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Wildform Flix

Video to SWF conversion utility By Adam Bell
A couple of months ago, I presented a review on the WWUG for a new tool that converts various video files into Flash SWF movies. The tool is called Flix, and it is one of the most useful utilities I've found to help create Flash movies.

Unfortunately, like most software, the PC version is created first, and then the Mac version comes down the turnpike a few months later. Such was the case here, but at least Wildform had the realization that most creative folk use a Mac over a PC. They even had the better realization that many of us MacHeads are starting to switch over to Mac OS X. Especially now, with the impending release of OS 10.1 (X.1?) that is supposed to fix a lot of the bugs in performance of the OS. However, that's a whole different article, and when did this become Macworld?


Wildform has just released Flix for the Mac OS as well as another tool, SwFX, which creates a variety of text effects that you might see from After Effects or various !nfinit! Character Generators on the boob tube. We'll be reviewing that tool later on.

Flix is very easy to use. Simply start the program and then browse your hard disk for the video file you want to convert. Flix accepts .AVI, .MPEG and QuickTime files. (It also accepts .asf, .wav, .wma, .wmv and mp3 files as well, but you probably won't be using this tool for those formats.) Once you select your video, Flix automatically selects the name of the .swf you'll be exporting the file to based upon the name of the video file. Of course, you can always change this.

At this point you can select from a drop down list a series of different compression algorithms that are optimized to use for everything from low-bandwidth 28.8 modems to broadband for cable and DSL execution. There are also preset meant for rich-media banner advertisements as well.

The conversion time is pretty quick. A one-minute video can be converted to SWF in as little as minute for low band SWFs to 10 to 15 minutes for high-bandwidth SWFs. Why the big difference? Simple. Low bandwidth movies mean fewer, smaller frames which are quicker to produce than the larger quantity and size of frames in a higher bandwidth movie. So consider that converting for low band is a good time to take a bathroom break, and converting for high band is like taking a quick hop over to Hooters' for some Wings.

One key to remember about Flix is it currently is not meant for producing lengthy presentations. Don't try doing converting a 30-minute newscast using this tool. The file will be huge and will probably crash your machine or simply present a blank screen. That's what happened with me when I tried converting a five-minute piece. Wildform recommends three-minute pieces or less for converting.

While this is a great tool, there are still definite needs for improvement. A Drag and Drop interface for files would be excellent, as would the ability to batch process files. Neither function can currently be done with this version. While the video and audio quality is very good at the high band level, there is definite room for improvement at the low bandwidth level.

Considering that 97 percent of Web surfers have the Flash plugin versus around 65 percent of the same users have the leading Streaming Media Player (Real), it would make a lot of sense to use Flash to play short streaming video clips. The fact that you can also create your own movie players is also a big advantage, and Wildform includes some movie players that you can easily customize yourself.

Priced at $99, this has to be one of the biggest bargains available for the Flash user. It should pay off easily with the first use of the tool. Provided of course the client remembers to pay you on time! I highly recommend Flix for anyone who wants to incorporate video into a Flash environment.
Flix at a Glance Maker: Wildform Price: $99 Platforms: Macintosh and Windows URL: http://www.wildform.com Overall Impression: This is one of the most useful utilities I've found to help create Flash movies. Key Benefits: Flix is very easy to use. Simply start the program and then browse your hard disk for the video file you want to convert. Flix accepts .AVI, .MPEG and QuickTime files. (It also accepts .asf, .wav, .wma, .wmv and mp3 files as well, but you probably won't be using this tool for those formats.) Disappointments: A Drag and Drop interface for files would be excellent, as would the ability to batch process files. Neither function can currently be done with this version. While the video and audio quality is very good at the high band level, there is definite room for improvement at the low bandwidth level. Recommendation: Strong Buy


Adam Bell is the founder of dzign@datatv.com, based in New Orleans; host of the Macromedia Flash World Wide User Group; and a member of the board of the New Orleans Macintosh User Group (NOMUG). He has done Web design work for a number of New Orleans' companies, including Emerils.com and sites for Basin Street Records, Mardi Gras Records, Aunt Sally's Praline Shops, Acme Oyster House and Atlantic Recording artists Cowboy Mouth. He has also done work for Los Angeles based Woodstock.com, San Francisco based WereYouExperienced.com and Santa Cruz radio syndication company Fisher Entertainment, producing sites for many of their personalities. He has also contributed a Chapter to a new Web Design Book, Fireworks 4 Expert Edge from Osborne/McGraw Hill. For a complete bio on Bell, please visit http://www.wwug.com/forums/macromedia_flash/wwug_gifs/wwughost.htm. He can be reached at dzign@datatv.com.

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Adam Bell is the Design Director, CEO, Videographer and sometimes janitor with dzign@datatv.com (http://datatv.com/) amazingly not getting plastered in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA.
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