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Old Apr 5, 2006, 12:39 AM   #1
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Making photo slideshows and getting them on the web with some semblance of quality has been an ongoing issue for photographers. We are always evaluating ways of producing slideshows so that both our MacIntosh and PC clients can view them.

Presently there are a number of decent slideshow presentation softwares available for the PC (PicturesToExe, ProShow Gold, ProShow Producer, Vegas Video, Media@Show, etc.) but fewer for the Mac.Regardless of platform, the issue whether one has a Mac or a PC is how to create a cross-platform presentation. DVD creation has been one solution, but still not perfect because it's difficult for many to create a single DVD which will play on both paland ntsc systems andon allMac or PC's because of various hardware (+R/-R, etc.). Also the file sizes make it very difficult to port these to the web for download. For small slideshows without Ken Burns Effects (pan, zoom, scroll, rotate) posting an AVI will work but the viewer often gets tired of waiting for the "connecting" message to go away after the entire show is downloaded and play finally begins. For larger slideshows and shows with video (Ken Burns Effects) the file sizes are simply unmanageable. Executable files will play on the PC but not on a Mac unless the Mac owner is running PC emulation and that's not always a viable solution either and Mac generated slideshows won't run directly on a PC.

This leaves html, QuickTime, Java, and Flash as the most viable cross-platform candidates. Of course there are things like Microsoft's PowerPoint which can make slideshows on both platforms and export a free player so they can be viewed on either platform, but PowerPoint has numerous limitations which dedicated slideshow software on either platform doesn't have and is less than a desirable solution for most of us. Java has not proven to be either easy to implement or particularly user-friendly and html doesn't allow video type movement so no Ken Burns Effects, etc. QuickTime files are very large so we have begun to experiment with Flash as the most viable alternative.

There are several iterations of Flash out there and the nice thing is that regardless of the software or platform used by the photographer to actually create their slideshow, almost all of these programs can create either an mpg or AVI video output file. There are a number of programs which can be used to convert these files to Flash movies.

There are two basic versions of a Flash movie, SWF and FLV. SWF flash has some limitations which makes it less useful for slideshows, especially for slideshows with Ken Burns Effects (pan/scroll, zoom, rotate). SWF Flash is absolutely limited to 16,000 frames per instance. This means that a slideshow with about 30 frames per second can be no longer than about a bit less than 9 minutes. There are ways to string separate SWF movies together and get around this limitation but if the slideshow has synchronized music, the synchronization won't hold up much longer than a couple of minutes. So the logical candidate is Flash FLV.

FLV Flash is essentially a progressive download which very closely simulates server side streaming except the file is actually streamed from the client's computer. The FLV file is temporarily downloaded to a temp folder on the client side computer and streaming play begins almost immediately so the viewer doesn't have to wait for the entire file to download before seeing the slideshow begin.

There are several companies producing software which can convert AVI/MPG files to FLV Flash. Perhaps the least expensive is Riva Producer Lite (about $30 U.S.D) which does a very nice job. The downside of Riva is that it uses older Flash versions which must be played at higher bitrates to get decent quality. This can be problematic especially for Mac users. For whatever reason, web play of Flash on a Mac isn't as efficient as on a PC so that jerky movement and stop/start issues are more likely with a Mac and Flash movie especially if the bitrate is high and the client resources are marginal.

Fortunately there is a very nice new Flash version 8 which uses the VP-6 codec and produces very small, highly compressed files which still have excellent image quality. The down side is that most client systems do not as yet have Flash 8 installed. This means that Flash Detection software needs to be resident to determine whether the client needs to install or upgrade their present Flash version. The Macromedia default software to accomplish this is not, in my opinion, a very user-friendly creature. Someone who is conversant with java and html really needs to modify this so it makes more sense to the unsophisticated user.

Unfortunately, I don't have the skills necessary to "fix" the Macromedia pop-up so am forced to use is as is. Finally, getting to my issue here, I have created a demo slideshow (nothing special - just a few images) with some Ken Burns Effects, background music and stills to test the Flash 8 suitability for photographer's slideshow cross-platform presentation. The slideshow was output from ProShow Gold as a large MPG then converted to Flash FLV via On2 Technologies Flix Pro software.

Anyone willing to play this and report back from a Mac or PC, your input would be greatly appreciated. If you don't already have Flash 8, the cryptic pop-up should provide a link you can click on to download and install the free Flash 8 player. The slideshow runs about 5 minutes 52 seconds and has a "preload" of 10% meaning the first 10% of the file will download before play begins. The first image of a piece of jewelry has some jerky movement from the body of the "bear" to the head which was present in the original MPG from ProShow. Otherwise it should be fairly smooth with minor jerky movement during fast zooms, etc.

