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The Flash Guru

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.

Stefan Richter
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 Anders:

Do you know if the Flash player supports the new Apple HTTP streaming protocol? Or does Adobe have plans to support it?

If none of the above, do you know if someone has made a Flash playerplug-in for the HTTP Streaming protocol?

I think the HTTP Streaming protocol looks very promising. Which arethe drawbacks do you think?

Good question. Stefan wasn't familiar with Adobe's plans, but did some digging and turned up this is the company's release notes for Flash Player 10.1:

HTTP streaming
HTTP streaming enables delivery of video-on-demand and live streaming using standard HTTP servers, or from HTTP servers at CDNs, leveraging standard HTTP infrastructure and SWF-level playback components. The addition of HTTP streaming will enable expanded protocol options to deliver live and recorded media to Flash Player, including full content protection for HTTP streamed video with Flash Access 2.0.


It's not much, but it does sound like Adobe plans to implement it sometime in the near future. Here's an article on the same subject from Contentinople, also saying that it's coming.

Until that time, however, no, there's no plug-in that would work. "The only thing you can do now is HTTP progressive downloading," Stefan says. This is a pseudo-streaming solution that uses PHP to deliver video over HTTP. "It's a bit like streaming," he says, in that it lets you jump to any point in a video at any time. To the end-user, it looks just like an HTTP stream. Here's a column that Stefan wrote on the subject.

Stefan isn't aware of any major drawbacks to HTTP streaming, but he suggests it may be harder to secure the delivery of content. The benefits are strong, as it offers the characteristics of streaming with the advantage of HTTP delivery.

Stefan's second question was e-mailed from Dan:

Is there a way to get Skype video on Flash Media Live Encoder 3? We're looking at doing remote live video from the team while they're on the road, and using Skype seems to be the easiest. Your thoughts?

There's no plug-and-play solution to do what you ask, Stefan says, but he can imagine a workaround to take care of it. Anything you want to broadcast with FMLE has to show up as a video source. You need something to bridge the gap between FMLE and Skype, and, while Stefan hasn't tried this, he imagines that Camtasia might work. Use Camtasia's live mode to make a live screen recording of the Skype video. That should give you the video source you need for FMLE. "It sounds like a bit of a hack to me, but it might work," Stefan says.

Stefan's third question was posted to a Streaming Media forum by "abouldin":

We are looking into building a Flash server that will provide live and on-demand streaming. How complicated is this going to be and what are the pluses and minuses on doing such an endeavor? This server will be just for small traffic. If we have the need for large capacity, I will use a CDN.

This is pretty straightforward, Stefan says, and not all that complicated. On a Windows computer you can use any Windows operating system, although he recommends Windows Server 2008. Purchase a copy of Flash Media Server, if that's what you want to use, and walk through the installation steps. You won't need any detailed knowledge, and you can go with the default settings. Once you've got it installed, the one tricky thing is that you need to allow the server to talk to the outside world through the computer's firewall. The Windows firewall will block your connection, so you need to go into the firewall settings and tell it to allow the program. The FMS installation directory has three files that you need to add: fmsedge, fmscore, and fmsmaster. Enable all three. Once you're done, your server will be able to reach the outside world.

If you're more comfortable with Linux or Java, you can look at the Wowza Media Server or Red5. That last is an open source alternative to FMS, and Stefan says it's the most challenging to set up.

Submit your Flash video questions to Streaming Media’s Formats, Codecs, and Players forum, or send them directly to the author at tdreier@streamingmedia.com

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