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Thread: Component needs - a little survey.

  1. #1
    Flash Video Moderator Wheels's Avatar
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    Component needs - a little survey.

    Hi all,

    I've just been reading through some of the threads that have been posted lately, and it sounds like there is a real need for a system of flexible media components. So I'm wondering, how would you feel about a package of media components that can be used in any situation?

    I'm considering going public with the components I've developed for my library - but I'd need to make some adjustments to make them flexible enough for everyone to use easily.

    In order to cover the gamut of designers/developers I'm thinking of building the components in a variety of formats. As a community we have diverse coding and graphics skills - so I see a lot of questions here about how to use components, reskin components, or add controllers dynamically.

    My components would come in a variety of configurations - Classes, prebuilt with graphics, prebuilt using the drawing API, XML menus, buffering/addaptive buffering options, or simply allow you to add your own graphics by defining a Object with linkage to library items you create.

    I think the most powerful of these would be a Controller Class and a controller template in the library - so you could simply import the class then load video like this:
    Code:
    var myVideoWindow:MovieClip = new FlavorMedia(dataObj:FlavorObj);
    "dataObj" could be as simple as a filename and dimensions, or as deep as a xml file containing the visual config (drawing API schemes, or graphic linkage names) and a data file in xml format that lists one or more file descriptions.

    ...

    There are a couple of issues, I'm the moderator - so my selling of components/classes could be viewed as a conflict. But I've checked with the Flashkit Gods and they've given me the green light to do it - they feel I can be objective, and I'm sure someone would yell if I weren't.

    So, let me get this thread going - tell me what you need, the things that hang up your development, your skill level and the types of files/classes/components you are comfortable with using. Tell me what you see is "simple to use", what kind of flexibility you need, etc.

    There are three forms of video/media loading I feel would be the basis for these components - .swf (video/audio/timeline), .flv (steaming, comm server, and progressive), and .mp3 (streaming and progressive).

    Loaders would be an integral part of the systems - with a adaptive buffering, percentage buffering, and .jpg preloader systems.

    Also, what is this worth to you? You know, in $$. What's a legitimate price for these kinds of tools?
    Last edited by Wheels; 01-24-2006 at 06:55 PM.

  2. #2
    OGC creativeinsomnia's Avatar
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    Hey Wheels, met you at flashbelt last year...like your stuff.

    As far as my skill level...i'm relatively new to streaming video with flash...i'm probably classified as an intermediate actionscripter.

    Anyway, we've been working with streaming flv's lately and i've run into a lot of problems as far as customization of the built in components and we actually threw around the idea of purchasing an easier solution. Although we ended up grinding out what we needed, it was still more of a pain than it should have been. Here's a few of the main problems we ran into.

    - Current components are not easily customizable...basically the way they're built doesnt supply an easy way to just swap graphics in/out.

    - I would love to just be able to reference library items in place of the current graphics

    - I would like a more solid bandwidth detector, from what i've seen, i havent found an automatic one that would direct the user to the correctly compressed file.

    I know i'm forgetting some of the hiccups we had in development but that's a start.

  3. #3
    Flash Video Moderator Wheels's Avatar
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    Thanks creativeinsomnia,

    You said "Streaming" - were you using the Comm server or streaming service like VitalStream?

    I'm not sure if you're aware - but there is a Minnesota Flash users group that meets once a month - http://www.flashmn.com - last week we had Robert Reinhardt from Schematic video conference in to talk about Flash video - pretty cool.

    He showed a bandwidth detection method that uses a .jpg as the poster file and bandwidth detector (you should be able to DL the files from the FlashMN site). I didn't like the method as it could clog narrowband viewers, but a working method for the most part. I think the best method is to begin streaming the low bandwidth version first, then decide... or simply allow the client to choose.

    I have a fairly reliable adaptive preloader that I use - it's too bad Flash doesn't allow us to do this without the Comm server - but one of the product managers told me they don't let us access the information because they want to sell the server... so we're left to our own devices for progressive delivery. I think adaptive is the best method, but developing the system was a real nightmare.

    You can see an example at http://www.carleyfoundry.com - click on the "Watch Carley in Action" in the subNav row. (*note to code rippers, good luck - it's a highly dependent system - and it's copyrighted).

    I was just looking over the Flash 8 components, and things are definitely better - easier to customize - but limited as usual in the functionality or addition of features. Still, dynamic use is difficult as it was in previous versions, and there is very little documentation on how to use them dynamically.

    I think I should add the bandwidth detection up front as an option - just like the Comm server, there would initially be a stutter - but probably a good feature nonetheless.

    Thanks for the input, make sure to say hi if you make it to the next FlashMN meeting.
    Last edited by Wheels; 01-24-2006 at 11:25 PM.

  4. #4
    OGC creativeinsomnia's Avatar
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    I heard about the FlashMN thing before, but i wasnt sure about it, how many people usually attend?

    Our client set up a Comm server that we're using for now but we're actually going to be going through a Content Delivery Network in the end, like VitalStream.

