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Adobe Readies Flash Player for High-Def Video

Adobe Readies Flash Player for High-Def Video

Adobe has unveiled its new Flash Player upgrade, called "Moviestar." The upgrade allows the playback of video encoded using H.264, which is the standard deployed in HD DVD and Blu-ray players. It is currently available in beta as a free download, and the final version is expected this fall.

By Katherine Noyes
08/21/07 2:56 PM PT

Adobe Systems has upgraded its Flash Player with support for the H.264 video-encoding standard and improved audio-compression technology, the company announced Tuesday.

Dubbed "Moviestar," the upgrade permits the playback of video encoded using H.264, the same standard deployed in Blu-ray and HD DVD high-definition video players for increased compression without quality degradation. Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects software already support the standard.

Moviestar also incorporates High Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE-AAC) audio support, as well as hardware-accelerated, multi-core enhanced, full-screen video playback.

Ready for HD

Improvements in the upgrade will enable the delivery of high-definition television quality and premium audio content through Flash Player, and will enhance rich media Flash experiences on the desktop and H.264-ready consumer devices, the company said. The update is available in beta as a free download from Adobe Labs, with the final version expected in the fall.

"Adobe is committed to providing a seamless creation-to-playback solution that allows creatives and developers to produce video and rich media once, and then deploy that content across the widest array of distribution and playback environments," said John Loiacono, senior vice president of creative solutions at Adobe.

"Already a broadly adopted industry standard, the inclusion of the H.264 codec in Adobe Flash Player, Adobe AIR, the Creative Suite product line, and the upcoming Adobe Media Player will accelerate customer workflows, enabling the creation and [repurposing] of high-quality Web video content without extra development costs," he added.

'A Nice Upgrade'

Flash Player content reaches more than 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktop computers, the company said, and the technology also powers the video capabilities of social networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace. Its principal competitor is Microsoft's Silverlight, a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in that debuted earlier this year.

"Adobe's support of H.264 in Adobe Flash Player, Adobe AIR and the upcoming Adobe Media Player will ensure that we continue to deliver high-quality video to our diverse audiences who expect it," said Nick Rockwell, senior vice president and chief technology officer for MTV Networks.

"This is a nice upgrade," Richard Monson-Haefel, a senior analyst with the Burton Group, told TechNewsWorld. With an open codec for video and whole-screen display, "they've improved the performance of the video player and the Flash engine itself. It's hard not to see an upside."

Most Web users with Flash enabled will be prompted to upgrade automatically through a "pretty painless" process, he noted.

Robust Technology

Indeed, "the H.264 codec added to Moviestar is a pretty robust one -- it's the most recent and robust compression technology out there," Harry Wang, a research analyst with Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld.

"Lots of companies are moving in this direction as the technology matures, so it's a good add-on to the current capabilities of Flash Player," he added.

While the specifications for the upgrade are complex and technical, Adobe has made an effort to support industry standards, Tinic Uro, a Flash Player engineer at Adobe, wrote in his blog.

Industry Standards

"I realize that it will be important for Adobe to communicate exactly what is and what is not supported," Uro wrote. "We are working on this and will be trying to help novices and experts alike.

"For those who scream murder and accuse us of going with incomplete standards support, let me tell you that ISO 14496-12 specifically allows for the definition of subsets," and the upgrade's 3GP is one of those, he explained. "We did not extend or add proprietary extensions whatsoever."

Many Adobe customers are currently trying to choose among video technologies. "We wanted to make sure that we would offer the best possible choices to them and set a signal that we are willing to embrace industry standards," Uro said. "No one believed that we would make this happen."

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