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This chapter is from the book

Other Video Options

Believe it or not, there's so much more about video that a whole book would probably be too little. But even if I restrict the topic to video in Flash, there are a couple other points to make. You've already learned how to import a video and compress it (immediately after import). This process was relatively time-consuming and somewhat limited. Compressing the sample movie went pretty fast, but it was only 5 seconds long. You'll see much longer compression times for longer movies. And, despite the fact that there are many options in the Sorenson Spark dialog box, many more controls are possible with the Professional version of Spark. Next we'll look at how you can reduce that compression time and then we'll look at the third-party product Sorenson Squeeze with Spark Pro.

Offline Preparation

Flash can import several different video formats (listed earlier this hour). For each format listed, you must compress it individually at the time of import. This can be a significant investment of time and capitalization of your computer. One other video format that I didn't list is also supported by Flash. The file format with the extension .flv was created just for Flash (they're called Flash Video files). Basically, they're nothing more than videos that have already been compressed using Sorenson Spark. The great part is that they import almost instantly!

You can create .flv files in two ways. One way is to import original videos and make selections in the Spark dialog box (just as you did earlier). Then you can export an .flv file from Flash. The other way is to use another product called Sorenson Squeeze with Spark Pro. You'll learn more about this product in a minute. First let me show you how to export an .flv file from Flash.

Task: Export an .flv File

These are the steps to export an (fast importing) .flv file from Flash:

  1. Either open one of the files from an earlier task this hour or import a video into a new Flash movie.

  2. Select the video item in the Library and select Properties from the Library's Options menu.

  3. Click Export and then save the .flv file in a memorable place (say, the desktop—see Figure 17.11).

Figure 17.11 Exporting an .flv file is as easy as clicking a button.

  1. That's it! The .flv file contains all the compression information you selected on import. Actually, it's already compressed.

  2. Start a new file; then select File, Import and point to the .flv file you just exported. Notice this time that it takes only an instant to import and doesn't require any compression settings.

Although it may seem like this task was easy (it was), you may wonder why you'd want to bother going through these extra steps. After all, you have to sit through compressing the video in any case. This process can make you more productive. For example, one person could spend all day importing source videos and compressing them, while others work on other things. Even if you're the one who has to do everything, you could spend concentrated time doing the compression. Consider that you'll often import and compress a video and then decide that the results are not ideal—so you try again. You can use one work file into which you import videos and promptly export them as .flv files. Then those .flv files can be imported into the final files.

Using Squeeze with Spark Pro

There's one other way to create those fast-importing .flv files. It's a moderately priced product called Sorenson Squeeze with Spark Pro. This product produces .flv files, but it also happens to export QuickTime videos and other formats. There are two main features that, if you use them, could justify the product's cost. First, it can batch process many files. That means that if you have 100 videos to compress, you can set up the batch and then leave for as many hours as necessary while the computer processes each video one at a time.

The other feature of Squeeze is that the options for compression are much more detailed. Think of it this way: Spark (the technology included in Flash) has the main features needed to compress videos. Spark Pro (included in Squeeze) has extra fine-tuning features and uses technology not available in the regular version of Spark. In any case, after the video is in Flash, any user with the Flash version 6 player will be able to view the movie.

To get an idea of the additional options available, take a look at the filter settings in Figure 17.12.

Figure 17.12 The filters let you clean up a video, crop, or add a fade.

You can also see that although the adjustments are similar to those inside Flash, you do get more fine-tuning capabilities. For example, you can specify your target download data rate before compressing. These options (shown in Figure 17.13) can also be saved in sets so that you can have one combination for modem connections and another for broadband connections.

Figure 17.13 Some of the additional compression options available in Squeeze.

Finally, there are some particularly interesting technologies available only in Spark Pro. One is called Sorenson 2 pass Variable Bit Rate, which basically means that the data rate varies as needed throughout the video—saving file size when less movement is onscreen for example. There's another interesting option that let's you compress audio with Fraunhofer MP3 (which is really just an additional choice for how the audio is compressed). However, because all the audio in a video is compressed using the settings you make in Flash's Publish Settings dialog box this setting gets overridden when you use Squeeze to create an .flv file. (You can get around this problem by exporting .swf files from Squeeze and then using Flash's loadMovie() command to import at runtime.)

Hopefully, this section doesn't sound too much like a commercial—I don't want it to. However, Sorenson compression is widely accepted as the de facto standard for digital video. If you get serious about video in Flash, you should consider all the options available.

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