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H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone

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Don Hertz
H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 3:37:49 pm

I'm looking for some clarification - to make sure I'm not missing something. I've read that H264 is the Holy Grail of formats because it is supported across both Mac and PC and by Quicktime, Windows Media, Flash and the iPhone. Encode once - deliver to all.

Yet, what I'm finding through reading and the testing I've done is that there are different containers for H264 (mp4, m4v, VC-1). Windows Meda Player, even version 11, cannot playback a Mac encoded mp4 or m4v file. Silverlight on PC can - but requires a download on the client side. So if I want to deliver a clients promotional video I COULD stream it through a web site using an H264 encode that will playback in Flash. If I want to provide higher quality download version as a choice (or for non-internet connected Macs or PCs) then I can stick with H264 on the Mac side, but need to also encode a WMV that will be compatible with Windows Media Player 9/10/11 for PC Users (unless I want to force them to install Silverlight). Am I missing something here?

Last question - is it possible to encode an H264 file that will stream through Flash on a web site AND function when an iPhone or ipod TOUCH user clicks on the link? Or does wrapping the H264 file in the Flash player break the iPhone's ability to access the file?

Thanks for any help.

Don Hertz
Fusion Media Works


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Craig Seeman
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 4:09:23 pm

H.264 will work in Quicktime, Flash, Silverlight 3 (in beta).

Flash and Silverlight are extension agnostic. You can wrap an mov or mp4 in them for example.

The viewer will need the appropriate player though. Flash has a very high market penetration.

There's nothing to prevent you from also providing a direct link to the very same file if you would like to allow the viewer to download the file to the desktop (although a savvy user can pull it out of their cache if the file is progressive download).

Windows Media Player will not play H.264. H.264 compatibility is Silverlight (3 in beta).

iPhones, Touch, other cell phones, don't have the processor capabilities of a typical computer. They may not be able to decode the file. Generally such devices will need a Baseline (vs Main or High) Profile version of the file as it's much easier to decode (sacrificing quality).

When you start getting into compatibility for such devices there can be a dizzying array of compatibility issues. iPhones and Touches can't handle anything wrapped in Flash for example, regardless of codec. Sometimes you'll need to encode to H.263 or MPEG4 (part 2 ) rather than H.264 (MPEG4 part 10) although some devices can handle H.264 Baseline Profile.





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Ed Dooley
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 6:45:57 pm

Adobe says Flash 10 has a 74.5% market penetration. They say Flash 9 is something like 98%, but what they don't say is what the penetration of the updated Flash 9 that plays H.264 is. For now I'm going with the 75%+- number, which means that I'm not ready to use H.264 in Flash for a general audience. I'm giving it a few months, at least. ON2 has a new version of VP6 that they claim can get the same image quality with up to a 40% decrease in bandwidth, and it plays in Flash 8. I've seen a couple of tests that look pretty good.
Ed



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Craig Seeman
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 6:57:16 pm

I've read that H.264 Flash compatible player was at about 90% a couple of months ago. I wish I could remember the source but it was reputable.

Updated On2VP6 codec only helps if it's widely distributed to compression apps.

Given that the higher quality Hulu and YouTube HD videos are H.264 I'm guessing H.264 Flash penetration is very high.



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Ed Dooley
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 7:40:04 pm

Got it right from the horses mouth, Adobe:
http://www.adobe.com/products/player_census/flashplayer/version_penetration... They rank them through March 2009, so it's a little higher, I'm sure, but not much.
I don't understand the VP6 comment. It's part of all ON2's products, so it's a matter of updating whatever ON2 product you own, it's free.
Ed

[Craig Seeman] "I've read that H.264 Flash compatible player was at about 90% a couple of months ago. I wish I could remember the source but it was reputable.

Updated On2VP6 codec only helps if it's widely distributed to compression apps.

Given that the higher quality Hulu and YouTube HD videos are H.264 I'm guessing H.264 Flash penetration is very high."






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Don Hertz
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 7:42:40 pm

I appreciate the information. It falls in line with what I am experiencing. My web engineer informs me that 97% of the traffic to our site is using Flash 9 or higher - which coincides with Adobe's numbers. But it sounds like you are saying there was a revision to Flash 9 that added H264 capabilities - so just because they are using Flash 9 doesn't mean it is going to work.

We use On2VP6 heavily now and I may look into that newer version with improved quality (hadn't heard of that). You said it still maintains playback compatibility with Flash 8 - so the improvements are in the encoding algorithms - not so much the playback?

