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supercharging-compressor.pngYou can find more compression settings articles in our Supercharging Compressor series index.

If you're using an Apple workflow, you're no doubt familiar with the ways in which Apple makes its Quicktime codec attractive for web and mobile delivery.  Exporting a .MOV "for the web" is as simple as, well, picking the "Web Streaming" preset in your application of choice.  Care to deliver to mobile devices?  Target iPhones and iPods with the presets of the same name.

This is an area where respectable people disagree -- and, if you do indeed disagree with me, I encourage you to voice your opinion in the comments.  But I strongly advocate avoiding Quicktime for web delivery.
In the first place, I should point out that Quicktime has many merits in a web context: its codec set is extraordinarily robust, it supports multiple bandwidths in one convenient wrapper, and the Quicktime Streaming Server built into Mac OSX Server enables web streaming on par with Wowza or Flash Media Server.  Indeed, from a server standpoint, QTSS gives FMS a run for its money simply because it doesn't cap users or bandwidth (Wowza, a house favorite around GeniusDV, still stacks up competitively).

Unfortunately, if you're not delivering through channels that are explicitly tied to Apple technology on the user side -- read: iTunes -- you stand to annoy a substantial portion of your users.  Check out this market penetration graph.  Quicktime's penetration amongst client browsers hasn't really changed very much in years, and the verdict is clear: if you deliver web video by Quicktime, a full 1/3 of your audience can't even see what you're selling.  Even if they have it, the Quicktime client, especially on the PC, is bulky and slow to load.

Bear in mind, of course, that Quicktime is soldered into the heart of Mac OS.  If you're reasonably sure that your audience are all using Macs, you're fine to use the native workflow.  But if you're delivering to clients (or their bosses) who may be viewing your content on PCs (especially in a tightly-controlled office environment), you're far better off sticking to Flash video.

Some 98% of all computers can play Flash video, and they do it fast.  Fat cats like Youtube, Google Video, and Hulu all rely on it.  And, with the most recent Flash Player release, 90% of computers support H.264 with HE-AAC audio plus HD-resolution video.  Sorenson Squeeze and Adobe's flagship web authoring software provide the best authoring solution, and, in this author's opinion, Wowza provides the best delivery solution.  But don't let the price tags scare you away: building a Flash video workflow doesn't have to be expensive or particularly painful.

Since its most recent release, Flash can play H.264 video natively -- no special processing required.  Just export your movie using one of the H.264 presets in an application like Compressor, and rename the resulting .mov to end with .flv -- presto!  You've got bona fide Flash video.  If you're using Dreamweaver, simply use the Insert->Media->FLV dialog.  If not, check out FlowPlayer.

In fact, I may just make a tutorial out of that process.

Questions?  Opinions?  Drop a line in the comments or by email.
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What are pixel aspect ratios? was the previous entry in this blog.

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