MosesProposes: Standardizing Animation and Motion Kits for Flash, Flex, After Effects, Javascript and I add Director and haXe

The Proposal

Moses, the maker of FuseKit, is hoping to influence Adobe product lines to include a common base for animation and motion going forward. Currently the AS3 world is very alive and is inspiring developers like myself to build lots of toolkits and really creating reusable code and kits that can make things very easy from going to Flash to Flex. But wouldn’t it be nice if a part of these kits that have to be downloaded every time you have an application use them be part of the native Adobe applications, or a core animation kit that partially standardizes animation basics to build upon further?

Are we just asking for trouble or is this a good idea? I don’t’ think it can hurt to bring this to the surface. I know that common syntax and familiar kits can really help the developers and designers move from Flash to Flex to After Effects to Javascript, it could also help Adobe with usage and usefulness of their entire suite of products. Or further this could be a standard that allows Silverlight to also build upon (open standard) and may the best platform win.

I think it would be very wise for Adobe to:

  • Standardize animation toolkits across their products and
  • Start standardizing some of the basic tools of building motion and filter kits to native but still allowing a flourishing open source and community research and development aspect.

What MosesProposes:

Moses did speak with someone at Adobe about this and it is generally in the plans:

“It was also a pleasure to see Richard Galvan present the upcoming crop of Flash features: the sleek update to the animation timeline (better late than never?), support for columnated flowing text (double finally!) and the big one, native 3D player support for Display Objects as rotatable 2D planes. He ran out of time and didn’t get to a few others shown at Adobe MAX, such as built-in IK (inverse kinematics) and faster pixel-level drawing for texture-mapping and photoshop-like filter effects.

Talking to him after the presentation I learned that Richard has a keen awareness of exactly where each feature is at currently. We chatted about low-level animation mechanics of the Flash Player, and I found out that the holy grail of a time-based player is indeed on the distant horizon, but that each rev will need to be a small step toward this goal. The new Flash timeline features meld After Effects, Premiere and Live Motion, and from what I’ve seen I have to say that they are nailing this long-overdue upgrade with great design decisions and a level of usability we’ve never seen in Flash. Kudos, team!”

The Current Situation

Right now Tweener and TweenLite (and animation package and a few others) have a unique position in that they work the same almost for AS2 and AS3 (Flex or Flash – with minor property changes such as _x to x as that has changed in AS3). But it would be nice if these kits also had a version for After Effects (really bringing that tool into Flash/flex developer worlds) and Javascript and it would be great if Silverlight also were supported (AgTweener anyone?).

Tweener is leading the pack in this aspect of creating a similar experience from AS2 to AS3 in Flash and AS3 in Flex and even JSTweener for Javascript, and a kit for haXe which is becoming my favorite toy and the dark horse with the most upside potential, with haXe on the loose these points may all be moot as haXe can target any platform (except After Effects easily, correct me if I am wrong and Silverlight but it could easily be done so to do it for Silverlight 1.0 which is ES3 based).

I don’t use After Effects as much right now but if I could easily incorporate this into Flash/Flex and script and animate in a similar syntax and way I know After Effects would definitely have a boost in interest.

Also, the forgotten one Director, can we please get an ES4 based language in that application, or an update? Then kits and add-ons are much more possible. I really miss hardware accelerated 3d in browser as a pushed technology, Director is still around but it does not get the focus it needs. Feel the freedom and coolness just in this small test here in director, hardware accelerated 3d is the best, the Director application environment and Lingo and hacked in javascript are not the best. As a long-time Director user, hobbyist and professional I am disappointed in Director’s support at Adobe thus far, but I digress.

The Reality

The reality is right now the only problem with kits like Tweener, TweenLite, Tween, mx.transitions, mx.motion, etc is that the source has to be embedded in movieclips multiple times. Sometimes there are multiple animation kits per compiled SWF that have to be used for more advanced features. This adds bulk that if common might not need to be there (this comes into play still on mobile and large games/apps).