Don




Don Hertz
Fusion Media Works


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Ed Dooley
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 9:33:35 pm

Adobe released the beta version of the update (Update 3) last August, and followed up with the official release sometime after that (a couple of months later I think), so hard to pin down how many installs of Flash 9 can play H.264.
You're correct, the new ON2VP6 is included in their free update, so you can get it right away and start using it, and yes, any Flash 8 or higher player can read and play the newer version.
Ed



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Craig Seeman
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 9:41:17 pm

Flash 9 Update 3 which an play H.264 was released in December 2007. Now 18 months ago.
The information on market penetration does not differentiate that update.
When you include Flash 9 Update 3, market penetration is MUCH HIGHER than 75%. It was about 90%. The source was not from Adobe as Adobe does not breakout 9 Update 3.



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Craig Seeman
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 9:57:49 pm

Dec 3 2007 H.264 playback released
http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Flash_Player:9:Update:H.264

Adobe's comment on growth.
A: Flash Player is installed on 98% of Internet-enabled desktops worldwide and on a wide range of popular devices. Flash Player installs are driven by content, and new releases of Flash Player take approximately 12 months to reach 90% penetration. There are approximately 8 Million Flash Players installed every day.


That would mean 90% as of Dec 2008 (although speculative) which would be 6 months ago.



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Craig Seeman
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 10:10:42 pm

Flash Market share by version

These are April 2009 numbers of versions that play H.264. I get just over 93%
Version 10.0,12,36 - 21.37%
Version 9.0,124,0 - 18.93%
Version 10.0,12,0 - 8.01%
Version 9.0,115,0 - 5.71%
Version 10.0,22,87 - 24.79%
Version 9.0,151,0 - 5.08%
Version 10.0,22,0 - 9.09%
Version 10.0,2,0 - 0.26%






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Rowby Goren
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on Sep 20, 2009 at 8:20:01 pm

It's September 2009 as I add my comment to this thread. Does anyone have stats on how Flash w/ H264 penetration is progressing?

I would assuming that because of the rapid increase of online video (i.e. last year's presidential campaign, YouTube, etc.) that we can expect Flash 9.3 and Flash 10.x to have a much faster penetration than the older flash -- users just weren't that motivated to update their players -- but flash video flv/f4v has changed all that....

Also I would think that more online video surfers have higher expectations for features which are more readily available via Flash 9.x and especially flash 10.x. For example the huge YouTube crowd is seeing some pretty clever paid advertising via flash on YouTube's home page that require the later flash players -- especially Flash 10

All this means that sooner or later our clients will expect these flashy interactive, dynamic flash 10 (or at least flash 9) features in their campaigns.

Comments?

Rowby

Visit the Rowby Fan Club at
http://www.rowby.com


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Daniel Low
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 24, 2009 at 10:52:20 pm

I think one could summarise by saying that it is clear (more so than at any time recently) that you should be delivering your content encoded with H.264. It is clearly going to be the future delivery format of choice (if not already); viewable using Flash, sliverlight or the iPhone (and many other mobile devices). On2 has, and always will be fighting a loosing battle. The sad thing for them is that they keep making stupid claims about the superiority of their codec over H.264 that are so easily debunked in most, but not all cases. - See Doom9 forums and here:

http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/webvideo/story/encoding_web_video_in...




__________________________________________________________________
Two years from now, spam will be solved. - Bill Gates, World Economic Forum 2004


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Ed Dooley
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 27, 2009 at 6:00:51 pm

No it's not clear Daniel. Twice in the last few weeks I've had corporate clients say they can't view the H.264 Flash we delivered, and weren't willing to buck their IT people to update. They requested Flash 8 compatible video, which we dutifully provided. The real world (at least the one I inhabit, which includes big corporations seemingly still in the Stone Age) still has a place for ON2VP6, whether we like it or not. And why shouldn't ON2 provide a better version? They're in business, they have a product, they improved it, good for them. Not everyone shares your cynicism about ON2 and their claims, Jan Ozer did a review for Millimeter a while back (last year I think) and had the old VP6 and a beta of the new one, and compared it to H.264 and VC-1. It did much better than VC-1/WM9 and looked as good or better for some things than H.264. I agree it will be great when everyone can use H.264 for everything, but we ain't there yet.
Ed

[Daniel Low] "I think one could summarise by saying that it is clear (more so than at any time recently) that you should be delivering your content encoded with H.264. It is clearly going to be the future delivery format of choice (if not already); viewable using Flash, sliverlight or the iPhone (and many other mobile devices). On2 has, and always will be fighting a loosing battle. The sad thing for them is that they keep making stupid claims about the superiority of their codec over H.264 that are so easily debunked in most, but not all cases. - See Doom9 forums and here:

http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/webvideo/story/encoding_web_video_in....."






