Why Flash Is Infinitely Better At Delivering Music Across The Web Than MP3.
“…it is Flash that arranges the audio and adds functionality that enables the music file to go further than an Mp3 can ever do”
Flash has been around now for quite a while. And whilst innovative Flash artists have primarily focused on designing and engineering some jaw dropping animated creations Flash has for many, slipped into first place as the technology of choice for delivering audio alongside web site content.
Why is this? Why doesn’t everyone know about Flash’s ability to create a better user experience? Well, within this document I explain why it really is better and why your next website refresh should include Flash embedded music at minimal overhead to your customers.
I won’t go into the history of Flash here (you might well loose interest) so lets just say it had humble beginnings yet was seen by a few far seeing individuals who took it to the next stage from where it captured the imaginations of zillions of web developers, web artists & animators.
I can remember in 1999 being excited by MP3000 produced by CleverMedia which is an online tool for creating your own mix of a range of beats, melodies and sound effects. It is still a fun interactive music tool that holds its weight many years after it was first created. This shows clearly that given good design Flash has an astonishing ability to last even while technology continues to change around it. Dont forget, this little app is nearly 10 years old and still is pretty cool.
As Flash developed over the years there were a number of technical improvements that enabled even better delivery of sound along side the animated creations. Once such advance was Flash’s ability to deliver more control of audio and multi-track playback.
So Why Is Flash Better than MP3s?
Whilst many gain competitive edge by adding music with Flash technology to their sites, those outside the Flash community with little awareness continue to use mp3s. So why is Flash as a proprietary technology standard still so compelling?
Well for a start, perhaps I should clarify one thing. This argument focuses on why you should deliver your music using Flash that has compressed (for example) a WAV file into mp3 and delivered via a Flash file. The Flash file would have the suffix ‘.swf’. So Mp3 technology is still in there compressing the audio yet it is Flash that arranges the audio and adds functionality that enables the music file to go further than an Mp3 can ever do.
The following is a list of the key benefits for you the website owner.
Quicker Than The Equivalent mp3 at being downloaded:
This is where Flash saves the day. Imagine having three instruments that were the equivalent size of three loops. Instead of playing three loops one after the other, with Flash a professional Flash developer & composer will be able to construct a piece of music that mixes these three different parts of the same music and multiply the variants of the same tune to as many as twice that amount. So instead of getting three 10 second loops you will have a total of a whole minute of music for the same time it takes to download 30 seconds of mp3 based loops.
So, with that in mind you can consider using an intro that allows your customers to view your welcome page for 30 seconds. Then you might feel you would like to draw them further in to view product pages for example. So, you could consider turning off the repetitive loop, implying to the customer that they have seen all that there is to see and its it time to move on. Once in the product area you may want to consider using a full one minute (for example) music track that loops gently in the background with a quieter volume.
You can create a control interface specifically tuned to your customer’s tastes as part of the object that has the audio embedded or linked to it. You don’t need to be restricted to the audio players on the market such as RealPlayer ®, Windows Media Player ®, Winamp ® or QuickTime ®. What if you choose to deliver your audio via one of the player specific formats and many of your customers don’t have the ability to play them? Simply create your own player in Flash knowing that 97% of the world’s connected browser users can then view and listen to your audio. In terms of design and appearance, literally, if you can imagine it, you can create it and it will work in all the known browsers to the modern world (and perhaps some others on other planets too). There are many Flash Players for sale if you wish to purchase one instead. There are lots of fun designs out there to meet all needs.
As mentioned above, you can even get your customers to choose the mix of the audio file they are listening to, lift the base, lower the snare for example, remove a loop or make a choice over a number of loops. Give your customers this sort of control and they will be back for more and more.
You can create a flash player to control your music; you can create controls for pan, volume, play, rewind, stop and forward. You can create a list of audio files to play; you can even create animations and buttons that trigger the audio files if you want to create an interactive experience between music and animation for your customers.
Flash compresses the audio files and provides options for streaming and downloading that provide the designer with choices that match the needs of the content and end user. Additionally, because with all Flash content, once it is downloaded it can be replayed again and again, designers and engineers are creating cleaver long play musical and audio pieces that are a fraction of the original WAV, AIFF or MP3 (or other!) file size. These Flash designers compress files according to the dynamics of the audio and create highly accurately synced loops that work with each other to create layers of music much like how each musical track would be arranged within a modern computerised Digital Audio Workstation.
Even thought Flash is owned by Adobe and is not open source 97% of all browsers connected to the Internet have the Flash Player plug-in installed. The player comes as standard within many browsers and is quick and easy to upgrade to the latest version of Flash. So, whilst still proprietary as a standard (it isnt an ‘open standard’ in the same way as mpeg is for example) it hits all of the user base of Internet connected surfers that you will want to turn into customers. The 3% that don’t use Flash aren’t interested in seeing graphics or listening to music.
Flash provides many digital designers and artists with an incredible creative tool that they use to blow the minds of web users. They have been achieving this for many years and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Summary And The Future
What does Adobe need to do now to develop Flash’s audio capabilities? Whilst the features of today make Flash compelling for audio delivery many of the Flash audio community are frustrated by the lack of audio features within Flash. Here are a number of features that would greatly enhance Flash’s ability to deliver audio more successfully:
1) Make mp3’s loop seamlessly. Currently if you add an MP3 into Flash and publish it, Flash will create a small gap before replaying the mp3 file thus destroying any loop’s effect. The only way around this today is to avoid importing mp3s, import WAVs (for example) and have them compressed down to mp3 format for publishing. Bizarre but true.
Adobe get features like that into Flash when Flash needs this functionality to achieve perfectly synchronised loops.
3) Audio Plug-Ins: Link with the music community so that Flash is opened up to the plug ins available to add more richness to those who do not have access to more complex Digital Audio Workstations such as Bias Peak and other Adobe products.
4) Make synchronising easier: some developers find some sound files (mp3 or WAV format) go out of sync over time when there is no reason. This feels like a bug.
5) Making Movie Clips within movies playable within the stage whilst being developed would avoid developers having to work blind on a lot of audio / visual synchronising. There are some Flash components for sale that achieve this but are not part of Flash as standard.
Copyright Kesseny ltd 2008 All Rights Reserved except for:
Flash® (a registered trademark of the Adobe Corporation). &
MP3000: Copyright © 1995-2008 Clever Media. Note: Clevermedia gave permission to reference thier work when Ambient Muisc Garden was named Ambient Music Garden.com
RealPlayer ® 2008 RealNetworks, Inc. Patents Pending. All rights reserved. RealPlayer, is a registered trademark of RealNetworks, Inc
Windows Media Player Microsoft is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
Winamp ® is a registered trademark of Nullsoft Inc.
QuickTime is a trademark of Apple Computer, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
Ambient Music Garden & Flash Soundtracks are trademarks of Kesseny ltd
www.Ambient Music Garden.com