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swf vs flv

Posted on 2008-09-29
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-24
You would think this would be a fairly easy question to research, but after spending a considerable amount of time on the web, it is not.  PLEASE LET ME BE CLEAR.  I AM LOOKING FOR AN ABSOLUTE EXPERT ANSWER ON THIS.  NOT FROM SOMEONE WHO "THINKS" THEY KNOW OR READ A FEW BLOGS LIKE I HAVE AND NOW THEY KNOW IT ALL.  Forgive me for being so demanding, but for anyone who has searched for answers knows what I'm talking about.....Now that I'm off my soap box here's the question:  I have a web site I maintain for my employer.  I have some swf movies loaded on that site.  What are the specific pro's and con's of swf vs flv.  I think I have a general idea of the differences, but I'm looking for things like which is the smaller file size, does ie and firefox support both without adding plug-ins, do both begin playing before the download is complete, once they have downloaded do both formats remain in the browser so that if the person comes back it plays from the first download and doesn't download it from the site each and every time, etc, etc.  I'm trying to decide which format I should be using but I can't find anything that clearly lays out in black and white the pro's and con's of each.  thx much!
Question by:etdreaming
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Expert Comment

ID: 22599380
I studied both as a Multimedia major in college, so I will tell you what I have found based on the differences.

Both Shockwave (SWF) and Flash (FLV) will need plugins for the browsers.  IE will allow flash to install from its website but firerfox will need a downloadable install for it to function.  Shockwave will have to be installed.  The same holds true for shockwave.

FLV files are streaming files... meaning that as soon as part of it loads, it will begin to play while other parts of it load.

SWF is not... meaning it has to completely load before it starts playing.

FLV is general is a larger file size thus will eat up more bandwidth.

you can think of FLV as a compressed file, so it will be lossy, where as SWF will be lossless.

As far as I know, both will hold in the browsers cache, so I have always written code to clear the cache before playing in case the file has changed.  Otherwise, what you cange/update on your end might not be a reflection of what they see on their end.

I find SWF more powerfull, as you can use director to script it, but I find FLV/Flash easier, quicker, and more reliable for use on a web site.  SWF is great for large files and projects that you put on intranets and CDs/DVDs.

Author Comment

ID: 22599518
Here's where I'm confused a little.  My swf (they have a swf file extension anyway) is close to 9 mb, but yet it will begin to play immediately and having tried it on a couple of different pc's with slower connection speeds I know it hasn't had time to fully download, but yet it will begin playing right away.  Any ideas on that?  Also, what is the difference between adobe shockwave and adobe flash players?  thx.

Expert Comment

ID: 22600069
It looks like the newer version of SWF are also streamable, this the playing of the files before they finish downloading.  That explains that!

From what I remember from the programming side, is that the shockwave player is a lot more powerful.  

Flash player was design as a player for web applications and animation.

Shockwave player is designed to go beyond the web application process and can even play custom built applications.

Guess at the end of the day... if all you need is medium animation and web design interaction I would stick with flash.

If you plan on doing some heaver end gaming applications, customized applications, or heaver ended animation, I would go with Shockwave.


Accepted Solution

geekhelp4u earned 2000 total points
ID: 22600084
FYI... I am sure you read this, but here is Adobes vs. page

Both Flash and Shockwave are multimedia players. They can give you extended and predictable abilities across a range of browser brands, versions, and platforms.(Sometimes you might hear someone refer to "Shockwave Flash", but these are actually two different multimedia players.)

Flash has a small player which gives it a wider distribution. Flash is included in every Netscape download. Flash also has a very fast startup time. The way the Flash format interleaves media and instructions also helps it start quickly.

Shockwave has a deeper player. It offers multiuser chat, XML parsing, HTML manipulation, an extensive and fast scripting language, distant file retrieval, programmatic control of vector shapes, and bitmap manipulation. It can do many amazing things which browsers cannot do. Its files also stream, but it does not start instantly like Flash does.

Both are ubiquitous. They are distributed in all popular operating systems, browser CDs, and installed on new computers. Flash files can play on more platforms, in large part because its file format is published.

The Shockwave file format is .DCR, and it is created by the Director authoring application. The Flash file format is .SWF, and is created by Flash, FreeHand, Generator, and other tools.

Use Flash for interfaces to sites, for quick impact. Use Shockwave for more complex multimedia work, or for web applications that are beyond the browsers' abilities.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31501297
Excellent.  thx.

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