In Flash, you can set a DisplayObject's blendShader property to a pixel shader (flash.shaders.Shader class).
The mechanism is nice, because Flash automatically provides your Shader with two input images, including the background surface and the foreground display object's bitmap.
The problem is that at runtime, the shader doesn't allow you to sample the background anywhere but under the current output coordinate. If you try to sample other coordinates, it just returns the color of the current coordinate instead, ignoring the coordinates you specified. This seems to occur only at runtime, because it works properly in the Pixel Bender toolkit.
This limitation makes it impossible to simulate, for example, the Aero Glass effect in Windows Vista/7, because you cannot sample the background properly for blurring.
I must mention that it is possible to create the effect in Flash through manual composition techniques, but it's hard to determine when it actually needs updated, because Flash does not provide information about when a particular area of the screen or a particular display object needs re-rendered. For example, you may have a fixed glass surface with objects moving underneath it that don't dispatch events when they move. The only alternative is to re-render the glass bar every frame, which is inefficient, which is why I am trying to do it through a blendShader so Flash determines when it needs rendered automatically.
Is there a technical reason for this limitation, or is it an oversight of some sort? Does anyone know of a workaround, or a way I could provide my manual composition implementation with information about when it needs re-rendered?
The limitation is mentioned with no explanation in the last note in this page: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/as3/dev/WSB19E965E-CCD2-4174-8077-8E5D0141A4A8.html It says:
"Note: When a Pixel Bender shader program is run as a blend in Flash Player or AIR, the sampling and outCoord() functions behave differently than in other contexts.In a blend, a sampling function will always return the current pixel being evaluated by the shader. You cannot, for example, use add an offset to outCoord() in order to sample a neighboring pixel. Likewise, if you use the outCoord() function outside a sampling function, its coordinates always evaluate to 0. You cannot, for example, use the position of a pixel to influence how the blended images are combined."