Being someone who works with Flash and video as my profession, this is obviously an appropriate book for me to read. I am happy to say that this is a really good book, and touches on some subjects where previous Flash video books have not gone before.
As with all Flash video books, they start with the usual “Here’s how to slap in a video, encoded, and running in an FLVPlayback component. Standard stuff, not unexpected, and yes, I’d say obligatory.
They also go into how to create some video content and editing with iMovie and Movie Maker. I was surprised that this actually well done, and had the right length.
Where things start to get interesting is in the “Talking Heads” chapter. It was really good to see a much more expanded explanation of how to approach this common technique. They go into more detail about creating alpha channels with After Effects and Final Cut Pro than I’d seen before. Instead of just showing how to do it, they also discuss how to do it with some flare. This includes applying filters, blends, shadows, video-on-video, and video reflections. The book really goes to some places I really hadn’t considered trying with video. There is a nice explanation of using a matrix and how to apply a Convolution Transform.
This book shows masks and effects in much more detail than previous books I’ve read. They do examples of moving masks, rotoscoping, aging and more. Although I prefer to use After Effects for video effects, this is a good alternative if you don’t have video production products to do that.
I like the section on playing multiple videos. It gives you some different ways to do that. The interactive video of the guy slapping himself was hysterical. If you have a kid who likes slapstick, this interactive approach to video abuse is pretty entertaining.
The chapter on going small and going big is excellent. While I’m not into video for the phone — yet, this is covered fairly well. Much more appropriate for my work is going big, and that’s looking at fullscreen h.264. This is the only Flash video book at this time that really dedicates space to this subject, and does a good job. There has been a lot of moaning and crying over Flash Player and it only supporting flv and mp4, and how that’s not “acceptable.” Grow up already! AVIs, WMVs and MPG (2) are ancient, obsolete formats, and are the video equivalent of the 8-track tape. The difference in compression, bit density and quality is absolutely huge. Don’t believe me? Standard video on an HDTV looks terrible, but that is not stopping sales, is it? It’s the same thing. If you are a Microsoft guy, and you’re trying to do video — I pity you. In stark contrast, the Apple MOV format is identical to mp4, and their video tools are incredible. They are in great shape!
The last section they have that is unique is using the camera object. But they really go a lot further, using video for boxes, flipping them, and inserting them into various displays. The effects and things you can do are very similar to iPhoto and iMovie effects, only you can do them from Flash. I can just see some security guy wanting to use the motion capture example.
FriendsOfEd Foundation Flash CS3 Video is an excellent book, with a lot of solid detail. It covers a lot of territory, as far as techniques that someone can use. Other Flash video books cover a lot more video production and encoding than this book does. But if you are doing any video with alpha channel production, fullscreen, mp4, or cameras, this is the right book for you. That’s where this book shines.