Pushing the limits of Flash

Kiwi designers Resn wow the world with Flash

It’s fair to say Adobe’s Flash gets a bad rap at times.

In its early days, many designers used the software just because they could — not because it worked for their project. They also paid too little attention to download speeds, frustrating users further.

At the Web 09 conference in Auckland last month, Flash was still getting some brickbats, most notably from Dojo toolkit co-founder Dylan Schiemann, an open source advocate and HTML and Javascript fan. In his presentation he also gave the major browser makers a serve.

However, when Computerworld asked around the conference to find out which local designers or developers were making a stir, we were consistently pointed to Flash specialists Resn. The Wellington design firm has been a recipient of not one but three Favourite Website Awards (FWA) this year. For Resn, Flash is a tool for telling stories.

The company’s business development manager, Andy Williams, says Resn tells stories using digital interactive technologies online. It creates immersive experiences, looking for quality rather than quantity.

“We see digital as an art space as well as a commercial space,” Williams says. “We don’t see ourselves as developers — we deliver a complete creative solution.”

Looking at sites such as 26000vodka.com, developed for the Nelson-based distillers, that’s hard to argue with. Quizzes deliver access to parts of the site that render in 3D and react to each movement of the user’s mouse, all accompanied by an ethereal soundtrack.

Or take specialsurprise.co.nz, the site of musician Luke Buda, which made the top 50 of FWA’s 2008 daily-site nominees. Again Flash is to the fore, but not the kludgy Flash that can so annoy users. The site is extremely responsive.

Williams says Resn gets involved with clients from strategy to creation and pushes the boundaries of Flash and the online experience. He says the company’s website gets around 400 unique browsers a day of people just following what the company is doing. Resn’s services are varied, incorporating digital illustration, brand digitisation, animation, interface design and game development, among others. He says the focus has been international since day one, around four years ago.

Founder Steve Le Marquand says it’s a sweeping generalisation, but Kiwi companies either have vision and no money or money and no vision.

Williams says it’s hard for local companies to justify spending online. Marketing managers have a tough time in New Zealand asking for increased spend on digital simply because of the small local market.

He adds that in Australia, digital and ink are often separated out for pitching by agencies, but he has never seen that here.

Le Marquand says Resn is trying to get an emotional response from visitors to its sites, some kind of “pushback”. That is a consideration all the way through the design and development process.

“Creatively you should always have a reason why you are using a technology,” Williams says.

Le Marquand says that’s where Flash gets a bad name. “It’s only because people misuse it,” he says.

Williams says to some extent the slow download speeds available locally have kept Resn on its toes, making sure its sites are optimised for speed.

Williams says the 26000vodka site is an example of Resn pushing the limits in utilising the Papervision 3D engine. He says many designers are using 3D just because it’s new.

For this site, the company wanted to create a special environment that felt vast and never-ending.

“The main product is called Crystalline. We wanted that in sound, sight and emotion and in the fly betweens.” He says it brings many different components together to create that experience, including high-quality, 2D photography.

Meanwhile, in answer to Shiemann’s criticisms, the Adobe representatives at Web 09 asked whether including the WebKit open source browser engine in Flash would meet users needs. That suggestion received resounding support.

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Tags adobe flashwellingtonDevelopment IDresn26000vodka.com

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