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Flash Video for Web Sites

Everybody's doing it. Serving up Flash Video that is. With the advent of Google Video and YouTube, now everyone wants to get into the game. Even my clients. Here's some information on how to do it.

Flash Video has become the de-facto video format for the web. Why Flash video? Because purportedly the Flash Player is on about 97% of browsers worldwide, and it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I think that about sums it up.

How to do it:

  • Create the video
  • Convert the video
  • Embed the video

Here are some resources:

  • VideoHelp (how-to's related to Video)
  • Codecs (all the codecs you'll ever need, but just get the K-Lite Mega Codec Pack and that will cover it all)

Create the Video

I won't cover creating the video here. There are a number of ways to create video using whatever software you want. There are a number of toolsets such as the expensive Adobe Premier. I use Ulead's Video Editor as a very cost effective alternative. If you aren't sure, try here or here. Output the video to a standard MPEG2 format (DVD), and you'll be able to convert it to almost anything you want. There are other output formats you can use depending upon the authoring/conversion tools, but remember that whenever you convert you always want to start with the best possible source file first, and most video editing/authoring tools aren't necessarily the best conversion/compression tools.

Convert the Video

This is the most mysterious one of the lot and definitely the most confusing. Converting to what format is the biggest question. And that depends. Are you archiving, publishing to the web, or need something else?

For FLV (Flash Video), after editing the video with your favorite editor, convert it to FLV using the free RIVA FLV Encoder. I tried using SUPER, the open source general video converter, but I was getting some video sync problems and no progress bar among other things. There is a tool of some sort that can fix this and put other cues in that may be of use. Riva produced better video but also seemed to have less options.

For reference:

  • DVD Quality
    • Video: MPEG-2, 720x480, 29.97 fps, 9800 kbps
    • Audio: AC3, 48kHz, 192 kbps
  • Good Enough
    • Video: Xvid, 512x341, 29.97 fps, 1024 kbps
    • Audio: MP3, 48kHz, 128 kbps

Conversion Tools I Like:

  • MediaCoder - an extremely robust open-source conversion tool that is built on top of the ffmpeg and mencoder toolsets. This one is for more advanced users.
  • SUPER (Simplified Unified Player Encoder and Recorder) - a novice conversion tool that also uses ffmpeg and mencoder, but with a much simpler interface. This is MediaCoder with an interface providing less options but is much less confusing for the novice.
  • Riva FLV Encoder (for Windows) - this encodes video to FLV and works very well. Linux/Mac have some other options.

There are commercial encoders of course, but with tools like these, why bother giving money to them? But, if you'd like to look at others, then try here or here.

Embed the Video

Embedding Flash was the best article I found on embedding SWF files (so far). But it appears that standard Flash doesn't give you a set of controls that I'd like to have for playing Flash Videos, although it works. So, I stuck with FLV (flash video).

Then, you can embed it in your browser with the open-source Flash Video Player (my preference), FlowPlayer, or others, including Adobe's version, Google Video's version (and/or YouTube's). These players may also be skinnable and splashable (your own branded image) and offer other options such as full screen.

It seems to be really easy, doesn't it? Well it is, and it isn't.

There are other options to consider, such as do you want to be able to autostart, place an image on the screen while it's loading, put a text message up, control it using javascript, do you have a streaming server or not, is the video progressive, and others. And then, you need an embeddable FLV player (many listed below).

So after trying a number of things, Flash Video Player seemed to be the best option overall (and uses the UFO javascript). I used the version in the extras directory that makes it easier to have several links to several files. What I need, too, is the ability to automatically go to the next video, but that is promised in the next version.

I spent some time using FlowPlayer v1.7, but I had some problems with IE (worked fine in Firefox). The video wasn't showing up correctly sized in IE 6 and it requires you to click on the player to activate the object (don't know about 7 yet). There is a UFO javascript out there that gets around this issue (and there is another solution, too), but I didn't spend time. That might even solve the Flash FLV Player problems I ran into. I liked the skinnable aspects as well as the automated list functionality and such, but other things weren't working as well. Maybe with the UFO script added/integrated.

FLV Players (I found):

Other Notes

And don't forget the streaming server aspects:

And I found a website URL that logs Flash event information in the browser (quite interesting).

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