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So when do you think native graphics acceleration is due for Flash?

July 5th, 2006

ActionScript 3.0 and Flash Player 9.0 brought a big leap of speed and all kinds of changes and optimizations with it. But these mainly happen under the hood only. While Flash 8 came up with the bitmap level manipulation stuff, Flash 9 doesn’t come with any groundbreaking new features that are visible to the surface (except for the speed improvement).

[ad#ad_content_small]Yesterday on a meeting I was asked if I could use a rotatable 3D mesh in Flash for the clients presentation project and I could only tell them that the lack of native 3D support is the big weakness of Flash. Eventually we will end up with a single frame animation to fake the rotation. However this was one example that there must be quite a demand for 3D support in Flash, not only for experimentation but even more for commercial use. In fact native 3D is already overdue since a while but I accept that implementing such a thing is not an easy challange.

So native graphics acceleration for Flash has to come one way or the other, not only because everybody wants it but also for Flash to stay competitive (think about WinFX). There is still Director one could argue. But somehow I get the feeling that Director will either continue it’s shadow existence or it will disappear sooner or later. 3D for Flash has to come, there is no way or excuse around it! Maybe the next version? Too early! Maybe Flash 10? Who knows! We might however see some sweet audio improvements in a near future!

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  1. July 5th, 2006 at 17:18 | #1

    Am just thinking,

    Now that Flash player 9 AS 3.0 good enough when it comes to performance, compared to the previous version, what will the Flash player team at macromedia (adobe) doing for the next version of the player ?

    May be they will move a few classes as native classes ( like the VideoPlayer class) but there should be more? And AFAIK, 3D is the next most expected thing!

    lets keep our fingers crossed!

  2. July 5th, 2006 at 18:56 | #2

    why not just use Director if you want true 3D?

  3. July 5th, 2006 at 21:20 | #3

    @atom:
    The argument for director is so weak these days – yes it has more power but it’s far from a ubiquitous as the flash player, and since there are a million more flash developers than director developer – estimated figure ;) flash is where it is at.

    I think 3D will come in flash, and whilst there are many custom scripted solutions the most recent player updates have allowed for projects such as Sandy (soon to be released as AS3 which will hopefully be fast)

    These scripted solutions are well developed and getting reasonably feature complete to a simple extent – you have shading and bitmap mapping – and I’ve seen some AS2 demos of bump mapping too using filters. SO the scripting is there and the speed is getting there and until we have a native 3D solution I think we will still have some quality 3D options to be playing with.

  4. July 5th, 2006 at 22:36 | #4

    In Gary Grossman’s Breeze presentation on the Flash Player, he hints that Adobe is seriously considering hardware acceleration in the next version of the Flash Player.
    http://vmccurley.blogspot.com/2006/06/flash-10-player-to-get-hardware.html

  5. July 6th, 2006 at 01:51 | #5

    They’ve already got hardware acceleration on the Mac as of version 8. However, I agree, it’d be nice to get a ubiqitious, interactive 3D engine everywhere.

  6. July 6th, 2006 at 05:12 | #6

    I think one of the main drawbacks of hardware acceleration is that it encourages people to create demanding projects which could divide the flash player userbase. Flash player is for everbody at the moment, it doesn’t try to push boundaries but provides a simple feature set that many developers have used to push their own boundaries – obviously hardware acceleration is coming, but when people start writing code for nvidia nforce whatever or above it starts to make flash a more elitist things that can only work for some people – so far flash has managed to stay ‘the peoples’ rich multimedia content choice – so if hardware acceleration comes it will probably only be taking advantage of graphics card basics rather than pushing the envelope – so i guess when graphics card basics are reasonably good enough that is when we will see a flash player to take advantage of them.

  7. July 7th, 2006 at 12:05 | #7

    Jon, one of the things that I like Flash for is it’s compact format. You can write apps, games, websites and it’s all basically very compact (other than for example Java or .NET). Recent computers all usually feature OpenGL. DirectX is more powerful but only available for Win platforms. If Adobe is going to add some sort of OpenGL support it would be great and I don’t think this would sacrifice Flash’s format or make it more hardware dependant.

  8. July 8th, 2006 at 23:59 | #8

    I think my main view is taken from the Mac platform – flash has always been slower there until they were forced by demanding developers and users to fix this and helped in doing so by Apple themselves (they gave advice about the OS from memory). Now this worked fine because compared to Windows-based computers Mac have a more rapid turnover, a smaller userbase anyway, and teh majority of macs in teh wild are reasonably up-to-date – but with windows based PCs the architecture is often very old, yes new windows computers shoudl all be mor ethan capable of hardware acceleration, but I know from experience that many corporate environments and public sector services have teh most archaic machines going – yet flash still works relatively well (unless they are using windows NT *shuddder*)

    We all know that support for NT/ME etc has ended, we need to look to the future rather than the past – but all I’m saying is that I understand perfectly at least one reason Macromedia and now Adobe aren’t just throwing in 3D support – but I do believe that we will start seeing flash player alphas looking at support for 3D on Adobe labs in as little as a year from now – they now we all want it – they know they have to do it to compete well with WPF etc – so it will happen, but I’m confident that they will only do it when it is right – for the last few years (maybe more) the Flash Team has really been getting the format right and have managed to get it inserted everywhere and on everyones computer (practically) and now on their phones and gaming devices – I think Flash Player 10 will begin the 3D support, since I can’t see where else they have to make any major feature improvements (only minor tweaks)

  9. July 9th, 2006 at 00:10 | #9

    Oh, by the way, I know this post isn’t about just 3D – but in my mind when we get hardware support for flash on platforms it will largely be due to 3D features being added – I expect to see a feature set similar to WPF and I’m sure that flash player 9 has already built a foundation on to which 3D features and hardware acceleration can be added more easily than with flash player 8 – The debate about this has been flying around for so long and we all know the Macromedia/Adobe listen – especially in regards to Flash. I think that is why flash has been so well adopted – it’s because it’s what we want it to be – so if we want hardware acceleration (yes) then it will happen ASAP.

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