How to Choose the Best Settings for Delivering Video in Adobe Flash

Flash 6 started a trend of embedding video into the Flash files (called SWF files) and also allows playback of stand-alone Flash Video files (called FLV files) that are encoded using either Sorenson Spark (for Flash players 6 and 7) or On2’s VP6 (for Flash Player 8). Prior to Flash Player 6, QuickTime video files could also be linked to the SWF file. As you can see, there are many ways to deliver video in Flash—so what's the best way for you?

This week, we’re going to ask five questions that will help content creators know how to best deliver video in Flash.

1. Which Flash Player will it be shown in?
Video in Flash has been around for years, but only the most recent versions of the Flash player are optimized for video playback. If the content is to be embedded in a SWF file, the Flash Video Encoding tool will automatically use the video codec best suited for the Flash player version that you are targeting. In other words, video will be encoded in Sorenson Spark if the intended Flash Player version is either 6 or 7 (though this video can also be viewed in Flash Player 8), but video created for Flash Player 8 will only be encoded using the On2 VP6 codec.

Adobe recommends On2 VP6, noting on its website that "the On2 video codec is the preferred video codec to use when creating Flash content that uses video. On2 provides the best combination of video quality while maintaining a small file size."

2. Should video be embedded or not?
Embedding is the act of placing the FLV video file within the SWF file. The benefit to this is that the SWF file contains the content—including video—and is a fully self-contained file that can be distributed via offline or online mediums (web delivery, optical disc, and flash memory drive are just a few examples).

The downside to embedding is that video content that may need frequent updating requires republishing of the SWF file, leading to versioning and shelf-life issues. The answer to this dilemma is to deliver content that doesn’t change frequently via the SWF file, while using dynamic links or pointers to link back to external video content.

Dynamically linked video files don’t even need to be FLV files; in fact, early versions of the Flash Player work well with external QuickTime files. For anyone who came out of a background using Macromedia Director—the forerunner to Flash—this is exactly the same way as we used to do it: the interactive content is in the file that’s delivered to the customer, while the video files are stored elsewhere. Also note that one cannot preview linked QuickTime video content using the Test Movie command, and Flash Player versions 6, 7, and 8 work best with FLV files.

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