Gilles Vandenoostende

Hi, I'm Gilles Vandenoostende - designer, illustrator and digital busybody with a love of language, based in Ghent, Belgium.

Flash on the Beach 2011 - Post Mortem

Last year was my first Flash On The Beach and I was lucky enough to be able to back again this year. Here’s an overview of the sessions I saw:

Day One

Adobe Keynote

Adobe’s keynote deviated from previous incarnations, eschewing the usual Flash player statistics and highly rehearsed demonstrations for a more down to earth showing.

The biggest demonstration for me was Adobe Edge – the HTML5 animation tool recently released in alpha on Adobe Labs. Having only superficially played around with the pre-release version available on the Labs I still wasn’t sure if having a visual design tool for HTML animation was such a good idea, given Adobe’s poor track-record of code-generation tools (see: Adobe Muse). However, my earlier assumptions were proven wrong, as Edge is really shaping up to be a credible piece of software. The timeline looks a joy to work with, behaving like a cross between the simplicity of Flash’s classic timeline and the power of After Effects’.

The Flash IDE team should take note.

Love the Future – Carlos Ulloa

A nice showcase of some of HelloEnjoy‘s latest work in Unity and WebGL. Keep an eye out for “Lights”, an interactive WebGL-powered music video for Ellie Goulding.

With Great Power comes great responsibility – Elliot Jay Stocks

A great rant by Stocks which covered everything from bad combinations of drop- and inner-shadows, pointing out stupid design “fads” like Web 2.0 gloss, wood-textures, coffee-stains and the use of “impossible” 3D in web-design.

He pointed out that designers should strive for good fundamentals like strong typography and structure first, instead of fiddling about with all the new effects provided by CSS3.

During Q&A I managed to ask him his opinion on non-coding designers. He stated that he’s seriously re-considering his earlier statements where he maintained that purely visual designers still had a future in this industry.

Designing for today’s web, with web-fonts, responsive layouts, CSS3, etc… is becoming increasingly difficult if your only available tool is a flat image editor.

The only way to create a truly great web-design that takes advantage of all the latest advances in our field is to just bite the bullet and design directly inside the browser. For his current project, the redesign of Smashing Magazine, he’s doing exactly that.


A stunning session by GMUNK giving us detailed breakdowns of several effect shots they made for TRON Legacy. The presentation covered the entire process from inspiration to pre-viz, writing custom graphics software to generate dynamic effects right up to the final shot as it appeared in the film.

GMUNK was also responsible for FOTB’s stunning opening titles, which he also gave us a process-overview of. It seems to me like FOTB is rapidly becoming more of an artistic/creative conference like OFFF – an evolution I can only cheer on.

(If you haven’t seen last year’s titles, by all means treat yourself)

Lettering is not Fonts – Jessica Hische

A nice presentation covering Ms Hische’s lovely portfolio of lettering, logo-design and illustration, while also opening my (and the audience’s) eyes to the staggering amount of work that goes into creating typefaces.

One of the more interesting pieces of advice she gave was to strive to be incredibly knowledgable about the design process, and to then share these insights with clients – turning them into potential advocates for your design choices, even if they may not fully understand them.

ProStress or the Graphic Universe of Han Hoogerbrugge

A cool showcase of Hoogerbrugge’s body of work. Funny and disturbing in equal measures. (If you don’t know Hoogerbrugge but find that his name rings a bell, he’s the guy who made Modern Living)

A Short Talk About Working and Not Working And How To Waste Your Time Proficiently – Jon Burgerman

A delightful overview of Burgerman’s massive portfolio of paintings and illustrations and a great insight into his interpretation of the creative process.

Day Two

Scaling & Organization: Massive Flash-Projects – How to build a Top 10 game on Facebook? – Wooga

A rather dry and dull session by 2 people from social-gaming firm wooga. Not very interesting, and I suspect it was only because they sponsored the event that they even got a speaking session, let alone in the dome. Should’ve gone to Riding the HiSlope! by Tomek Augustyn instead.

Pixels for the people – Seb Lee-Delisle

Seb’s sessions are always a riot, and this one was no exception. Using openframeworks, a modified playstation-eye camera and several Airport Express wifi routers he attempted – and succeeded – to turn the audiences mobile-phones and tablets into a massive synchronized display.

The process is far too complicated to detail in this summary, but the end result was quite amazing! Also, since I happened to be seated in the first couple of rows (and own an iPhone 4) I was called up on stage as a willing subject to demonstrate the principle behind his setup, before opening it up to the rest of the audience.

