Flash vs. HTML5 Video

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time, at least since the launch of the iPad in early April.  The battle between Apple and Adobe seems to heat up every day, with the latest news Steve Jobs releasing a 1,671 word essay titled “Thoughts on Flash” http://bit.ly/aiaaNg.  The purpose of this blog post is not to critique the Flash essay, or to decide who’s right Apple or Adobe, but simply to make some observations.

Now I’ll admit, I don’t know enough about the technical intricacies of Flash or HTML5 video, but this is certainly an interesting battle to watch.  Flash has been dominant to this point, driving most major video sharing sites, news sites, entertainment, etc…but with the launch of the iPad there has been a huge rush to jump on to the HTML5 bandwagon.  The names are not small potatoes, but some big hitters in online video and content delivery…here’s a partial list from Apple’s site:

CNN

New York Times

Vimeo

ESPN

Netflix

TED

CBS

MSNBC

Fox News

The list goes on with many others recently announcing HTML5 video support for the iPad and of course iPhone.  Still trying to figure out YouTube’s stance on HTML5 video, according to their website http://www.youtube.com/html5 it’s an opt-in experiment…with supported browsers listed as Google Chrome, Safari, and IE (with Google Chrome Frame).

Is this an effort to open content to a more standards based video delivery mechanism?  Or does Jobs and Apple have some of these entities by the balls, due to some sexy industrial design.  <here’s my shameless disclaimer, I am an iPhone addict and I have a Mac at work>  I think the answer is both, yes HTML5 is an evolving standard, however the argument that Flash is proprietary doesn’t hold water…what about iTunes?

Now, on to where I stand, in relation to my job.  This summer we will be upgrading our streaming infrastructure to get away from Windows Media and QuickTime.  My preference is to move towards Flash, perhaps a Wowza Media Server…this would give a more consistent look/feel with the carousel videos on the ND homepage, higher quality, storage, transcoding.  Our streaming encoders and servers are going on six years old and we’re missing an opportunity to deliver a higher quality experience to our viewers.

On a separate note, I’ve been doing a good deal of testing with UStream, a Flash based streaming service.  Basically, point a video/audio encode off to UStream and serve it up.  On the Windows side of things, this can also be used in conjunction with Flash Media Encoder (FME).  This is a great way to stream video using a webcam.  However when using DV (Digital Video), like a Sony Handicam or a Canopus box for analog to digital conversion, that’s where problems come in….Flash and DV audio just don’t play well together.  Anyhow, with much testing I’ve found a solution that works, and here’s the setup:

video>canopus>mac mini>ustream

audio>mac mini>ustream (this avoids trying to encode DV audio into Flash)

*note this setup requires the use of CamTwist an application to fool UStream into thinking the video is a webcam.

peace

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