Archive for the ‘ACTIONSCRIPT’ Category

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

It’s about time. Here at drawlogic we have been pushing hardware acceleration in Flash as it died in Adobe’s Director product that is all but history. Director was horribly not useful as a programming tool but Flash and AS3 have become a great environment, the only thing missing was getting past software rendering limitations to use hardware acceleration that have been made more apparent by mobile devices which are like late 90′s early 00′s computers.

With Flash gaming being so huge and competitors like Unity it is surprising it took this long but it seems Flash and AIR development will be kicking up a notch in 2011 with hardware acceleration.

Adobe has finally delivered or will so in 2011 on this pressing need.

It’s a good thing ByteArray (Thibault Imbert – the man inside) got in there at Adobe he has been there delivering killer stuff and presents a video on Molehill on Adobe Labs showing this new tech.

“Molehill” is the code name for a new set of low-level, GPU-accelerated 3D APIs that will enable advanced 3D experiences across screens through the Adobe® Flash® Platform runtimes. These new low-level APIs will provide advanced 3D and 3D engine developers the flexibility to leverage GPU hardware acceleration for significant performance gains. Today, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, renders thousands of non z-buffered triangles at approximately 30 Hz. With the new 3D APIs, developers can expect hundreds of thousands of z-buffered triangles to be rendered at HD resolution in full screen at around 60 Hz. Using the new 3D APIs in Flash Player and AIR will make it possible to deliver sophisticated 3D experiences across almost every computer and device connected to the Internet.

When will developers/designers be able to create 3D content using the “Molehill” APIs, and what tools will they use?
Developers will be able to create content through the upcoming Flash Player beta program starting in the first half of 2011. To leverage the 3D features exposed in Flash Player during the beta period, developers will use Adobe Flash Builder™ or the Adobe Flex® SDK with an updated SWC exposing the required APIs.

More on the capabilities and rendering tech:

Developers were told to expect “hundreds of thousands of z-buffered triangles to be rendered at HD resolution in full screen at around 60 Hz” under the new APIs, compared to “thousands” of un-z-buffered, 30Hz triangles under the current Flash Player 10.1.

The acceleration will rely on DirectX 9 standards on Windows, OpenGL ES 1.3 on Macs and OpenGL ES 2.0 on mobile platforms, and potentially puts Flash more directly into competition with 3D-centric web game engines such as Unity.

How do the 3D APIs compare to WebGL’s proposal to have the capability be available through browsers and HTML5?
In terms of design, our approach is very similar to the WebGL design. However, we offer a consistent, browser-agnostic solution that will enable advanced 3D experiences on almost every computer and device connected to the Internet. Additionally, GPU-accelerated 3D in Flash Player will build on all the expressiveness features that exist today in Adobe Flash Player.

We are very excited about this development and what it means to Unity, WebGL and other technologies that have filled the gap. With Adobe making this change and recent tool support for html5 it seems the old Macromedia innovative spirit has been awoken. I only wish it could have kicked into high gear in 2007-2008 when mobile made native and hardware acceleration necessary again and probably for good.

As we learn more and get our hands on it we will be posting much more on ‘Molehill’.

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Here’s a look at another interesting flash player implementation by Joa Ebert using Java with OpenGL rendering support. It is at an early stage but has the right idea in hardware rendering to OpenGL which is easily cross platform and mobile capable with speed.


This project is pretty new but there is work to make it web browser capable either in a java applet or a plugin for IE/FF/WebKit/etc but there are also others that are out there using alternative renderers. Most of these are in early development with varying support and do not currently compare to Adobe’s Flash Player versions.  However the hardware rendering ones like JITB may beat it fairly quickly once all the other features are added.  Complete OpenGL based renderers like Unity or WebGL are fast and can run pretty heavy rendering because of hardware acceleration for all drawing and native support.

