Kevin Towes


12 September 2011

Adobe Flash Media Server 4.5 sets the stage to expand online content libraries and give audiences more choice and access to the content they want. This release also enables traditional broadcasters and publishers to drive new revenue channels by accelerating video delivery to more devices with better quality and quality of service in an era of change. Devices able to play video well are changing at a pace faster than any other technology we've seen—the rate of change also makes it difficult to even know what device to target. Today, mobile delivery only accounts for a small percentage of total video consumption growing quickly and positioning it to take over both desktop and traditional TV broadcast.
RTMP delivery through Flash Media Server has supported the largest live events in the world such as the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the FIFA World Cup, and the royal wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton. HTTP streaming will help network operators, service providers, and ISPs scale to meet the demands of more video online—and that is why HTTP streaming is the focus for this release. Broadcasters such as the BBC have been actively testing HTTP delivery to Adobe Flash Player through events such as Wimbledon. Broadcasters such as AEG Digital Media, which are responsible for some of the biggest events on the web, have also indicated that HTTP delivery is an absolute requirement to meet global capacity concerns.
Our goal at Adobe is to help broadcasters change the world through their digital experiences with video. Flash Media Server (FMS) is an important part of a greater video solution to reach larger, more global audiences with technology providing consistency in a world of player and device fragmentation. This release marks a significant step forward to access more opportunities and to create these new experiences that entertain and engage audiences. FMS 4.5 extends online delivery both through Flash Player and to Apple iOS devices with one simple broadcast workflow and a tremendous opportunity to create something really special.
Video publishing and protection is now simpler, so broadcasters can embrace the change and increase audiences on more screens and platforms with a very easy and resilient workflow for HLS (HTTP Live Streaming), HDS (HTTP Dynamic Streaming), RTMP, and Multicast through innovation and scalable video protection to ensure that content plays where it is supposed to over more networks using HTTP streaming technology.
Consistent video experiences
Adobe has created consistency with Flash Player and Adobe AIR running on more devices than any other platform. With Flash, publishers are assured that protection, transport, and quality is consistent across Mac, PC, Linux, Android, and BlackBerry Tablet OS. Apple iPhone and iPad have significantly impacted how consumers experience and engage with video—and have changed the industry. Publishers are faced with a challenge and are forced to prepare content for delivery through HTML5 to play in Apple Safari browser or native apps. Now publishers can simplify their video publishing and protection workflows using Flash Media Server 4.5 with protected HLS support, audio channel extraction, DVR/PVR live, on-demand and variant playlists. One set of content without any preparation or additional storage and deliver safely to both Flash Player with HDS and to iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) using HLS.
Yes, you can use the same assets—if they are encoded to the Apple specs—and the same server to prepare, protect, and deliver both to HLS to Apple devices and HDS to Flash Player.
Key new features
Here are the key new features you can find in Flash Media Server 4.5:
  • Same-source video delivery to iOS devices and Flash Player (single workflows to reach both platforms)
  • On-demand video packaging / segmenting for HTTP video delivery (no need to prepackage your content)
  • Set-level F4M manifests and variant M3u8 playlist support
  • Simple and robust content protection workflows for HTTP streaming (as easy as specifying on or off)
  • Live PVR/DVR support for iOS devices and Flash Player with disk management (don't miss that special moment in live)
  • Support for studio-approved DRM with Adobe Flash Access 3 (robust DRM that exceeds your requirements on desktop and Android)
  • Multicast SSM and ASM, with multicast rebroadcast
  • SIP device support for communication
  • P2P support in Flash Media Interactive Server 4.5
Introduced last year, HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) has been significantly updated with new features including Protected HTTP Dynamic Streaming (PHDS)—simple and robust video protection built on Flash Access (DRM) technology. With PHDS, publishers can easily encrypt and delivery over HTTP, which increases capacity and quality over constrained networks.
HDS functionality now exceeds the functionality found in our traditional RTMP delivery system—trusted globally today by the majority of top-tier broadcasters like ESPN. To use this feature, server operators simply enable it in the HTTP server configuration with options to enable server-wide or target just the file. Flash Access is not required and there are no DRM license servers needed. When a Flash Player client requests the stream over HTTP, FMS will encrypt the fragments as they leave, server, and create the required license. What is unique about Flash Media Server is that the license is part of the video itself; the keys are delivered and cached over HTTP, making it a very scalable solution.
Today SWF Verification is used in conjunction with RTMPe, and we have made it very easy to use with HTTP streaming. SWF file signatures are integrated into the encryption, guaranteeing that video plays back only within the experiences and websites for which they were intended. PHDS is perfect for content supported by advertising or live content and can be used both on the desktop and on Android devices supporting Flash Player 11 (coming soon). If your content requires additional DRM rules, you can also use Flash Access 3.
Protection for iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) is just as simple. Configure the server to encrypt and FMS will encrypt the HLS .ts segments using Apple-supported AES 128-bit encryption. The key delivery is served using SSL and FMS can bind playback only to iOS devices to add further protection.
My favorite new feature is the on-demand packaging of content for HTTP delivery. This takes the pain out of preparing your content ahead of time, storing it, protecting it, and uploading it to your CDN for delivery. Flash Media Server 4.5 lets you use a single set of encoded content and deliver with encryption to both iOS devices and Flash Player using HTTP. This saves time and money, and we hope it reduces the complexity to reach multiple platforms.
Where to go from here
Adobe is committed to making it easy to publish video experiences across all devices. This release follows innovation in the server and Flash Player that is used all over the world today. Flash Media Server 4.5 responds to the changing landscape of video delivery, devices, and requirements to publish great content in more places.
There is a lot more in this release that my colleagues and I will write about in the near future. Give it a try: You can download it for free right now. Then follow Tom Green's popular beginner's guide to getting up to speed on Flash Media Server 4.5.