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Video Format Comparison

Market Penetration

The Flash player is installed on a higher percentage of end user computers than any other video format. Although not all end users have the latest version installed (so they may not support the latest Flash video codec), Flash still enjoys the best overall support. And as more consumer sites continue to move to the Flash video format, it’s even more likely that your audience will have an appropriate player.

In some organizations, you have desktops that are guaranteed to have a particular player installed. So this may be less of an issue. Check with your IT department to find out what you have installed. Note: there are organizations that intentionally remove particular media players, even Flash.

Consistent Playback

The Flash video format works well across PCs, Macs, Linux, etc. Flash files are very consistent in their playback. They also handle variable connection speeds pretty well. It’s nice to know that it will play well across varied platforms.

Theoretically, the other formats can work across different platforms, e.g., there’s a Windows Media Player for Mac OS X and some ways to playback WMV Format on Linux. The reality is that the Flash video format will work much more consistently across different platforms.

Better “Streaming”

In general, the Flash video format is very good at playing as it streams down additional content. WMV Format, Quicktime and Real either require a streaming server to achieve the effect or do not do as good of a job. While they’ve improved, it still seams like these other technologies are behind in progressive download.

Advanced Features

The Flash video format provides some very nice features for overlays and interactivity.

Quality Debate

There is quite a bit of debate on the web about the quality of the resulting video and also about the relative bandwidth required for the video. Several sources say that the same quality flash video format movie will have a larger file size and require greater bandwidth. It’s not clear how true this is. And it also changes as codecs emerge. For most eLearning applications, this has not been enough to differentiate the choices.

Protection

One of the specific questions I was asked was around caching and protection of the movie. Unfortunately, the Flash Video Format sent via progressive download end up in the user’s cache and are unprotected. From Adobe:

Flash video content and MP3s delivered to Flash Player using a normal web server are delivered through progressive download. This content is cached on the end user’s hard drive and can be easily accessed—and possibly stolen by the user. By contrast, audio, video, and data streamed to Flash clients using Flash Media Server are not cached on local client machines.

The only way around this is to use a Flash Media Server. Of course, the same is true of the other formats. Delivering a file via a standard HTTP request (without a streaming server) will leave the asset available.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that right now, unless I have a really good reason, my default choice is the Flash Video Format. The easiest method is to use a Flash Media Hosting Service to get up and running fast.

 

FURTHER READING:

By Tom Green “The Rise of Flash Video, Part 1” 
Available: http://www.digital-web.com/articles/the_rise_of_flash_video_part_1

 

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Why Use Streaming Media?

Streaming video can be used for live or recorded events. The main reason for broadcasting live is to reach a wider and/or more dispersed audience. Typical live broadcasts could be lectures, sports or entertainment events, and academic or other ceremonies. For a major academic lecture given at a university the number of people who could actually attend would be limited by the size of the lecture theatre, where as the potential audience could be anywhere in the world. Live video is essential if the aim is to give a remote audience an experience as close as possible to being physically present at the event.

If an event is broadcast live it is relatively simple to make a recording which can then be published on the Web for later viewing. However, there are many more possibilities with non-live broadcasts. A streamed broadcast should be considered to be a multimedia event, which could include full motion video if appropriate.

With streaming video or streaming media, a Web user does not have to wait to download a file to play it. Instead, the media is sent in a continuous stream of data and is played as it arrives. The user needs a player, which is a special program that uncompresses and sends video data to the display and audio data to speakers. A player can be either an integral part of a browser or downloaded from the software maker’s Web site.

 

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How to Set Up a Webcast

  • Obtain a webcam. Usually, you can purchase one from a local retailer or an online store such as TigerDirect, Radioshack or Office Depot. Just type the term “Webcam” or “Web Camera” into the search box at the top of the page. You’ll be instantly shown currently sold webcams to buy. Some webcams have built-in microphones that will be needed to record what you’re saying. If you’re not satisfied with that type of microphone, consider purchasing an external one that can be quickly connected to your computer as well. Microphones can also be purchased from a local or online retailer.
  • Pick a service to host your webcast. Some services will be offered free, while others charge a set fee to gain access to their tools. The best way for you to choose a webcasting service is to decide on a budget limit and if your webcasts will be transmitted live. A few services that allow you to stream your webcast in current time or just upload a previously recorded video include YouTube or Mogulus. To get started, visit the homepage of your chosen webcast host to sign up for a new account. Follow the on-screen instructions for creating a user name and password, and establishing your hosting space.
  • Create a programming schedule before you consider broadcasting your webcast for others to view. Decide on the topics you’d like to discuss and how you’d like to present them. Organizing your webcast ideas and topics in an outline form will help everything go smoothly. Make your webcast interesting enough to catch the viewer’s attention as well. If your webcast seems poorly put together and very unprofessional, many viewers will click away from it within a few seconds. Some of the most interesting concepts to discuss on your webcast include the latest electronic gadgets available for sale, political topics, and humorous situations that many people can identify with.
  • Share your webcasts with as many friends and family members as possible. Getting the word out about your informative or funny webcasts will increase your viewing audience. Set up a dedicated Web space on which to embed your webcasts and distribute the URL to others. Many free blogs and paid websites allow you to instantly embed your webcast code into a newly created website. As you update your webcasts, the website will automatically update as well. To get the embed code, just click onto the “Embed Code” link at the bottom of the webcast or copy the provided code. When you’re ready to build a new website, select the “HTML” link to enter it on the page. Web services such as WordPress, Blogger and Typepad give you access to website building tools.
  • Decide if you should charge a price for viewing your webcasts. Some internet viewers don’t mind paying a fee to view helpful information that will help them succeed in life, career or finance. If you’re extremely knowledgeable about a subject and can produce a proven method of success, consider using your webcasts to spread your message. You’ll have the chance to share your knowledge without paying an extremely large amount of money, such as the cost of a television commercial.

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