Other Flash Player implementations:

  • Lightspark
    • AS3 script via LLVM
    • Written in C++ (very portable for native)
    • OpenGL accelerated rendering
  • Smokescreen
    • runs in Javascript/Canvas/html5
    • limited support
  • Swfdec
    • Firefox plugin
    • Early development
  • Gnash
    • flash 7-9 support

Flash Players that use OpenGL as the renderer are nice because cross platform support is easier.  The reason why OpenGL is a great idea is it is so cross platform on desktop and on mobile, it is also coming soon in WebGL for the browser hopefully.

Versions of OpenGL and support

  • OpenGL ES
    • OpenGL ES 1.1 = OpenGL 1.5 and lower (fixed function)
      • Android
      • iOS devices 3rd gen and lessx
    • OpenGL ES 2.0 = OpenGL 2+ (current version 4.1 – shader capable).
      • iPhone (3GS or later), iPod Touch (3rd generation and later) and iPad
      • Android 2.2+
      • WebGL
  • OpenGL
    • Windows
    • OSX
    • Linux

There is still a clear open field for an open source player to match something like Moonlight for Silverlight or hardware rendered canvas. WebGL would be great to have in time if it gets support but it is also nice to have a compiled language in the content that works in the player faster than scripting but with the ease of scripting. Plugins are still very relevant if they can address that.


Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Tim Knip, a papervision core developer, has brought a pipeline improvement for users of Blender to import blender files directly into papervision and as3. This allows you to get at the blender objects, or blender DNA as it is called, that construct the 3d scene within Blender.

Unity3D has a great workflow that includes this where you can update your .blend file and then it updates in the Unity IDE, this work by Tim creates a similar workflow for Flash (recompile would be needed to show if embedded).

Typically exporters are made from the 3d IDE SDKs such as Blender using Python to export to COLLADA or other formats.  But here Tim is parsing the source file directly.  This also opens up the possibility to make other exporters from more simplified Flash AS3 code rather than learning a new IDE SDK just for an exporter.

I am not sure how much people want to embed .blend files with their applications as there is more information in the .blend file for the Blender app and it will add to the download.  But what this might do it inspire others to create simplified exporters from Tim’s work for Blender to COLLADA, 3ds and more that work well with papervision and flash 3d engines, directly in Flash.  So instead of learning each IDE to build an exporter that is the same, this solution could act as a proxy or middle man to simplify exporter creation, pretty much any Flash coder that understands 3d could build one from .blend files at a minimum.  If it was made as a higher level abstraction so the 3d software source could be swapped out it may open up simplified exporter tools a bit.  Since it is really just reading the binary data in the file, in theory other formats could do the same (3dsmax, Maya, Milkshape, etc).

There is a whole host of opportunities with this new tool! It is definitely nice to have this as I use Blender for Flash 3D and Unity 3D most often.  It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Note from Tim on the tool:

I created a library to read Blender files (.blend) directly. So no
more headaches with broken exporters!

Grab the code here:
http://github.com/timknip/asblender/tree/papervision3d

Here’s a first example:
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/438592/blender/PapervisionTest.swf

And its code:
http://github.com/timknip/asblender/blob/papervision3d/src/PapervisionTest.as

ASBlender is simply a library which reads *everything* in a .blend file. So in theory you could grab materials, animations, armatures, the works… But its up to *you* to grab the relevant bits, since *all* the data is accessible.

Of course: this means you need to study the .blend format, see
http://wiki.github.com/timknip/asblender/ for more information.

Sample Code Snippet posted by Tim:

[Embed (source="/assets/crystal_cube.blend", mimeType="application/octet-stream")]
public var BlenderData:Class;

var blend:BlendFile = new BlendFile();

blend.read(new BlenderData());

if (blend.scenes.length) {
    // Blender can have multiple scenes, don't know yet how to grab the "active" scene.
  buildScene(blend.scenes[0]);
}

/**
 * Prints out the DNA as contained in the .blend
 */
private function printDNA(blend:BlendFile):void {
  var struct:DNAStruct;
  var field:DNAField;

  for each (struct in blend.dna.structs) {
    var type:String = blend.dna.types[ struct.type ];

    trace(type);

    for each (field in struct.fields) {
      trace(field.type + " " + field.name);
    }
  }
}

private function buildScene(scene:Object):void {

  var obj:Object = scene.base.first;

  while (obj) {
    // grab the Blender Object.
    // The Blender Object defines rotation, scale, translation etc.
    var object:Object = obj.object; 

    trace("Object name: " + object.id.name + " type: " + object.type + " matrix: " + object.obmat);

