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Adobe Flash Video Updated to H.264

Adobe announced today that its Flash Player 9 is being updated to add support for the H.264 video standard and High Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC) audio, plus full screen video playback with hardware acceleration, and multi-core enhanced vector rendering.

The public beta version of the Adobe Flash Player 9 update, code-named "Moviestar," is available immediately as a free download from Adobe Labs. The final release is expected to be available via update in the fall.

This was an obvious need for Flash, as it has expanded from Web-based video to mobile phones and other portable devices. Supporting H.264 directly in Flash now allows the same video content to be played from desktop computers to mobile devices across the Internet.

As suggested on Adobe developer Tinic Uro's blog, this update was not just obvious, it was so much in demand by customers that Adobe could not hold it for the next revision in its typical development cycle.

See Uro's blog for more technical details. His bottom line: You should now be able to play H.264 files directly in Flash (i.e., from iTunes and Mobile phones, including .mp4, .m4v, .m4a, .mov and .3gp). Note that this is only the updated H.264 version of MPEG-4 (also known as Advanced Video Codec, AVC); the earlier MPEG-4 Part 2 is not supported.

See my previous article for more details on Flash formats and software: Flash Video: Downloading from YouTube and Converting Video Files

Flash from Desktop to Mobile

The Flash Player is ubiquitous on computers across Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Solaris platforms -- Adobe states that Flash content reaches over 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktops. So Flash has been very successful for video-based websites like YouTube, since you can just click and play video directly on the webpage.

However, Flash video does not move as easily to mobile phones and portable devices, since they typically use MPEG-4 / H.264 video, and Flash is based on two non-standard video formats optimized for streaming delivery, On2 TrueMotion VP6 and the older Sorenson Spark.

As a result, it's not straightforward to play video from sites like YouTube from portable devices, so services like the Apple iPhone and Verizon V CAST are able to offer only a selection of clips that have been converted to the required formats. Adding H.264 to Flash solves this problem, with a single format that plays across all platforms.

The H.264 playback also feeds into the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) technology (formerly code-named Apollo) that brings Flash and rich Internet applications from the browser window to stand-alone desktop applications -- including the new Adobe Media Player in development.

    Find Adobe Flash CS3 Professional on Amazon.com

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