Notes from Max 08

I got back from San Francisco this morning taking a couple of extra days at San Francisco to do some tourism. So I figured I’d put down what I had learned this year before the workweek clouded all that to a distant blur.
As usual, MAX was f-ing awesome. I have tried to make it to MAX every year since I graduated and joined the corporate workforce and Comcast has been pretty awesome about making sure I could do that on their dime. This year was no exception and most of the Flash team from CIM was there at MAX as Adobe showed of the cool stuff they have been working on.
My strategy for MAX this year was a little different than earlier. Traditionally I have tried to get deeper into technologies that I work with everyday. This year, with so many new ideas being shown at MAX, I decided to take sessions on the things that I did not work with between 9-5 and would be really easy for me to miss. I have to say it worked out pretty well.
Let me start off by saying: HOLY S**T, the Flash Platform is AWESOME and the pace at which its evolving is just incredible. Below are some of the best sessions I attended this year:

Using C++ Libraries in Flash Player and Adobe AIR
This was definitely one of the best sessions I attended at MAX this year. The session introduced Adobe’s Alchemy project that compiles C++ code to Actionscript bytecode that can be run on the Flash Player just as any bytecode compiled from AS3 code would. The project isn’t mature yet but some of the examples that were shown like ports of C++ OggVorbis codec, motion detection libraries, cryptographic libraries, etc were definitely impressive. I guess its time for me to brush up my C++ ;).

Hands On: Creating Effects with Pixel Bender
I think I got most excited during this lab. Pixel Bender, as a lot of you may know, is a technology that allows developers to write Shaders in a language called Hydra. Hydra is has a C-esque syntax but is really easy since you dont do really complicated logic in it, but rather simple pixel manipulation. These Shaders can then be applied at runtime to Flash DisplayObjects and also be used within Photoshop / AfterEffects as custom Shaders. I had read a bit about this before but the syntax and the prospect of having to learn another language was keeping me away from writing a custom Shader. However, it was really surprising how ridiculously easy this was. Hopefully I’ll write a couple of filters soon and release them on this blog.

Extending Flex Builder
Another awesome session, almost perfect for me. This session introduced the object model that the Flex/Actionscript plugin uses for all the language intelligence within the IDE. The session was really useful since I had a couple of ideas to extend Flex Builder but while I was able to learn about Eclipse itself, I had no knowledge of the details of Flex Builder plugin itself.

Hands On: Getting Started with AfterEffects CS4
Programmatic Animations in AfterEffects with Expressions and Scripting
On day 1, I attended part of the AfterEffects workshop in the morning. I have never worked with AE but have seen some designers I work with come up with some incredible stuff with it. The session was perfect since it taught me enough to now let me go play on my own. Unfortunately I had to get out of that session half way since I had to get to a meeting (yeah I was also working there) but the pace of the session was perfect.
On day 2, I attended another session on programmatic animation in AE. Since most of the animation I do in Flash in programmatic, this really made me map that knowledge to the AE domain. Between these two sessions, I think I really got a lot clearer understanding of AE than before.

Adobe XD: Designing Design
Adobe XD: Building a Next Generation News Reader
I loved the XD sessions. Seeing how they go around developing apps and how they make decisions around user interfaces is always interesting. The session where Jeremy Clark explained the process of developing the New York Times news reader application was particularly informative, where they even showed the process of prototyping interaction design, something I really feel all companies should do more of.

But more than the sessions, it was meeting other attendees that was just plain amazing. I had some amazing conversations around the future of LogBook and OpenPyro with quite a few people I have talked to on twitter and email but seeing them in person was very exciting. These were almost as educational as some of the sessions.

Max 08 was just amazing, and am definitely looking forward to Max 09 in LA.

Author: Arpit Mathur

Arpit Mathur is a Principal Engineer at Comcast Labs where he is currently working on a variety of topics including Machine Learning, Affective Computing, and Blockchain applications. Arpit has also worked extensively on Android and iOS applications, Virtual Reality apps as well as with web technologies like JavaScript, HTML and Ruby on Rails. He also spent a couple of years in the User Experience team as a Creative Technologist.

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