I’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately about new video products now that NAB is going on. NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas. I’m always interested in the new camcorders that get introduced. What is gaining in popularity are the h.264/MPEG4 AVC based solid-state memory card cameras. The format that they use is what is known as AVCHD. This relatively new MPEG4 format is being used in a wide variety of ways from DirectTV’s HD compression, to Blu-ray’s new HiDef disc technology, to cell phone video. The advantage of using h.264 (or any of those other names that get used) is that it results in a high quality picture in a smaller file size. For example a video using an MPEG2 format (as in a standard DVD) will require a file that is about twice the size of a file using h.264, at the same quality.
Now you’ve heard me blather on and on about that “other” MPEG4 codec known as DivX. It remains a popular format for online movies (legal, and well, not so legal), and a popular format that is include on many DVD players. Where it hasn’t caught fire is with web video, despite my excitement about it in the past. I had hopes of it being the Yang to Flash (FLV) video’s Yin, but it means a separate plugin to play DivX encoded video. Wouldn’t it be nice if a high quality format could be supported, along with Flash video, in one player/plugin.
Ever since last year, when Adobe announced the beta Flash player that supported not only FLV format, but also h.264, I had this “ideal” situation in the back of my mind. Now, as I’ve been working with video so much in the past few months, I’ve wished for a bit of consolidation. I was almost on to it when I discovered YouTube was encoding a high quality version (h.264) of their standard (FLV) video. I’ve also been wondering what format the “high quality” versions of the Great Lives videos would be, and what format would be used as the “archive” format. Finally, there was the question of how would I implement this on a website? The answer was right there. H.264!
The point here is that the h.264 video acts just like FLV. The file extension can end in .MOV or .MP4, as long as it is an h.264 encoded file, it will work in the FLV Media Player. I even did a test using Hi-Def content (another movie trailer). The file is 1280×544 pixels, weighing in at 85MB, but it does prove the concept. The whole scenario does require that you install the latest Flash Player plugins (version 188.8.131.52 or 184.108.40.206) on your system, but it’s available for PC, Mac, and Linux. Conceptually, if you have a beefy enough system, and a display to go along with it, you can watch videos that are 1920×1080 pixels. On other words, true 1080P HiDef. It’s a breakthrough that’s been around for a little while, but it holds great promise for having Home Theater quality video playing from a little old blog.