First thanks to Michael for creating this venue and for maintaining an excellent site where information is freely exchanged in a friendly atmosphere!
O.K., this doesn't fit into the "Video" forum correctly nor apparently into other present forums either... so since it's of widespread interest I thought I would share some of my present experiments in using Flash 8 to create web presentation slide shows which bridge the MacIntosh and PC world.
Making photo slideshows and getting them on the web with some semblance of quality has been an ongoing issue for photographers. We are always evaluating ways of producing slideshows so that both our MacIntosh and PC clients can view them.
Presently there are a number of decent slideshow presentation softwares available for the PC (PicturesToExe, ProShow Gold, ProShow Producer, Vegas Video, [email protected]
, etc.) and a few for the Mac. Regardless of platform, the issue whether one has a Mac or a PC is how to create a cross-platform presentation. DVD creation has been one solution, but still not perfect because it's difficult to create a single DVD which will play on both pal and ntsc systems and on all Mac or PC's because of various hardware (+R/-R, etc.). Also the file sizes make it very difficult to port these to the web for download. For small slideshows without Ken Burns Effects (pan, zoom, scroll, rotate) posting an AVI will work but the viewer often gets tired of waiting for the "connecting" message to go away after the entire show is downloaded and play finally begins. For larger slideshows and shows with video (Ken Burns Effects) the file sizes are simply unmanageable. Executable files will play on the PC but not on a Mac unless the Mac owner is running PC emulation and that's not always a viable solution either and Mac generated slideshows won't run directly on a PC.
This leaves html, QuickTime, Java, and Flash as the most viable cross-platform candidates. Of course there are things like Microsoft's PowerPoint which can make slideshows on both platforms and exported with a player so they can be viewed on either platform, but PowerPoint has numerous limitations which dedicated slideshow software on either platform doesn't have and is less than a desirable solution for most of us outside business presentations. Java has not proven to be either easy to implement or particularly user-friendly and html doesn't allow video type movement so no Ken Burns Effects, etc. QuickTime files are very large so we have begun to experiment with Flash as the most viable alternative.
There are several iterations of Flash out there and the nice thing is that regardless of the software or platform used by the photographer to actually create their slideshow, almost all of these programs can create either an mpg or AVI video output file. There are a number of programs which can be used to convert these files to Flash movies.
There are two basic versions of a Flash movie, SWF and FLV. SWF flash has some limitations which makes it less useful for slideshows, especially for slideshows with Ken Burns Effects (pan/scroll, zoom, rotate). SWF Flash is absolutely limited to 16,000 frames per instance. This means that a slideshow with about 30 frames per second can be no longer than about a bit less than 9 minutes. There are ways to string separate SWF movies together and get around this limitation but if the slideshow has synchronized music, the synchronization won't hold up much longer than a couple of minutes. So the logical candidate is Flash FLV.
FLV Flash is essentially a progressive download which very closely simulates server side streaming except the file is actually streamed from the client's computer. The FLV file is temporarily downloaded to a temp folder on the client side computer and streaming play begins almost immediately so the viewer doesn't have to wait for the entire file to download before seeing the slideshow begin.
There are several companies producing software which can convert AVI/MPG files to FLV Flash. Perhaps the least expensive is Riva Producer Lite (about $30 U.S.D) which does a very nice job. The downside of Riva is that it uses older Flash versions which must be played at higher bitrates to get decent quality. This can be problematic especially for Mac users. For whatever reason, web play of Flash on a Mac isn't as efficient as on a PC so that jerky movement and stop/start issues are more likely with a Mac and Flash movie especially if the bitrate is high and the client resources are marginal.
Fortunately there is a very nice new Flash version 8 which uses the VP-6 codec and produces very small, highly compressed files which still have excellent image quality. The down side is that most client systems do not as yet have Flash 8 installed. This means that Flash Detection software needs to be resident to determine whether the client needs to install or upgrade their present Flash version. The Macromedia default software to accomplish this is not, in my opinion, a very user-friendly creature. Someone who is conversant with java and html really needs to modify this so it makes more sense to the unsophisticated user.
Unfortunately, I don't have either the skills or "energy" necessary to "fix" the Macromedia pop-up so am forced to use is as is. Finally, getting to my issue here, I have created a demo slideshow (nothing special - just a few images) with some Ken Burns Effects, background music and stills to test the Flash 8 suitability for photographer's slideshow cross-platform presentation. The slideshow was output from ProShow Gold as a large MPG then converted to Flash FLV via On2 Technologies Flix Pro software.
Anyone willing to play this and report back from a Mac or PC, your input would be greatly appreciated. If you don't already have Flash 8, the cryptic pop-up should provide a link you can click on to download and install the free Flash 8 player. The slideshow runs about 5 minutes 52 seconds and has a "preload" of 10% meaning the first 10% of the file will download before play begins. The first image of a piece of jewelry has some jerky movement from the body of the "bear" to the head which was present in the original MPG from ProShow. Otherwise it should be fairly smooth with minor jerky movement during fast zooms, etc.
Some flicker will be present on stills with fine detail which pulse with the key frame set to about every three seconds - this is mostly unavoidable. I would appreciate any feedback on overall suitability as seen on your PC/Mac. http://www.lin-evans.net/flixtest/flixpopup.html