    //for (var key:String in object) {
    //  trace(key);
    //}

    if (object.data) {
      switch (object.type) {
        case 1:  // Mesh
          trace (" - Mesh: " + object.data.id.name);
          buildMesh(object.data);
          break;
        case 10: // Lamp
          trace (" - Lamp: " + object.data.id.name);
          break;
        case 11: // Camera
          trace (" - Camera: " + object.data.id.name);
          break;
        default:
          break;
      }
    }

    obj = obj.next;
  }
}

private function buildMesh(mesh:Object):void {
  var numVertices:int = mesh.totvert;
  var numFaces:int = mesh.totface;
  var i:int;

  trace(" - #verts : " + numVertices);

  for (i = 0; i < numVertices; i++) {
    var v:Object = mesh.mvert[i];

    var x:Number = v.co[0];
    var y:Number = v.co[1];
    var z:Number = v.co[2];

    trace(" - - vertex: " + x + " " + y + " " + z);
  }

  trace(" - #faces : " + numFaces);

  for (i = 0; i < numFaces; i++) {
    var f:Object = mesh.mface[i];

    var v1:int = f.v1;
    var v2:int = f.v2;
    var v3:int = f.v3;
    var v4:int = f.v4;

    trace(" - indices: " + v1 + " " + v2 + " " + v3 + " " + v4);

    if (mesh.mtface) {
      // UV coords are defined
      var tf:Object = mesh.mtface[i];

      trace(" - - - uv: " + tf.uv);
    }
  }
}
Monday, October 5th, 2009

Well good news for Flash developers, Flash CS5 will finally compile to native iPhone and Touch Applications. This is great news for many developers out there who have stuck with the Flash platform.  I am sure there will still be limitations to what you can do with Flash on the iPhone and it will probably be mostly 2D games and apps but this is a great start to getting the Flash platform truly mobile and up to the rest of the industry.

Flash Professional CS5 will enable you to build applications for iPhone and iPod touch using ActionScript 3. These applications can be delivered to iPhone and iPod touch users through the Apple App Store.*

A public beta of Flash Professional CS5 with prerelease support for building applications for iPhone is planned for later this year. Sign up to be notified when the beta starts.

I have been questioning why they have not moved to this model before when others are doing so such as haXe, Unity3D and MonoTouch.  Getting Flash on the web browsers on a mobile is hard because Flash is pretty CPU intensive on embedded devices which is really where computers were in the late 90′s and close to 400-600 MHz processors.  Today these machines wouldn’t be able to run Flash very well and that is the same effect you get on a mobile phone.  But cross-compiling to native, similar to how Unity 3D does it or other solutions like MonoTouch and XNATouch, this is the best solution until mobile/embedded devices have 1GHz processors and more than 500MB of memory. Adobe is using LLVM, much like the Alchemy model, to achieve getting AS3 content onto an iPhone/Touch with AOT or Ahead of Time compilation rather than JIT compilation.

So how do you build an application for the iPhone? It’s simple, really. The forthcoming beta of Adobe Flash Professional CS5 incorporates the ability to create an iPhone application. You have access to nearly all the AIR 2.0 and Flash Player 10.1 APIs. For example, you can use APIs such as RTMP, Remote Shared Objects, and AMF as well as AIR APIs like SQLite and filesystem access. For more information see the developer FAQ on Adobe Labs.

I am glad to see Adobe finally moving on mobile platforms beyond Flashlite.  Flashlite is a poor solution in most cases on embedded devices because they really need native apps to perform, again due to the hardware limitations and it is a whole new platform to learn. Adobe is doing the hard work to make it easy to get developers content on the new embedded devices that are storming the world such as the iPhone and Touch.

