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apologies, a little more googling and i think i've found some answers to this question:
it appears as though in as2, there are no standard classes available with a good solution to this problem other than looping through every pixel in bitmapdata. there appear to be folks out there who have set up compression algorithms - gskinner, for example but i haven't found any sample code out there - anyone else had success in this area want to share?
oh and in as3 BitmapData.getPixels() does the looping through the pixels for you, and a compression algorithm comes standard - ByteArray.compress.
(though i am trying to avoid as3 for this particular project)
many thanks for that kglad. i researched quasimondo's bitmapexporter class. (great site by the way - some very interesting projects there) afraid we can't use the php page example and developing a cold fusion page to work with it was too much time investment(especially for a deprecated as2 strategy).
at this stage we may have to move up to as3 and flash9 player using the zlib compression. in which case it looks as though it may still require some serverside time investment with java coding...
anyway, thanks again for your help.