Paper.JS: Vector Graphics Scripting on top of HTML5 – Dr. Woohoo

A confused session, torn halfway in between trying to tell his life’s story and a far too simple tech-demonstration. A disappointment.

Slide to Unlock – Sarah Parmenter

A nice session about designing for iOS. Nothing too original but well brought – and I took away some useful processes for planning app-designs, such as the Application Definition Statement, which lists each feature the app must have tied to its intended target-audience. Great for narrowing down design-docs and focusing only on the most important things.

Meta Process: Making it up as I go along – Hillman Curtis

I came into this session not quite knowing what to expect but walked away duly impressed and inspired. A great talk about the creative process, and how to stay in on the right side of the complacent pushover/opinionated asshole graph when dealing with other creatives.

Because sometimes, collaboration is just about sharing failure.

Destroying my laptop with After Effects – Cyriak Harris

Cyriak was one of the great revelations to me personally last FOTB, and so I was glad to see him return, given a prime spot as the penultimate speaker on the second day.

For those of you unfamiliar with Cyriak’s body of work, take a few minutes to search his name on youtube and then – mind suitably blown – come back here.

In his first FOTB session last year he just showed his animations, but for this session he actually took us through a mini-tutorial of sorts, where he demonstrated how he took raw footage of a man writhing in a sheet (long story) and turned it into a lumbering monster walk-cycle.

Yeah. Difficult to explain, but be sure to watch the video once it comes online.

Who died and made me boss? – James Victore

Inspired session by self-taught independent artist & designer James Victore, wherein he took us through his body of work, recently collected in an impressive looking coffee-table book called “Who died and made you boss”.

Brought with much gusto and bravado, it was a great session with lots of laughs. Wouldn’t want to get on this guy’s bad side!

Day Three

The Elevator Pitch

A Flash On The Beach classic, where lots of great upcoming talents get 3 minutes to wow the audience and hopefully secure a full speaking session at next year’s conference.

Some of the best I thought were:

  • Mike Cobb: Get Real (digital fun in the physical world)
  • Matthew Burton McFaul: What You Don’t Know About Graphic Clips And Code (apparently, wrapping stuff in graphics clips doesn’t change its nesting, meaning a component wrapped in a dozen graphics clips on the stage is still accessible in code via level0.component! brain aneurysm)
  • Anders Figenschow: The Subtitler 3000 Very Awesome! (hilarious)
  • Graham Odds: How I Learned to Stop Drawing Lines and Love Whitespace (could make for an interesting design session next year)

Making tools – Keith Peters

A rather dry and dull session, as I’d already seen most of the items on display online or during previous sessions by the same speaker. A shame, because the last session I saw by bit101 at Multi-Mania was excellent.

Jam session

Another FOTB tradition. Great fun as several of the conferences senior speakers get 10 minutes to “wow” the audience and just show off, either with new stuff or stuff they didn’t manage to fit into their previous sessions. Seb Lee-Delisle managed to take his Pixels For The People experiment and scale it to over 150 devices in the Dome, which was most impressive.

New York, New York – Jeremy Thorp

I’ve seen Jeremy Thorp before at Multi-Mania a few years ago and so I knew I had to see this session. I wasn’t disappointed. As artist in residence at the New York Times he demonstrated some of the interactive data-visualizations he created inside Processing to analyze the Times’ massive influx of traffic and social media chatter.

The second half of his talk concentrated on his recent work with the people behind the 9/11 memorial and his work in helping to organize and layout all the +/- 3000 people who died at the WTC’s names on the metal placards. Amazing the amount of effort that went into this. Read more about this project on his blog.

As a quick closer he demonstrated processing and some of the features coming in the next version, like one-click exports to WebGL or Android.

Visions from the man cave – Jared Ficklin

Jared is a tinkerer and a creator, and so he spends most of his time inside his ‘man cave’, his basement/workshop where he creates the most amazing, crazy and downright mental technological toys imaginable.

During his session we went from phidgets to kinect hacks, from lasers to smoke machines, and how to throw a great party – among some other things to demented to mention. A great time was had by all.

The unknown voyage – Joshua Davis

What better closing-speaker than the great Joshua Davis. Inspiring stuff as usual, going through his classic work all the way to his latest work – creating Watson, the Jeopardy-playing AI for IBM.

And with that this year’s FOTB was wrapped up. It’ll take some time to digest everything I’ve seen, but rest assured – you can consider my creative batteries well and truly recharged.

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