Lisa Larson-Kelley

Lisa Larson-KelleyLisa Larson-Kelley began her career in print design, but was soon lured to digital media by a little application called Flash 4. In addition to hands-on development projects, she enjoys writing and teaching, with a knack for breaking down complex concepts and making them accessible. She has authored whitepapers, tutorials and e-seminars for Adobe, editorials and features for StreamingMedia.com; and co-authored the book Flash Video for Professionals, published by Wiley in 2007. Lisa has also presented at numerous industry conferences and user groups around the world, and is former co-manager of the FlashCodersNY.com study group. She has worked with many video-centric start-ups as well as companies like Adobe, Microsoft and L’Oreal. Lisa is currently consulting, teaching, and writing a second book, The Flash Video Guidebook. She shares news and musings about Flash video, web development and life (just outside) the big city on her blogs: flashconnections.com and LearnFromLisa.com.

Lisa will be presenting “OSMF for the Absolute Beginner” at FITC Toronto 2011.

Twitter: @lisamarienyc

You’ve spoken at numerous conferences, how did you get started speaking?

My first conference session was at FITC Toronto back in 2006. I knew I wanted to present at conferences, but was too nervous to stand up by myself. My business partner at the time felt the same way, so we presented “Are you a freelancer or a business?” together. I’ve always been grateful to FITC’s organizer, Shawn Pucknell, for giving me that first chance to speak. I really enjoyed the engagement with the attendees and after almost five years of speaking, I now feel surprisingly at home in front of a crowd.

Are you naturally a good speaker or was it a skill you needed to acquire?

It was definitely acquired. It was really like diving into the ocean to learn how to swim! I could have failed miserably, but luckily my instincts kicked in and I’ve been able to just relax and focus on the information I’m sharing.

Any ideas on why there is a lack of women speakers at Flash/technology conferences? How can we get more women speaking?

That’s a very good question. Public speaking is ranked up there with death (even higher, as I recall) when it comes to stress levels! So the percentage of people — men or women — who actually want to speak is pretty low. If we can get more women interested in Flash/technology, I think we’ll see more women speakers emerge. I am very interested in helping boost the numbers of young girls who choose technology as a career path. To that end, I’m excited to be a part of a regional event called Girls In Focus with Technology (GIFT) in Bucks County, PA this spring. Young girls/women need encouragement and mentoring, and established women in the industry need camaraderie and support – which is why I’m so glad that FlashGoddess exists!

Could you tell us a bit about Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) which you’ll be speaking about at FITC?

Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) is an open source, standards based video player framework for building media players for Flash. (I say “media” because – little known fact — it can also display images, audio and SWF files in addition to video.)

For years, building video players has been a real pain, to put it bluntly. Every developer who needed a video player had to basically reinvent the wheel to create a good one. Playback controls, buffer management, error handling, all of these mundane functions needed to be handled in every player, forcing devs to solve these problems again and again. Add in integration with ad networks, playlists, or serving videos from a CDN and it gets even more tedious. Well, Adobe realized that there was an opportunity to standardize some of these playback elements and help save the sanity of Flash developers. OSMF was born. (Its parent was Open Video Player, which is a similar open source project for multi-platform video players.)

Adobe recommends OSMF for building video players for Flash, allowing you to use the latest and greatest Flash video features without a steep learning curve. For example, HTTP Dynamic Streaming is a very complicated delivery method. Videos are sent in fragments that have to be retrieved and played back in a certain order, read from a manifest file. OSMF handles all of this logic internally so you don’t have to write your own code to do so. And if you are not a coder, or don’t need a deeply customized player, you can use one of the two pre-built OSMF players: Flash Media Playback which is hosted for you by Adobe, or Strobe Media Playback which is self-hosted with open source code.

How did you begin your writing career?

Let’s see… I wrote my first book back in fourth grade, called “The Purple Dragon Who Wanted to be Green,” I don’t think that one counts! My first published technical article was for the Adobe Developer Connection: a tutorial for building dynamic video playlists. (It’s still one of the most popular video related articles on the ADC, I’ve been told!) I then wrote a follow-up that used Flash Media Server streaming. They were unpaid articles, but writing them turned out to be an invaluable investment in my career. The article’s popularity, along with a connection my co-author had, opened up the door to Wiley. We wrote the book Flash Video for Professionals in nine months (yes, it was like birthing a baby, I’d almost say more painful!). Although technical books are seldom bestsellers, it was another great investment, and I was grateful for the opportunity to help so many people get started with video in Flash.

http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flash/articles/video_playlist.html

When is your new book, The Flash Video Guidebook going to be available?

