Practical Technology

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ABC, Fox and The CW Video Woes

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Some friends of mine recently tried to view a TV show off and ran into a problem: they couldn’t watch the show. The video appeared to be Adobe Flash, but even though they had the new Flash Player 10 installed, they couldn’t view it.

Around and around they when with first one combination of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Adobe Flash Player and another. No dice. That’s when I came in.

I looked into and discovered that while some of the site’s video is in ordinary Flash format, some of the rest, including the shows my friends wanted to watch though were in another format: Move Network’s Move-Simulcode..This format starts with Flash, but then it divides the source video into segments the vendor calls “streamlets.” These are created using a dual-pass VBR (variable bit rate encode).

For the video vendors this format has two advantages. The first is that the one process gives them multiple video streams for network speeds from dial-up to true broadband and for both PCs and phones. The other, and probably more important advantage from their viewpoint, is that it forces you to watch ads.

Well, it forces you to watch ads when it works. Sometimes, it seems, it doesn’t. It certainly doesn’t work with ordinary Flash Player

Instead to watch these videos, and also ones that can be found on Fox and The CW, you;ll need to download and install the proprietary Move-Simulcode video player.

This player is available for Windows and Mac OS X. It is not, I’m sorry to say, available for Linux.

Actually, I’m sorry that yet another proprietary video player is needed at all for popular video. It’s hard enough to play video consistently well on any platform, we really, really don’t need another format.

That said, here we are, another day, another format. Hopefully, with this information you’ll at least you know what you’re dealing with the first time you run into a site with this Flash-like, but not quite Flash, video.

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