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Web Video in a Flash

Macromedia Video Kit makes it easier than ever to put video on the Web By Charlie White

Theres a new way to put video on the Web thats so much easier than in the past, heck, even a beginner could do it. Its all done with Macromedia Flash, which many users associate with complicated animations and, ahem, programming. Well, theres no such thing involved with the new Macromedia Video Kit, a group of Mac or Windows tools for Dreamweaver MX 2004, its popular Web authoring application. There are some great reasons to use Flash Video on the Web, and this new way of bringing your clips from camera lens to Web browser makes it easier and more compelling than ever.

Recently theres been a surge in the growth of Flash video, but Macromedias developers told Digital Media Net they felt that it wasnt easy enough for most of us, or even Web professionals, to use it. Their mission was to bring Flash video authoring to the greater masses of users who dont know, or even care to know, the Flash authoring tool well enough to custom-build applications for the Web. The clever coders at Macromedia decided that the best way to do that was to create a new extension to Dreamweaver that will make adding video to a Web site as easy as adding any other graphic. The result is the Macromedia Video Kit, a set of tools thats designed to let everybody else get on the Flash Video bandwagon.

There are good reasons why the most innovative sites on the Web are increasingly using Flash. Atop Flash's list of attributes, especially for video producers who just want to put a piece of video up for all to see, is that just about everybody with a Web browser has the latest Flash plug-in loaded and ready for action. The most recent statistics show that a vast majority have Flash 6 loaded a full 95.3% of machines on the Web today with Flash 7 gaining on that, with over 80% of the Web browsers packing that newer player. Thats far more penetration than its nearest competitor, Windows Media, lagging far behind with 62% coverage. QuickTime and Real fall even further behind that. So the Flash platform is the most pervasive, and if you put your video on the Web using it, chances are your visitors will be able to see that video. And after all, that would seem to me to be the bottom line: Can they see the video without having to go through some arduous downloading process? And even if they are in that minority that doesnt have the Flash player, its a .5MB download, without any nagging or forms to fill out unlike all the others whose invasive download routines resemble in many ways a virus or spyware attack, especially the intentionally misleading QuickTime download process or the obnoxiously quizzical Real ordeal.  

Another feature I like about Flash video is that it doesnt have to be in a separate window, and can sit on a Web page in a contextual way, looking every but like any other still graphic. Advertisers like it because itll just start playing on its own, not requiring any input from the user, while certainly attracting more attention than a still graphic.

Of course, there are even more compelling reasons to use Flash on a Web site, but to access these techno-wiles most of them require a steep learning curve into Flash animation and authoring. Thats the antithesis of what were reviewing here. Even so, if you havent seen what fantastic things Flash can do, take a look at this site, where a lot of Flashs bag of tricks is revealed. Perhaps after seeing that, you might consider looking into all the other benefits of the world of Flash. And a bountiful place that is: Mixing bitmap graphics with vector graphics, video, animating all of that and then adding audio and our old friend, text next thing you know, you have yourself a true multimedia experience. Its a wonderful crucible of content, one that I wasnt crazy about a year or two ago, but now Ive seen the light. In my opinion, its nothing less than the Future Of The Web.

Now that I have sung the praises of Flash, lets take a look at the Macromedia Video Kit that will make it easy to use Flash for video on the Web. The deal is, until the end of this year (this article was written in December, 2004) you can get the Video Kit as a free download if you buy Dreamweaver MX 2004. Yes, I know, that means youll have to register, but in this case, its worth it. If you already own Dreamweaver or Macromedia Studio MX 2004, you can buy the kit for $49 until December 31, 2004.

The meat of the kit is Macromedias easy-to-install Dreamweaver extension, which adds a menu item inside Dreamweaver allowing you to insert a Flash Video file into any Web page. The kit also includes the just-released Sorenson Squeeze Lite version 4. Now dont be scared away my that ?Lite moniker it can compress your video in small, medium and large sizes, and its only weakness is that its a bit less configurable than the full version (available as a $49 upgrade). However, it still gets the job done.  And, if you dont have a video editing tool, Squeeze Lite can help you out there, too, allowing you to capture, crop, trim clips and even add a few simple filters to your video. Best of all, it does a great job of turning your video into Flash Video files (.flv) , using that Spark codec (H.263 compression) that made Sorenson famous. Theres even a feature that lets you set up a watch folder, and then whatever files you drop into there will be compressed with the parameters you specify. Neat.  

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Related Keywords:streaming video, Web, Macromedia Flash, animations, Macromedia Video Kit, tools, Dreamweaver MX 2004, Web authoring application, Flash Video, Web browser, review, Charlie White

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