The Flash Video Format
Flash video is a relative newcomer to the digital video scene. Up until version 6, Flash did not handle full-motion video well enough to be useful. As of version 7, true streaming video is supported by Flash and anyone with the latest player can see Flash video clips.
Flash has some compelling advantages for delivering video on the Internet:
- The Flash player is very common — around 95% of browsers have it installed.
- Flash is very consistent and the designer has good control over how the end product will be displayed. Flash works equally well on PCs, Macs and Linux computers.
- You can create your own interactive media content with graphics, animations, etc. You can even create your own media player with custom controls.
On the downside:
- Flash is a relatively complex format. Beginners will find that it takes longer to learn than other formats.
- Flash is relatively expensive. To have full creative control you need to invest at least a few hundred dollars in software.
Working with Flash Video - A Quick Overview
The main thing to understand is that Flash video is just one part of the the larger world of Flash, which is a platform for delivering many types of media including animation and interactive content for web pages.
In the world of Flash there are three types of software to be aware of:
- The free Flash Player and browser plugin. This is a small, simple program which allows people to view Flash files. Most people have it installed.
- The Flash authoring program, known simply as Macromedia Flash. This is a fairly expensive program which is used to create Flash content.
- Third-party authoring programs. There are a few cheaper alternatives to Flash which allow you to create Flash content and/or convert media files into Flash files.
Important: The standard version of Macromedia Flash does not have full support for video files. If you are serious about video you need Flash MX Professional 2004.
Flash video files use the extension .flv. FLV files are usually played from within a .swf file, which is the conventional Flash file format.
For more information see our Flash Tutorial section, in particular: