Interesting Sites and Techs from ActionScripting Class

Yesterday was class 2 for ActionScripting. We covered discussions and review of the previous assignments and then went into some of the professional considerations that are involved in planning, contracting, and scoping an AS development project. We’re using the Foundation ActionScripting for Flash 8 book by Friends Of ED, part of Apress media. Excellent book so far, it seems to spend more time on the ideas surrounding the coding and the professional application of the coding knowledge than just running through the exercises. I recommend it as a good textbook for anyone trying to learn how to code in ActionScripting.

Originally I felt that I didn’t have the required Flash knowledge, but I’m picking up on the interface pretty quickly. Part of any graphics-based software package involves learning how to think in terms of visual problem solving for that particular platform. For example, I work in Photoshop and Illustrator as part of my day job (graphic design and production work for print), and I have for years. When I start in on any design, I’ve got a very structured way of thinking about the final piece or how to construct the final look and feel of things, set out as a series of steps in whichever program I’m using. The vector-based workflow I come up with (for Illustrator) is rather different than the bitmapped-based workflow (for Photoshop).

The same thing needs to happen with Flash. I was worried at first, because this course only deals with the coding aspects of ActionScript, not the design or animation aspects of working in Flash to begin with. The good news is that simply by seeing what kind of things the ActionScript can control and tweak, I’m already beginning to project backward a sense of how I would need to construct an animation sequence in order to make it fit the interface.

When the new 17″ Mac Powerbook Pro arrives, I’ll start messing with Flash animations and seeing how CS3 integrates functionality between Illustrator and Flash. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve, but right now I don’t have the portable nature of the new laptop in hand yet. When I do, watch out on several fronts.

Notable Mention: Jitter

In class we started talking about an article by John Simon, Jr. called “Authorship, Creativity, and Code.” I apologize for not having the name of the source book immediately to hand, but here is the author’s website for right now. I’ll edit this post when I find the proper citation. The crux of the essay deals with redefining coding in more creative terms, and it talks about programming languages which are accessable to the artistic mindset. In class I asked about it, and I was referred to a program called Jitter, which is an add-on for a programming platform called MaxMSP.

The idea behind it is that the original programming language involves using a gui instead of lines of code in order to construct workable programming. Jitter expands the original MaxMSP and provides it with customized toolsets for use in ‘programming’ artwork. The only drawback is that it costs $850 for the two, so I won’t be playing with this little language until I’ve had a chance to get a return on my educational investment. In the meanwhile, I’ll start looking through the online materials to see if it’s worth downloading the demo and trying it out.

Fun Site: Gary Skinner’s ‘Gallery Incomplet’

We also spoke about ways that Flash developers are introducing controlled spectrums of “randomness” to various movies and applications. A great example of some of these can be found by noted Flash developer guru Gary Skinner in his online Gallery Incomplet. Enjoy the fun. The ‘tree’ animation grows a differently-shaped tree each time the window is reloaded. Other animations are made to interact with webcam data while simulating free-form flow of graphic elements.

Anyway, as more of these ‘site examples’ get mentioned, I’ll post them here for reference and further enjoyment.

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