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RECOMMENDED

Impressive bitmap and vector-based video support for Flash.

The recent release of Flash MX is generating a lot of user excitement and the feature that is generating the most enthusiasm is its video handling. But if Flash MX provides its own in-built video support, why would you want a third party utility like Flix Pro?

It's a feeling that is reinforced when you first load the program. You couldn't exactly call the Flix Pro interface state-of-the-art as it takes the form of an old-fashioned and ugly tabbed dialog box. It's here in the main File tab that you select your video file input - asf, avi, dv, mov/qt, mpeg, wmv - and specify your Flash movie output. You then set a target output format based on presets, fine-tune settings in the secondary tabs if necessary, and hit the Encode command to begin the conversion process.

The more you explore Flix Pro, however, the more you come to appreciate what the program has to offer. To begin with, Flix Pro's use of presets based on target bit-rates, such as for a 56k modem or a 256k ADSL connection, is a huge improvement on the MX system where you are effectively left working blind. Even better, you can quickly create different versions for different bandwidths - a process made even easier thanks to Flix Pro's batch capabilities.

What really makes Flix Pro invaluable however, is its ability to output to different Flash formats. By default the program produces Flash MX video files based on the Sorenson Spark codec. These SWF movies are optimized to work in the new Flash 6 player and undoubtedly produce the best results in terms of high quality combined with small file size. You can also output to FLV format which enables the MX-based video to be imported into Flash MX for further editing and control.

Crucially Flix Pro also lets you output to a Flash SWF format that is compatible with the earlier Flash 3, 4 and 5 players. The results aren't as efficient and the resulting need to drop frame rates produces jerky video even at quite high bit rates (though it's amazing what a difference a clear soundtrack makes). The huge advantage is that your streaming video will be immediately accessible by the massive 98% of Web users who have Flash 3 player capabilities. By comparison Macromedia is only hoping to gain 80% penetration after 12 months for the version 6 MX player.

And Flix Pro has one more trick up its sleeve. The final output option it offers is "vectorised video". Essentially this works by taking all the bitmap frames that would be encoded as video and tracing them! The process is surprisingly fast and the results impressive. OK you're not going to recognize individual faces but I vectorised a number of test clips and the results were surprisingly clear, eye-catching and in many cases strangely beautiful. Best of all vectorised video plays directly to Flash's strengths providing scalable and stylish imagery with lots of impact and meagre bandwidth requirements.

If you're interested in making the most of Flash video, whether bitmap or vector-based, Flix Pro is a must-have tool at a bargain price.

Ease of Use 5/6

Features 5/6

Value for Money 5/6

Overall 5/6

requirements Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 Mb RAM, 10Mb of hard disk space for installation, Windows 95/98/2000/Me/XP or NT 4, Internet Explorer 4 or above.

Ease of Use
5
Features
5
Value for Money
5
Overall
5

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

July 2002


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