n what promises to boost video quality in desktop, mobile, and embedded devices, Adobe announced that it has added H.264 support to its popular Flash Player software. “Flash Player 9, Update 3 beta,” available for download from Adobe’s Labs website, supports Linux, OS X, and Windows.
H.264, also known as MPEG-4 Part 10 (ISO/IEC 14496-10), is already widely used on the Internet, and is also the mandatory format for the HD-DVD and Blu-ray video disc formats. (An IEEE overview of the standard can be downloaded in PDF format here.)
In a statement on its website, Adobe Labs said, “H.264 delivers excellent video quality across the entire bandwidth spectrum, from 3G (mobile phones) to HD (broadcast) and everything in between.” The broadest distribution of H.264 has been via Apple’s QuickTime, included in that company’s iTunes, iPods, and Windows/Macintosh QuickTime Player, Adobe notes.
Now, says Adobe, H.264 has been added to a new beta version of its Flash Player. According to the Adobe Labs wiki, the software will now support high-definition 480p, 720p, and 1080p content, encoded with either On2 or H.264.
The company says H.264 will give users higher-quality, at lower bit rates. However, for backward compatibility, Flash Player will also support its previous video formats, such as the Sorenson Spark video codec (based on H.263) and On2 VP6.
With this update, Adobe Flash Player also branches out from its native .FLV file format. The company says it will now support MP4, M4A, MOV, and other files derived from the standard MPEG-4 container format, as long as they contain either H.264 video and/or HE-AAC encoded audio.
Other new features in Flash Player 9, Update 3 (code-named “Moviestar”) are said to include:
* Multi-core support for vector rendering
* Full screen mode with hardware scaling.
* Flash Player cache for common platform components, such as the Flex framework
* Support for Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) in the Windows plug-in
Playing HD video will require a relatively new PC, Adobe concedes. Stated hardware requirements are a Pentium-class processor clocked at 2 GHz or better, 32 MB of RAM.
For an “optimal experience” and full-screen video, Adobe recommends a 3 GHz PC or better, or a 2 GHz Macintosh. The above unretouched image was captured from Adobe’s demo video using a 2 GHz Core Duo system with integrated graphics.
The Flash Player 9, Update 3 beta is available from the Adobe Labs website, here. Linux versions are available for download in gzipped tar and rpm formats. Mac OS X and Windows versions are also available.