The capability to include video inside a Flash SWF file was introduced with the release of Flash MX. This video capability has opened up many new and exciting opportunities for Flash developers. Both Macromedia/Adobe and third-party developers have further upgraded Flash’s video capabilities with the introduction of powerful encoders and batch processing applications.
This article reviews Flix Pro, one of the leading third-party Flash video encoding applications from On2, the company licensed by Macromedia to provide the video codec for the Flash 8 family of products. This type of endorsement from the publishers of Flash warrants a look at its flagship Flash encoding application: Flix Pro (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 Flix Pro application
Free downloads of Flix Pro (as well as other video encoders) are available on the On2 Web site. This free demo version is identical to the full version, which costs $249 at the time of this writing, but it places both graphic and audio watermarks on all published files, making them unusable but certainly adequate for evaluation purposes.
The videos on the example page provide a visual demonstration of the potential of their latest encoder. You can compare identical clips encoded with Flix Pro (Flash 8) and Sorenson Spark (Flash 7) in a very clever, side-by-side playback window (see Figure 2). Choosing the split screen option demonstrates the improvement in video quality that the Flix Pro VP6 codec delivers to the Flash platform.
Figure 2 Side-by-side comparison of videos encoded with Flash 8 ON2VP6 and Flash 7 Sorenson
FLV is the preferred file format for delivering video clips via Flash. It’s a specialized file format that has been supported from version 7. FLV files cannot be played back directly; they must be embedded in (or linked from) an SWF file. You create (or download) a "container" SWF file from which to play the FLV file. The most common approach is to use an SWF file that functions as a media player with screen and playback controls.
The professional version of Flash 8 now ships with a new video encoding tool that is a separate application. Later in this article, I compare Flix Pro with this application and also the Flash 7 Sorenson Spark encoder. I will write a dedicated review of Sorenson’s Squeeze 4.3 Flash video application in a future article.