Adobe Releases Flash Player 10 Beta and Pixel Bender Toolkit
Now in its second decade, Adobe Flash Player has come a long way from its modest origins as a way of displaying simple animations. These days Flash is tightly coupled to Adobe's battle with Microsoft and Google for the hearts and minds of developers and interactive designers, not just for web site use but increasingly for web and desktop applications. With Flash being Adobe's key competitive advantage, it's no surprise that the firm is proceding at a blistering rate to make Flash as compelling a development and display environment (or "ecosystem" as Adobe refers to it) as possible.
The beta of Flash Player 10 certainly delivers in this regard, with new support for custom filters and effects, native 3D transformation and animation, extensible rich text layout and GPU hardware acceleration. New dynamic streaming for video between Adobe Flash Player 10 beta and intended future releases of Adobe Flash Media Server will automatically adjust video quality as bandwidth availability fluctuates, to provide constant video playback without inflicting the dreaded buffering on users. Also new is native support for 3D effects to position, rotate and animate 2D objects while retaining interactivity. Designers will be happy to hear that a new text engine will provide creative control over device font attributes, such as anti-alias, rotation and style, as well as support for ligatures, significantly raising the bar on current limited text display capabilities.
Perhaps most intriguing is the new capability to create custom filters and effects that extend, and can be combined with, native effects in Flash Player. These filters and effects are created with the new Adobe Pixel Bender toolkit, available for no charge on Adobe Labs. Adobe has apparently tapped the technology in After Effects CS3 to allow users to create their own filters, blend modes and fills with Pixel Bender by writing small pixel-shading functions that can generate animated effects or change the effect on rich media content at runtime. Fun stuff.