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FITC Amsterdam Diary - Day 1

<p>FITC got started properly today and judging by the crush to get into the Keynote by Richard Galvan and Mark Anders it was going to be a busy day!</p>
 
The Adobe guys walked us through the new features in Flash Player 10.1 and Flash Pro CS5 in what was a fairly predictable session. It was interesting to see them showcasing 10.1 running on a wide variety of devices (including mobile phones) and I have to say the performance looked pretty good.  Flash CS5 and the iPhone packager have been fairly widely covered in the past few months and some hands on experience meant that there were no surprises there for me.  Just for the record, CS5 is looking good and brings some really interesting new features that I'm sure will up the quality of Flash output in the coming years - the Text Layout Framework options certainly being one of the standout additions.
 
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Of particular interest (well, if we don't include Richard Galvan's tongue in cheek shirt!) was the announcement that Google and RIM (makers of the BlackBerry mobile devices) have joined the Open Screen Project.  There were a load more latest additions, but these two names in particular meant that there was one very ominous and obvious corporation missing.
 
This whole Apple and Adobe situation has been done to death so I'm going to keep my comments brief.  With Google (not so much RIM here) signing up, you've got to wonder which of the heavyweights will win out between Adobe and Apple, as Google is now so huge and powerful you could almost liken it to The Internet vs. The Mobile Phone.  My personal opinion is that Apple don't want to lose out on income through flash games becoming available for iPhone and iPad, thus removing their stranglehold on monetizing applications for their platform.
 
The Speakers

Today's line up was immense, featuring some true legends of the interactive and generative art world.  I wish I could have seen all of the sessions as there were many that got rave reviews and looked great.  It was the offering in the main room that I was really interested in, with such luminous speakers as Mario Klingemann, Grant Skinner, Ralph Heuwart, Jared Tarbell and Erik Natzke all presenting.
 
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Mario 'Quasimondo' Klingemann got things going nicely with some incredible graphics produced solely using actionscript and maths -  something that I've been experimenting with more and more recently.  He also gave a glimpse into the world of an obsessive organiser by showing his holiday beach snaps where he'd collected and sorted all manner of beach junk before making some home made geometry tools to make maths images in the sand!  
 
Oh, and I nearly forgot about his challenge to encode a graphic into 140 characters to put on Twitter.  Do a search on Google for it, it's highly geeky and massively creative!
 
Grant's talk about optimisation was great, though a little dry when compared with some of the other speakers' offerings.  He is the authority when it comes to talking about optimising code for the Flash Player and as a result I've got some five pages of notes from his talk.  This was possibly the single most business relevant and useful talk I attended today.
 
After meeting up with a new friend for lunch, I headed back to the Felix Meritis for three more incredible talks.  Ralph UnitZeroOne was up first and the guy is crazy.  Crazy and brilliant.
 
I'd love to talk you through his session, but honestly it boils down to three things, stunning work, massive intelligence and Pixel Bender.  I've got a video to download that shows his parting shot (that was simply amazing) and I'll post it as soon as I can get it online.  Check out his effort for http://www.letitbloom.com/#ralph in the meantime, it's 15 000 particles of sheer beauty.
 
Jared Tarbell's talk about 'The Strangest Things I've Ever Seen' showed the work he's done in the generative art world that follows on from his highly inquisitive and creative nature.  It was a beautifully delivered presentation that featured some really great work.  Inspirational stuff and you should try and catch this guy speaking any time you get a chance.  I particularly enjoyed that he talked about ideas and thoughts and didn't go into much depth about code and how to do what he did.  It's the way I try to work, leading with ideas and concepts and following up with the technical solution that fulfils that vision best, not providing a solution based on a certain technology or technique because it's what I've just learnt or the latest fashion.
 
The last talk of the day was Erik Natzke, someone that I've bored many a person back at home about.  His session walked us through how he came to produce the various styles of work that he's become known for, and again it was the curiosity that he showed in his work that truly impressed me.  I think his output is fantastic and it was great to see some of his prints close up (they are crazy in the amount of detail!) though at 300 Euro a pop I couldn't really splash out to bring one home with me.
 
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Erik showed how the out-there, conceptually rich endeavours that he's undertaken could be combined with the commercial needs of a graphic designer to ultimately provide a very fulfilling and exciting career.  Please check out his work if you can, it's nothing short of stunning! If you get the chance to see him speak, you'll be even more in awe as you see just how much thought and effort goes into each piece of work - it's definitely not just input photo, turn on Natzke filter, get artwork!
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Apres FITC

This evening a few of us that met yesterday were joined by some new faces for dinner at Ocho in the centre of Amsterdam.  It was another great evening of getting to know fellow designers and developers from around the world - we had people from America, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Portugal and the UK.  FITC is proving to be a great conference, packed with passionate and friendly people from around the world.  
 
Bring on more tomorrow!!

Ian Thomas

Father of two, Husband and Software Architect currently working at Sky Betting and Gaming

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