AES Section Meeting Reports

New York - November 22, 2011

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HTML5 looks to be the new Flash. Flash and Silverlight (plug-ins) are dead. HTML5 makes the audio and video capabilities that were previously available only via plug-ins now directly available to an application, most commonly a web browser. Any app that hooks into an HTML5 rendering engine can access these capabilities.

Like preceding versions, HTML5 uses tags <example tag> to identify types of information. With HTML5, there are now <audio> and <video> tags.

All of the major browsers support different audio codecs. With HTML5, if your source material is encoded with a codec the browser supports, it will select that file for playback. Playback is where HTML5 takes on Flash in terms of audio capabilities. Previously, if you wanted to load multiple audio streams, control their volumes individually, stop, start, mute, etc. you would have had to use Flash. All of these operations can be controlled with HTML5, and, by using JavaScript, additional control is possible. The web designer can also control preloading (none, metadata, auto), auto-playback, looping, and more.

As with any standard, there are some things that are not standard (ironic, isn't it?). There are competing APIs that allow for richer controls, such as time compression/expansion, volume graphs, cross-fading, and filters. It is hoped that one of these will emerge as a standard, if only de facto.

Nine years ago, I took a class in sound design for the web. The class focused on Flash. HTML5 has the potential to replace Flash in this context.

While this was an audio-centric meeting, it would be foolish to not mention how video fits into HTML5. Like audio, your video source material needs to be encoded in a format that the particular browser supports. Currently there is no support for adaptive streams or Digital Rights Management (DRM) with video.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society