career started in the early 1990s as an illustrator. I was also a student of video production and 3D animation, as well as a member of a few heavy punk bands. In the mid-'90s, Flash came on the scene. It was an application that allowed me to combine all my passions: illustration, animation, and music. So I dabbled and, before long, the snowball started rolling. I love not being stuck working in one medium all day long. I still illustrate, animate, produce video and music, all the while learning how to program, which I now appreciate as an art in and of itself.
It took only a few years after life began as an official member of the 9-to-5 workforce that all my plans for the future were dashed away for the better. It has been a wild ride. This industry is anything but predictable. I just love working with the great talent we have at HD Interactive and their willingness to push me in new directions as technology changes.
The future is bright with wireless speed increasing and processors becoming more powerful. The sky is the limit, producing more opportunities to create high-end interactive video and 3D-based content across all devices.
Which is the long way of saying: better apps, bigger budgets, and greater online experiences.