I changed jobs; Infrared5 site; The Flash IDE *can* rock \m/

Ok first bit of news is that I’ve joined up with the Infrared5 team finally and I couldn’t be happier about the move! I’d been working with Tom Snyder Productions for a while now and that’s been a MUCH needed break from agency work. They were awesome to say the Least. I love those guys and they really helped me out. Marc Hughes and Eric Hilfer was especially cool, and if you have chance to work with them, I sincerely suggest you do it. You won’t regret a moment of it.

The very coolest thing about this is that I’m working for Chris Allen and Dominick Accattato of Red5 fame. They’ve been there since the first day I called for help in starting the project and now, it’s awesome to see that the server has had so much success, that these guys have created a very successful business around it and have been able to hire me full time along with Keith Peters and Andy Zupko. That’s AWESOME! To see an Open Source project reach a level like this is just a huge blessing and the chance to work with a few of my best friends is just killer.

The second bit of news is that I did a site for the first time in probably 2yrs and it was my first task for my new employer – Yay! Bad news was that I had 5 days to do it. Good news is, the design rocked and I was able to do it all in Papervision3D with the anticipation of adding one killer feature that we haven’t released yet πŸ™‚

Now, over at Keith’s blog, you might have read about the release of the site. You might have also seen the comments that followed. For the most part, I know these guys, and their comments are taken very very well – their intention is to encourage best flash practices and it keeps me sharp/on my toes for sure. Tink is especially generous when it comes to stripping down what is and what isn’t a good idea and I love him for that – sincerely.

However, what really struck me about the comments is that they missed a few key things that made this site cool and I believe its because of a “ActionScript-only” approach we’ve embraced for a bit too long in my opinion. I hadn’t felt a need to point it out until now, when something I’ve produced had been scrutinized and decompiled immediately (I love the fact that it was btw).

“Ok mr. rockonflash.com, why do you think it’s a cool example of flash/flex work?!?”. Glad you asked.

Why Flex?

First, it DID start out as an ActionScript project, but 2 days in to the project, there were future requirements that made using the Flex framework and obvious choice, so I switched it. ‘Nuff said on that I think.

Why not more dynamic?
Second, the site had copy layout requirements from Rebecca that were pretty strict. Rebecca Smith Allen is one of the partners at Infrared5, and she’s a great designer and is very picky ( like all designers I’ve ever known ). Yeah I could have loaded all content externally from XML blah blah blah – that would have taken longer to deal with than just copy/pasting the copy into text fields in the Flash IDE – for which I did that very thing. Let’s remember – dynamic isn’t always necessary, and in many cases, is no different to maintaining a site then editing an FLA. In this sense, the FLA is maintained by the staff of Infrared5 and all have access to it to make edits visually. From a designer’s stand point, this rocks. To a developer’s stand point, this rocks. So, using an FLA is just fine and dandy and SHOULD be considered in a situation like this. It’s not for a client, it’s not designed to be editable by some low level functionary who can barely understand XML – which in this case, an FLA might actually be better.

On top of that, i think it rocks that the entire site is under 500k fully self contained, including a 3D engine, Flex framework and all assets combined. Yeah, that sometimes IS cool, right?? If you miss the cool factor for this, then maybe what you think is cool isn’t that cool (maybe?). I mean, SOMETIMES, it makes sense to be able to give the marketing guy who travels alot a copy of the site. Or maybe for use at a booth at a conference? Or maybe as a teaching tool that requires you only have a single SWF. Simplicity rocks sometimes.

The one thing I’m encouraged by is that no body really complained about 3D being used here. It seems to have been used in a way that never caused anyone to question whether or not it was really necessary. yay!

Why Papervision3D?
We have a feature coming that necessitated it obviously. Plus, animating the pages separately and giving them depth was alot of fun. Not to mention tossing out the Polaroid and Rolodex cards with a bit of faked physics – I think that rocks personally. It’s CPU friendly, it’s completely PV3D interactive, uses code tweens to simulate physics, and even with all of that included, it’s still simple, elegant and you’re never confused about where you are in the site or what to do. It does it’s job very well in that sense.

So, why do I say “chill”?

Because I think now that we’ve had a few years of MTASC, Flex Builder, Eclipse under our development belts, we’ve forgotten one of our first loves – the Flash IDE. Ok, so you might think and say “OH I hate the flash IDE, I’m so glad I can do all things without it”. For that I’d say – you’re being foolish. The Flash IDE rocks +11 and if you don’t agree, it might be time you go back and give it a fair shake and take a look at what time it probably can save you. I was able to work with the fonts and anti-alias levels with the IDE visually and that saved me TONS of time and I was able to achieve a level of quality that made the designer happy. Also remember, that copy is at an angle in a Papervision3D planes, so my work in trying to get things “dialed in” was a bit more intense. The Flash IDE saved me hours if not days.

