Web video goes HD

Adobe released a new version of Flash media player that displays HD video.

In a landmark event for Internet video, Adobe Systems last week released a new version of its Flash media player that displays HD video programming.

Flash media players reside on 98 percent of all desktop personal computers and millions of portable devices, so the new player extends HDTV capability to the rapidly expanding universe of online video that includes popular social networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace.

Adobe’s player supports the H.264 compression format — the same video standard used in HD DVD and Blue-ray optical video players and many late-model cable and satellite set-top boxes. Audio supports the HE-ACC standard, and the player supports hardware accelerated, multicore enhanced full-screen video playback.

Though the infrastructure to HD Web video is beginning to take shape, it will take time for HD programming to appear online. Producers of Flash video must first encode their programming for the HD format.

“Between now and a year from now I think the ambient video and audio quality that we see in Internet video will be noticably higher,” Mark Randall, chief strategist of the Dynamic Media Organization at Adobe, told the “New York Times.”

Apple added H.264, an open standard, to its QuickTime technology two years ago. Microsoft has an incompatible proprietary HD standard called Windows Media VC-9.

The new player is also expected to be a boon to content developers, many of whom already use workflows that support H.264 and HE-AAC. Adobe’s creative applications, including video editing, already support the codecs.

The public beta version of the update to Adobe Flash Player 9 software, code-named Moviestar, which includes H.264 and HE-AAC functionality, is available as a free download from Adobe Labs at labs.adobe.com. The final release is expected to be available via update in the fall.