Some flicker will be present on stills with fine detail which pulse with the key frame set to about every three seconds - this is mostly unavoidable. I would appreciate any feedback on overall suitability as seen on your PC/Mac.

http://www.lin-evans.net/flixtest/flixpopup.html

Best regards,

Lin
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Old Apr 5, 2006, 5:07 PM   #2
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Lin Evans wrote:
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Some flicker will be present on stills with fine detail which pulse with the key frame set to about every three seconds - this is mostly unavoidable. I would appreciate any feedback on overall suitability as seen on your PC/Mac.
Lin:

I just watched it on a PC (3GHZ P4 with HT and 1GB RAM running XP Pro) and the flicker wasn't that noticeable on some of your subjects.

It was more obvious on the shots with zooming and panning (as if some kind of refresh rate should have been just a bit faster).

My graphics card is a modest GeForce FX5200 (128mb onboard memory) if graphics card speed comes into it (it's not a speed demon for gamers or anything).

P.S.

I would test it under Linux for you, too. But, Adobe hasn't released Flash 8 for Linux yet if Flash 8 is a requirement (the latest for Linux is Version 7. something)



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Old Apr 5, 2006, 11:10 PM   #3
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Thanks for the test drive, Jim - actually the frame rate is set to 30 fps progressive so the flcker comes from the combination of artifacts of resize and the key frame pulse every 60 frames (about 2 seconds). It's just one of those issues which highly compressed files have when played in a video mode. The original was 255 megabytes and the final Flash 8 after compression was 21 megabytes so it's pretty amazing to have the quality that the codec is able to get. Hopefully they will get Flash 8 for Linux (I think it's under development now) soon.

Best regards,

Lin
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Old May 24, 2006, 9:23 PM   #4
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Lin Evans wrote:
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Hopefully they will get Flash 8 for Linux (I think it's under development now) soon.
Lin:

I thought I'd update this thread and let you know that it looks like Adobe is going to skip a Linux version of the Flash 8 player entirely.

I found out that this was announced by Emmy Huang (a Product Manager for Flash Player at Adobe) in November of last year. Here are some comments Emmy made about it in December (pointing users back to the original comments).

http://weblogs.macromedia.com/emmy/a...isnt_there.cfm

Now, based on comments I saw from someone that claimed to meet with Adobe today, it appears that their current plans are to release a Flash 9 Player for Linuxthree months after the release for Microsoft Platforms, putting it months away (and I wouldn't be surprised to see delays or changes in plans).

Some of the Linux community is pretty upset about it Adobe skipping Linux for Flash 8, and to be frank, I'm not thrilled about it either.

My wife is using Linux and a number of sites have already developed content requiring Flash 8 Player (including our ISP). So, I'm sending complaints to any web site I visit that requires Flash 8 Player, because effectively, the Linux community is being cut out of that content.

The developer of SimplyMepis (a popular Linux distribution) posted a note on the main page at http://www.mepis.orgabout it:

Quote:
Is Adobe-Macromedia Phasing Out Support for Flash in Linux?
After the heading,he madea short commentthat includeda link to send feedback:

Quote:
Flash 8.0 and 9.0 are not available for Linux. You can give feedback to the Adobe-Macromedia development team at http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/mmform/index.cfm?name=wishform
A number of Linux users seem to be doing just that. Isent a complaint a while back when I noticed the issue,and I'm also sending complaints to any site I visitrequiring Flash 8 Player now, pointing out that Adobe hasn't released it for Linux.

Since Warren Woodford (founder of Mepis) is calling attention to this issue, I wouldn't be surprised if other commercial Linux distributions start doing the same thing.

I also wouldn't be surprised if some of the Linux Community boycottedcompanies that require Flash 8 player to view content (in orderto put more pressure on Adobe). I've seen some calls for that approach already.

Chances are, Adobe will release a Flash Player for Linux in a few months and all of this will die down. But, Adobe probably isn't doing itself any favours by offending the Linux Community, and a lot of Web Developers are probably going to look for alternatives fo Flash for providing content.

Given that Photoshop is the most requested application by Linux users according to some of the surveys performed (and Linux popularity on the Desktop appears to be increasing), I don't understand why Adobe doesn't target this market. If they did, I'd imagine that alot more users would switch from Windows to Linux (unless they've got an Agenda that favours Microsoft).

In any event, I thought you might want to know that Adobe is managing to upset a lot of Linux users by skipping a Linux version of it's Flash 8 Player (and that's not the kind of thing Linux users are likely to forget anytime soon).

I know if I were developing content for web sites, I would remember it and look for alternatives to Flash, since I wouldn't trust that they wouldn'tpull the same stunt in the future.
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