The work flow rocked \m/
This was a Flash/Flex hybrid application and the work flow rocked. All materials for Papervision3D were created and maintained in the Flash IDE and were completely accessible via code at runtime. Later, when we do add pieces that we feel require the flex framework, it’ll be as easy as pie. OH, and IF we decide to make one of those sections dynamic, that’ll be cake too. However, take a moment and realize that the copy on this site is not likely to change. Why make it dynamic if it’s not going to change? You have to weigh the time savings, the work flow and the maintainability by others in your decision to make something dynamic. Sometimes it makes loads of sense, but in this site’s case, I would argue that it didn’t make sense and would have been counter productive – not to mention that it would have wasted much of my time mucking around with XML formatted text etc blah blah blah – ick.

Yeah, it’s true, the Flash IDE has issues here and there, but for 98% of it, it does a damn good job. A job, I might add, that it’s been doing for several years now, and is only getting better especially along side tools like FlexBuilder, FlashDevelop, FDT/Eclipse and the like.

I think it’s time everyone who’s not been in the Flash IDE since Flash 7 go back and start seeing how you might actually improve your work flow, improve your quality of work and in some cases, performance / file size gains.

Hope you like the site πŸ™‚

  1. Nice man!

    sprite.buttonMode = true; would be nice in that nav. plus the movement it does on the first frame from x:0, y:0 to the actual position is a bit weird, which makes me think, that maybe the site will benefit a lot of having all the papers coming in, you know, like a very quick intro of creating the whole nav+sections.

    Anyway, nice one!

  2. Also… on your profile on the site says… “John currently lives near Houston TX, USA and works as a Senior Software Developer for Infrared5, a consulting firm built around services for the Open Source Red5 server”. Isn’t it a bit weird to have that on the same page of the firm itself? πŸ™‚

  3. Glad to have you aboard John. And it was awesome working with you all last week. Thanks for clarifying more stuff about the site.

  4. Only after you’ve been down that code-only road can you truly appreciate being able to construct and lay out graphical elements so easily in the Flash IDE. I think the XFL format that Adobe is working on is really going to help make the tool appealing once again as well.

    Congrats on the new job!

  5. I just wish you guys knew more about flash… Using the ide is so 2006 and CMS are required on all sites no matter what. I think once you guys start realizing those things you’ll be able to make a cool site. πŸ˜‰

    good work guys. I thought the site was a dramatic improvement from the splash page and the design was slick.

    • MG
    • March 10th, 2008

    There’s a typo on Keith Peters’ bio page – his book title is “Making Things Move”, not “Making Things Movie” πŸ˜‰

    Sweet site! You guys should put together a labs/experiment site showcasing all the cool shit possible. Might be cool for people who don’t grasp the possibilities (or even know!) of Red5. I know at the agency I work for the concept of Flash remoting is foreign; anytime I want to explain it I show them Red Interactive’s site.

    Keep on rockin’

  6. John, thanks for saying such kind words of the group and thanks for coming up to Boston. The site came out great and I’m stoked to work with you on future projects. Cheers!

  7. @Jacob: πŸ˜‰ thanks man, I actually hadn’t seen the splash page, so I guess it’s all good!

  8. @Dom: dood, feelin’s mutual – loved hanging with you in Boston this last week, that was a great time to be sure πŸ™‚

  9. @Keith: man, that was a ton of fun working with you last week! Store the matrix baby! STORE THE MATRIX!!! πŸ˜‰

  10. @MR DOOB: Yep, just fixed those pesky buttonMode’s πŸ˜‰ Should be up today

  11. Man, this is a tough crowd. I like the site John. I do agree that the mouse cursor needs to change–glad to hear that you have already fixed that. Other than that, I like the simplicity of it. There was no confusion in how to use it, the transitions were intuitive and fast, and the site loaded very quickly (which is becoming more and more rare these days). Nice work.

  12. @Nate: Thanks much man, Rebecca does such a great job with design like that – thanks for the kind words man

  13. Awesome work, keep it up mate!!

  14. Congrats on the job bud!

    • Rezmason
    • March 27th, 2008

    Nice site, and you make some very good points. Last semester I started work on a code-and-still-images-only project that never got done. Over my winter holiday I stamped out a full-featured project twice as complex as my last one, in about a month. What was the difference? Improved workflow. How? The Flash IDE.

    It’s comforting to know that people who want to work with AS3 don’t need to buy an expensive software package. But it’s expensive for a reason– the Flash IDE will (obviously) accelerate your development process. And that Thermo thing is only going to make things better.

    I believe it’s high time these crazy scripters learn to love Flash again.

  15. @Rezmason: Amen. AMEN.

    • jpg
    • May 19th, 2008

    fyi the debugger is active on the infrared site. love the blog!

  1. March 10th, 2008

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