October 2, 2007


Moviestar is the codename for the public beta of Flash Player Update 3 (now at version | release notes). Where previous betas of Update 3 introduced multi-core vector rendering support, MSAA support for Netscape-style plug-ins on Windows, and hardware acceleration for full-screen display, this build introduces significant new functionality in the video/audio realm, removing lock-in of Adobe's FLV format by adding support for a flavor of MPEG-4 (H.264/AAC). It also raises questions about commercial use and licensing for video in the new format.

Probably the best technical overview of Moviestar can be found on Adobe engineer Tinic Uro's blog entry "What just happened to video on the web?", so I'll leave the nitty-gritty to the acknowledged expert. As usual for Mr. Uro, it's very good reading.

H.264/AAC support is enticing for clients that work with a lot of video because of the interoperability of the format. Encoding workflows that conclude with multiple formats can be simplified to a single, standard format consumable by many different players and audiences; iPod, audio and video podcasts, movie trailers, and Flash Player interfaces; encode once, play (almost/eventually?) anywhere.

However, while an open standard, the H.264 format comes with a somewhat tricky licensing requirement for web site owners. Note that I am not a lawyer; the following analysis is derived from my non-lawyerly reading of the AVC Terms Summary document [pdf], the AVC Patent Portfolio License and phone conversations with a representative of the MPEG LA.

For your clients who freely provide video content to their web site visitors, the Internet Broadcast qualification terms require the execution of a license agreement but is free from royalty fees until 2011.

Video behind a paywall may still be royalty free if under 12 minutes in length for title by title video (videos sold one at a time), or if a site's paid subscriber base is less than 100,000 users.

If your clients don't fit into any of the above categories, then licensing becomes a bit complicated with audience size factoring into variable annual rates and one-time fees; start by taking a look at the AVC Patent Portfolio License terms summary document, FAQ and talk to your lawyer. (I'm not a lawyer, remember?)

You may have noticed that after Dec. 31, 2010, the royalty-free Internet Broadcast qualification expires; from that point on things become a bit murky as to what the form of licensing may take. Talk to your lawyer, yada yada. But then, what will the state of video on the web look like as 2010 wraps up? Will we be on to newer and better, and importantly, less restrictive formats? Two years and change is a long stretch in Internet time...

If you're not interested in new video formats and have somehow made it to the end of this post -- I commend and encourage you to test your content with the beta Flash Player Update 3 and post any issues uncovered to the Adobe Flash Player 9 Feedback Form. Easier to help Adobe fix compatibility issues before release than for you to revisit your client's content to implement workarounds.

Posted by Lewis Francis at October 2, 2007 10:17 PM
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Excerpt: As I wrapped up my overdue post on the public beta of Adobe's Flash Player 9 Update 3 (a.k.a. Moviestar), Adobe was busy unveiling the capabilities of the next version of Flash Player at Chicago's MAX 2007 conference. With Flash...
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