Sunday 8 November 2009

Displaying Flash and Video content

The various methods of outputting flash and video content

I was looking at some YouTube videos earlier and the code that they use to allow users to embed the movies into other HTML has changed. I know it changed quite a while back actually but it got me thinking about the various methods for displaying video content on the web.

I am pretty sure that they used to use the old combo method which used to use an outer OBJECT tag designed to work in IE with classid and codebase attributes and then some PARAM tags and then an EMBED tag to handle all other browsers. Even though EMBED works across browsers its not a standard compliant method for displaying content however because it works across all browsers its used everywhere.
<object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0" data="" align="middle" width="425" height="344" >
<param name="movie" value="" />
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<param name="allowScriptAccess" value="sameDomain" />
<embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed>

The way they do it now is to have a very bare outer OBJECT tag and then some PARAMS and an EMBED tag. Rather than reference the movie source in the OBJECT's data attribute its only referenced in the PARAM and EMBED tags.
<object width="425" height="344">
<param name="movie" value=""></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param>
<embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed>

Now I know there are a multitude of ways of delivering movie content on the web and you can deliver it server-side or client-side with one of the libraries such as SWFObject or UFO or the new combination of those two and Adobe SWFObject 2.

I tend to do my delivering server-side mainly for the reason that at least 10% of users have Javascript disabled when they surf the web therefore that is quite a large audience to skip over. To keep to standard XHTML I was going down the route of copying what the Javascript libraries do but server-side e.g
  • Check for browser type e.g IE, a known standard compliant browser or Unknown
  • For IE deliver the OBJECT method with classid and codebase
  • For non IE deliver the OBJECT method with type application/x-shockwave-flash
  • For unknown deliver the nested method OBJECT and EMBED
  • Load some Javascript to handle the EOLAS patent issue for Opera (IE has fixed this)
Therefore we keep to the standards and get maximum audience coverage. For users of Opera with Javascript enabled they will play normally but those without they will have to click them to play. Although an annoyance this is a smaller percentage than the 10% who would have no flash play due to Noscript being enabled etc.

Another introduction to the current myriad of ways to deliver movie content is the new VIDEO tag which is now being supported by Firefox 3.5, SeaMonkey 2, Thunderbird 3 and Chrome 3. Currently it supports limited filetypes such as Ogg Theora which is an open format and you can reference a movie pretty simply which the following syntax shows.
<video id="video6" src="" width="425" height="344"></video>

Accessing video content through Javascript

If you are loading all your video content through Javascript which a lot of people do then although you may be missing 10% of your audience you won't have to worry about the EOLAS issue in Opera and you will have a variety of functions in your chosen library to access the movie and manipulate it.

However if you are loading your flash server side like me you still may need some Javascript functionality to access the movie and check whether it has loaded or not.

The following code contains two functions which can be used to access a movie delivered by an OBJECT, EMBED or VIDEO tag cross browser and should handle very old browsers as well as it has an extensive fallback.

The other function lets you check whether a movie has loaded yet which you may want to do before making controls available to manipulate the movie or as I do with my flash bullet counter starting the movie and moving it to a certain frame.

function getMovie(movie){      
var r = null;
// try for standards way of accessing movie through OBJECT tag if you use the new ADOBE/SWFObject JS library
// to create your flash then this will work.
var o = document.getElementById(movie);
if (o.nodeName == "OBJECT") {
// check SetVariable this could return undefined, unknown or function depending on browser
if (typeof o.SetVariable != "undefined") {
r = o;
var n = o.getElementsByTagName("object")[0];
if (n) r = n;
// handle the new VIDEO tag which plays Ogg files and can handle multiple fallbacks
}else if(o.nodeName == "VIDEO"){
r = o;
// if we still have no flash movie revert back to old tried and tested methods.
// these are used when you deliver your flash server sides in certain browsers
// access the window or document object
r = (document[movie]) ? document[movie] : window[movie];
if(r) return r;

// last resort use the embeds collection
r = document.embeds[movie];
// return either null or a reference to our movie
return r;

