State of the Union for AVCHD: Premiere CS4, MotionBox, VoltaicHD and AVCHD Lite

I thought it would be good to take a quick look at how support for AVCHD video has progressed over the last year. When I first wrote about AVCHD back in June 2007 there was very little support, cameras had been out for quite a few months but with no real support for the AVCHD format, not even within Sony’s own Windows-only Vegas editing software, never mind any kind of Mac support.

Since then however support has improved and there are quite a few options for working with AVCHD and cameras are in widespread use. Here are a few notable developments surrounding AVCHD video format.

Adobe Premiere CS4

With the release of Adobe’s new CS4 suites brought back a Mac OSX version of Adobe Premiere CS4. What is interesting about Premiere CS4’s AVCHD support is that it is native and doesn’t require any conversion of the video footage when importing. Interestingly it will also support playback of mixed media types all in the same timeline.

Premiere was the first digital editing software I ever used and in it’s day was awesome. This new release does sound like Adobe have made some great improvements and have made a worthy rival to Final Cut and Avid.

Here’s a few links relating to Premiere CS4:

MotionBox Announces Full Support for HD Video Format (AVCHD)

MotionBox is a video sharing site that was the first to implement support for uploading AVCHD format video. It’s actually quite a handy way to share video online and in the process convert your AVCHD video clips as MotionBox will also create Quicktime compatible MP4 versions of your video for your computer and your iPod.

Here’s a link to the feature announcement on the MotionBox blog:

Shedworx’ AVCHD applications – VoltaicHD, RevolverHD and FlamingoHD

I’ve blogged about the Shedworx applications a few times, but where would many owners of AVCHD cameras be (especially the early adopters who bought them in late 2007!) without VoltaicHD?

Although VoltaicHD was originally just a Mac OSX application it has also been available as a Windows PC version for some time too. Among the many benefits that VoltaicHD brings is a low cost way to edit video on Mac, especially for users on older Macs running PowerPC chips that aren’t supported by either iMovie 08 / 09 or Final Cut Studio. Windows PC users can also edit HD footage from their AVCHD camera for a low cost by using VoltaicHD and Windows Movie Maker. VoltaicHD has helped make AVCHD a practical format for video editing.

Shedworx are soon to release the first version of a media management application called FlamingoHD which is intended to complement VoltaicHD and provide management and workflow of HD footage.

Here are links to the VoltaicHD and FlamingoHD product pages:


AVCHD Lite is a new variation of AVCHD which supports only the lower 1280x720p HD format. It actually uses a variation on regular AVCHD so many applications may require a software update to support cameras using the Lite variation. AVCHD Lite is generally targeted as a format for small point-and-shoot digital cameras that take a step up to HD video from the regular 640×480 standard definition video found on many of these cameras until now. Panasonic’s Lumix ZS3 and TZ7 are examples of cameras using AVCHD Lite.

Here’s a few links relating to AVCHD Lite:

Adobe unveil Creative Suite 4 on 23/09, AIR for Linux, Flash Player 10 Release candidate

Adobe will be unveiling the next version of their Creative Suite software on the 23rd of September. This will be done via a special web broadcast, you can sign up for email notification via the following webpage –

Details of any new features have not been revealed but Adobe did release public beta versions of Dreamweaver CS4, Fireworks CS4 and Soundbooth on the Adobe Labs website a few months ago.

Adobe AIR for Linux beta released on Adobe Labs

Support for the Linux operating system has been increasing from Adobe with continual improvements to the Linux version of the Flash Player plugin. Now Adobe have fulfilled their promise of full cross-platform support for their AIR runtime with the release of Adobe AIR for Linux beta.

Flash Player 10 release candidate on Adobe Labs

A new release candidate of Flash Player 10 was released on Adobe Labs. If you haven’t already checked it out then there’s quite a few new features such as 3D Effects, a new text engine, enhanced drawing API, GPU support and enhanced sound APIs to name a few.

Once you’ve downloaded it then go an check out the Feature demonstrations page to get a taste of these new features.

