What’s so great about Adobe Flash Player 10?

What does the latest version of online audio “mixer” Hobnox, an application showcasing the art of world famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, and an electronic reader being created by New York Times Company have in common?

In various ways, they all take advantage of Adobe Flash Player 10 – the latest iteration of Adobe’s proprietary multimedia and application player.

Flash Player 10 – and its laundry list of new capabilities – featured prominently at the recently concluded Adobe Max 2008 conference in San Francisco – in keynotes, breakout sessions, as well as media briefings by Adobe executives.

Also read related story: Adobe Max – New York Times readers get breath of fresh AIR



Adobe’s chief technology officer (CTO) Kevin Lynch says Flash Player 10 – unveiled in October – is breaking records with around 10 million installs a day.

“It was launched just a month ago, and already major corporations are on board with it,” said Lynch during his keynote at Max.

He said outfits such as Yahoo, Disney Online and AOL would be upgrading their capabilities to take advantage of Flash Player 10 features.

South Park – the animated American television comedy series (available for legal streaming on the South Park Studios Web site since March 2008) – is already using the new player, he said.

Lynch said the player offers unusual 3D effects and filters, comes with a new text engine that includes niftier features of Adobe publishing tools, and its run time incorporates key capabilities of After Effects – Adobe’s digital motion graphics and compositing software. 

The Adobe CTO devoted a good portion of his keynote on the first day of Max to talking about all this – and more importantly to demostrating how these features are actually being used to advantage by some hugely popular Web sites and applications.

Hobnox-ing around

For instance, Lynch showed how the latest version of Hobnox – a browser-based Flash version of an audio mixer – takes advantage of Flash Player 10 features.

Users can create their own beats and melody lines within the site – and the audio latency is entirely processed in Flash, as opposed to the Java applet that previously enabled audio streaming. (So you do need to upgrade to Flash 10 to use the tool).

Hobnox, Lynch said, harnesses such Flash Player 10 features as dynamic audio access, real-time processing, audio mixing, and creation of music 3D graphics.

“You can do dynamic waveform analysis of the audio in Flash Player and use 3D effects to tween between shapes.”

Other Flash Player 10-enabled capabilities include the ability produce delay, reverberation, and affect the sound in various other ways.

“You can add new devices, for instance, “dragging from the output of the synthesizer on to the main tool and mixing new patterns in.”

3D animations

Next the Adobe CTO demoed how 3D animations built with Adobe tools display in Flash Player 10.

He displayed an exhibit that used 3D effects to showcase art created by world-famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. 

Lynch showed how effects created by Pixel Bender (an Adobe programming language for the description of image-processing algorithms) transform Chihuly’s images as you roll around and zoom into some of them.

“It does this quickly and at run time – so these transformations can be done now in Flash Player live rather than during post-processing before you deploy.”

A 3D cloth image animation that takes advantage of Flash Player 10’s “drawing API” was demoed next.

Lynch showed how the drawing API could transform a bunch of triangles, infusing a 3D effect on the image of the cloth.

“You can then apply video to that and change the image while waving the [cloth].”

The new text engine

Lynch also demoed the capabilities of the new text engine in Flash Player 10. The engine, he said, brings into Flash, the best of what Adobe does with tools such as InDesign, the company’s desktop publishing application.

He said folk from Adobe’s professional publishing teams helped with putting the new text engine inside Flash, and thanks to their efforts, the text engine offers “great printing, ligatures and line breaking.

He said you can create text using the drawing API, animate that text, do loops, and a whole lot more.

“And it isn’t just an English text engine. You can do Italian and Japanese – it supports right to left text, and you can animate all of that as well.”

Adding “live effects” to images

Apart from the features of Flash 10 Lynch’s “show and tell” presentation at Max also focused on image manipulation capabilities within Photoshop.com – an online Adobe portal where users can post, edit, share and collaborate on pictures.

In Photoshop.com, he added a variety of filters to an image of an archway, creating a variety of different effects.

For instance, using the CircleSplash filter, he created a circle around the image of an archway and extruded the colours.

Then on top of Circle Splash he used the TechnoDot filter. “All this,” he reminded the audience, “is happening live, and it’s all being edited cumulatively.”

Social software

Through the Photoshop demo, though, Lynch sought to make a point that went beyond features and specs.

“The reality today,” he said, “is that software is no longer a solo experience. It involves your friends, and humanity around you.”

Adobe’s goal, he said, is integrate this social dimension in all the software developed by itself and its partners.

“That means real-time collaboration with people in your network – whether through audio and video streaming, messaging, data sharing or asynchronous collaboration.”

To illustrate this he demoed a technology called CoComo that enables developers to build collaborative features into their Web application.
“And we host that collaboration as a service on Adobe.”

Adobe’s hosting of services such as Photoshop.com and Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro – software for web conferencing and e-learning is driven by the same philosophy, Lynch suggested.

But at least one industry observer believes uptake for collaborative services such as Photoshop.com will be mainly among users already committed to the underlying application (Photoshop).

“Adobe’s collaboration services definitely have some competition, for example Live Mesh from Microsoft, and I think that will reduce uptake,” noted Alan Webber, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. 

“I think uptake will be consistent but not necessarily significant in the near term.”

Webber sees a lot of potential in CoCoMo “due to the flexibility of the platform.”  

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