The Flash Guru: A Better Encoder, Learning Streaming Video, Delaying a Live Stream
Got a Flash video question? Let Stefan Richter, the Flash guru, help you out. In this monthly series, Richter will answer Flash questions sent in by StreamingMedia.com readers or from the Streaming Media forums.
Richter is the founding director of Muchosmedia, a UK-based software firm specializing in rich Internet applications. The company works for an international client base that includes ITV, Unilever, and the Tate Modern, and recently launched its first product, Scribblar, an online collaboration tool which is proving popular in the eLearning community. Richter also maintains his personal blog, the popular FlashComGuru.
Stefan's first question this month was e-mailed from James R:
Hello, I am looking for an alternative to the On2 Flix publisher for browser-based Flash player client encoding for live audio and video streaming into FMS3. Do you know of anything or can you ping me over to anyone who might know of something that can help? The quality of the default codecs in Flash are not good enough for what I need to do and I am worried about On2 now being owned by Google and therefore support for products being potentially limited in the future as a conflict of interests.
Yes, the Flix publisher is limited, says Stefan, to only one codec—the VP6 codec. Your best alternative to On2 Flix is Adobe's Flash Media Live Encoder. It's free to download from Adobe, and it supports VP6, H.264, and Spark. It does multi-bit encoding, he says, and on a powerful machine it will stream multiple bit rates.
"It's free and it's quite good, so go with that," says Stefan.
As for the Google ownership issue, that doesn't bother Stefan. The existing license agreements are in place and should remain uneffected. While he doesn't know what Google's plans are, he knows that Skype, for one, licenses the codecs and can't imagine anything happening to change those existing license agreements. Those license agreements are legally binding and can't be changed, even by a new owner.
Stefan's second question comes from Mankhool:
Does anyone know where one can study streaming video?
We've been advertising on here for weeks looking for an experienced encoder and have had no luck—so as someone with a production background I am interested in learning.
We stream internal corporate content to about 70 screens worldwide and also stream 2 IPTV channels.
I have searched the Net, but outside of the occasional allusion to streaming within a broadcasting curriculum, I cannot seem to find anything.
You stumped Stefan with this one, and so he happily turned the question over to Jan Ozer in our first Flash Guru tag-team. Stefan and Jan co-wrote The Hands-on Guide to Flash Video together.
Sorry, Mankhool, but Jan doesn’t think you're putting in enough effort. "I Googled 'Flash Training' and got 4,460,000 responses. If someone can’t find anything, they’re not looking hard enough," he says.
His top choices include Adobe's Developer Network, Flash production courses at StreamingMedia events, and online training sites like Lynda.com and Total Training with classes in Flash production.
"Plus there are tons of books available," Jan says. He should know; he's written some of them.
Stefan's third question comes from Tweakmaster:
I am looking for a delay solution for a live Internet broadcast. Currently we use a DVR that we pause for a minute. The problem with that is that we want to switch to an encoder that accepts only embedded SDI and the DVR doesn't support it. The purpose of the delay is so that we can monitor what is being said by the speaker.
You haven't given much information, Tweakmaster, so Stefan isn't sure if you need a hardware or software solution. It can be done in Flash by publishing the live stream as you normally would, then writing code for the Flash Media Server that would record that stream to disk. You could then set the playback of that stream a few minutes after the starting position of the actual live stream. If you want to edit parts out on the fly, Stefan says that's more complicated.
The new Flash Media Server has DVR functionality built-in, Stefan notes, including the ability to pause or rewind a live stream.
Submit your Flash video questions to Streaming Media’s Formats, Codecs, and Players forum, or send them directly to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this month's installment, Stefan Richter tackles questions on publishing a stream with DVR options, using HTTP Live Streaming, and creating a virtual video capture device.