Video In A Flash

Mike McGuinness
Not many people know it, but Macromedia has developed a sophisticated media delivery platform, that is emerging as a sleeping giant. In fact, Microsoft recently tried to buy them for over $6 billion – and were turned down.

Macromedia Flash is the world's most pervasive software platform, used by over 1 million programming professionals and reaching 98% of Internet-enabled desktops worldwide as well as a wide range of devices. You may be shocked to hear that's 30% more users than Windows Media Player and Real Player. You might also be shocked to hear that using Flash for your Media Delivery can save you a bundle of cash!

Macromedia's latest foray is Flash Communications Server and Macromedia Flash MX. Its been around for about 2 years now. In this system, a Flash application communicates through the Flash Communication Server. Usually these applications enable person-to-person communication (one-to-many, or many-to-many). Flash may also be used for machine-human communication, such as real-time data transmission and notification.

Even though the browser can play the file while connected to the server, there is no operating system player for the Flash FLV file format, so the file cannot be played locally. Given the connection to the MX server however, it allows the user to play the movie directly in their chosen browser. Flash MX server can also administer time spent and pending usage as previously purchased by the user.

Highlights of the Flash MX Server include the ability to provide your end users with the best possible experience via a seamlessly integrated client that lets you brand your broadcast the way you want to, with any devices containing the Flash Player being capable of delivering movies when connected to the MX Communications server.

Real Time Collaboration is a powerful programming model that will allow many multiple connected users to share data and user interfaces in real time, coupled with client and server data storage capabilities. Support for off-line usage in addition to on-line usage allows the creation of robust applications that can be used offline, and then synchronized automatically when the user goes back online.

The Flash Communication Server has functions for server-side scripts that may disconnect users, authenticate, and control. Applications can be developed for moderators or administrators to perform custom maintenance and monitoring.

The Macromedia Flash Communication Server works with multiple network adapters on the server machine. This allows the server to be built for maximum network throughput. In addition, "virtual hosts" may be configured on each adapter. Virtual hosts can be used to isolate different server users, allowing each server user to add applications freely while keeping their programs separate from others.

A Fantastic File Format
The file format used in this process is Flash FLV or Flash Live Video, and it plays in a Flash Player. While traditional methods of media delivery include some kind of download to the user's computer, either in a pre-loader or through temporary Internet files, Flash MX Communications server and a Flash FLV Player connect in a completely different manner. Simply put, it's a new connection to the file each time the user uses the controls in the player. This means that in the background it's a "start here" – "stop here" – "start again here" style of play, with no downloads or caching.

Here's The Top Ten Reasons to Stream Video Using Flash

1. FLV format file sizes after conversion are up to 60% smaller, saving server storage costs.

2. FLV's start - stop connection style saves on bandwidth (which is as much as 60% less per month).

3. FLV format has no local player in operating systems, so file sharing is nullified.

4. FLV format plays directly in more browsers than Windows Media, Real Player or QuickTime.

5. FLV server can authenticate clients, and control users as you wish.

6. FLV players can be completely customized for logos, branding and embedded links.

7. FLV players can play files from a programmable database, and simple administration area.

8. FLV players can be programmed to integrate with databases for free previews, time, users.

9. FLV encoding can include user information for content tracking, misuse, or DRM.

10. Flash Communications servers are easier to maintain than others, and less prone to security hacks.

Who is using Flash Communication Servers? Yahoo, IBM, Sony, Universal Studios, the list is growing. According to Computerworld's "IBM to Drop Windows-based Storage" article dated July 7th, 2003, "IBM plans to discontinue its line of Windows-based network-attached storage (NAS) devices in order to focus on higher-end products, including an upcoming file server that will run Linux, sources said..."

Flash is suitable for various applications, including live, on-demand, audio and video streaming, 24 x 7 live radio broadcasting, pay-per-view, with digital rights management, delivery to mobile devices, including phones, product demonstrations, commercials and movie trailers, employee and partner training, corporate communications – the list goes on and on...

Interested publishers can see demonstrations of Flash Communication Server and get more information by visiting Our proprietary video delivery solutions work on 98% of all Internet enabled devices, and can save you big on your bandwidth bill – with prices starting at only $99.