Until the release of Flash MX in 2002, if you were to gather a group of Flash developers and ask them what was missing, the answer was always, "The capability to play video." Until then, that capability was primitive at worst or complicated at best.
Video could be brought into Flash, but precise control was a huge issue. The best one could do was to import the video and live with a lengthy timeline (thanks to each frame of the video being translated into a Flash frame) or trace the frames needed and delete the rest. There were some really great creative techniques developed by Hillman Curtis and others, but on the whole, adding video to Flash was an unpleasant experience.
Flash MX changed all that. It included its own codec?Spark from Sorenson Media?that compressed the file during import. The big change was that the codec compressed and decompressed the .swf file at runtime. This meant the video file in the Flash movie could be treated as a symbol in the Library, rather than an object the movie uses when it plays.
Still, while developers were grateful for the improvement, there were a couple of problems. The first was that the Spark codec did some amazing work, but a video whose duration was longer than two minutes experienced image and playback degradation. The other was embedding the video. Even though the Spark codec offered some astounding results?a 2MB video file being compressed down to 800KB, for example?the file was still embedded in the .swf, which meant Flash files with video were understandably large.
This release of Flash addresses those two issues?big time?and you can expect to see video in Flash sites becoming the norm, not the exception. The addition of an Import wizard, video control behaviors, and the capability to stream a video file from a server are three changes. Another major change is the inclusion of the FLV format as an output option for many of the high-end video suites and video editing and manipulation tools. No longer does the Flash developer have to contend with the video supplier complaining about the quality of "my work" on a Flash site. Now you can simply ask him or her to supply you with the file in the .flv format.
Before we dig deeper into the discussion of video in Flash MX 2004, you should understand that there are now two levels of video management in Flash. If you use the version of Flash MX 2004 packaged with Studio MX 2004, you still have quite an array of tools at your disposal. If you are looking to do some advanced video work in Flash, then Flash MX Professional 2004 should be your tool. The following video-editing applications are supported by the FLV Export plugin that only ships with Flash MX Professional 2004:
AfterEffects (Windows and Macintosh)
Avid (Windows and Macintosh)
Cleaner (Windows and Macintosh)
FinalCut Pro (Macintosh)
QuickTime Pro (Macintosh)