Sunday, October 26, 2008

Head Conference Wrap Up: Day 3

Previous wrap-ups:
Day One
Day Two

I didn't get off to a good start on day three. Caught only the last 10 minutes of Mario Klingemann's presentation... there is a big DOH! But will definitely be catching his presentation later (what I did catch was very interesting)... who starts these presentations before noon anyways????

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The first full session I caught was Papervision Simplified by Seb Lee Dilisle.... sorry Seb, I had to. It is really spelled Seb Lee-Delisle, and he is a good sport about it). Seb is the Technical Director at Plug-in Media and manages Brighton's Flash user group.

He started off by showing us his Plug-in Media site, which has some very cool AS2 3D effects going on. There is a great 3D soccer game buried within the site... all done in AS2, which is pretty amazing.

From there he got into some of his papervision projects. He showed a Baseball simulation for MLB (someone brilliantly asked why the hell are Brits doing a baseball simulation??? which led to some fun heckling). Anyways, the simulation was very cool. He pointed out a few tricks along the way, such as baking lighting into textures to save processor as well as using a skybox to avoid huge ambient scenery. He then went on to show us a Big/Small character game. Its a very slick interactive game targeted towards 4-6 year olds (but you can bet that I will be playing it too :) ). It looked incredible. One example he showed us he was doing some finger paintings and then just tossed the paper on the floor. For the rest of the game, his painting just lay there in the center of the room. Is the little features like this that really make projects shine. Looking forward to when it goes live.

There was not much time for QA, but he and Mr. Doob (who was attending) did briefly touch on the Flash Player 10 branch of papervision. The bad news is that the new branch does not see any performance increases from using Flash's new native 3D capabilities. The good news is though, that it does improve how it looks.

Apparently the speech was similar to his FOTB's presentation and if you would like to view it in full, please check out Peter Elst's blog post here.

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Next up on the agenda was Carlos Ulloa on "The best way to predict the future is to invent it". He mainly focused on project timelines and pointed out the importance of adding time for research and prototyping in the timeline. He described the current project timeline as starting with some art concept work done in photoshop to be proof of concept. The developer may have some say in what works and what does not, but at this point in the project he may not truly know. From there the developer is expected to produce the project, but in many cases unforeseen problems arise and the final product is different than the photoshop file that was originally shown to the client.
His solution is to not worry about the art until you have a working prototype. Spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of the project on having the developer do some research and then produce a working prototype of what the final product will be. The benefits here include:
- the client should have better expectations of the final product.
- The Art can be made for the prototype. This is key. Instead of finding out late in a project that the art needs to be scaled back or compressed, everything should be made to fit what is already known to work. The Designer and Developer should be working very closely together at this stage in the game.
- By leaving time to research, you may find ways to make the final product even better than expected.

During the Q/A session he mentioned that there is no minimal size for a project to fit within this scheme. Even if its only a 1 month project, you could use the first week on prototyping.

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Unfortunately Ralph's session did not happen. Not sure why, but both his presentation and Peter Elst's presentation will be recorded and shown later (similar to Keith's). At least that gives us some more content to look forward to :).

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Next I attended Dr. WooHoo's Generating Artwork. Holy Crap! All I can say was that it was mind blowing. He was using Flash swf files (via ExtendScript and Adobe PatchPanel) to create tools and panels to extend the capabilities of photoshop, illustrator, and the rest of the Creative Suite. I had no clue you could even do this... it was ridiculous. He even cracked open Maya to create some 3D coordinates, copied some of their xyz data, and then used them in one of his custom tools to create this wicked Generated Art Video. Its hard to really describe what all was shown or said. For most of the session I just sat there with my jaw dropped, thinking wait, you can't do that. Oh man, do I have some research to do.

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I ended my conference experience by watching Simon Wardley redo his talk on Why "open" Matters from innovation to commoditisation (which he did on day 1). And by redo, I mean just show the video from Day 1 while he heckled himself and took questions from the audience. He even made paper slides to show on his webcam during the presentation and was able to "RickRoll" Aral... priceless.

I'm glad we ended with this presentation. It really displayed one of my favorite aspects of the Head Conference. It wasn't what he said, but just how everyone interacted. Everyone joked around. You could type questions or jokes and would get a reaction right away from the presenter (this was especially seen in Seb's presentation... he was easily distracted... which made it fun). I had assumed that an online conference would lose some of the interactive feel, but I think we actually gained some via the chat and webcams. Overall it was a great experience and one that I plan on doing again next year. I highly recommend it.

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