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Embedding & Controlling Flash Video With Actionscript

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Of late, there’s no questioning the ubiquity of flash video on the web: Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc..

Given this presence (and consequent validity) more folks and more folks are entering into Flash development. Thus, the trend in web video is a boon to development, but in what vein?

Inherently, video needs a method of playback; a VCR, if you will. Flash player is (technically) our VCR, though it needs a bit of molding, as it comes “buttonless.”

By this, I mean that one cannot simply embed a video and immediately have playback. Through Flash 8, Adobe provides a fairly simple method for importing clips. One adds pre-designed buttons and sliders by attaching a “skin” through an “import video” wizard.

Options then include: streaming said flv from a Flash Communications server or offering it as a progressive download. Either way, an swf file is created, referencing the “skin” and the flv, effectively creating a “dedicated player” of sorts. This swf contains a hard link to that flv file (or stream) and the skin file forever… so for each production you’ll have to manage three individual files! Sound a bit messy?

The real power of Flash video is in the hands of Actionscript developers. While most tinkerers can embed a video, it’s simply not a flexible or sophisticated method. What if you need to control playback via function calls? Nearly impossible.

What happens when something changes? A reprocessing of all previously published swfs!

What about a customized GUI? Anyone who’s seen Jen deHaan’s Flash skin-making tutorial knows how complicated this can be. Why suffer through draconian “skin” file standards and other nightmares when you can weave a bit of Actionscript?

Here at WebProNews’ Video Blog ( like Google, YouTube and Yahoo ) we’ve opted for a more organized, Actionscript alternative: feeding video into a Flash application via externalized variables. Any method of importing data into Flash will suffice (in our case, we’re utilizing a script creating dynamic XML ).

In this manner, a video symbol is created from which the flv plays. This is referenced in Actionscript which controls this symbol using attachVideo on a NetStream object. Here’s the proof of concept:

    var nc = new NetConnection();
    nc.connect( null );

    var stream_ns:NetStream = new NetStream(nc);

    video_mc.attachVideo(stream_ns);
    //video_mc is the name of the video symbol placed on the stage

    stream_ns.play(path_to_flv);

At this point, the flv will be embedded into video_mc and begin playing. Flash’s NetStream functions can be performed on stream_ns to pause, play, seek, and gather information about the newly embedded video.

It’s a magical moment when this all comes together. Suddenly, flv lives up to the hype… you have it under your thumb. The possibilities are endless and exist within a familiar environment.

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Charlie is a videographer, web developer and occasional correspondent for the WebProNews Video Blog.

Embedding & Controlling Flash Video With Actionscript
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  • Tim

    There is a mention of using XML in this case but no description of its implementation. Also, where to we derive the value for “path_to_flv”? I was hoping for an input parameter, perhaps parsing some GET variables inline with the SWF URL path.

  • http://robynannlawson.com RObyn

    I agree with Tim above… the article brings up many possibilities only to leave them up in the air.. XML?!?!

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