Authoring Mobile Video Content for Flash Lite 2.x

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A basic understanding of Flash is assumed in order to follow along with the Flash editing portion of this article. The examples are provided as is. You will have to provide the name of your own 3gp video for these examples to function. You will find a local video and a streaming video example. The local video requires that you load the video on the device in the same directory as the swf. The streaming example requires that you have access to a streaming server that supports rtsp. I have also included the components discussed as I have made a couple of changes recently and the changes are not yet posted to the Adobe Exchange. You will need a way to install the examples on your device. If you are using a Nokia device PC Suite will allow you to easily move files to your device. If you have a BREW device you will want AppLoader, although you will have to register as a BREW developer in order to download it. If you have a Windows Mobile device ActiveSync allows you to move files to your device.

There are many considerations when authoring video content to play back on the desktop Flash Player so you can imagine the possible difficulties when authoring video content to play back on a hand-held device.

To start, there are many devices, operating systems and operators as well as several different versions of the Flash Lite Player to consider. For the sake of this article we are going to focus on the Symbian, BREW and Windows Mobile environments running the Flash Lite 2.x player. All of the platforms discussed in this article are considered open, in other words you can install Flash applications on the device.

One of the first considerations for an end user thinking about viewing the content will be cost. What will my operator charge me to watch this video? There are several operators with unlimited data plans that make it easier to consider the use of video in your application. The potential cost will be something you should consider communicating to your potential users prior to them playing the content.

Where To Start
The first thing the reader needs to understand is that Flash Lite 2 does not play Flash video it plays device video. In other words Flash Lite 2 provides the rectangle for the device to play the video and passes several rudimentary commands to the system for control of that video. It appears that the video is being played by the Flash Lite player inline but the heavy lifting is being done by the device. Because the video playback is device dependent we will need to pay close attention to the devices capability. For instance what video format and codec is supported by the device? For instance does the device require 3gpp or 3gpp2 video and will you need to target the H.264, H.263 as well as MPEG-4 codecs?

There are several organizations working on mobile video standards 3GPP (3rd Generation Partership Project), 3GPP2 (3rd Generation Partnership Project 2) and ISMA (Internet Streaming Media Alliance). If you were to look at the membership of both 3GPP and 3GPP2 you would see that these organizations are divided down company and technology lines. In other words you would find that Cingular and T-Mobile are in 3GPP and Verizon, Sprint and ALLTEL are members of 3GPP2.

These kinds of issues greatly complicate the life of a content developer. When a Flash developer, targeting the desktop player (e.g. Flashplayer 9), wants to add video to an application they do not need to know if there is a specific codec on the target system but this is a critical first step when considering the use of video for Flashlite 2.x content on a hand-held device.

If you are new to the mobile space you will hear and read about many unrecognizable abbreviations like 3gpp2, CIF, QCIF, QVGA, etc… Just when you thought you knew all the abbreviations along comes the mobile space with an entirely new set. The great news is that the mobile emulator also known as Device Central in Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 does a great deal to remove the need to investigate each and every device that you might target. Of course this does not remove the need to test on a device just as Dreamweaver does not remove the need to test your CSS content in a browser but it does give the Flash mobile developer a significant productivity boost.

Adobe Creative Suite Device Central

click to enlarge

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