Review – Wildform Flix 1.52

Flix 1.52 is the latest version of Wildform’s custom video encoder for Flash.

From the company mainly recognized for the excellent SWfX text effects product, Wildform’s Flix is the first program designed to bring digital video into Flash presentations, converting popular movie formats such as .avi and .mov into a swf file.

My first thoughts were ‘why would you want to use Flash for video?’

While Flash is fantastic at turning hi-speed mathematics into pictures, video has always been more about hi-speed ‘pixel shuffling,’ right? Wouldn’t specialist Web video tools like Quicktime and Real Media do a better job?

The key reason for the increasing popularity of Flix seems to center around compatibility and market penetration. The Flash plug-in is undoubtedly the most common on the web, and is supposedly present in over 95% of active browsers. It’s also one of the smallest, (about 150K compared with 3-4M for alternatives like Quicktime) and its implementation is very solid across a range of platforms. So, if your focus is bringing video to a web audience, Flash provides a robust vehicle with extremely high penetration.

Using Flix 1.52

As a video encoder, Flix is a specialist, one-task tool, so there is certainly not a huge learning curve when you get started. However, this doesn’t mean there’s a lack of flexibility in the package.

The interface is divided into 4 main tabbed sections of File, SWF, Audio and Video. Each allows you to select, process and encode your video to SWF at a range of compression ratios, bitrates, sampling rates, and output options. The file can then be exported as a finished Flash movie (so there’s no need to own Flash itself), or used as an imported element in a larger Flash production.

Flix includes presets for the creation of video for users with connection speeds from 28k – 512k, and the quality at any file size is quite impressive. All the important raw audio and video formats are supported by Flix, including asf, .avi, .dv, .mov/.qt, .mpeg, .wmv, .mp3, .wav, and .wma, which gave the product much more versatility than I’d expected.

The Audio and Video tabs have separate modifiers for image size and quality, along with bitrate and sample rate. Even if you’re still using Flash 4, which doesn’t support the import of mp3s, Flix will import an .mp3 file, and then convert it to a .swf file for your use! It’s a very useful program, particularly if you need to include small amounts of video within your Flash movies.

Things do start to get a little more complex if you want to export large files into .swf. Lip-synched voice-overs present some problems, with some mouth movements becoming unsynched with the audio. However, none of the development houses seems to have been able to develop a comparable product that eliminates this issue, and Flix offers significant advantages that outweigh this limitation.

The program is simple and easy to use. Just browse to the file you wish to convert and hit “encode.” I found that the encoder crashed occasionally when I tried to keep working with it in the background, and that the program was best left alone for 10-15 minutes to do its work. However, since most of us won’t find ourselves encoding 24 hours of video at a time, this isn’t likely to be a big issue. Set it up and grab a coffee.

Flix exports to .swf format and gives you the ability to loop, unload, change the framerate, and protect the movie from import. You can also play the original file and the swf version right from the File panel.

In fact, to my knowledge there’s nothing on the market at the moment that is competing with Flix – which makes it a useful tool to have. You never know when you, or a client, will want to include video with their Flash pieces.

With Flash banner ads becoming almost the norm at many large sites, it’ll be interesting to see if ‘Flix powered’ video Flash banner ads make an impact in the months ahead.

Benefits of Flix
  • Flix encodes .asf, .avi, .dv, .mov/.qt, .mpeg, .mp3, .wav, .wma, and .wmv, as well as numerous still image formats. Most competing products only encode a few of these formats at best.
  • Flix includes presets for creating video for users with connection speeds from 28k – 512k (including presets for banner ads) – a feature that’s unique in the market at the moment.
  • On balance Flix-encoded video provides high image quality at unusually lower file sizes.
  • Flix provides mp3 audio, along with audio controls that allow developer to select sampling rate, bitrate and mono/stereo.
  • Flix allows users to resize the video however they like, and provides controls to set custom SWF dimensions as well.
  • Flix offers controls for both video framerate (distinct video images per second) and SWF framerate, giving greater flexibility and a smaller end file size than other similar products.
  • Flix also provides:
    1. The ability to embed links in video
    2. The ability to add metadata to video
    3. The ability to output an html file to play the video
    4. Image size extrapolation and smoothing
    5. The ability to export .mp3’s and .wav’s
    6. Includes SWF controls such as “protect movie,” “loop movie,” and “unload movie”

The latest version of Flix encodes videos of any length, up to the maximum number of frames allowed in the Flash player (16,000). A Mac version of Flix is expected to arrive on the market soon. And, while the older version of Flix had size limitations, users with this iteration of the program can download the new version for free.

Why upgrade from Flix 1.0?
  • Flix 1.52’s encoding capabilities can now be used to create video and audio for users who connect to the Internet at any bitrate. Flix-encoded video and audio is limited only by the maximum number of frames allowed in the SWF format (16000).
  • Flix 1.52 has improved encoding performance, resulting in faster encoding times.
  • Numerous bugs have been fixed in this version. Now users have the ability to:
    • encode mpeg without audio
    • resize output image dimensions to a ratio other than the source without distortion
    • use Flix on NT without being logged in as the administrator

  • Flix now:

    • offers 2 new SWF options
    • provides 2 new encoding presets
    • runs on Windows 95
    • supports several new formats, including:
      • Video: .asf, .avi, .dv, .mov/.qt, .mpeg, .wmv
      • Audio: .mp3, .wav, .wma
      • Still Image: jpg/.jpe, .gif, .png, .bmp/.rle,.psd/.pdd, .tif, .pct/.pic, .tga/.vda/.icb/.vst

Summary

Overall, Flix 1.52 is a more than useful edition to any serious Flash developer’s toolkit. At the same time, it’s also a great option for anyone just interested in getting their video online.

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