// function to test whether a movie has loaded yet
function isMovieActive(movie){
movie = typeof(movie)=="string" ? getMovie(movie) : movie;
// if we have no reference quit
if(!movie) return false;

// default our percent loaded variable to 0 = not loaded
var pl=0;

// for VIDEO tags we can check the readyState property
// readyState 3 video can be played a bit
// readyState 4 video can be played to the end without interuption
return (movie.readyState>=3) ? true : false;
//if movie not loaded then this will raise an error but if its loaded we can check the PercentLoaded property
return (pl==100) ? true : false;

The following test page has been created to show all the numerous methods of outputting OBJECT and EMBED tags with a test to show which Javascript methods allow access of the movie. Test it in various browsers to see the differences and when viewing in Chrome be prepared to wait a while for the VIDEO content to load which will give you a chance to see the isMovieActive function work both ways. Also the movie is pretty funny anyway so its worth watching as its a fight between a Yoga master and two kung fu fighters.


Unknown said...


It is possible to play live OGG Vorbis Audio streaming with this aproach or another?

Let say also using flash, IE etc?

Thank You

Rob Reid said...

I'm not exactly sure which part of the article you are referring to?

I use server side code to output all my flash in a standards compliant way and it works across all browsers.

The JS function handles OBJECT, EMBED, VIDEO tags for all browsers old and new and is used to check that the movie has loaded. So far I have not had problems with it.

Unknown said...

"Another introduction to the current myriad of ways to deliver movie content is the new VIDEO tag which is now being supported by Firefox 3.5, SeaMonkey 2, Thunderbird 3 and Chrome 3. Currently it supports limited filetypes such as Ogg Theora which is an open format and you can reference a movie pretty simply which the following syntax shows."

-im interested to stream live OGG, not just files.ogg, but live web stream content.

sorry i wasnt clear the first time.

Rob Reid said...

I haven't done it myself but surely its just a case of changing the src attribute value to point to your live stream instead of a file.

This article goes into the format a bit more it may or may not help. said...

Thank you very much but the newbie to video and flash I am have a few questions:
1) does these methods work without modification for any kind of flash or video? For instance, I have a non-video animation, can I just replace your youTube URL by the .ogv file name? or the .flv file name? Is the URL form compulsory for a local file?
2) What does "there are a multitude of ways of delivering movie content on the web and you can deliver it server-side or client-side" mean? Does it mean that, for the server-side option, the container file is uncompressed server-side?!! That would be a terribly big file.
3) Which of the methods you present deliver the movie server-side, and which ones deliver it client-side?
4) have you an idea of the amount MPEG license fees to 1 animation put on a small website? and to whom it should be paid?

Thank you if you have time to answer to these questions.

Rob Reid said...

Hi Fiable

I am a slightly confused by your questions but I will try my best to answer them.

1. If you have an .ogv movie then it can be played with an OBJECT or VIDEO tag. The VIDEO tag is only supported by modern browsers though. Replace the URL to the flash example with your own file location. I take it this movie is to be watched by visitors to your website? then if so the file needs to be accessible on the web located on a media server (youtube etc) or on your own server. If this is the case then you supply the URI for the file in your HTML.

2. It means that if you view the example HTML page you will see that you can output movies with a variety of combinations of OBJECT, VIDEO, EMBED tags and attributes. You can output your HTML with server side code e.g PHP,ASP,.NET or you can use client side libraries like SWFObject or UFO that use Javascript to insert the HTML into the DOM at runtime. When picking a method you have a number of things to think about including whether you want your HTML to be standards compliant, whether you want the movies to play even if the user has Javascript disabled and whether you want to browser sniff to pick the correct HTML for the browser. Notice the IE OBJECT method is different from the Standard method.

3. All of the methods in the example page can be deliver server side OR client side. It just means the method used to OUTPUT the HTML.

4. Sorry I have no idea about MPEG licence fees. I'm sure there are dedicated sites or blogs that look into this.

Hope this helps