New Flash player brings streaming HD video support

The final build of Adobe Flash Player 9 Update 3 -- or more affectionately known as "Moviestar" -- has been released, adding support for high-definition content.

It's been a long time since YouTube first brought online video to the masses, and now its users are clamoring for better quality. The last couple years have seen an uptick in broadband speeds as well, meaning it's only logical that Adobe would expand the capabilities of Flash, which has become the dominant delivery method for Web video.

But the high-definition support in Flash Player 9 Update 3 is actually a side effect of adding a new video codec called H.264. This is the same standard employed by by Apple's QuickTime and the video content it sells, and supported as a encoding choice for Blu-ray and HD DVD movies. On the audio said, Flash now supports High Efficiency AAC.

Perhaps more importantly, Adobe has enabled the hardware acceleration mode of many graphics cards, when going to full-screen mode. Earlier Flash versions relied on software acceleration, which hindered the player's ability to scale a video in the best quality possible. In addition, full-screen mode is now enabled on Linux platforms for the first time.

NBC Universal and News Corp's online video startup Hulu is the first partner to offer Flash video in high-definition, although its HD library is currently limited to trailers and sample clips from Universal and Fox Studios.

Adobe's upcoming Media Player software will arrive early next year, once more HD content is available. Adobe Media Player is designed to let users find and watch streaming Flash video outside the Web browser.

There is, however, one major caveat to those developers looking to take advantage of H.264 or HE AAC: Flash CS3 has not been updated to support it, and Adobe has announced no timeframe as to when that will happen.

Although, those working strictly with video can simply use any existing solution to encode their content to H.264, which can be delivered within a Flash Player 9 environment, Adobe said. The company also released two new products to complete it's Flash ecosystem: Adobe Flash Media Streaming Server 3 and Adobe Flash Media Interactive Server 3. The former is designed for optimizing live and on-demand watching of video, while the latter adds interactivity to video content.

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