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Craig Seeman
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 27, 2009 at 7:07:08 pm

[Ed Dooley] "I agree it will be great when everyone can use H.264 for everything, but we ain't there yet. "

But we are VERY CLOSE. It may be months or a year at most. In fact businesses that don't move to H.264 will be at a serious disadvantage when dealing with media outside their internal servers.

On2 is fighting a losing battle. Codec updates are only implemented if the various compression apps use them. On2 is up to VP8, do you know any compression apps using it? On2 had to make what amounts to sort of another profile because it was too difficult to decode at HD sizes. Hence VP6-S and VP6-E. Because of On2 licensing issues compression apps had to make VP6 encoding supporting a paid extra and apparently it was very expensive for those dealing with enterprise level compressions.

Granted there are concerns about H.264 licensing (MPEG-LA) but it's clear where the market is going especially when you consider that even Microsoft Silverlight will be supporting H.264.




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Daniel Low
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 27, 2009 at 7:32:57 pm

Ed, you make some good points.

Of course you'll come across clients who'll insist on last years technology because updating software in a corporate environment is fraught with problems.
Most large corporations I've worked with recently are still stuck with Windows XP for example (not that I blame them!) But for the rest of the world, and I'm referring to the vast majority of public consumers who find updating their version of Flash easy (it's actually very easy), we should be delivering the best bang for the buck, and that is H.264. 18 months ago I would have been arguing that the worlds CPUs weren't ready for the extra decode requirements of H.264, and to stick to what On2 had to offer but I believe that now it's a different story.

[Ed Dooley] "Jan Ozer did a review for Millimeter a while back (last year I think) and had the old VP6 and a beta of the new one, and compared it to H.264 and VC-1. It did much better than VC-1/WM9 and looked as good or better for some things than H.264"

I do actually think VP6 was/is a great codec but for anyone to say that it did better than VC-1 and as good as H.264 has simply got it wrong. VP6 takes advantage of the post-processing available in a lot of Flash players to make video 'look' better. H.264 doesn't use such filters and as such it's not possible to make a fair comparison without a level playing field.

If you are saying that VP7 is better than VC-1 and the same as H.264 then that's still of the mark but not by as much. Even so, VP7 or VP8 are very unlikely to ever become part of the Flash spec (or go anywhere in fact) and that kind of makes them pointless for a comparison with H.264. VPx codecs/formats are proprietary let's not forget!

Jan writes some good stuff but even he gets it wrong, like we all do. I'd much prefer to refer to the testing done by the one and only Dark Shikari who really, really knows what he's on about.

In the old days the evil Microsoft would have bought On2, pumped VPx full of steroids and offered it up as an alternative in Silverlight, but they obviously saw sense and adopted H.264 instead!





__________________________________________________________________
Two years from now, spam will be solved. - Bill Gates, World Economic Forum 2004


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Ed Dooley
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 27, 2009 at 8:11:56 pm

We had to compress WMV files to WM7 long after it looked worse than anything else because of big corporate clients. As I said in my post, I wish we were one big happy family, but until we are we have to give our clients what they want, regardless of their backward ways. The corporate world is very, very different than average civilians. We even have corporate clients who have the latest and greatest at thier home offices, but still insist on old codecs because their other offices aren't up to date. As for whether the new ON2VP6 codec is available, it comes with every compression tool sold since they improved it that has ON2VP6, and it plays in any player that plays the older one, same codec, better performance.
Ed (who wants one codec too!)



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Craig Seeman
Re: H264 for Windows Mac and iPhone
on May 27, 2009 at 8:21:36 pm

Just an anecdotal story why businesses will have to change their IT ways to survive.

I worked for a "big corporate" company which had a similar attitude you describe. Well, both vendors as well as their clients kept getting asked to re-encode stuff to appease "big corporate" company, said venders and paying clients were about ready to throw things at them that consisted of neither file nor money. "Big corporate" realized they may not get best prices from vendors and that their clients might well decide to spend their money elsewhere "big corporate" had to rethink how this IT attitude was impacting their bottom line.

While they didn't make system wide changes they did determine that the departments who needed to play the files by vendors and clients could install the appropriate players.



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