One thing to keep in mind though, if you a frequently upload images and video to sites such as Flickr, Vimeo and even Adobe’s own Photoshop Express web apps then you’ll want to avoid this version of the Flash Player just now as there’s still a ‘bug’ which affects the uploaders for these sites. It seems to be a hotly debated issue just now but it appears that Flash Player 10 stops these kinds of image uploaders from working due to a new security restriction. You can catch some of the discussion on this Flash Player thread.

Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Soundbooth CS4 Betas now on Adobe Labs

Following on from last years move of offering a public beta of Photoshop CS3 Adobe have announced three new public betas of their CS4 applications.

You can download betas of Dreamweaver CS4, Fireworks CS4 and Soundbooth CS4 from You’ll find all the details of the new features in development on each application’s page, here’s a few notable feature headings for each application:

Dreamweaver CS4

  • Related Files – included files such as CSS, JS, PHP etc show in a bar at the top of the document making it easy to see what’s linked into your page.
  • Code hinting for Ajax and JavaScript frameworks – improved support for JavaScript core objects and primitive data types. Work with popular JavaScript frameworks including jQuery, Prototype, and Spry.
  • Subversion integration – Use Subversion repositories directly within Dreamweaver.
  • New user interface – Updated user interface in common with the rest of the CS4 apps

Check out Dreamweaver CS4 on Adobe Labs →

Fireworks CS4

  • New user interface – Updated user interface in common with the rest of the CS4 apps
  • CSS and Images Export – Design web pages in Fireworks then export web standards-compliant CSS layouts, complete with external style sheets in one step.
  • Live Style improvements – When you update a style all elements the style has been applied to are instantly updated.

Check out Fireworks CS4 on Adobe Labs →

Soundbooth CS4

  • Arranging audio files on multiple tracks
  • Adjusting tempo and pitch
  • Recording and polishing voice-overs
  • Previewing MP3 compression quality

Check out Soundbooth CS4 on Adobe Labs →

Head over to now to check them out. Please note that these betas are only available to anyone with a valid CS3 suite or application, you will need to provide your serial number in order to download the beta versions.

Adobe Open Screen: Will Apple make their own Flash Player for the iPhone?

Adobe recently announced the ‘Open Screen‘ initiative which further opens up the SWF format along with the FLV / F4V video specifications along with . The Open Screen FAQ explains the core deal:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast? protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees ? making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

The FAQ also explains why Adobe is opening up these specifications:

Publication of an unrestricted SWF file format has long been requested by the Adobe Flash developer community. The longstanding publication of the SWF specification has fostered a vibrant ecosystem of companies and developers who create experiences with Adobe Flash technology and by removing the SWF licensing restrictions we are allowing that growing ecosystem to use the file format for any purpose, including the ability to playback SWF content

Additionally, Adobe intends to make Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free, starting with the next major releases for devices, along with publishing the device porting layer APIs. As a result of these moves, OEMs, software developers, and content owners will be able to deliver content and applications built with Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR technologies without concerns about device restrictions. By removing the licensing cost and restrictions, as well as opening up the protocols and porting layer, Adobe is making it easier for developers and partners to deliver more engaging experiences to more of their customers, and ensuring that audiences can engage with content no matter what device or medium they use.

So, with that background detail out of the way I’ll get onto my main question:

Will Apple get involved in the Open Screen project and provide support for Flash, or at least Flash video, on the iPhone / iPod Touch?

Steve Jobs was recently asked about Flash support on the iPhone by saying ?there?s this missing product in the middle?. What he was referring to is that you’ve got the full Flash Player which is very processor intensive and best suited for desktop PCs and laptops and then you’ve got the streamlined Flash Lite intended for mobile devices. Steve Jobs’ opinion is that the full version is too intense for the iPhone whilst Flash Lite lacks a lot of important functionality.

Could Apple provide at least some form of Flash support on the iPhone / iPod Touch by getting involved in Adobe’s Open Screen initiative and implementing only the parts they wish to have for Flash playback but all within the confines of the Quicktime framework itself I can see how this could fit in on regular Mac OSX as well as on the iPhone / iPod Touch too. I think it presents a really interesting possibility.

