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Flash 8 Goes Live with On2’s Live SDK for Flash

Amidst the flurry of announcements that inevitably surrounds NAB, one product release in particular arguably didn’t quite get the attention it deserved. That announcement was the addition of high-quality live streaming capabilities to the Flash Video platform by On2 Technologies in the form of the On2 Live SDK for Flash.

This release brings on-demand Flash 8 and On2’s VP6 codec to live Flash streaming, enabling any and all developers to take this SDK and integrate live Flash into their products or platforms. Seeing as how Flash’s live component was largely regarded as its Achilles heel, the significance of this release relative to Flash’s standing in the format wars is potentially tremendous.

Here’s a look into the details of this release and what the future may hold for live Flash streaming over the coming months.

Pent-up Demand
In truth, this release does not introduce live streaming to Flash but instead brings the higher quality of the VP6 codec to live Flash. "We’ve always had the ability to do live Flash Video, however the live video, while excellent for extremely low-latency, talking-head communication, wasn’t really the high quality needed for sporting events and other live events that feature fast motion," says Chris Hock, director of product management for Adobe’s Flash Media Server. "We solved that problem with on-demand when we introduced Flash Player 8 with the VP6 codec. What this release does is extend that to live video."

Essentially what this SDK enables is for webcasters, "in addition to having the ability to write a Flash Video file to disk, to also have the ability to publish that information directly to a Flash Media Server, which will facilitate live communication, webcasting, etc.," says John Luther, VP of marketing for On2.

Demand for live Flash streaming capable of handling higher-motion events has been building for some time. "I’ve been having a lot of conversations with folks in the CDN space such as Akamai and Limelight. The reality is that people want to do live Flash today, and in its absence they’ve reluctantly used things like Windows Media, Real, and QuickTime," says Luther. "If you’re somebody who’s putting on a live event at a worldwide level, the format that you’re really going to want to make available is Flash because you’re going to be assured of Flash reaching the largest possible audience, and I think that’s where the advantage of Flash is really going to shine."

Adobe confirms the fact that the demand for robust live Flash is already there and has been ever since the launch of Flash 8. "It’s probably been the number-one requested feature that we’ve had after we announced the new VP6 video," says Hock. "It’s just one of the things that we need to deliver as a media platform—not only good, high-quality, on-demand video but also good, high-quality live video, and this release kind of fills that checkbox."

Attention Developers
While eventually the ability to stream live Flash 8 Video will most likely be accessible to any and all webcasters, this initial release of an SDK has a much more narrow audience in mind. "It’s primarily targeted at developers," says Luther. "When I say developers, I’m talking about people who have a developer title, but they could work for just about any company out there."

The intent is to allow anyone who wants to in incorporate higher-quality live Flash into their products, whether they are for commercial release or internal use, to take this SDK and have a way to do that. "The SDK itself is very full-featured. It’s going to give you maximum control over the encoding, bit rate, etc.," says Luther. "And if a developer already understands how to work with (Microsoft) DirectShow, it will be very easy for them to integrate this into their products."

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