Flash 9 a Multi-Codec ‘Moviestar’

Adobe Systems is rolling out a new version of Flash 9 player software, and it’s loaded up with codecs to make movies, audio and other forms of Web content even smoother.

With a code-name called Moviestar, the company’s latest release signals an eye on Hollywood — at least, on Hollywood’s compression standards.

Version 9 now includes enhancements that allow playback of files encoded and compressed with H.264, which is based on the now popular video encoding known as MPEG-4 .

MPEG stands for Motion Picture Experts Group. In association with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), it creates the standards for high density video compression that made Video CDs and DVDs possible.

The increasingly popular (and albeat rival standards) Blu-Ray and HD-DVD media formats are also addressed in this release, specifically with a variant called H.264, or AVC for Advanced Video Coding. The standard, called MPEG-4/AVC, is not new. The first versions of this format came out over four years ago.

Apple also uses MPEG-4 in its i-Tunes audio encoding. Further, H.264 is or will be the standard for most terrestrial and satellite HDTV broadcasts in locations from France to Korea to Norway, as well as here in the U.S., both on earth and in the sky provided via Disk network and DirectTV.

It also decodes High Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC) audio. This will allow for better sound reproduction, extended into multi-channel and high fidelity.

Because this standard is so widely accepted, this will give a Web surfer potentially unlimited content to browse as more and more movies and shows are encoded with H.264/AVC.

But this encoding is not without drawbacks, however. Since it is a much higher compression ratio than DVD, allowing for about double the information is the same space, it is also much more CPU-intensive to encode, which means it could suck up other computing resources.

Adobe said its high-end video editor, Adobe Premeir pro, already encodes in H.264. But whether its consumer version, Adobe Premier Elements, could also encode in H.264 is unclear.

Many new High definition DV camcorders from Sony and Panasonic can already encode directly to H.264 on the camera’s mini-DV tapes. There is currently a slew of both software and hardware encoders available for creating content for H.264/AVC, from tiny USB based chips to full internal cards, all of which provide high quality.

Take away the codec talk and it all boils down to this promise from Adobe with the latest Flash player: Movies will be cooler, more vivid, and sound will be, too.

The release today is a beta download version. The final release is expected to be available via update in the fall.

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