For one of our Flash-based projects, I have asked for a MP4 video with the .H264 encoding from our videographer.  I was naturally expecting a video file ending in .mp4 file extension.  But it came back as a MOV file, which I think is also a legitimate .h264 file extension, but is it mp4 file? I am not so sure. I guess it is. And to prove it, I simply rename the file by changing the mov extension to the mp4 extension. Yes, the video still plays in the Flash player. But wait, something is different – there is a huge wait before the video would start to play, and during the wait I was wondering whether the Flash piece crashed as there was nothing. In fact, I discovered the Flash player was loading the entire video before it would start playing it. This was starkly different from the other videos I have in either mp4 or f4v format.

My theory is that the MOV format, although it is a mp4 / .h264 format, its header format is probably different, and does not give the Flash player enough information for it to know to play it back as a progressive streaming video – which would start the play after downloading only an initial portion of the video.

I then re-encoded the video from mov to f4v with Adobe Media Encoder – I would have encoded it to mp4 if the encoder would allow me, so that the resulting video files are all of the .mp4 type. But anyway, the resulting video with .f4v extension resolved the long-wait/non-progressive-streaming issue with the Flash player. And the quality of the video does not seem to have any noticeable degradation.

By the way, if I could choose which video format to use for web delivery, I would choose the mp4/.h264 format. Why? Because the .mp4 file extension is more widely supported, and these videos are supported by HTML5-savvy browsers without the need for plugins, can typically be played back locally more easily, and do not require special plugins like Flash player (required by .f4v) or QuickTime (required by .mov) to be installed. If you later decide not to use Flash player to deliver video and use HTML5, your mp4 files are still good and you only need to change the HTML markup.

Note: only Flash player 9.0.115 or later can play mp4/.h264 videos. But it has been around since December 2007. So it should not be too much of a problem.

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  5. Flash FLVPlayBack Component Problem – Green Stripes and Excessive Waiting Time

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