Embrace the timeline….

On creating rich, flashy and immersive advertising experiences online by Owen van Dijk

(After) a hundred days off…What will Flash bring us in 2004?

with 6 comments

As soon as people start emailing or asking on MSN or the Central Developer Chat the question: when you will update your blog, you know it’s time to suprise everybody with a new posting. All the usual caveats apply, loads of work ( a new tutorial for Ultrashock coming up, writing an article for MX Developers Journal, playing with my new Powerbook ), vacation, personal circumstances, etc . Another reason is that my previous posting about MAX and asking people to blog about, turned into reality, as Christian Cantrell made MAXBloggers. To come up with another posting as much as succesfull is quite a challenge. 😉

I’ve been reading some posts about a wishlist for Flash 8, as a reaction to Charlie who announced to break up with Flash. I posted my wishlist for Flash 8 awhile ago however there is another thing i wanted to focus on. A few days ago, someone asked me what Flash will bring us, the Flash developers in 2004. The next version of the Flash IDE won’t be out till next year so let me bring out my looking-glass and make some bold statements:

What will Flash bring us in 2004, part 1: Flash Video

As someone who has worked for one of Hollands biggest public broadcasting stations, i know how hard it is to deliver video on the web. I’ve written bloated Javascript libraries for Realplayer and Windowsmedia in various browser/platform combinations, and even then the user experience was very limited. Flash had the ability to stream video in version 6 ( even earlier versions with special software ), but more and more developers are discovering the usefullness of video in Flash 7 and it’s ability to load an FLV file from within Actionscript. Also it seems Macromedia seems pushing Flash Video alot with it’s Flash Video Streaming Service. However, there are still reasons why someone whould choose Real, Quicktime or WindowsMedia over Flash Video ( RTMP ):

– Automated Publishing Tools. Broadcasting companies often use specialised (expensive!) hardware to automate the whole encode-deploy-publish process for television shows. Unfortunately, these machines can’t output to Flash Video.

– Digital Rights Managment. To protect the rights of the content owners, Real Networks and Microsoft have put serious efforts incorporating DRM in their products. This includes security through encryption and license generation. For now Flash Video does not include any DRM support ( please correct me if i’m wrong )

– Intelligent Streaming / SureStream. This means that your files can stream without the user having to specify a particular bandwidth. Real Networks calls this SureStream and Microsoft calls it Intelligent Streaming, and puts multiple tracks in a single file each encoded with a different bitrate. The server chooses the best track according to the user bandwidth. During a stream it can switch between tracks, for instance if the network connection appears to be sluggish

If you have no need for these features, Flash Video is your friend! More on Flash in 2004 tomorrow. 🙂


Written by ohwhen

February 18, 2004 at 1:27 am

Posted in Web/Tech

6 Responses

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  1. Flash is an open source format… only time is needed for us to get in those 10 billion dollar “solutions”.

    The benefit of Flashcom in streaming FLV files is that the file itself is not cached on the user’s machine (same with mp3), therefore there is no need for a DRM.

    I never did figure out what the heck Flashcom does with the video at low bandwidth; I think it drops frames, but not sure about degrading quality in real-time… :: shrugs ::



    February 18, 2004 at 1:32 am

  2. Flash Video Rocks!
    I am very excited about this format.
    Quality is drasticly improved and MM is heading the right way with the new metadata.
    You could develop adaptive buffersystems that switch to alternatives when bandwidth drops..

    The Video Exporter (v1.2 now) is still unreliable from 3th party videocompression apps, but things will get better in the future, I am sure.


    February 18, 2004 at 4:17 am

  3. Flash video is nice, but I agree the main players have better controls in place.

    One of the biggest barriers I believe is that streaming is only supported via the Flash comm server. For just the video streams, they should open up the format to be streamed by other servers. Simply, with a ton of support already in place for existing products, and knowledgable staff to handle them, they aren’t gona switch to a whole new server platform. I work in a very big video related media company, and this is our issue. The licensing is not suitable even when you have the dollars.

    I think that the .flv format will only get better and will be a strong competitor in the near future, it just needs to mature a little first and play better with certain software and hardware.

    Kenny Bunch

    February 18, 2004 at 4:05 pm

  4. I was very suprised to see the quality of Flash Video. I used WildFlix to encode the videostream in different bandwith files and made my own surestreamlike probe that tries to conservatively estimate the bandwidth. It worked pretty well. I haven’t uses Flashcomm yet. Sorry, can’t afford it.


    March 6, 2004 at 12:59 pm

  5. Great post! A few notes:

    On your first point about Flash video, there actually are batch encoding options for FLV, including Anystream Agility and Sorenson Squeeze.

    On Digital Rights Management, this is a tough one. Windows Media seems to be the only technology coming close to doing it the way video pros want it done. We’re looking into it. As it is, you do have some options for DRM including the fact that FlashCom streams are not cached, rather held in temporary memory. This is on our list…

    On intelligent streaming, I guess I need some more detail on exactly what you’re looking to do. As is, FlashCom can do this. You can detect a visitor’s bandwidth and deliver alternative quality streams to the client. Are you looking for something more? We need to know what’s missing.

    On the comment that “Flash is an open source format” I must caution that this is a bit of a stretch. We do license the SWF format, but it’s not entirely accurate to say that Flash is open source.

    Regarding the comment that “streaming is only supported via the Flash comm server” this is actually the case with all media player technologies. They all require streaming media servers in order to do true streaming. As an alternative, however, they all support an implementation of “progressive streaming” as does Flash Player 7. This means that the FLV file is loaded over HTTP into the player – just like a SWF. The player will start playing the video as soon as it has received enought bits. This does not give you any of the advantages of true streaming, but the FlashCom server does. Again, such is the same with Real, QT, and Windows Media.

    I guess we do have an opportunity to make FlashCom server more “approachable” to the general developer community. I’d agree that it is cost-prohibitive for the average developer on a lower budget. We’re looking into some lower-cost hosting partnerships to fit this segment, but that will depend on partners viewing a revenue potential in such a service offering. If you like that idea, I’d suggest emailing support@vitalstream.com (or other partners) with your ideas for a lower-cost hosting service.


    Mike Downey

    April 26, 2004 at 5:49 am

  6. Hi there,

    we’re experimenting with flashvideo and we’re trying the max. size of a .flv file.
    Check the URL I’ve posted to see the flashvideo within a flashtemplate. We’ve the problem that some computers show the video flawless but older computer don’t. Do you think the problem is the graphical card of older computers?



    January 17, 2005 at 4:16 pm

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