Let’s say you have an application that pulls in many disconnected SWFs and they all have animation in them, well if you have 20 of these let’s say, and you embedded a very small Tweener at 9k per SWF. That is about 200k of duplication of AS code. Due to the kits small sizes this is not a problem really but when animation kits like Animation Package come into play, you are talking 40k per SWF which would leave you with almost a meg of just duplicated animation code. I don’t think this is that major of a problem for kits like Tweener (9k compiled) and Tweenlite (3k compiled) but as projects get bigger and more depth of animation platforms needed this can be a problem. This can also be solved in architecture with a controller and dummy SWFs to animate but there are times when you need animation in the compiled SWFs and then also need it in many others and the controller.

The other reality is the animation kits (mx.transitions.easing, mx.transitions.tween) for Flex and Tween for fl are a little bloated, more difficult than needed to use and as has been seen, much slower than kits currently available in the community. My one fear about this is that if Adobe makes this, possibly like Microsoft’s toolkits and libraries they put out, they are always bloated and slower, then because they are embedded they are untouchable. If it was standard enough as building blocks that are faster because they are native, then this is the best option as embedded script would be hard pressed to beat native code in the players/applications.

The Future Plans

Some of this is underway….

Animation kits for future, Adobe is releasing Flash 10 called ‘Astro’ that has many new improvements in tweening with xml closer to flex or even Silverlight like transitions and storyboards. Aral Balkan, a sponsor of OSFlash, posted on this and even that Diesel Flash CS4 will include more Tween tools for IK/bones. Tweener , TweenLite, Animation Package, Animation System etc these are all helping to define the best way to do animation kits.

Physics toolkits have their own animation kits currently usually to handle the movement according to algorithms. FOAM, APE , Box2DFlashAS3 (just released very recently will be posting more on this after I check it) and Motor Physics (unreleased but heavily demoed at polygonal labs) are great physics toolkits and I like this being part of the community to get refined, maybe one of them or the best performing ones becomes part of the proposed Adobe Animation bundle. These will define the best way to do physics kits.

3d in flash toolkits have also been emerging rapidly in 2007 with Papervision3D, Away3d based on pv3d, Sandy, and even engines starting to get built on top of these platforms.

The general direction is moving towards another platform in there somewhere but I think much work is left to be done to standardized physics systems, 3d and advanced motion filter tweens and bezier, splines (Catmull-Rom), editors, etc. I think it is getting time for basic animation kits to become more standard though and in latest versions of flash this is included in the flex and flash scripts but not the native code.

Right now the standard in syntax and the broadest reach is Tweener and due to the bigger fish syndrome, haXe that can target any platform, it also has a Tweener and can create code for as2, as3 and any target written in if After Effects, Premiere or other apps get more robust and standard animation and motion kits. Tweener has kits made and contributed for AS2, AS3, haXe, Javascript and others.

There is also Hydra and the AIF Toolkit that are standardizing After Effects and Flash shaders and filters into a new shader language like Cg and reminiscent of processing.org.

As humans we trial and error and build new platforms in the market to step on to create better platforms to build cool stuff, it is evolving right now. AS3 is inspiring platforms within platforms of Flash and Adobe kits as well as on Silverlight and in the Javascript world with JSTweener, jquery etc. As these things are refined we build a level standard platform to build more stuff on. Eventually this will be there and whoever does the standard platform for animation will probably reap in users and abilitty to easily add new products and solutions where people already have training. Silverlight is an example with .NET developers. .NET was also an example with C# so similar to Java. ES4 based AS3 has proven it is inspiring all types of new platforms and kits and will continue to do so and it is an interesting time in this industry whichever direction it goes.

  • http://visualrinse.com/ Chad Udell

    An absolutely brillian post and an idea that really needs some attention. I would love to be able to take my code and move back and forth between Flash/Flex and After Effects. This would truly save me a lot of time and headaches at work.

  • http://drawk.wordpress.com/ drawk

    Yeh managing teams and skills would be much easier if these systems at least in the adobe environments were common and similar at least in naming and syntax and most basic expected behavior. They are partially doing this with shaders and AIF Toolkit and Hydra filters but animation, motion, bones etc should be similar. And one day maybe Adobe will also update Director.

  • http://www.v-i-a.net erixtekila

    Thanks ! A really nice overview of this o’ flash thema.

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  • http://43kg.com Horrow

    ‘Astro’ has many new improvements, but as for me, its not new things…

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