FLV vs. RSS – maintaining balance

Jon Udell made an interesting post about a screencast conundrum he’s having on his site, and JD felt I’d have opinions/guidance (usually more of the former… heh!). What are the best practices to support both browser-based playback of media content alongside RSS-referenced downloadable video files for alternate devices (iPod, PSP, iRiver U10/etc.)? I can only give my suggestions here as the subject is very open to preference/audience and other variables – but here goes.

Generally speaking- MP4 video/MP3 audio seems to be the most universally-supported across devices (although H.264 is gaining ground, it’s still got a ways to go). I also strongly favor – as you probably would have guessed – Flash Video for browser playback simply due to it’s ubiquity, it’s hard to argue with the installed user base. ;-)

How I would implement a solution for both delivery means, were I posting videocasts (which I’m not- yet), is largely akin to what I’ve done with audio podcasts on this blog in the past – use a Flash/SWF/FLV solution for in-browser playback, and point the RSS enclosure tag to the media file (in the case of audio- MP3) on the back-end so podcatching software can grab and manage it. Audio is easy- MP3 is an accepted standard between devices, browsers and Flash. However, FLV presents an issue in that it can’t play back outside a SWF wrapper (and although playback engines such as WimpyFLV exist for direct desktop playback of FLV files, they’re not available on alternate devices). So that being said, I’d recommend encoding an alternate MP4 version of my vidcast (MP4 video, MP3 audio) at 320 x 240 resolution (reasonably standard) for the download file referenced from my RSS enclosure tag.

Cellphones/handsets generally use the codec/playback engine supported by the handset itself, which is largely either Real/.3gp or .MP4, and you should also know that some devices (such as the miniscule iRiver U10) have fixed frame rates you may need to consider, particularly if you’re a video star in Korea. :) The U10’s 15fps requirement isn’t a bad one in general, as it’s thrifty on file size and not so horrible for general video. Your mileage may vary, though. What devices are your readers/listeners/viewers using, generally speaking? That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.

So… that’s my initial response to the problem.
How are you – or more accurately, ARE you solving this problem today?

5 Responses to FLV vs. RSS – maintaining balance

  1. Karl Thomas says:

    i have also met this problem, thanks for your guide!

  2. scott says:

    I’m a little confused because I’m new at the RSS. So..if I’m broadcasting on demand, let’s say an audio SWF, then I would want to RSS a link to the duplicate MP3 so that the players can read and use it? Is that how i undrstand it?

  3. Sounds like you understand it just fine, Scott!Yes- just make sure your RSS feed includes an enclosure tag that points to the source MP3 file itself (i.e. the audio file your SWF is playing), and you’ll have no problem with people sucking up the audio on the side for iPod/MP3 player use.

  4. louie says:

    hi! im trying to play flv on the rss of the website im working on. can anyone help me?

  5. Hi, Louie-Being as RSS is consumed by a wider variety of clients than general browser-based content, your results will vary as not all feedreaders support Flash, or Flash video directly.I’d recommend simply embedding a link to the video page in your RSS feed, honestly- to bring people to the web page where you’ve included your video content. RSS is more for syndication anyway, IMHO- not full consumption of content. Hope this helps!