    I really like the carleyfoundry example, it seemed to work flawlessly. Right now i'm using Flash MX 2004...and i'm publishing in flash7/as2. We dont feel the penetration of flash 8 is large enough yet to use it. But i've heard flash 8 video components are a lot better. I'm still having problems with using the Media Display/Media Controller combo while loading an flv from flashcomm.

    The problem is that I have a video that is about 33 seconds in length, the video streams and plays fine but if i pause it at anything after about 25 seconds, the video pauses and then automatically goes to the end of the video, so when you click play to resume, it starts all over. And i cannot find any documentation on this problem. These components are driving me nuts, so a simple and easily customizable solution would definately be something we'd pay for in the future.

  5. #5
    Flash Video Moderator Wheels's Avatar
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    I think there were maybe 20 people there the other night.

    The Display/Media components are hard to work with. Last fall I did the video for a local retailers Holiday site using VitalStream, I'm embarrassed to say how many different components (VS and MM) that I had to go through, and how much recoding/experimenting I had to do to get things right. In the end I rewrote some of the VS code and was able to tap into some of prebuilt methods/callbacks.

    I ended up disabling the controller while it was seeking - seems to be the only way to get things from jumping around.

    I wished I'd just written my own system, but it did end up working the way is was supposed to. I was obsessed with getting it right as the site gets heavy, heavy traffic.

    That's why I still use .swfs for video, and haven't contributed much to any discussions here about .flv. But when a client wants to use streaming for protection against capture you have to use .flv.

    I'm going to be doing their Easter site soon, so maybe I'll make my own Comm components this time.
    Last edited by Wheels; 01-25-2006 at 01:55 PM.

  6. #6
    OGC creativeinsomnia's Avatar
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    Are you planning to jump into flv's anytime soon? From what i've seen in the past year, all of our clients are jumping on the flv bandwagon and want to stream everything from a flash comm server or from a CDN.

  7. #7
    Flash Video Moderator Wheels's Avatar
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    Well there is definitely a need, with DRM and such most big clients don't want their files being captured in any way - so I'll probably start building something soon.

    I've been studying more design patterns and looking into the new Flex component architecture - in the near future the real powerful stuff is going to have to be capable of being freestanding and easy to integrate in both the graphical environment and the dynamic server environment - so I want to build things right the first time.

    By using OOP and patterns in strict methods (much of my code uses patterns now) I should be able to create the controllers and buffering systems independently - then extend the behaviors down to each individual need - progressive .flv, streamed .flv/.mp3, etc.

    I'd hate to build and rebuild later for Flex, so I'm going to take my time and design the whole system to be easier to use in all situations and applications.

    One of our speakers at the last FlashMN meeting said "with Flex you don't need designers", but I disagree - not only do you have to write good code that's dynamic, but you have to build these things so that designers can easily configure or create graphics in either the Flash environment - or like MS's Sparkle - with an xml describing the parameters for the drawing API (which is how my controllers work now).

    Actually, half of the sites you see on my site were built with xml and the drawing API - just like Sparkle. My goal is to extend this into the new Flex system, Flash killer my A**.

    Here's site I built recently that uses only the drawing/text APIs and loadMovie for content http://www.themightyodo.com (look around and you'll see some controllers - they are set up to interpret either standard movieClip type or video .swf files and behave accordingly).

    For now, I'd like to get a couple of simple components out there that solve some common progressive .flv/.swf scenarios - I'm working on controllers for the new Flashlite 1.1 and Mobile 2.0 in the progressive http mode.
    Last edited by Wheels; 01-25-2006 at 05:13 PM.

  8. #8
    OGC creativeinsomnia's Avatar
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    Yeah that's way over my head...we just started using Flex on a project but I didnt get a chance to work with it as I was stuck with a different client.

    I'm seeing a lot of interest grow with interactive video though. I think the furthest we've taken that concept is to sync up a streaming flv with some frame based animation. But I imagine that's all it would take as far as interactive video. Just have the video play and lay a series of movie cips on top of it that the user can interact with. The tough part is the timing/buffering...but I'm guessing that would be as simple as including a loop that tests whether or not the video is playing or not, and to communicate that to any other mc's.

    Anyway, sounds like those FlashMN gatherings are pretty informative, whats the catch? How much do they cost to attend?

  9. #9
    Flash Video Moderator Wheels's Avatar
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    Sorry, most of it's still over my head as well. But the new Flex 2 is what I was referring too - it's actually quite a bit different than the Flex 1 - which is more like a souped up Cold Fusion.

    Yea, buffering is the key issue regardless of whether you're doing http or streaming - I have the http buffering down, but I need to write my own .flv system. I keep seeing posts on this issue, not only buffering - but reliable communication with the stream, cue points, all of that needs to be addressed.

    The seek and cue issues are the hardest to deal with in my opinion - but I did write a pretty slick cue-point system for a recent project that doesn't rely on events from the streaming server or video object in Flash. Basically you set a cue range in seconds [3.5, 4.75] and it assigns "in" and "out" cue functions which can be external of the video interface.

    Basically what you're describing.

    As far as FlashMN, no hitch - and there's always free pizza thanks to Chuck at http://www.stinkless.com - he does streaming video conferencing in Flash.

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