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Flash Media Encoder: You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

The release of Flash 8, powered by the VP6 video codec, led the way for Flash Video to become a popular choice for on-demand video. The lack of robust live streaming was something for which there was great demand but no great solution. "At the time, we really intended Flash 8 to be geared towards high-quality on-demand video," says Chris Hock, group product manager for Adobe’s Dynamic Media Organization. "What we found is the market came back to us and said, 'That’s great for on-demand, but we also want live video.'"

This demand has been present for quite some time, with many webcasters choosing to go with Windows Media simply because it was there and ready. With the release of the Flash Media Encoder, these webcasters now have a desktop application that allows them to set video, audio, and encoding parameters and then send that stream off to a Flash Media Server or Flash Video Streaming Service provider like Akamai, Limelight, Mirror Image, or VitalStream.

A primary goal of Adobe was to build the Flash Media Encoder in such a way as to make it accessible to a broad range of users. "What we’ve tried to achieve in addition to being able to do high quality capture is make this a relatively simple application. You don’t have to be a Flash expert or use ActionScript to use this thing right out of the box," says Hock. "You can be at a technical producer level, run the application, tweak a couple of parameters, hit start, and it starts encoding and streaming." For a first look at the experience of actually using the application, see Stefan Richter’s StreamingMedia.com article.

The target market for this release runs the gamut of entities that are webcasting today, including in the enterprise for things like investor relationship seminars, in educational institutions, and media and entertainment properties as well, including sporting events and concerts (although, as Richter notes, its audio options are limited).

Spark Not Going Anywhere
As mentioned in Richter’s article, the ability to stream live in the VP6 codec will enable high quality one-to-many webcasts, but the Sorenson Spark codec will continue to be utilized in a number of ways. "From a use-case perspective, the Spark capture is fantastic for real-time communications and really low-latency communications and applications such as webcam chat and videoconferencing through Adobe Connect," says Hock. "This release is used more for one-to-many delivery where you’re willing to trade off maybe a little more latency in exchange for getting a higher-quality picture.

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