Flashbelt2007 Round-up

I don't think there's a word in the English language to aptly describe how good Flashbelt 2007 was. 'Superfuntasticawespirational' comes close, but I'm not sure that it has been accepted into the Oxford dictionary yet. So, I suppose we'll have to rely on old stand-byes like 'fantastic' and 'exceptional'. 

On Monday, Craig Swann started things off with a perfect mix of inspiration and technology, reminding us of the value of imagination and generally making everyone feel like they could do anything. After lunch, Wes Grubbs spoke about data visualization, with an emphasis on how meaning can be extracted from data. It was nice to see this topic covered from both a technical and philosophical stand-point. Following Wes, some fool blathered on about colours and pixels and economies, which gave the audience a chance to nap before Josh Davis. Josh reviewed a lot of the work from his impressive career, showing some old work mixed with new. Usefully, he directed us to workshop.joshuadavis.com, where he's open-sourcing all of his projects from the last decade or so. Kudos to Josh for taking on this task.

Because my underwear needed to dry, I missed Tuesday morning's sessions, but I made it to the venue on time to see Seb Lee-Delisle's presentation on particles. Seb's friendly nature comes across perfectly in his presentations, and helps his audience easily learn some fairly complex concepts. By the end of it, a lot of the people with laptops around me had their own particle systems working – not bad for 50 minutes! After Seb, Mario Klingemann took the stage and showed us where he's heading with his absolutely incredible Blind Sketchmaker project. Imagine a project that combines image recognition, learning systems, compositional generation and evolutionary computing – all in Flash!! I don't have enough space to describe this in enough detail in this post, so I'll be dedicating a whole post to Mario and his painting machine over the next couple of days.

There must be something good in the water over in Germany, because Andre Michelle's presentation on Wednesday was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Andre has developed a whole set of AS3 tools that allow him to generate audio signals right inside Flash – no loaded sounds required. He's used these tools to create sound generation tools of various kinds, including working simulations of old Roland drumcomputers like the TR909. Most interestingly, he has gotten involved with the folks over at Splice, where his AS3 sound genius has been put to work to create a live, free, community-enabled sound recording and mixing tool, running entirely in Flash! This thing is amazing. You can synthesize sounds, build tracks, apply filters & effects, and save out to MP3. And, because it's community-based, you can use and manipulate thousands of user-generated sound elements. This new tool will be launched in the next few days, and I will definitely write more about it then. 

Jared Tarbell provided the perfect end to a great event with his now-famous Code Cosmos presentation. If there is a better way for people to get inspired by mathematics, algorithms, and generative art than being in Jared's audience, I'd sure like to hear about it. On a similar note, if there are any publishers reading this – this presentation really needs to be turned into a book – with all kinds of pretty pictures.

Considering how many great sessions I did manage to see, it's almost silly how many I missed. This is a small, three-day conference, but I was unfortunately not able to catch sessions with Julian Dolce, Geoff Stearns, Robert Reinhardt, Lisa Larson, Joey Lott, John Davey, Paul Ortchanian, and more! I need to get to work on that cloning machine.

So far I've talked only about the daytime events – possibly because the nighttime ones remain a little bit fuzzy. We spent two nights at The Best Bar in America, went bikeriding around the city, cooked s'mores, sang duets, and much more. Because Flashbelt is a small event, speakers, volunteers, and attendees got a chance to hang out together on many, many occasions.

I don't know when registration for Flashbelt08 starts, but you might want to reserve your seat now. As word of this year's event spreads, I have a sneaking suspicion that Minneapolis will be the place to be this time next year.  

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