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Rich Media Designers

A long-time complaint of Flash has been the absence of rich media support: namely video and audio. Well, complainers, you can now lay down your tools. Flash MX has the Sorenson Spark Codec built into it. This means you can import video into Flash in your favorite file format, and, when you export the SWF file, you have video embedded into your Flash movie.

When importing video into Flash MX, you will be asked to convert the file. This is an opportunity to tweak the movie. The video is automatically added to your Library as an Embedded Video, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5Figure 5: Video is a much needed addition in Flash MX

The final SWF file containing the video is surprisingly small. The video used for this article was a 119 Kb AVI file with no sound. The file exported out of Flash as a 1.6 Kb SWF file. A compression ratio of 1000%! If you want to see the new Flash video in action check out PBS.org. Their Flash movies on Zoot Suit Riot (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/zoot/) are using the new video features very effectively.

Figure 6Figure 6: PBS uses Flash video.

Audio has also received a boost. MP3 files can now be loaded externally from a movie in the same way a SWF file can be loaded externally. As you can imagine, this allows for movies to be more streamlined. In addition, a new scripting method allows you to check whether audio features are supported on the system. If there is no audio, the MP3 can be programmatically instructed not to load. The MP3 audio compression is still the same as Flash 5, but now you do have a broader range of audio file formats that can be imported.

MP3 files are not the only files that can be externally loaded. JPEG images can also be imported at run time. This allows you to program events within a Flash movie that can load externally available images on demand. This can significantly reduce the overall size of the Flash movie and make the content more dynamic.

The only caveat to bear in mind when loading external JPEG images is that the image cannot be "progressive" (a progressive JPEG image will start to display in the Web Browser as it downloads). You can easily batch your files so that Progressive settings are turned off if you are using Fireworks or Image Ready to create you JPEG images.

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