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First Look: Adobe Flash Media Encoder

On February 26, Adobe announced the release of the Flash Media Encoder (FME), a free Windows desktop program that enables webcasters to stream high-quality Flash Video content to a live audience using On2's VP6 codec in combination with Flash Media Server or the Flash Video Streaming Service (FVSS). It is therefore ideally suited for users who would like to explore Flash's live video capabilities when delivering broadcasts of sporting events, general webcasts, elearning content, or concerts (although a concert may not present an ideal use case, as I'll explain later).

Figure 1

VP6 versus Spark
FME's ability to deliver live Flash Video in VP6 quality is significant, as the Flash Player itself is not capable of encoding VP6 (though it can decode it). This means that, with a few exceptions, any live Flash Video on the web had to be encoded using the Sorenson Spark codec, and this is still the case on many community sites that allow their users to broadcast video directly from their browser via webcam. While browser-based webcasting in Flash will continue to utilize the Spark codec, professional webcasters now have access to a new tool in the form of FME that offers VP6 quality inside an application that is more in line with a typical webcasting workflow than a Flash application could ever be.

Features
Let's have a look at the application in more detail. The user interface is simple and effective, being divided into two main parts: The top part of the interface contains—in its standard layout—previews of video Input and Output. It should be noted that the Output window does not reflect the chosen bandwidth, and therefore actual output video quality, until broadcasting has started. I would therefore recommend you run a few test encodings to determine a satisfactory video quality setting.

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