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Haxe Sandy is a version of Sandy that can export to an experimental Javascript 3D engine taking advantage of the <canvas> element. There are some great demos that run smoothly in canvas capable browsers and very smooth in Chrome.

Demos of Haxe Sandy:

Sandy was actually the first open source 3d engine in flash, maybe this will be a trend building in haXe for export to flash and javascript?  It certainly looks like a great start and would make a very nice platform for 3d on the web allowing Sandy or other flash libraries to run in Flash and Javascript by writing in an abstraction platform like haXe. Other libraries like Motor2, Physaxe, haxe3D, PureMVC and more have haXe versions. Still very experimental but a possible need when Flash and canvas are both in the market in the future.  Right now it is still all Flash.

[ via Matthew Casperson at devmaster.net ]

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

AIR is very popular for creating twitter clients, Sönke Rohde just made it much easier to make AIR apps for twitter with an AS3 library for Twitter. This library is built on top of core oauth as3 library by iotashin.  Core OAuth as3 library is a standard OAuth library this can be used for your own OAuth backends or connecting to other OAuth services as well.

A very nice feature of this library, in addition to being coded cleanly and as3 style, is the ability to have the Twitter OAuth page render inside of Flash.

Instead of opening the Twitter authorization page in the browser the library also contains OAuthLoader which is a wrapper around HTMLLoader which enables to directly show the authorization page within an AIR window:

// use this in the requestTokenHandler instead of navigateToURL
var loader:OAuthLoader = new OAuthLoader();
loader.load(request);
loader.percentWidth = 100;
loader.percentHeight = 100;
var w:Window = new Window();
w.width = 800;
w.height = 400;
w.title = req.url;
w.addChild(loader);
w.open();
Friday, June 19th, 2009

haXe is an interesting programming language that allows abstracting the source from platform target.  It outputs for targets such as Actionscript and Javascript from haxe language source. But, haXe can also output to native code to run on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.

Well because of this it is possible to run haXe on the iPhone. The gamehaXe site has found a way to get haXe to compile to iPhone via hxcpp which creates a C++ output from haXe code very similar to Actionscript 3.

I am a bit late to the party but this is great news. It uses the NME library which will allows code to mostly be written to the Flash 9 API and create the C++ for XCode to compile and run on the iPhone and Touch. This creates a path to port Flash games to iPhone/Touch.

This project is one to watch and participate in.  Native compilation to the iPhone from haXe is a more simplified code to write in while providing lower level performance which is needed on mobile devices, as processors, cache and ram are much lower than desktop and below what is capable of running the Flash AVM2 currently.

If you have more interest in haXe there are some other great demos on as3/haXe at the game haXe site. Also, Tony at touchmypixel.com has posted some very useful information to help you get started with hxcpp.

The hxcpp project is a newer output target along with a java one but this could be interesting if actionscript like code and many libraries like Physaxe or AS3 libraries could be ported to haXe to output to the iPhone.

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Rozengain or Dennis Ippel of AKQA updated probably one of the tools I use the most for flash 3d and that is the blender to as3 exporter.  This simplifies loading in the meshes you have and lessens the bulk of the COLLADA format.  COLLADA is great but flash is still client side and fairly memory intensive for 3d so loading in models directly to as3 is nice if flash is your presentation tool.

AS3 Blender exporter has been updated to allow multiple object export. Also in April is was updated to export quads and modifiers.

One concern you might have is statically binding the code within a main swf fileon compile and resulting file size compared to loading in the DAE dynamically.  But you can just load these in as you would external DAE COLLADA files as compiled swfs and since it is just code it is very compact.   This adds some duplication of code (such as tweening libraries or the 3d engine source as needed) but allows a more horizontal loading or lazy loading of meshes when needed.

This is just another option to get 3D models into the flash 3d engine of your choice in addition to COLLADA, some MD2 support and limited ASE support.

This is an awesome project that keeps getting better, thanks Rozengain.

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Flash 10 will be ready for mainstream hopefully by the end of this year, or early ’10 when the penetration numbers will be up in or around the 90% range via zeh fernando based on previous trajectories.  

