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How Flash Video Works

The Flash format uses two types of file to deliver video: SWF and FLV. This page provides an overview of how these files work together.

  1. SWF : The standard Flash file format used in web pages and other delivery media.
  2. FLV : A special file type used for Flash video. This file type is not played back directly — it must be embedded in (or linked from) an SWF file.

The idea is to use a "container" SWF file from which to play the FLV file. The most common approach is to use an SWF file which functions as a media player with video screen and playback controls, as per the example below.


This is an SWF file called player_200x200.swf. By itself it does nothing — it's just a blank screen with non-functional controls.


To add video, we give the SWF file instructions to open an FLV file, in this case a file called testclip-4sec.flv. The FLV file appears in the screen and the controls become active.

If you want to make a player yourself, the Adobe Flash authoring program includes pre-made video playback components which you can use in your SWF files. The example above was made in only a few minutes using drag-and-drop operations in Flash. If you prefer, you can use Flash's coding language Actionscript to create a more customized interface.

As you can imagine, the creative possibilities are endless. Once you have mastered the basics you can:

If you don't want to make your own player or if you don't own Flash, you can download one of our video players.

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