MAX 2005: The Art of Encoding Video (4pm, 18 October)

Kevin Towes of Macromedia kicked off with a discussion of the Flash Player’s position in the world of video codecs, as arguably the most widely-distributed video platform, and one that requires no additional software installation.

Flash 8 uses the new On2 codec. The new encoder offers batch encoding, unlike previous versions.

Legacy video in the older Sorenson codec is still supported by the Player.

Kevin said that Flash’s FLV video format doesn’t allow for transcoding (i.e. opening and resaving the file in another format) due to compression and keyframe issues — although I dare say someone could manage to do it — and that the best way to do so would be through screen capture of the video playback.

The On2 codec adds the ability to encode metadata, and can be streamed using the Flash Communication Server 1.5 and the newly-released Flash Media Server 2.0.

8-bit alpha channels created in video production tools and exported to the Quicktime Millions+ or Animation codecs can be encoded into FLV files that support alpha transparency. Kevin mentioned that it takes approximately four times as long to encode files with alpha, so get started now!

One caveat about alpha channel video. Kevin quoted Tinic Uro, a Principal Engineer on the Flash Player as saying “Doom 3 won’t run on a Pentium 1, either.”

On2 has their own encoder, as does Flix and Sorenson. The third-party tools allow 2-pass VBR encoding which can result in more intelligent compression, but only Macromedia’s encoder can create cuepoints. Kevin suggested that videos compressed for less than 100k/sec should be created without 2-pass, because the variable data rate created by the more sophisticated tools worked best where the bandwidth was greater.