Self-contained projector/downloadable video help?
My problem is this -
I've created a small video presentation that multiple advisors would be showing their clients. I need the quality of an H.264 mov, but for our advisors, that's too cumbersome to play off the web. So I thought of making it downloadable for them to play on their own machines. But everything that's good quality ( h.264 mov, .mp4) won't play natively on Windows.
I was trying to use Flash for that, since it's platform independent, but a flash projector doesn't bundle the .mov file or the skin file with the .exe.
I downloaded a trial of Zinc, trying to make a completely self-contained projector, but while my .swf plays in the preview and builds successfully, it won't load the video. And I can't figure out why.
Can anybody help me? Creative solutions welcomed.
Bearing in mind your posting date, I'll answer as though I'm assuming this is a "real" post and not an attempted wind-up...!
Flash will handle H.264 on Windows, though of course Flash's VP6 is also very good quality (and supports transparency and easy access to cue point data in the Flash player.)
You could of course try Silverlight.
There are many ways to play good quality video natively on Windows, using only Windows Media Player. You might consider encoding to wmv v9 - an mpeg variant, similar to h.264, for example. Or you could try mp4 encoding into an ISO MPEG-4 v1 file encoded as an asf file, playable by Windows Media Player.
No, this isn't an April Fools Day Joke, just someone who's inexperienced in web encoding needing advice.
I've never used Silverlight before. I exported a .wmv 9 in Quicktime and gave it a silverlight skin, but once I have all the files in a folder, I'm not sure what to do with them.
Also, when you use wmv, what settings do you code to? one pass CBR? Two pass? What are some rules of thumb when selecting bit rate?
If your presentation is simply a video, then you don't really need to worry about Flash, Silverlight or anything else. You just want to deliver decent quality that will play without fuss on your users' (Windows) machines.
You don't say what your source material is - what format the material has been mastered in.
Since you are going to be supplying a file for download and local playback and not for streaming over the web, you have a lot of latitude in encoding choices - you can make a big file with a good data rate, and most encoders perform much better when that's possible.
For standard definition video (good enough for video on most computers, unless the user has a really good screen and will be sitting quite close to it), then if your users can play back DVDs on their machines (most but not all Windows systems can do so "out of the box"), then you could supply an mpeg2 file, as used on commercial DVDs. With a decent bit rate, you will get very good quality. You might be aiming for 6 to 8 megabits per second for encoding. In principle, multiple pass and variable bit rate encoding "should" give better results, though the differences are much more marked when you have a low encoding bit rate.
Mpeg4 compression - whose variants include H.264 and Microsoft's Video 9, will give similar quality to mpeg 2 with much lower data rates, but they ask a little bit more of the playback machine to get smooth playback performance. Most recent computers should play them fine, but older ones may struggle.
Supplying a wmv file in Video 9 compression at a data rate of somewhere around 1.5 to 2 megabits per second should give good results.
If you have high definition source and want a high definition file to distribute, it might be an idea to check with your users what standard screen resolution they use - many currently run at 1024x768. Encoding a larger pixel size video than your users can play back would be wasteful for you and for their playback resource.
But then WMV format with Video 9 compression would remain a good choice for you, though you might want to experiment with upping the data rates a little.
If your presentation includes interactive elements and you need to be in Flash, Silverlight or similar, then I'd think staying with Flash and H.264 would be a good choice, just supplying your users with the kit of files - swf, video file, player skin - that they need.
Thanks for all the info!
I tried the mpeg2, and it played great on one of the test computers, but on two others, (once I downloaded some codec packs) it "played," but it stuttered terribly, loading second by second.
Which leaves me either a .wmv or giving them a folder with all the assets needed to play a flash executable folder. One of those just might do the trick.
Wow. Among the kit here I have a 10-year old reference system for testing, and even that plays DVDs / Mpeg 2 files without a glitch.
I guess it's worth checking out those underperforming systems. If they are already under heavy load (wifi + vpn plus at least one more heavy app + not too much capacity) that could be all OK. But I wonder whether they are suffering a performance hit, perhaps from a virus, but more likely from an anti-virus programme.
I've seen more than one decent (if budget) laptop brought to its knees by the default setting in AVG of "scan on startup". For the half hour or so that av scan lasts, it could be hard to get anything much else useful done (easy enough to adjust the settings).
And I guess it's worth checking that they are not running very low on hard disc space, and that their hard disc has been defragmented in living memory ...
Otherwise, I guess they may have seriously low-powered hardware (minimal netbooks ..? ) , in which case you'll be back to the "god old days" of being pleased to see any kind of moving image. Mpeg 1 emerged as the easy-to-play codec of choice way back then .... displacing cinepak and indeo along the way ...
I guess more helpfully I might ask what is to stop you bundling your video file and skin with the projector exe, and asking users to download them all into one folder (folder set)?
If that seems too much, you could bundle them yourself into a zip file, self-extracting or otherwise?
I don't know Zinc, but unless you need cross-platform rather than windows only it seems overkill. As to why the video won't load, have you checked that the video has the same relative path to the player on your local system (where it works) and in the Zinc fileset, where it seems it does not?