I have another reservation about Apple’s willingness to support Flash though, perhaps it’s not in Apple’s interest to further the spread of Adobe’s Flash platform? Apple certainly don’t intend to allow companies to develop runtime environments of their own for use on the iPhone / iPod Touch as the terms of the iPhone SDK specifically state:

"No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple?s Published APIs and builtin interpreter(s)…"

So, that certainly seems to close the door for Java, Flash, Silverlight, etc, etc. Despite this possible reason I still think it is possible that Apple could provide native support for Flash video playback, at the very least, on the iPhone / iPod Touch.


AIR Vs Silverlight? Adobe Vs Microsoft? Open Source Vs Proprietary?

TechCrunch ran an article on 26th February titled ‘Adobe AIR Vs Microsoft Silverlight: It?s All About Numbers‘ which kind of compared them both as being quite similar, but it struck me that it’s really not a fair comparison.

There’s a big difference between AIR and Silverlight at the moment. It’s fair to say Microsoft will push Silverlight forwards quickly but there’s no fair comparison between them just now, it’s far closer to compare Flash and Silverlight for the time being as AIR features a lot more than Silverlight.

Flash and PDF have huge market share and AIR brings those plus regular HTML/CSS/JS web development into one runtime as well making easy cross-platform offline / online application development.

Competition = good

It’s certainly good that there’s some competition in the market but AIR’s incorporation of various open source projects such as Webkit as well as the fact that Adobe have open sourced a lot of their own code such as Flex and Flash Player code will hold a lot of mindshare of developers. While AIR is not 100% open source it’s certainly a lot more attractive on several levels, not least being able to create Apps whether you’re used to HTML/JS, Flash or Flex.

Competition is good, and the fact the MS are developing web development apps to challenge Dreamweaver is a good thing. Dreamweaver is a great program but it needs to keep progressing to provide the tools that developers need.

One aspect that Dreamweaver (Adobe / Macromedia) has done a good job with is support for multiple server platforms such as their own ColdFusion but also PHP and JSP development. I’m not sure we’ll see any of Microsoft’s ‘Expression’ development apps support PHP and JSP any time soon! This multiple server platform support is something Adobe need to keep supporting as it’s definitely one thing that will separate their tools from Microsoft’s offerings.


One more reason why there is no Flash Player on the iPhone – H.264 support in Flash Player 9

Adobe announced today support for the H.264 video codec in an update to their Flash Player 9 software. No longer will it be necessary to encode video files specifically using their FLV video format in order to allow playback of video using the Flash Player, which is pretty awesome news really. It will of course rely on people upgrading to the latest version of Flash Player 9 but as most people receive this via auto-update this should be reasonably fast.

Apart from the benefit of using an open standard for video it does also bring higher quality video, specifically HD format video into the realm of Flash Player. The only other mainstream way of playing H.264 video in a web browser is via Apple’s Quicktime player, soon Flash will allow you to play those same files without requiring Quicktime as a download.

Maybe that’s why there’s no Flash Player on the iPhone?

When the iPhone launched recently the ‘great ommission’ as some saw it (apart from copy and paste!) was that there was no Flash Player support in the iPhone’s Safari browser. A few different theories have abounded as to why this is, one of the main theories being the impact the Flash player would have on the iPhone’s battery life, this is probably quite true and Apple’s own Quicktime framework is undoubtedly optimised better for playback on the iPhone. Another reason was that YouTube, probably the largest provider of Flash video format files, have their own application on the iPhone. This YouTube application actually plays video that has been re-rendered into H.264 instead of the Flash FLV format, thereby doing away with one of the reasons for FLV support in Safari.

The addition of H.264 support to the Flash Player means that this same YouTube footage as used by the iPhone could now be played in the Flash Player too. It’s quite likely that Apple would have knowledge that Adobe were working on H.264 support in the Flash player and this made it even less essential to include Flash Player.

