When I released the LAB in January 2007, I quickly received a lot of feedback about it, far beyond my hopes and expectations. It won several awards, the most important being a FWA Site Of The Day and a Flash Forward Award (category Navigation).

These were both unexpected and especially appreciated because websites with no images and no videos are extremely rare these days and also because this website was so experimental I would never have guessed the public reaction would be as positive as it was.

From the attention surrounding this experimental work, I also received a lot of job offers from different companies around the world. Once again I must admit it was pretty unexpected and very appreciated.

(First contact with Firstborn)

Even before I received any recognition, Firstborn was one of the very first companies to contact me after I released the LAB. This meant a lot to me because Firstborn has been a very special and important presence in Flash development in its 10 year history.

I remember looking at their websites with an enormous amount of respect even just a few weeks before they contacted me. Being a big fan of typeface design, Firstborn’s portfolio website and the clever usage of large resizable fonts was a main reference for me and probably inspired some of the experiments of the LAB which use big fonts.

Therefore, I felt flattered and excited and I naturally answered positively to this very short email: “Do you want to work for us?” from Dan LaCivita. We then started to work on a schedule for my arrival to the New York offices.

(From Paris to NY)

Working in freelance for about two years in Paris, I collaborated with several French companies, enough to have a good understanding of the web industry in France. I wanted to put this experience in perspective with the way other countries work in the web and I’ve always wanted to have a foreign experience since I was a student.

With my wife being American, going to work for an American company was a natural decision and New York a mutual choice. We finally moved in February 2008. I feel it is not so difficult to move from one big city to another, and even if some people might be surprised, citizens in Paris and New York have many traits in common.

I feel lucky to have lived in these two interesting and complex cities and I try to find inspiration from both environments.

Working at Firstborn

(Firstborn first impressions)

Firstborn is a family-sized company, which was something that was really important for me and helped me make my choice. Michael Ferdman, Firstborn’s founder, helps make the office a great place to work.

If you take a look at the News section of the company website you’ll see that several extra-circular activities are organized such as ice skating [pre skate]

[skate], office dinners, basketball games, etc. Another important aspect of Firstborn is the cultural diversity of the team.

I won’t make a huge list of nationalities but Americans, Asians and Europeans are represented in good proportions. I’m the only French representative so far but it gives me the duty to contribute my own background into the team equation.

The diversity of the team creates a multi-cultural synergy that makes brainstormings and creative ideas even richer and more interesting.

(A Talented team)

My first realization is that Firstborn is a very talented team. It is really a pleasure to work and interact with skilled and motivated colleagues because it makes the project planning a much easier path to follow.

Through my interest in Flash development, I knew of Francis Turmel (swfIN) and Alec Cove (APE) from their public expositions and it’s very gratifying to be able to work with them now. In addition, Zeh Fernando (Tweener) is announced to be joining the team at the New York office soon.

I’ve just mentioned some well known developers but the designers, other developers and producers are all extremely talented and competent at Firstborn. I know I’m going to learn a lot from this team and continue to develop my knowledge of Flash and web development.

Creating FIVe3D

(Birth of the concept)

FIVe3D (Flash Interactive Vector-based 3D) is the 3D engine that I originally wrote in ActionScript 2.0 to create the LAB.

The basic idea was to extend the unavoidable MovieClip class with some extra functionalities such as 3D functionalities and to keep the interactions between this new MovieClip class and the other usual classes in the same time.

It turned out that this approach was providing a very intuitive way to generate 3D animations for people used to classic Flash development and also a very practical way for adding 3D effects to an existing piece of code.

By writing “Sprite3D” instead of “Sprite”, you have an 0bject that has the same behavior than a “Sprite”, such as “x” and “y” properties for positioning but also 3D-related properties like “z”, “rotationX”, “rotationY” ”, “rotationZ”, etc.

(Other 3D engines)

I first played around 3D in Flash when I saw the first 3D experiments of André Michelle in 2001 and I especially remember that I was astonished by the cleverness of the first attempt of texturing and image through several skewed polygons.

Then, I also followed the rising of the first 3D engines such as Papervision3D, Sandy3D, Awayd3D, etc. But these engines inspired by 3D softwares and 3D video games – as great as they are and they are for sure! – were not fitting my needs in term of creativity.

I felt vey restricted, design side by the quality of the rendering and development side by the coding possibilities.

(Another type of 3D)

The starting point for the development of FIVe3D was to say that we can use 3D not just to navigate through a 3D world but also and more frequently for simple transition animations, roll-over effects, for giving depth to a nice layout or just for a particular type of interactivity with 3D drag and drops.

By keeping the display list hierarchy, the basic classes organization (Sprite, Shape, Bitmap, etc.) and the function name logic, FIVe3D code can be written like any other ActionScript piece of code and 3D coded as easily as 2D.

It means that this resulting 3D code is dedicated and optimized for a project and since FIVe3D provides basic 3D classes, the size stays small by avoiding bunch of useless routines.

(Future of FIVe3D)

This month, Adobe announced the Flash Player 10 new features and one of the most important and expected of them is the native “3D Effects”. By replacing 80% of the code of FIVe3D with default methods, I can’t really tell today what is going to be the future of this 3D engine.

But I’m happy and excited by this announce because I will finally have optimized and fast 3D routines to realize some experiments that I originally imagined for FIVe3D. A minor part of this engine still remains original and I’m going to concentrate on it and develop it more.

Also until the official release of this new Flash Player, people can start “practicing” 3D development with FIVe3D and later port their code and benefit from 3D acceleration.

(Experiment more!)

In a previous interview, I was encouraging to “be more experimental and try more!” and it’s definitely my “ligne de conduite” today more than ever. Therefore, I’m glad that I found a job position that allows me to do so and encourages me to do it!

About the Author, Mathieu Badimon
Senior Flash Developer, Firstborn

Mathieu Badimon has been working in the Flash industry since 2002 as a freelancer in Paris and is now a Senior Flash Developer at Firstborn in New York.

He is the author of the awarded website LAB and the creator of FIVe3D, a Flash Interactive Vector-based 3D engine.

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