I’m a little behind here, but here is my latest project from Firstborn: AirTran, where I was the front-end developer for the project. We worked with Cramer-Krasselt in order to bring this site to life.  AirTran is a small domestic airliner, and they wanted to run a promotion to see what people wanted on every flight.  So we built a site to collect ideas, then let people vote on them and see how each one ranked on a state and national  level. The site only ran live for about 4 weeks until the winner was announced which happened to be Wi-Fi. You can see the old phase 1 site persevered here on Firstborn’s portfolio. It was a really cool project to work on, especially once it launched to see the suggestions come piling in. Our back end developer for the project, Wes Grubbs, built the database and admin tools, and we used AMF php, which provided to be really simple and easy to use.  And as always, I also got to do some nifty features on the site.

So the first challenge was that we wanted the user to be able to write in their suggestion on one of the cards and actually have a pencil do the writing. There were two important parts to this process. The first is getting each letter traced out. The basic methodology behind this is that we will create for each letter a set of points on a path (anchors and control points for curves) and then use that path to mask out the actual letter. By drawing that path over time, we can create the illusion of the letter being drawn in as it is being reveled. The second part is having a pencil follow the letter, which is simple since everything is done by numbers and the drawing API, so from the current path being drawn we can grab the ‘end’ of it and just have an object track that point, thus having it follow the path being drawn in and the illusion that the pencil is drawing the letter. To create the pencil, I used FIVe3D.  Mathieu had created a pencil for the M&M’s Join the Hunt site, so to avoid having it look too similar I didn’t bother using his model/code for reference, I just built out my own (plus it’s more fun that way).


In order to get the paths for each letter, I created a tracing tool. The tool allowed me to add points and make a path, as well as play with the curves and thickness of the line. Additionally, I added the feature that would allow the pencil to be “picked up” over certain points, meaning it wouldn’t be drawing for that segment (shift+click an anchor point). That is important for drawing letters that have different individual strokes, such as F, where when the pencil was moving I wouldn’t want to unmask a section of that letter as the pencil crossed it to get to another location. Once each letter is traced, it can be saved out as XML which is imported to the site and parsed into usable information.

See the letter tracing demo
See the letter writting demo

Another thing that was kind of interesting, although at this time I don’t have a demo for, was creating the rollover for the stack information. One of our newly hired 3D/Motion Designers, Brett Swanson, first modeled the stack to resemble the initial comps our designer Verena did. In order to make the cross-section, I first made a black and white image of the stack. The black being one side of the paper, and white being the other. Where the two colors met is the corner. So in Flash when the user rolls over the sack, I look across the horizontal strip of pixels from that mouse point and look for the area where white meets black, and I know that’s the corner. I can then do some masking, then calculate the rest of the points around it to create the cross-section plane, which is not 3D in anyway. As for the animation of the card being pulled out, Brett created a static animation that we imported as a PNG sequence, then position it to where the mouse click is, and scale it accordingly to be the correct size. Due to perspective, it doesn’t always match up. But since it is such a quick animation, we can fake the perspective by just slightly rotating the animation a little so that looks like the perspective matches up. As the animation plays, it rotates back to zero and scales back to the default size, and then is swapped out with the flipping animation which is dynamically done in five3D. As I always say, it’s all smoke and mirrors.


(images after the jump)

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Controlling AS2 swfs within an AS3 application.

Sometimes you’ll need to load an AS2 swf into your AS3 project, and this seems like it can be a nightmare. And it can be, depending on what it is. You loose some functionality, such as loadMovieNum and getURL. On top of that, you can’t control the movie, as in you can’t access any public functions. There can be a workaround, though. The trick is to write an AS2 shell that acts like a bridge. You’ll load the AS2 swf into that shell, and communicate with the swf from that file, then communicate to the AS2 swf  bridge from your AS3 project via localConnection. This comes from a problem I recently was required to tackle, so I fiugred I’d share my solutution.

In this example, we need to load an existing game written in AS2 into an AS3 website. We do not have any access to the source files, just the compiled swf, which needs to be properly disposed in order to stop its audio channel. The solution is to create an AS2 shell that can load and unload the game, and then communicate with the shell via localConnection.

Step 1. Setting up the AS2 shell

Make a new AS2 targeted flash file and on the stage create a new empty MovieClip and give it an instance name, in this case container_mc.

Now as much as this hurts, click on the first frame and open the ActionScript panel. Yes, we’re going to add some very simple code to the timeline. First we want to load the game using loadMovie, targeting the container_mc that we created on the stage. This will load our file into this empty MovieClip so we can easily remove it later. Since we’ll be bringing this into and AS3 swf, we cannot use loadMoiveNum. The one line of code should look like this: loadMovie(“game_as2.swf”,this.container_mc) .

Step 2. Setting up the LocalConnection listener

This file is basically going to wait for a command from a localConnection at some point, so we’ll set that up immediately after loading the movie. In this case, we named the connection ‘gameBridge’ and will need to use that string in out AS3 swf in order to sync the two together. The code looks like this:
var lc:LocalConnection = new LocalConnection();

Now we need to set up a method that will be called from AS3. In this case, it’s a dispose method. In order for the method to be called, it needs to be a method of the localConnection, so the full function name is lc.dispose = function():Void. Remember that lc is our localConnection object, and that in AS2 the datatype for void is capitalized. All we want to do in this function is kill the game, so we’re going to unload it and kill the connection. Just two lines of code, which looks like this:
lc.dispose = function():Void {

That’s it for the AS2 side.

Step 3. Setting up the load in the AS3 project

We load in the AS2 swf just like we do an AS3 one, the only difference is that instead of it being of type MovieClip, it will be a special class called AVM1Movie, which stands for ActionScript Virtual Machine 1 MovieClip. Remember, we’re loading our shell we just made, not the game. So my load method looks like this:

private var game:AVM1Movie;
private var loader:Loader;

private function loadGame():void {
loader = new Loader();
loader.contentLoaderInfo.addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, hndlGameLoad);
loader.load(new URLRequest(“gameshell.swf”));

private function hndlGameLoad(e:Event):void {
game = AVM1Movie(loader.contentLoaderInfo.content);

In this case, the game was set to a frame rate of 30fps, and my app is running at 71fps. That means that the loaded game will now run over twice as fast. There’s not much we can do about this, but we can set the overall stage frame rate to match the loaded game, and when the game is unloaded, just remember to set it back. It’s just one line of code: stage.frameRate = 30;

Step 4. Setting up the LocalConnection call method

The last thing to do is call the AS2 swf and tell it to dispose when we need it to. We just set up a new LocalConnection object and pass it the name of the connection we set up in the AS2 swf and the method that we want to call. Looks like this:

lc = new LocalConnection();
lc.send(“gameBridge”, “dispose”);

And that’s about it. Pretty simple and quick way to load and still be able to dispose of an AS2 file.