Of course right after I post I find this linke about visual elements via a plugin: http://forums.adobe.com/message/2564247#2564247
I'll read though that and see if it helps for the side point I asked about.
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Yes, the reference plugin API has changed between the spec and what's in public trunk, and in fact we're hoping to nail down the last details of that API on Monday. (The short summary of the planned API is that a PluginInfo can declare a notification function, which will be invoked any time a new MediaElement is created by the MediaFactory that the plugin is loaded into. So the plugin can gain a "reference" to one or more created MediaElements, and use the MediaElement API to listen to or control that piece of media.)
We'll be release noting this change with the upcoming Sprint 10 drop, but if any of it is still unclear at that point, please reply and we can try to whip up an example.
Thanks Brian. Looking forward to the next drop.