Choosing a movie format

 

BB FlashBack stores its movies in FlashBack (FBR) format. If you want non-FlashBack users to be able to watch your movie, you'll need to export it to a standard format. BB FlashBack exports to QuickTime, Flash, MPEG4, AVI, Windows Media Video (WMV), and Executable (EXE).

The best format to choose depends on the end purpose and audience of your movie. Here is a quick guide:


It needs to include 'interactive' objects like buttons and 'click to continue' textboxes:
Then you'll need to export to Flash (SWF) or EXE formats. Only these formats are capable of interactivity. QuickTime, AVI and WMV are not interactive - they just contain movies.

It will be embedded on a webpage
You'll need to export to QuickTime, WMV or Flash formats. All of these can be embedded in webpages.

It needs to play on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux
Flash is probably the best choice. If you only require Windows and Mac OS X, then Flash, MPEG4 and QuickTime are the best choices.

It needs to play back on mobile devices like an iPhone
MPEG4 format can be played back on iDevices and Android phones.

I need as small a file as I can get without reducing quality to an unacceptable level
There's no one format that will give the smallest file for all movies. If the movie is mainly of 'normal' applications like MS Office, EXE may give good results. If there is more motion in your movie, experiment with QuickTime and WMV. Exporting to AVI with codecs like XDiv and DivX can give good results, but these need to be installed on the PC that is playing the movie back also.

I'll be producing a DVD from it
BB FlashBack can't export it in the MPEG2 format which is used by DVDs. You will need to use 3rd party software to produce the DVD, so exporting to AVI may be best. Virtually all movie editing and creation software will work with AVI format.

Below is a quick guide to each format, with the pros and cons of each:

 

FBR format
Flash format
MPEG4 format
QuickTime (H264) format
EXE format
AVI format
WMV format
 
FBR (FlashBack) Format
FBR is the native file format of BB FlashBack. When you first record a movie, it will always be saved into an FBR file. While in FBR format, movies can be edited with BB FlashBack, and then exported to any of the other movie formats. FBR files are high quality and usually have the smallest file size of all movie file formats.

You should always keep a copy of your movie in FBR format in case you want to make editing changes to it later.

FBR Advantages:
  • Lossless quality.
  • Small file size.
  • Editable with the BB FlashBack Player.
  • BB FlashBack Express plays back FBR files and is free.
FBR Drawbacks:
  • Requires a FlashBack product to be installed in order to play.
 
Flash Format
Flash is an extremely popular format for playing animated video, particularly over the internet. The Flash player plugin is installed in virtually all internet browsers, so this format is widely compatible with PC and Macs.

When embedded in a webpage, Flash movies created with BB FlashBack ‘stream’ to the user's browser. This means that instead of having to download the entire movie before viewing, the movie begins to play in the webpage while the remainder downloads.

There are two types of Flash movie exported by BB FlashBack: SWF and Flash Video (FLV).

SWF files can contain 'interactive' objects like buttons and 'click to continue' textboxes. However, they have a limit on the number of frames they can contain. BB FlashBack will automatically adjust the frame rate of movies that exceed the limit (it works out at around 10 minutes of video at 24 frames per second), but SWF may be unsuitable for longer movies.

FLV files cannot contain interactive objects, but have no limit on length and should be smaller if the movie contains motion or moving video.


Flash Advantages:
  • High quality.
  • Can contain 'interactive' objects.
  • Good file sizes.
  • The majority of PC and Macs have the Flash plug-in required to play Flash files.
  • Very suitable for the internet.
  • Supports online streaming.
Flash Drawbacks:
  • SWF files are limited to 16,000 frames (ten minutes at the default frame rate).
 
MPEG4 Format
MPEG4 format is the best choice if you need the movie to be played on mobile devices like iPhone, iPad and Android phones. It is also widely compatible with PCs and Macs.

MPEG4 Advantages:
  • Only format widely compatible with Apple and Android mobile devices.
  • Also widely compatible with PCs and Macs.
  • Decent compression.
MPEG4 Disadvantages:
  • Does not support interactivity.
 
QuickTime (H264) Format

QuickTime H264 format is often used for movies that will be embedded in webpages, requiring them to be streamed across the internet. H264 is capable of good video quality and small file sizes when encoding moving video.

QuickTime movies can be played back on Windows PCs that have the QuickTime player, which is often installed with iTunes. They can be played back on virtually all Macs, but the format is not widely compatible with Linux.

QuickTime advantages:

  • Capable of excellent compression and quality
  • Compatible with all Macs and many PCs.

QuickTime disadvantages:

  • Cannot contain 'interactive' objects like buttons and 'click to continue' textboxes.
  • QuickTime player is not installed on all PCs.
 
Standalone EXE (Executable)

BB FlashBack can export an executable file that runs on Windows PCs to display the movie. It requires no extra software to be installed on the PC and is compatible with Windows 2000 and newer, but it will not run under Mac OS X or Linux.

EXE exports can contain 'interactive' objects like buttons and 'click to continue' textboxes.

EXE Advantages:

  • Lossless quality.
  • Can contain 'interactive' objects.
  • Highly compressed file size.
  • Requires no codecs or plug-ins in order to play.
  • True full screen display options available upon export.
EXE Drawbacks:
  • Not compatible with Mac or Linux.
 
AVI Format
AVI is a popular video file format. Each AVI file is encoded with a “codec” (such as DivX or Cinepak) that compresses the video data on export and decompresses it for viewing in movie playing software. Codecs are separate pieces of software to the BB FlashBack program.

When you export to AVI format, you will pick a codec to encode with, from the list of those installed on your PC. Different codecs produce very different results in terms of file size, quality and export times.

The codec you pick will usually need to be installed on the viewing computer in order to play the movie. So, if you select DivX (for example) on export, this generally needs to be installed on any PCs that will view the movie.

AVI Advantages:
  • Choice of codecs means you can achieve a high rate compression if you experiment.
  • Plays in mainstream media players such as Windows Media Player.
  • Can be used as a starting point to create playable DVDs.
AVI Drawbacks:
  • The codec used to create your movie is usually required to be installed in order to view it.
  • The quality and compression achieved by codec varies considerably, so experimentation is needed.
  • AVI format does not support user interactivity (e.g. ‘click to continue’ pauses).
Read more about exporting to AVI format.
 
Windows Media Video (WMV) Format
Windows Media Video (WMV) format is commonly used for movie playback on Windows PCs. The software required to play back WMV files is installed on most Windows PCs.

WMV Advantages:
  • Good compression and quality.
  • Wide compatibility with Windows PCs.
  • None of the codec compatibility problems associated with AVI format.
WMV Drawbacks:
  • Not widely compatible with Mac and Linux.
  • WMV format does not support user interactivity (e.g. ‘click to continue pauses’).
Read more about exporting to WMV and AVI format.