H.264 video and Flash Player versions

This year I’ve been experiencing some unexpected problems with viewing video in Flash, and after a conversation today with our college Web admin, Craig Lee, we think we’ve got it sussed out.

To cut to the chase, the problem arises because more Web video is now being distributed in the H.264 format, and some people have an old version of the Flash Player plug-in for their Web browser. While the old version had no trouble playing FLV videos, you’ve got to have Flash Player version 9.0.115 or higher to see the H.264 videos. Find out which version of the Flash Player you have.

The QuickTime site provides a nice explanation of why H.264 is so wonderful. (It is the recommended format for video on the iPhone, by the way.)

The biggest problem arising from this for your users (assuming that you have a Web site) is this: If you are serving H.264 video and the user has an older Flash Player plug-in, the user will see nothing where your video ought to be.

No error message. No apology. Nada.

Just a black screen with nothing happening (or a “Loading …” animation that never stops).

Here’s the solution: You need to run a version detection script seeking FP version 9.0.115 or higher if you are serving H.264 video, and if an older version is found, you need to provide an error message that tells the user to upgrade the Flash Player.

If you are using Flowplayer (Craig’s favorite), there is some instructional material here and here.

If you are using the JW FLV Media Player (my favorite), you should be using SWFObject 2.0 to run version detection (see a quick tutorial). The version detection that comes with Flash CS4, while it is based on SWFObject, is really not anywhere close to as clean and simple and “bulletproof” as SWFObject 2.0, in my opinion.

Running version detection alone is NOT ENOUGH. You must also provide a human-readable error message and provide a link to the Flash Player download page. To wit:

You do not have a current version of the Flash Player installed. This content requires Flash Player 9r115 or newer. Go get the Flash Player (free).

If you do have the current Flash Player, then JavaScript is not enabled in your Web browser. Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

This will ensure that your online content is friendly to all visitors to your site, regardless or their browser configuration.

More info (from Adobe): Exploring Flash Player support for high-definition H.264 video and AAC audio (posted Sept. 17, 2007; updated March 10, 2008).

2 Comments on “H.264 video and Flash Player versions

  1. Pingback: Links from the past week | News Videographer

  2. An added note: If you don’t know how to specify the player version (for Flash Player) in your Flash movies, read up!

    1. Open Publish Settings. It is on the File menu in the Flash application.

    2. Click the Flash tab at the top of the dialog box.

    3. Change Player (and also Script, if necessary).

    Note that you can designate ActionScript 2.0 for Flash Player 6 through 10.

    If you are using ActionScript 3.0, you MUST designate Flash Player 9 or 10. An older version cannot play AS 3 SWFs.

    PLEASE NOTE that the diffusion/installed base of FP 10 is still much lower than that of FP 9!

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