A win-win-win-win situation for Apple, Adobe, YouTube and Us (the content consumer)

This does of course still leave the many interactive Flash content providers out in the cold but as Flash has become so ubiquitous in regards to video playback then I think this still represents a great win-win for both Apple and Adobe, and I guess YouTube too really. If content creators choose to use the open standard of H.264 for video instead of the FLV format then any Mac, PC or iPhone user using Quicktime to play movies can view the content, as can anyone using the new Flash Player. This does appear to represent a good move towards open standards, it will take time for the new Flash Player to get more widespread support so I don’t think FLV format will go away anytime soon, but it is a step forward at least.

One win-lose aspect though – Flash Media Server for streaming H.264 only

There is only one negative aspect of the Flash Player support of H.264, and that is streaming support of H.264 will only work if it’s being served by Adobe’s own Flash Media Server software. This is due to the files being streamed via Adobe’s own RTMP streaming protocol rather than the RTSP protocol supported by Apple’s Quicktime / Darwin Streaming Server or Real’s Helix servers.

This is a shame, but hopefully Adobe will see fit to change tack on this, perhaps it is just a technical issue in that they don’t yet have support for RTSP inside Flash player.

More information about H.264 and Flash Player 9

To get a great explanation about all the new changes then go and read Tinic Uro’s post "What just happened to video on the web?". Tinic Uro is one of the main Flash Player engineers at Adobe, in his post he introduces all the changes as simply as he possibly can. There’s also some information on Ryan Stewart’s blog – "The H.264 Announcement in Black and White".


Update on the ‘Four Mysteries of the Universe…’

Back in April I wrote a post entitled "Four mysteries of the Universe…" where I pondered over a few unanswered questions:

  1. Adobe’s European pricing for the CS3 suite
  2. Availability of AVCHD capable video editing software
  3. When are Apple finally going to ditch the really old Mac OSX 10.2-ish looking aqua pin-stripe header / main navigation graphics from their website
  4. Will there ever be a new version of Director released by Adobe?

Well, interestingly 3 out of those 4 questions have been answered! The only one outstanding is #1 – Adobe’s European pricing for the CS3 suite. I’ve yet to hear a better answer than exchange rate differences or pricing structures in global locales. On the plus side though Adobe’s profits are up 24%! ;)

Strike 2: AVCHD editing software

#2 mystery was solved when Sony finally brought out a new version of their Sony Vegas video editing software to allow those who bought their HDR-SR1 six months to edit their HD video footage!

Strike 3: Updated website

#3 mystery was partially solved last week when Apple updated their website and got rid of the aqua pin-stripe navigation graphics. Although I have to say partially solved as the UK site has yet to be updated. I don’t really understand why the UK lags behind on offerings by Apple, when new products are announced they never appear until a few hours later than the US site. Don’t get me started on the unavailability of TV shows and Movies in iTunes, or maybe the iPhone but I’m not so bothered about that as it’s only just coming out in the US, but TV shows and movies have been available in the US for about 2 years now!

Strike 4: A new version of Director from Adobe

#4 mystery was solved after I’d been pestering a few people at Adobe for an answer to whether there would be a new version of Director coming anytime soon. I got an email reply from someone who pointed me to the Director FAQ page which states, albeit slightly uncommittedly:

Adobe has not published an official time frame for the next release of Director and generally does not disclose details of new releases more than 30 days before a product is expected to ship. However, our current planning assumption is that the next major release of Director will be in the second half of 2007.

Unfortunately I was too late to get on the Beta testing programme for Director, I would have loved to have had an opportunity to help test the next version of Director.

I’m glad it’s an app that’s going to continue to be developed although I do feel there is a big challenge being presented by the whole AIR (formerly Apollo) project and advances in Flash like PaperVision3D.

I’m a bit concerned that the lack of real announcements about this has caused many to consider Director dead in the water, I look forward to there being a public beta on Adobe Labs!

Other news…

Apple just announced updated information about the iPhone, namely that it will have longer than expected battery life and an ‘optical quality glass screen’ rather than plastic. The iPhone’s battery will provide:

  • 8 hours of talk time
  • 6 hours of Internet use
  • 7 hours of video playback
  • 24 hours of audio playback
  • 250 hours – more than 10 days of standby time.

