High Definition Video with Flash Player

Yesterday, Adobe made available the beta release of “Moviestar”, the code name for the latest version of the ubiquitous Flash player. This new release is clearly targeted to online entertainment as it adds support for H.264 video and AAC audio. If you’re like me, H.264 means almost nothing, but AAC sounds familiar. The short definitions: H.264 = High definition video; ACC = better audio.

H.264 Video

H.264 is basically an updated version MPEG that HD-DVD and Blu-ray use for compression. Adding this to Flash means that Flash video will start to look a lot better, and require a lot more bandwidth. If you use Flash video in your eLearning, this could be very important to you. In the near term, this probably won’t impact eLearning much. Long-term, it well greatly improve image quality of online video.

I expect all the online movie sites will start supporting this standard very quickly. Maybe not YouTube, but sites that deliver commercial content should start offering HD content delivered via Flash, I’m thinking specifically of NetFlix online viewing service. If the entertainment aspect of Flash interests you, check out Read/WriteWeb’s blog post.

AAC Audio

What is AAC, and why might it be familiar? Currently iTunes uses AAC as the default encoder when importing audio. You can choose MP3, but AAC is the default. Now Flash supports AAC, and more importantly HE AAC. I think this will have a much bigger initial impact on eLearning because it greatly improves the quality of audio, like narration, while reducing file size. In testing, AAC was percieved to have better sound quality than MP3. In my personal experience I think AAC sounds better than MP3. Both formats are lossy.

If you use a lot of audio in your eLearning, you should seriously consider switching to AAC compression. Tools like Articulate Presenter and other Flash based tools should add the option to use AAC compression in their next round of releases. With the implementation of AAC in Flash, we could see the dominance of MP3 slip.

So for now what should you do? Not much. This is still in Beta, so will have some bugs. Once it is released in a final version it will take time for people to upgrade. It will also take time for tool vendors to update their software to support the new Flash features.

Until the release is final, educate yourself about the H.264 and AAC so you can make informed decisions about updating your development practices.

Read more about Moviestar:

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