Aha. Good question! I’ve decided to self-publish this next book. Print is static, giving technology books a short shelf life. A digital book can be a living, evolving resource that is open to reader input, shaping the contents and better meeting their needs. That’s my goal with The Flash Video Guidebook. I want to provide an up-to-the-minute reference for publishing video on the Flash platform. And back to your original question… I’m working on it now, and plan to publish the first ‘edition’ later this summer.

What do you like most about Flash? Do you find any setbacks / limitations with it?

I love the flexibility and range of possibilities that Flash offers. Really talented people have done some amazing things with Flash, and I see that moving now into mobile development. While Flash isn’t the best tool for every job, it is a mature one. There are limitations, of course, that need to be heeded. A lot of time we Flash developers have just enough rope to hang ourselves when it comes to performance and interactivity. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, or that the viewer’s PC or device will be able to handle it smoothly. We need to be vigilant in error handling, bandwidth detection, and tailoring the experience to the specific client. Luckily, Flash gives us those tools.

What uses of Flash are inspiring to you?

Well, being very video-centric, I love to see integration of video into a web page in unique and appropriate ways. This is usually seen in high-budget advertising, where the video breaks out of its ‘box’ and becomes an immersive experience. Known as “breakout campaigns” or “takeovers” they aren’t for every brand (please!) but can really enhance a message.

http://vimeo.com/4281939

http://www.vimeo.com/14301686 (original campaign taken down)

Personalized interactive video is another place where Flash shines. This has been out there for a while now, but gets us one step closer to ads that read your retina and speak to you. Spooky, but cool.

http://www.portablenorthpole.tv/home

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcJFwy7KPBA&feature=player_embedded#at=27

What are you currently working on?

I’m in an R&D stage of my career now; with so much shift going on in video technology and delivery it’s almost a full-time job to keep up! While doing that, I’ve been consulting for a couple of video startups that use Flash Media Server providing high-level project planning and troubleshooting. I’m also writing and editing white papers for Adobe, the most recent being the Mobile Encoding Cookbook.

What has your experience been with the Flash community?

I’ve found the Flash community to be an amazing group of people. Help and encouragement is available through many forums, websites, user groups, and conferences. Many of my good friends today I’ve met through this community! It’s evolving and changing now, with some people branching out into different technologies, but it remains a vibrant community that I’m glad to be a part of.

How do you see Flash progressing in the future?

Flash needs to be fully optimized for mobile devices. Flash Player 10.1 took huge leaps forward in this area, with 10.2 and stage video helping out even more on low-powered clients. Now, if Adobe can deliver a 1-2 punch with tools that make it even easier to develop for the myriad of screens (and I believe they will), I can see Flash being relevant for many, many years to come.

Do you have any last words of advice for newcomers and aspiring coders? Can you recommend any other good resources besides your blogs: flashconnections.com and LearnFromLisa.com?

I’m working on a new talk right now, “Coding Karma.” I’ll be presenting it at Geeky By Nature here in New York next month. The gist of the talk is that web technology is in a constant state of flux (never more apparent than today with the HTML5 vs. Flash debate) and this can cause a lot of stress! I’ve had a lot of stress in my professional and in my home life this year and have tried to find a way to cope with it all. One place I looked was Buddhism… and surprisingly, I found a lot of helpful advice there for both fronts. In this upcoming talk I’ll draw some parallels and show how its much healthier for you and for your career if you recognize that nothing is permanent, and that clinging to something (no matter how much you have invested in it) is never a good idea. So, in short, my advice to newcomers and aspiring coders is this: ABL Always Be Learning!

Some recommended resources include:

http://flashcomguru.com for Flash Media Server information and discussion list

http://www.adobe.com/devnet/video.html Adobe Video Technology Center

http://www.lynda.com for online training courses

Thanks so much Lisa! You are a great inspiration and I’m looking forward to seeing you at FITC Toronto.

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Interviewed by
Ann-Marie Cheung

Founder, creator and editor
www.FlashGoddess.com
Freelance Creative
www.FGNewMedia.com