With that, Flash 10 has many great new things such as the Vector structure that allows a collection of a certain type, which results in a faster collection because of the known type.  So anywhere where Arrays are used, that is a possible candidate for a performance increase within some code because you are asking the virtual machine to do less work on each loop (not having to dynamically find out the type).

ByteArray (Thibault Imbert) has demonstrated that for the JPEG encoding in corelib it is up to 2.5 times faster using Vectors than Arrays.  Your mileage may vary heavily but it is almost a guaranteed speed boost due to less work.  This obviously has great possibilities for speeding up code that uses lots of arrays.  

Due to the performance boost the Vector does have some constraints in the typical give and take of coder flexibility with compiler and virtual machine overhead.  Vectors are more explicit and strongly typed which is why they are fast, but this is also limiting.

In addition to the data type restriction, the Vector class has other restrictions that distinguish it from the Array class:

  • A Vector is a dense array. Unlike an Array, which may have values in indices 0 and 7 even if there are no values in positions 1 through 6, a Vector must have a value (or null) in each index.
  • A Vector can optionally be fixed-length, meaning the number of elements it contains can’t change.
  • Access to a Vector’s elements is bounds-checked. You can never read a value from an index greater than the final element (length - 1). You can never set a value with an index more than one beyond the current final index (in other words, you can only set a value at an existing index or at index [length]).

 [ Vector docs  ]

ByteArray not only used Vectors heavily but did other optimizations that are always good to do, even though optimization is evil when you are working with precious client side resources ensuring an optimized base starting point can be a good thing.

So what did I do ?

  • I used bitwise operators as much as possible.
  • I replaced all Arrays with fixed length Vectors.
  • I used pre-incrementation rather than post-incrementation (thanks Joa for this one ;)).
  • I casted to int all my Vector indices access.
  • Other minor stuff you always do to optimize your code 

Other sources as well for even more optimization or shall I say efficient AS3:

Monday, May 18th, 2009

pyamf is pretty sweet for Flash remoting with Pythonic server side, but now we have two nicely done and integrated remoting kits for python on the server side.

amfast is a new remoting library  that looks to be as sweet as pyamf (where sweet == fast and useful).  I am checking out amfast now but the speed boost alone might be worth it.  For instance, working with real-time games, when you need static content you need to grab that quickly sometimes via a content service.  The faster that link the better. It also has Twisted integration which is great for networking and SQLAlchemy integration which is in my opinion the best ORM for python (pyamf has twisted, django, pylons, sqlalchemy as well)

amfast is well documented and has some great examples.  If you have the Python addiction, check it.

Description

  • AmFast is a Flash remoting framework for Python.
  • AmFast can use AMF to communicate between Python and Flash, Flex, and any other system that supports AMF.
  • AMF is a binary object serialization protocol used by Actionscript based applications.

Server Features

  • Support for NetConnection and RemoteObject RPC.
  • Support for Producer/Consumer ‘push’ messaging with HTTP polling, HTTP long-polling, and real-time HTTP streaming channels.
  • Support for authentication with NetConnection and RemoteObject.
  • Flexible Target mapping system to map message destinations to invokable Target objects.
  • Support for ChannelSets with multiple Channels to expose resources in different ways.
  • Built in Channels for CherryPy, Twisted Web, and plain WSGI.
  • Support for configurable Endpoints. Use AmFast’s built-in AMF encoder/decoder C-extension, or use an external AMF encoder/decoder, such as PyAmf for a pure-Python implementation.

AMF Encoder/Decoder Features

  • AMF0/AMF3 encoder/decoder written in C as a Python extension for speed.
  • More than 10x faster than the PyAmf encoder/decoder (even when using PyAmf’s optional C-extension).
  • Map custom classes with ClassDef objects for complete control over serialization/de-serialization.
  • Full support for IExternalizable objects.
  • Data persistence with SqlAlchemy including remotely-loadable lazy-loaded attributes.
  • Actionscript code generation from ClassDef objects.