Oh, and the Olympics 2012 logo still sucks! Also Hi to students from New College, Pontefract, thanks for your ‘insightful’ comments on my ‘Historical overview of Olympic logos’ article ;)


Four Mysteries of the Universe…

Flash: Can it be a viable alternative to Windows Media DRM for the BBC? [updated]

This post continues my ongoing theme of the last few posts which is in response to the issues raised by the BBC choosing to use Digital Rights Managed Microsoft Windows Media format for their new iPlayer initiative. Please read the previous post ‘Dear BBC…‘ for more background information about it.

Where are the alternative formats?

I wrote in my last post about trying to find alternative formats to use instead of Windows Media DRM that could be used to deliver the BBC iPlayer initiative, I didn’t find any real solutions that could compete. I’ve been looking into it a bit more and I still don’t think I’ve found anything. One thing that comes to mind when thinking about video on the web these days is of course Flash video, sites like YouTube and Google Video have meant a huge upturn in the amount of Flash based video content available. What’s more it’s also incredibly easy for people to get it into Flash format thanks to these sites.

Why not use Flash Video for the iPlayer?

If Flash video is so popular then why doesn’t the BBC use Flash for the iPlayer initiative? A good question, and I’ve found a few answers that give some explanation to the reason. I found a post on the website entitled “‘Why we don’t use Flash (video)’ – The BBC speaks up“, the article and the comments left by various people make for interesting reading. This article in turn references a response from the Editor of the BBC News website Steve Herrman regarding changes to the way audio / video is used in the BBC News website. FlashComGuru highlights that the overwhelming reason not to use Flash for video is simply the cost implications of shifting over to a whole new format and delivery method, particularly due to the invested use of RealPlayer format content.

The reponse from Steve Herrman titled “In response to site changes” contains a technical response as to why they don’t use Flash, one reason is:

“The BBC is trying to make its video available to the widest possible audience. This means that when we choose the formats in which to stream our audio and video clips and live programmes, we have to take account of: All the operating systems in use, and the number of people who use them (this is not just desktop operating systems – we need to take account of mobiles too); whether a player is available for that format on a particular operating system; and whether it is easy to play that video on an operating system.”

These are all good intentions obviously, the BBC has a remit where it has to be available to the widest possible audience and this is clearly stated in the first sentence. However, taken in the context of the iPlayer initiative which locks you into Windows Media DRM format and excludes Mac OSX and Linux OS users then this is obviously not the widest possible audience being catered for! Admittedly the article this quote from is specifically talking about the use of RealPlayer and Windows Media format on the BBC News website, but the remit there is the same as for the rest of the BBC.

So ultimately it is an issue of it being too costly to replace all of the existing infrastructure with a Flash based system due to the previous investment in the RealPlayer over the last 10 years. Now I can appreciate that, obviously the BBC don’t want to go wasting the investment previously made, plus they could be perhaps criticised for wasting Licence payers money too. However, why get into a relationship with Microsoft on this? There’s really no likelyhood that they will ever do much to help the fact that DRM’ed Windows Media content can’t be played on Mac OSX or Linux. I can’t see how this represents any kind of good investment of my Licence fee?

Surely there must be an alternative?

I keep coming back to that question, however, I can’t really find any viable alternatives. However, that is not a reason to let the BBC of the hook here. The best thing I can possibly think of is that this is time for Adobe to step up and take on Microsoft in this area, there’s a long game afoot here which Microsoft are pushing with the BBC. If the BBC can’t just dump the investment into RealPlayer technology overnight then how is it going to be any easier to dump investment into the Windows Media format and it’s DRM?

Calling Adobe! Time to get ‘mobile’…

There are obviously big issues going on here, advocating one commercial companies format over another isn’t necessarily the answer. For some this definitely isn’t the answer, especially with the use of DRM within the files. However, despite the prospect of perhaps seeing music available for purchase DRM free, I don’t think we’ll be seeing this happening as easily or so quickly where video is concerned. With that said I think the best option here is for Adobe to get the Flash video format positioned much better as a viable format to compete Windows Media DRM’ed content.

