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Flash Video Learning Guide

Macromedia Flash video lets you easily put video on a web page in a format that almost anyone can view. This guide provides an introduction to Flash video, including information on how to create and publish Flash video.

Checklist for Creating Flash Video

The following steps describe how to create Flash video content and publish it online. The procedures for creating and publishing on-demand (pre-recorded) video are different from those for creating and publishing live video.

To create on-demand Flash video:

  1. Acquire some video. Either capture it yourself or obtain it from someone else.
  2. Encode the video in the Flash video (FLV) format. See Capturing and Encoding Video.
  3. Decide on a delivery mechanism. See Delivery Options for Flash Video.
  4. Add the video to your web pages, and publish the pages to the web. See Adding Flash Video to Your Website.


To complete this tutorial you will need to install the following software and files:

Flash Professional 8

About Video and the Web

Video and the Internet seem ideally matched. Video is the medium that most closely echoes our day-to-day visual experiences, and the Internet is a boundless playground filled with interesting content. You might expect, therefore, that thousands of compelling websites would integrate video with data, content, and interactive controls to create rich experiences that go beyond what is possible with video on a television set.

Unfortunately, early video content on the web has often been simply a rectangle of content playing back on your computer monitor, usually in a separate pop-up window covering the website page that spawned it. The video images are often small and ugly, and the overall experience is poor.

Several technical challenges have kept designers from using video content to its full potential, including the following:

Bandwidth Limitations

Video is a data-intensive format, requiring megabytes of data to display even short video clips. The growth of broadband has greatly reduced this technical obstacle, and increasingly large numbers of site visitors have the bandwidth required to receive video content via the web, but file size is still a problem for many visitors.

Complexity of Authoring Video for the Web

There have been no standard tool sets for creating interactivity, navigation control, and fusion of video with other rich media content. Furthermore, most video playback clients are not pre-installed on most visitors’ systems, so many visitors must pause to download a plug-in or application before they can view video.

Lack of Compelling Integration of Video and Other Web Content

Most video formats for the web offer no rich media capabilities beyond playback of video in a rectangular window.

Fortunately, Flash video (which presents video content seamlessly and in context, in a form that site visitors can view using Flash Player) overcomes these issues.

About Flash Video

Flash video offers technological and creative benefits that allow designers to create immersive, rich experiences that fuse video together with data, graphics, sound, and dynamic interactive control. The advantages of using Flash to present video online include:


Since the 2002 introduction of Flash video, Macromedia Flash Player has become the most widely installed Internet video client, running on over 96% of all Internet-connected personal computers. Also, Flash Player runs on a wide variety of platforms and operating systems. The ubiquity of Flash Player ensures that most visitors can view Flash video without downloading additional plug-ins, so you can reach more people with lower development, testing, and support costs.

Full Creative Control

Flash video integrates seamlessly into your website, and you can put a new “skin” to customize your branding and design unique controls. You can also set the size and aspect ratio of your video, and the video can dynamically change based on a data source.

Rich, Interactive, Contextual Video

Flash video starts playing quickly, and provides immersive and interactive experiences. Because Flash treats Flash video as simply another media type, you can layer, script, and control video just like any other object in a SWF file. Flash video is an integral part of the viewing experience, as opposed to a separate pop-up window that interrupts the experience.

The following image shows a sophisticated example of a web page containing Flash video synchronized to text and graphics. The superimposed dotted blue outline shows the boundary of the area where the SWF file is displayed; the dotted red outline shows the boundary of the area where the Flash video (FLV) file is displayed, as part of the SWF content. A SWF file can contain graphics, text, and client logic (for creating video controls, for example). It can refer to an external FLV file, and it plays in Flash Player. An FLV file contains primarily audio and video, and it plays inside a SWF file.

Figure 1. A Flash Video file playing inside a SWF file

Figure 1. A Flash video file playing inside a SWF file

The following is a list of tools and servers that you can use to create and deliver compelling Flash video experiences.

Flash Professional 8 includes the following tools and features:

  • Flash Video Import wizard. Simply choose File > Import > Import Video to import video into Flash. The Import Video dialog guides you through converting video files to FLV format and configuring the FLVPlayback component.
  • FLVPlayback component. Use this component to play external FLV files and to connect to Flash Media Server (formerly Flash Communication Server) video streams in your Flash movie. This new video component, which includes video playback controls, makes customizing or “skinning” the video player much easier than before.
  • New encoding options. You can now encode Flash video in three ways: through the Flash Video Import wizard, with the stand-alone Flash 8 Video Encoder and through the Flash Video QuickTime Export plug-in, which lets you encode audio and video into the FLV file format when exporting from third-party video editing applications that support QuickTime exporter plug-ins.
  • Flash Media Server (formerly Flash Communication Server) is Macromedia’s streaming media server that streams audio and video to Flash Player 6 or later.
  • Flash Video Streaming Service is a cost-effective monthly subscription services from third parties that use Flash Media Server to provide hosted streaming video with high performance requirements and worldwide scalability. If you can’t or don’t want to set up your own Flash Media Server or Flash Communication Server, you can use a hosted service.
  • Dreamweaver includes a Flash video import mechanism to put Flash video onto a web page easily, with a more limited number of customization or “skinning” options for the video player.

    Note: You must have an encoded FLV file before you can use it in Dreamweaver.

  • Flash Player plays Flash video and other Flash content.

Choosing Options

Before you can use Flash video on your site, you need to decide how to deliver the video; the two primary options are to deliver it as a progressive download or as a streaming video.

Note: You can also embed video in the Flash Timeline, however, this is recommended only for very short video clips with no audio track.

For help deciding which delivery option to use, see the following table. Find your situation in the left column, and then see which delivery options are recommended. If two options are marked, then either one is recommended.

  Embedded Progressive Streaming
Clip is under 5 seconds long Yes Yes  
Clip is 5 to 30 seconds long   Yes Yes
Clip is over 30 seconds long     Yes
Low viewership expected   Yes  
Medium to high viewership expected     Yes
Instant start     Yes
Intellectual property protection     Yes
Live video streams     Yes
Variable streaming rates based on visitor’s bandwidth     Yes

After choosing a delivery option, choose which authoring tool to use: Flash or Dreamweaver.

Importing video directly into Dreamweaver is ideal for situations where you want to put video onto your site quickly and easily, with no interactive elements beyond simple video controls (play, stop, pause, skip ahead, and skip backward).

If you need to build a more interactive experience or need to heavily customize the look and feel of the video, you must use the video features in Flash 8. You also need Flash Professional 8 to encode Flash video (FLV) files.