27 May 2008
Most of my current work is done using Adobe technologies. My current projects really keep me jumping, from rich application development to video editing—even to print design! My main focus is video, so I use Adobe Flash, Adobe Flex Builder, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Adobe After Effects most often. I'm also using Adobe Visual Communicator 3 in my video podcasts, which has been a real lifesaver. For video encoding, though, I use both Sorenson Squeeze and On2 Flix.
Most recently I've been learning Flex and working on a Flex and Adobe AIR version of one of my Flash Media Server-based applications, iFoxCam. I like the idea of using Flex because it allows me to focus on the features of the application itself, instead of the intricacies of creating the interface and transitioning between application states. It also allows me to easily create a desktop version of the application, which is perfect for this particular app since it needs to always be running in the background, broadcasting the user's camera via the web. With just a web-based SWF, the browser window can easily be accidentally closed, and there is no elegant way to manage the connection to Flash Media Server, as there is with Adobe AIR apps.
I still haven't lost my fascination with real-time interaction in the browser. The fact that you can broadcast your webcam and voice, and instantly share data among multiple people—all within Adobe Flash Player—is something that still inspires me. That Flash and ActionScript give us "mere mortals" access to add this type of interaction to our applications is pretty amazing.
Whenever possible, I like my news to come to me, so I subscribe to lots of newsletters and blog feeds. I try to broaden my focus beyond just Flash development by keeping an eye on market trends and other technologies through feeds such as MediaPost, MediaBistro, and StreamingMedia.com. The first hour of my day is usually spent scanning these feeds for interesting developments.
Another invaluable source of information and insight on technology is talking face-to-face with other developers, designers, and instructors. I'm a big fan of conferences for this, but I'm also lucky to have FlashCodersNY, a brilliant group of people willing to meet every Wednesday evening—yes, that's every week! We have lively discussions about everything from MVC design patterns to politics, to how to collect from deadbeat clients. It's more of a study and discussion group than a formal "presenter-audience" setup and it's been an amazing source of learning and commeraderie.
The blog aggregator Fullasagoog is a great way to keep up with happenings in the Flash/Adobe world. The blogs that I find myself going to most often for useful info are, of course, video related: flashcomguru.com and flashvideo.progettosinergia.com. There's always something useful being discussed either in Stefan Richter's or Fabio Sonnati's posts—and in reader comments, covering everything from Flash Media Server development to the intricacies of video encoding. Then, of course, there's my own blog, flashconnections.com, where I do my best to keep up.
My Treo. It may be a bit dated now, and it's definitely no Apple iPhone, but it allows me to keep up with e-mail and blogging when I'm away from my computer. I may move over to the iPhone if Sprint ever supports it (and when it supports Flash!) but I'm in no big hurry. A new gadget has to clearly make my life easier or more productive for me to latch on—sexiness isn't enough!
Someday (hopefully soon) I dream of developers and designers actually working in a smooth, harmonious, and standards-compliant workflow, from design to deployment. Adobe is working on this with tools such as Thermo, and I truly hope it's the first of many efforts to streamline the process. It's a tough problem, but it's vitally important to productivity—as well as morale!
The real beginning of my current career path was a summer spent with Flash Media Server 1.5. Back in 2003, an enterprising friend of mine had an idea to simplify remote video monitoring and he asked me to figure out the technical details. At the time (conveniently for him) I had just graduated from a new media program and hadn't found full-time work yet. Not one to back down from a challenge, I started researching possible solutions.
I recalled that Flash had just begun supporting video, so I downloaded the developer version of Flash Media Server—and the rest is history. With the help of some talented and generous FMS developers in the community, I was able to learn the ins and outs of FMS and put together a prototype that knocked the socks off of our potential investors. iFoxCam was born.
Since then, of course, it's had its ups and downs, reinventions, and some new marketing. iFoxCam is finally seeing success in childcare centers and classrooms across the country. This is a service that just wouldn't exist without the powerful tools provided by Flash. Since that summer, I've focused on video in Flash and haven't looked back.
This is a very exciting time to be working with online video, and naturally Flash is in the thick of it. I believe Flash has revolutionized, and will continue to influence, the way we interact and consume video. I'll have to keep an eye on other technologies as well, of course, but for the foreseeable future I plan to focus on video on the Flash platform—which includes Adobe Flash Lite on devices, AIR and Adobe Media Player delivery, as well as pushing the limits of Flash Player and Flash Media Server.
Whew—I've got some work ahead of me!