My first session of FITC started off with an introduction to FMS3 by
Kevin Towes, who is the Flash Media

product manager at Adobe. Kevin gave lots of interesting info about
where Flash video has been, where its going, and some of the new
features in the FMS product line.

Kevin started the talk with details of the new offerings by Adobe in
the realm of
video, which covered Adobe Media Player and Flash Media Server. Kevin
talked about DRM and its uses, which is basically the RTMPE encrypted
streaming protocol and access control via the security sandbox.

He quoted some pretty impressive statistics about the success of Flash
video since its inception. One in particular that stuck in my mind was
that Adobe estimates that over 9 billion streaming video clips have
been shown through FMS by the major CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) -
such as Akamai,  Mirror Image and VitalStream - since its creation. I
cannot even fathom such a number.

Whether you
agree with DRM or not, the fact is that it is the CDNs and the major
users of Flash Video and FMS that have been driving the technology. In
my opinion, if we did not have them we would not have half of the
advances in Flash video currently enjoyed in the current Flash Player
9, like high definition and hardware acceleration for video.

Kevin named a number of improvements to FMS 3 including revamped configuration settings so that all your server configurations are located in one .ini
file, and simplified folder paths for placing video and applications on
the server. For any FMS developer out there, this is a huge headache
now resolved.

Kevin also mentioned that they deployed live streaming of the Masters Golf Tournament 2008
at the Augusta National Golf Club, employing HD streaming broadcasts at
a 1mbps bandwidth, which "blew out all the numbers." In this
context he's implying that the number of users that were able to stream such
high data rates successfully was unprecedented. Good news for Flash
Video. Wish we could have known what those numbers were, but I can
understand Adobe's reason for keeping mum on a few details.

Then he gave a timeline of the evolution of Flash video which was a
nice walk down memory lane, from 2002 when Macromedia released Flash 6
video using the Sorenson Spark codec, and on to 2007 where Adobe won an
Emmy for streaming video technologies, till today, with all the amazing
capabilities that Flash video now offers, which includes H.264 HD
video, HE-AAC Audio, fullscreen video with hardware acceleration,
FLMS3, DRM, Adobe Media Player, and the Adobe Flash Media Encoder.

Usually it takes 8-12 months for a version of the Flash Player to get
worldwide adoption rates up over the 60% mark. Within 3 months of the
release of H.264 high def video, the newest Flash Player 9 (codenamed
"Moviestar"), penetration had reached 63%. Kevin's next phrase is
classic - my favourite part of the session:

"The Adobe Flash Player Upgraded the internet in 3 months"

I like the sound of that! And it's actually true. Can I use that, Kevin? :)

After talking about the Flash Media Encoder
for a bit -- which was upgraded to v.2.5 this past Monday -- Kevin went
on to cover some new advances in stream switching, which were pretty
impressive. Although Kevin's talked didn't get into any code, he did
give a sneak peek at some new features coming down the pipeline for
Flash video. He showed current stream switching techniques, which if
you're not aware entails having videos encoded at different bitrates,
with a server-side and client-side bandwidth detection script which
will switch the stream bandwidth up or down to another file, and live
seek to the same location of the other file and resume playback.
Currently the best that can be achieved is a brief split-second pause
as the streams switch. But with the new stream switching, there will be
no pause whatsoever when switching streams. What really impressed me is
when Kevin demonstrated live switching between different video formats
(FLV & MP4), different encoding rates, and even different frame
sizes. When this will be available he would not say. I can't wait. A
new article "Dynamic stream switching with Flash Media Server 3" by David Hassoun has also been recently released on the Adobe Developer Center.

Along the way Kevin showed some examples of companies developing FMS solutions. I was very impressed by the MTV video remixer built with Flash and Flex, very impressive stuff. Development agencies, take note:
this is how a video mixer in Flash should be built IMO. The Influxis
Video Broadcaster editor with live effects, available to Influxis
developers, was also very cool.

Although it was a little light on the technical details, it was great
to hear of Adobe's successes in this area as well as get both an
overview of the technology and a sneak peek at some things coming our
way in Flash video very soon.