Flash Player 8 will be hot

By now, everybody has probably seen the latest post on Colin Moock’s blog with a link to the first public demonstration of some of Flash Player 8’s capabilities. The blurry, low-res video shows what can only be defined as a quantum leap from the previous version.

First, there’s some new font features (thanks to a new font engine) which can’t actually be seen, but people are saying it works like ClearType. Well, okey. I personally hoped that Flash would add features such as hinting before thinking of adding minor features such as ClearType support; but maybe it has been added and nobody couldn’t notice it from the video.

Then there’s the speed improvements. I don’t really know all the minor technical details of what has been shown, but at a glance, the player seems to be much much much much much much much much much much more faster then the previous version — the video shows the same graphical animation on both versions.

Video alpha channel support has also been added. While it was possible in the past, it’d require a sequence of imported PNG images – that is, bigger in size.

The demonstration also included some nifty effects that could be applied on movieclips. Particularly, that part made me nervous; I was afraid it would be some new behaviors (like the ones introduced in Flash MX 2004) that would create monster assets on design time. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem the case; it looks like they are created on run time and are available through scripting. The possibilities seem a bit limited right now (only a blurring effect was on display), but hopefully this is the tip of the iceberg.

And finally, the last part of the video had a video feed (of the actual speaker) going through several different color transformation effects. While it’s actually hard to figure it out, I hope that’s proof that more complex channel mixing is possible on this new player – and (one can only dream) that new transfer modes are also available now. This would turn Flash in a real serious animation tool.

While I work with Flash on 100% of my day and I love my job, in the past I started to become a bit sad with the direction Flash was receiving. I felt that some simple ‘web’ features could still be added to the Flash player, but instead it was being geared towards ‘online app’ developers.

While I don’t expect Flash to be geared towards designers in the literal way – I realize both communities must be served – I think it’s quite cool that Macromedia is adding some features that can actually make Flash move in the eyes of designers and creative-geared websites. For that, I thank the Macromedia Flash team.

PS: While I’m on it, there’s another reason I have to thank Macromedia. I had to pay my fees for the goods they’ve sent, but they turned out to be quite cool. Thanks Mike Chambers, thanks Macromedia.

Update: Peter Hall has some new information on the font engine used on the new Flash Player. He claims that, among other things, the new font engine adds hinting-like support for better font rendering on lower resolution. It’s a pretty good read, although I believe that the biggest problem with hinting is actually creating it (a very difficult and lengthy work) than the resulting file size.

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