FLV-Player


Streaming video seems like a great way to be able to demonstrate software.  Products like Adobe’s Captivate allow you to create Flash presentations a type and they are good for documenting specific actions in detail though these sometime come across as a bit stilted or disconnected.  Sometimes its better to present the product ‘live’ because it gives a more complete impression of how a product is used.  Flash video seems ideal for this because since Camtasia creates Flash Video (.flv) files its easy to go from the screen to a video.

The challenge is a viewer.  To view a Flash video file requires a viewer on the client.  There are client side video playback tools such as the awesome open source VideoLAN but such tools require installing.  YouTube uses a Flash client.  This is a small Flash (.swf) file that, in turn, downloads and plays a .flv file. 

Not being a Flash user I’m not in a position to create a Flash player that will do what I want it to do.  So its great to come across the customizable open source FLV Player.  This player is provided in a number of versions and all of them can be customised visually.  Even better, the players are created entirely from from code.  First a basic player is created using the open source SWFMill.  This tool takes an XML definition of a Flash file and generates an SWF file.  The player is then augmented using Action Scripts that are compiled and and added to the SWF file using another open source tool called MTASC. This combination of tools means that not only can the player be styled using the simple configuration file options that are provided by default, the functionality of the player can be altered if that’s needed.  For example, I wanted to be able to have the player expand to alternative sizes (a fullscreen display option is built-in) based on the size of a containing <div>.  Though the default player did not respond to the resize event this function could be added.  Neat.

There are other players out there such as JW Player or FLV-Scrubber but both these require access to a work Flash installation.  I think the advantage of using a script generated player is the ability to customize it, potentially on the fly.  Also, being a code kind-a guy I feel more comfortable with the ability to write the code in my favorite editor.

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