Text Layout Framework rasterization – and goodbye

I was recently asked regarding the Text Layout Framework for Flash and AIR: “It seems to be using system rasterizer (producing different results on Mac v Windows) but flattens output to grayscale. Is that correct? If so does/will Flash expose system rendering as an option or always use its own rasterizer? Or is the Text Layout Framework completely separate from Flash?”

The rasterization being done under the TLF is still Flash Player 10 (or AIR 1.5) rasterization. There is no new rasterizer involved specifically for the TLF, but it is exposing rasterization not previously seen. as TLF compatibility requires fonts to be embedded in the new DefineFont 4 rather than in Saffron format.

The Mac or Windows OS system rasterizer is only used for “device fonts” (non-embedded fonts resident on the device running the Flash Player). The “flattening to grey-scale” you’re seeing is almost certainly the result of an interaction with transparency and background graphics. Without alpha channel interactions, this won’t happen, and you’ll see the OS rasterization in its full glory – including for example ClearType on Windows.

Fonts embedded in the SWF or AIR application can get one of three different native Flash rasterizing modes:
– the original Flash outline rasterizer, available in all versions of Flash Player and AIR
– the Saffron rasterizer, available in Flash Player 8 and later, and in all versions of AIR
– the new DefineFont 4 rasterizer, available in Flash Player 10 and AIR 1.5

Support for the new DefineFont 4 embedded font format is new in FP 10 and AIR 1.5, and is only exposed by pre-release build tools at this time – such as the Text Layout Framework plug-in for FLash Professional CS4, and Flex “Gumbo.”

There is a bit of a “gotcha” in this area that one of my colleagues on the TLF team wanted me to reiterate. With the current pre-release tools and environments available to play with TLF, the existing Flash TextField container doesn’t support DefineFont 4 fonts, and the new TLF stuff *only* works with DefineFont 4 fonts, and doesn’t support DefineFont 3 fonts. One can envision scenarios where a developer wants to use both TLF and TextField containers for the same font in a given file, in which case they would literally have to embed the font twice, once in DF4 and once in DF3 (or earlier). I think this is a good example of an area in which this TLF stuff is pre-release software. But gee, you can do an awful lot with it.

* * * * *

In unrelated news, this is my last post for this blog. I’m sorry to say I’m leaving all my amazing colleagues and cool work at Adobe. It’s been a really great 11 1/2 years, and I count myself lucky to have been part of making some great typefaces and cool applications. If anybody is looking for me personally, as opposed to Adobe type, I’m I can be emailed at cal.berkeley.edu as tphinney at that address (alumni email will redirect to whatever my current email is). Don’t worry, I expect my colleagues will keep the blog going!

11 Responses

  1. Jim DeLaHunt says:

    Thomas, I’m really sad for Adobe’s sake to hear you are leaving. Your wealth of expertise, and devotion to continuing the rich traditions of typography in today’s digital technologies, has been exemplary. Best wishes to you, and best wishes to type at Adobe after you leave!

  2. Anne-Marie says:

    Ach, Tom. We’re sorry to see you go, too!I’m sure you’ll be a great success in whatever new endeavor you undertake … keep us posted, if you can!AM

  3. Don McCahill says:

    Sorry to here you are leaving Adobe, Thomas. I hope you can keep in touch with the community, on typophile, if not the Adobe Type forum.I hope this is the start of bigger and better things for you.

  4. Tom Usrey says:

    Thomas, best of luck in whatever the future holds for you. And thanks for all your help through the past years.

  5. Peter Truskier says:

    Very sorry to hear that you’ll be leaving, Thomas. Thanks for all your good work over the years, and best wishes for whatever you do next!

  6. Richard Sohanchyk says:

    Farewell to the King of Type. Having been a typographer back in the day I always appreciated anyone who loved fonts. Good luck with your future position.

  7. Jacob Bugge says:

    Thank you for everything, Thomas, and good luck.

  8. Ramón G Castañeda says:

    Devastating news, Thomas. You will be sorely missed. :-(Best wishes, and thanks for all your assistance over the years.

  9. Ann Shelbourne says:

    Thomas:As the others have already said, your departure from Adobe is a sad loss for everyone who appreciates fine fonts and typography.May your future endeavours be as successful as your past ones were; and may you have enormous fun doing whatever you are going to be doing!

  10. Wade Zimmerman says:

    Have an even more fantastic future do even more exciting things it goes without saying everyone will miss you an enormously.

  11. Keith Feltham says:

    Thomas, thanks for your helpfulness over the past years. Best wishes for whatever you are doing next.

Comments are closed.


Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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