It may be a decade old, but professional Flash work on the Web is about to undergo a renaissance. Digit looked at new horizons for commercial Flash work.

 border=0 /><BR></div>
</p>
<p>
Flash celebrated its tenth birthday in 2006, but the software that started out as FutureSplash Animator could be set to reappear as a key Web technology in 2007. 
</p>
<p>
Developed by FutureWave Software and released in 1996 as FutureSplash Animator, it was bought and developed by Macromedia, and released as Flash 1. 
</p>
<p>
Since then, the program has developed into a world-class authoring tool, and was acquired, along with its parent company, by creative technology behemoth Adobe in 2005. 
</p>
<p>
The present version of the Flash Integrated Development Environment (IDE), Flash Professional, is currently at version 8, while the client Flash Player is at version 9. 
</p>
<p>
While Flash Player adoption has not seen any sign of slackening, younger technologies such as Ajax have since appeared to create a distracting buzz in the developer community. 
</p>
<p>
“There are definitely fewer Flash sites around than a couple of years ago,” says Marc Peter, creative director of interactive agency On-Idle. “But the ones that use Flash are doing it very elegantly and within context to a brand’s identity. Technology is now underpinning design and brand marketing.” 
</p>
<p>
Driven by the high penetration of broadband and mobile platforms, and the new bitmap manipulation, scripting, and video abilities of the authoring tool, Flash seems set for a resurgence. 
</p>
<p>
Marc Peter has used Flash ever since version 2, and foresees the top Flash trends for 2007 as full-screen HTML, Flash video, alpha video, and alpha channel support and bitmap effects. 
</p>
<p>
“For example, Flash now allows the rendering of vector graphics as bitmaps,” he explains. “This is enormously useful, as most customer data is submitted for re-use as InDesign files.” 
</p>
<p>
Jop Wielens, Flash developer at Digital Outlook, says version 8 was a massive boon for Flash users. “Flash used to be too limited,” he says, “but I started loving it when version 8 came along with its bitmap data support and the related filters. I also like that you can keep the code separate from the design using ActionScript 2.0 (AS2) classes.” 
</p>
<p>
Wielens’ colleague, senior Flash developer Lucy Thomson, is a Flash veteran of six years. “The technologies I’ve been using most are the video capabilities, and the ability to load multiple forms of external data, in particular images, XML, video and database calls,” she says. 
</p>
<p>
“The fact that Flash is so flexible and makes the development of shell applications used in multilingual projects very easy, and this is a must in every project we run.” 
</p>
<p>
<h2>Next steps</h2>
</p>
<p>
Version 9.0 of the authoring tool (codenamed Blaze) is due soon and Flash users are waiting eagerly for its arrival. However, there are fears that it will be even more removed from its design tool beginnings than the current incarnation. 
</p>
<p>
“I think Flash 9 is going to mean a bigger divide between designers and developers,” says Jop Wielens. “The AS3 code is very strict and not very approachable for designers. You can’t just drop a bit of code here and there on the timeline. It’s probably a good thing though, because now the designers have to leave that stuff to the people who actually know how to code.” 
</p>
<p>
“As a program, Flash will evolve to keep up with the demands of the Web community,” says Hybrid Studio creative director and early FutureSplash adoptor Jeff Lin. 
</p>
<p>
“The Web community demanded better and more efficient ways to handle video and that’s what we have now. There’s been a demand for ActionScript to evolve into a more robust programming language and that’s what we have now. 
</p>
<p>
“Web design is a profession that requires you to learn new things. If you stop learning, you’ll be obsolete. At the same time, as Flash has become a much more complex program, there’s now a greater need for specialists. It’s become harder and harder to be that one ultra-talented Web designer that can do it all.” 
</p>
<p>
Alex Amelines, senior animator at design company NWYH and a Flash user of six years, feels that even if designers don’t necessarily have to learn to use Flash, they certainly need to keep tabs on what the application is capable of.
</p>
<p>
“This is essential in order to produce functional Web sites that serve their purpose, instead of overbloated, sluggish interfaces cluttered by unnecessary elements,” he says. 
</p>
<p>
However, there’s still room for creativity – Jop Wielens is looking forward to the new audio features of Flash 9. 
</p>
<p>
“With the Spectrum Analyzer built into AS3 we can analyze the sound,” he explains, “so I’m expecting to see lots of crazy spectrum analyzers and sites adapting to the music that’s being played.” 
</p>
<p>
<h2>Flash flood</h2> 
</p>
<p>
Some think this functionality is set to expand further off the Web page. “Flash is integrating with everything, both hardware and software related,” says Lucy Thomson. 
</p>
<p>
“Even if it was never designed to, the incredible persistence of developers has seen it forcing a connection with fluent ease. The use of items such as Web-cams and microphones in Web applications will hopefully start to increase as the ideas start to expand. 
</p>
<p>
“I wonder if it might not be possible to develop them in a way that can create applications for those unable to use the keyboard and mouse with ease. Of course, video is ever increasing everywhere on the Web and I can see that playing a major role in the designs coming through for the New Year. It’s exciting and immediate – how can you resist it?” 
</p>
<p>
“Video content is an area that we are all waiting to see develop into something more substantial and enjoyable,” agrees Alex Amelines. 
</p>
<p>
“Although many companies have achieved impressive results in this area, I think that Flash, along with Internet technologies in general, have a long road left to travel. 
</p>
<p>
“I would expect to see a more reliable control of Flash video content. Since I started using Flash I’ve been waiting for some kind of ‘three-dimensionality’ control. Even if it was some sort of perspective transform for movie clips, I really hope the wait is nearly over.” 
</p>
<p>
ROBIN HOOD: THE OUTLAWS’ REVENGE<BR>
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/robinhood/games" rel="nofollow"target="_blank">www.bbc.co.uk/drama/robinhood/games</a><BR>
<b>Agency:</b> NOWWASHYOURHANDS, <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.nowwashyourhands.com" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">www.nowwashyourhands.com</a><BR>
<b>Form:</b> Six online promo games for TV series<BR>
<b>Technology/products used:</b> Flash 8, Photoshop, Abelton Live, Eclipse and Xcode and most importantly, a pencil, digital camera and microphone
</p>
<p>
<div class=inlineimage><img src=
Characters remaining: 335