The previous quote from the BBC above mentions the use of Mobile devices as a target end user of the BBC’s content, yet again Windows Media is no solution here at all either with or without DRM. The point is interesting though because Adobe have just made an announcement at the annual 3GSM conference that version 3 of their Flash Lite mobile platform will support Flash video. This provides a vital piece of the puzzle that the BBC is trying to piece together, and a much more platform friendly method at that.

I think the only technical challenge left to fill in is the provision of a decent DRM scheme to use within Flash video, if Adobe can provide that piece of the puzzle then there’s absolutely no reason for the BBC to use Windows Media DRM and cause thousands of licence payers to be locked out of using a service they are entitled to use.

So, Dear BBC, time to think again…


  • Flash format can work for other TV channels such as ABC around the world,
  • a growing amount of people use non-Microsoft operating systems on their computers,
  • more and more people are looking to access content online via mobile devices

then how can you consider Windows Media DRM a viable solution that is compatible with the remit of the BBC?


Bruce Schneier has written a great article about the DRM restrictions in Windows Vista, more reasons why a lock-in to Microsoft DRM is a bad choice for the BBC: [Via DaringFireball]

This isn’t even about Microsoft satisfying its Hollywood customers at the expense of those of us paying for the privilege of using Vista. This is about the overwhelming majority of honest users and who owns the distribution channels to them. And while it may have started as a partnership, in the end Microsoft is going to end up locking the movie companies into selling content in its proprietary formats.

I think you can replace the words movie companies at the end there with BBC instead. Microsoft desperately wants to have control of the DRM used in TV / Movie / Video distribution, the control they never managed to gain in the Music industry.

Vista: the longest suicide note in history

There’s an interesting article by Peter Guttman I just saw a link to: A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection. It gives a lot of indepth information about Vista’s Content Protection, it’s quite scary reading, the heading above kind of sums it up.


Something’s cooking in Adobe labs…

There’s some really interesting stuff coming out of Adobe recently, they have a section on their website called Adobe Labs which has a lot of new software being developed but is available for testing.


There’s a new application called ‘Soundbooth’ that has just appeared on their Labs website. The description for Soundbooth says:

Soundbooth is a brand new application built in the spirit of Sound Edit 16 and Cool Edit that provides the tools video editors, designers, and others who do not specialize in audio need to accomplish their everyday work such as:

  • Editing audio quickly.
  • Cleaning up noisy audio.
  • Visually identifying and removing unwanted sounds.
  • Recording and polishing voiceovers.
  • Adding effects and filters.
  • Easily creating customized music?without musical expertise.

My initial thought is that it sounds like something to compete with Apple’s Soundtrack Pro or GarageBand software. I’m going to check it out and see, it’s available for both Windows and Mac, although only Intel Macs will ever be supported interestingly.



If you’re into digital photography then you’ll definitely want to check out Lightroom. It’s a piece of software that provides for the whole workflow of digital photographers, not just for doing retouching but actually the whole importing, comparing, selection process as well as colour correction and output. This software is comparable to Apple’s Aperture software which has been out for some time which is also and excellent piece of software. Go and check out Lightroom now if you haven’t already.


Digital Editions

This is a new eBook reader / management application providing a way to read eBooks, not just in PDF format but also HTML too. The description for Digital Editions introduces itself:

Adobe Digital Editions is a completely new way to read and manage eBooks and other digital publications. Digital Editions is built from the ground up as a lightweight, rich Internet application (RIA). Digital Editions works online and offline, and supports both PDF and XHTML-based content.

Digital Editions is currently only available as a Windows download, but if that doesn’t put you off then I’m sure it’s worth checking out.


Disclaimer – Beta Software!

Remember, all these packages are beta software, that means they are available for testing purposes. I would always recommend making sure you have all your important data backed up before trying them out!

Adobe appends each one with the following notice:

Note: This is a public beta, not a final release. Neither the quality nor the features are complete yet. We want to show you our direction and get your feedback so that we can incorporate it into future releases.

Go check them out.