Flash Video 101: An Overview of Working with Flash
Video and the Internet seem ideally matched. Video is the medium that most closely reflects our day-to-day visual experiences, and the Internet is a boundless playground filled with interesting content. You might expect, therefore, the existence of numerous websites integrating video with data, content, and interactive controls to create compelling experiences that go beyond what is possible with video on a television set.
Unfortunately, early video content on the Web has often been simply a rectangle of content playing back on your computer monitor, usually in a separate pop-up window covering the website page that spawned it. The video images are often small and ugly, and the overall experience, to be frank, has been pretty poor.
The truth is, several technical challenges have kept designers from using video content to its full potential, including bandwidth limitations, the complexity of authoring video for the Web, and finally the lack of tools for easily integrating video with other Web content.
Fortunately, bandwidth improvements and the improved video capabilities of Flash have overcome these three issues (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 Flash offers technological and creative benefits for creating more immersive, richer Web-based video experiences.
The growth of broadband and the decreasing costs of hard drive space have greatly reduced the first obstacle. Increasingly, large numbers of site visitors have the bandwidth required to receive video content via the Web, but file size is still a problem for many visitors.
Why Flash Video?
Up until Flash 8, web video was a morass of competing players, technologies, standards, codecs, and playback quality. There were no standard tool sets for creating interactivity, navigation control, and fusion of video with other rich media content. Furthermore, most video playback clients are not preinstalled on most visitors’ systems, so many visitors must pause to download a plug-in or application before they can view video.
Finally, unlike many other video formats for the Web, Flash video offers technological and creative benefits for creating immersive, rich experiences fusing video together with data, graphics, sound, and interactive control. What's more, Flash video enables you to easily put video on a web page in a format that almost anyone can view, indeed, Flash video is now the most widely viewed video format on the Web.
When Flash Professional 8 was released, it seemed as if we’d embarked on a web video revolution almost overnight. Flash 8 has more video importing and compression options, it has alpha channel video support, it can trim and edit video clips, it can apply color correction, and it now ships with a new, stand-alone video-encoding tool. This encoder is a separate application that can significantly improve your Flash video production workflow by providing an easy way to convert video files into the Flash video (FLV) format. It also can perform batch processing of video files. The new On2 VP6 codec provides superior-looking video at smaller file sizes and the FLV Playback component.
With all these new capabilities, Flash has developed into an excellent platform for delivering video and many other types of media. In this article, which will be followed up with a series of articles providing more details, I provide a summary and overview of how to author and publish Flash video projects.