Adobe's Flash Professional CS6 in Review
Sergio Rosa [nemirc] - Sr Staff Writer
I am not a web designer, but just like everyone else, I’ve noticed this “web revolution,” where everything is going mobile and dynamic websites are built using HTML5. Flash has also evolved from a website creation tool to an application development tool. Flash Professional CS6 takes this evolution one step further because it greatly focuses on Android development.
As you know, I am very interested in game development (although “mobile” game development is not really my thing), so the sprite sheet generation feature drew my attention right off the bat. The Generate Sprite Sheet feature allows you to take all the frames in any animation, and store them in one single image (a sprite sheet). This sprite sheet will contain all the frames of your animation, so you can use it in games.
At first, this sounds like a very simple feature, but imagine you have created a very complex (vector-based) animated character in Flash, and that this character has several layers with the different shapes. Using this feature you can, literally, “flatten” all the layers in one single image per frame, and use that instead of those several layers, because it will yield better performance. What’s nice about this feature is that those sprites will be useful in pretty much any 2d game engine.
Another feature I found interesting is the Simulator. When creating applications for mobile, normally you cannot test the entire functionality on the computer because you don’t have all required inputs (so to speak). For example, in your computer you cannot test the accelerometer behavior, or the different tap and swipe inputs. This is why the mobile simulator is very useful.
The Simulator lets you simulate the different behaviors directly on your computer. You can try tilting the virtual phone, sweep on the screen, tap, double tap, and so on. I have to admit it’s weird to use the simulator because it will never be the same as using “the real thing,” but it gets the job done.
When I was using this feature, I couldn’t help to think of the mobile simulator in UDK (Unreal Development Kit, the free version of Epic’s Unreal Engine). The mobile simulator in UDK actually allows you to install a “remote” app on your iPhone (or iPod) and plug it to your computer. Then, you can use the phone as your “controller” and have the desktop simulation react to those inputs. I think a feature like this would be really cool to have in Flash, because it provides the best of both worlds: it lets you test the application on your computer, without forcing you to go through the entire mobile compiling pains, but also lets you test the application using an actual mobile device, instead of an on screen simulator.
Still on the mobile front, if you’re developing a mobile application that targets the AIR Runtime, your phone will require that runtime before it can run the application (this reminded me of video game installers, because they always install the DirectX runtimes even if you have installed them). Usually, you need to install them manually, but now you can package those runtimes with your application installer, so they are installed automatically on the users’ phones/tablets. I think everything that makes the end users’ lives easier is a welcome addition, and if you save them the trouble by auto-installing everything they need, it can’t be a bad thing.
Adobe Flash Professional CS6 makes it easier to manage AIR SDKs. If you’re familiar with managing Adobe extensions, then managing the AIR SDKs is virtually identical. You can install and uninstall those directly inside the application. When building mobile applications, you can also load Native Extensions to add extra functionality to your apps.
Flash Professional CS6 also adds some performance optimizations for mobile applications using hardware acceleration. This allows games (and any application) to run at 60fps, while the standard playback speed in mobile applications is 24fps. This reminds me of an ongoing talk about 60fps being better than 30fps (in PC/console games), but, to me, performance is more important when it’s related to how much is happening on the screen than how many frames a second you can have (eye candy comes first, frames per second comes second). Unfortunately, I can’t test this myself since I am not an Android developer.
Lastly, Flash Professional CS6 adds the ability to export your movies as HTML5 content. This can be done using the “CreateJS” framework, available on the Adobe website. This is a very nice addition for web designers, because they can be sure the websites they create can be seen on mobile devices (as long as those devices support HTML5, but I think every modern device should support it by now).
Flash Professional CS6 is obviously meant to improve workflow when creating Android applications, and pretty much everything new in this version relates to that area in one way or another. If you’re a mobile applications developer, Flash CS6 has a lot of potential for you. However, if you’re focusing in more traditional Flash applications (like web design), you won’t find as many new features.
For more information on Flash Professional CS6 and other products in the Adobe Creative Suite, please visit the Adobe website.
Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.
August 13, 2012
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