Newsletter #148 - May 5, 2007
First Look at the
Expression Media Encoder...
Microsoft formally rolled out the Expression Suite at the
Mix07 conference in Los Vegas this week... the suite includes
the freely available Silverlight browser plug-in that
works with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Apple's Safari browsers
a suite of tools... Expression Web, Blend, Design,
and Media... you can use one or all of them to
make professional graphics and animations that play in the
The buzz I've read from press releases and attendee
blogs ranges from positive to glowing.
Sample Silverlight package...
A Silverlight package produced by the
Encoder is a set of 15 files, a video wmv file that
we're familiar with, and others that are mostly website code.
I haven't used the new Expression Suite tools to make any
graphic or animation yet, so I used clips from my current
library... making a 'header', a 'main feature', and a 'trailer'. The
encoder puts the 3 parts together into the wmv file.
The main feature uses some of my jellyfish footage
from the Monterey aquarium... the leader and trailer are from tweaks
of one of my video doodles. I did the tweaking and ran the Encoder on
my XP laptop, using MM2.1. You can install the Encoder on either
XP or Vista.
The complete Silverlight package of files needs to be
rolled out to a website, not just the wmv file. Here's the set of them for
Unfortunately my sample plays fine locally on my
laptop, but the online copies don't work... yet!! I'm still in the
learning phase. The link to the
file is what's supposed to kick off the Silverlight
player with the video playing in it. Maybe it'll be working for you by the time
you read this.
The best I can give you is a direct link to
the wmv file in the package... which plays as usual in your Windows Media
Player rather than in a Silverlight player nestled in your browser. At least
you'll see how the 3 parts work in the video.
There's a 30 second leader, a 110 second main feature
with a logo overlay, and a 30 second trailer. The leader and trailer
are standard aspect ratio, and the main feature is widescreen.
That's the concept, and the start of real-world
implementation... let's take a closer look at the Encoder.
Before getting into it, here are...
... a couple notes...
Sticky Note... Making Movies with
Vista! a six page article in the Spring 2007
Special Edition of MaximumPC, is on
bookstands now to May 29, 2007. Starting on page 78... the
article covers the movie making process from camcorder tape to
viewing on a standard video DVD.
Interactive features between still cameras
and Vista are things I'm just starting to explore, aided by a couple
Microsoft loaner cameras I just received.
- A smaller sleeker silver/black Canon PowerShot SD750 7.1 megapixel
- A larger black professional looking Nikon D40x 10.2 megapixel single-lens
reflex camera with interchangeable lens... the one with it is an AF-S
I'll be using the cameras for a few months. If you want any
specific info about either of them, or how they interface with Vista, send a
Our best current camera doesn't offer an option to
save as a RAW file. I'm looking forward to doing some comparisons of RAW to high
quality JPG files.
.... back to the main
the Expression Media
A full-featured 60 day trial version
of the Encoder was released this week. Here's the link... to a
small 6 MB installation msi file. All of the Expression installation
packages are pretty small.
Here's some info from the Encoder website...
The Encoder is an engine that produces the
online content... either as stand-alone wmv files, or in packages that work
in browsers with the Silverlight plug-in.
First Tests... Gather Some Videos to use as
Before I made the above sample, I did some checking
of the Encoder's capabilities.
I went to the Internet Archive and
downloaded a file of TV commercials from 1948.
The Archive offers 8 copies of the file, in
various formats and quality... see the chart with links at the
Note the cute logo warning "No Rights
Reserved"... a refreshing and opposite position than the usual "All
Rights Reserved". You're free to use them however you want.
The file has 23 commercials, which I
remember watching in those early days of TV. The
file's total duration is 9 min 18 seconds.
Checking the Downloaded
I played the 6 files by double-clicking each to see
what player opened, and how they looked and sounded. It was to do some
benchmarking before using them in the encoder.
1 - MP4 file - played in Quick Time player - small file size
and pixel dimensions... 160x120... stereo AAC audio
2 - MP4 file - played in Quick Time player - bigger file and
larger pixel dimensions... 320x240... stereo AAC audio
3 - AVI file... Divx encoded... played in WMP11...
320x240 with good video/audio sync...
4 - RM file... I don't have
a player for it
5 - MPEG-1 file... played in WMP... 352x240... MPEG-1
6 - RM file... I don't have
a player for it
7 - MP4 file - played in Quick Time player... 5
times the file size of #2... 320x240... stereo AAC audio
8 - MPEG-2 file... played in WMP... it was the largest file,
but the audio/video was pretty much out of sync, as is often the case with
MPEG-2 files... 368x480... MPEG-1 stereo audio
If I were heading to Movie Maker with any of these
files, I'd need to convert it first to something that would work
in MM2.1. Let's see if and how the encoder handles them.
Inputs to the
Expression Media Encoder supports the following file formats
***May require MPEG-2
I dragged and dropped the downloaded
files into the Encoder from my file manager utility. 6 of the 8 went,
but the 2 Real Media files didn't... as expected by the
User Guide info.
They each previewed well.
You save your work at any point... as
an Encoder 'Job'... File > Save
A 'job' file is a small text xml file.
It's simply a list of the input files with instructions about what to do to
each during the encoding. Edit it with notepad if you
The purpose of the encoder is to take the input files, select
the desired part of each item, add an optional leader and/or
trailer, add an image/logo overlay, and produce wmv files
with the selected profile.
Beyond that, it'll produce packages of files that align with
the Silverlight browser add-on... for enhanced browser-based cross-platform
Scrolling sideways in the bottom section of the Encoder shows
the default target filenames, which align with the input files.
When ready, press the Encode button and do other
things while it creates the files. All of them in this job finished and played
Closing... and What's Next?
The Encoder does what it's supposed to, and does it
The Expression suite, and the Silverlight plug-in give you more tools to
create and distribute your material. That still leaves the bigger, most
important parts for you to do... creating your content. With the viewing
experience bar moving upwards, it'll motivate you to raise the quality of your
I can see my video doodles evolving into a library of
personalized leaders and trailers... wrapped around the main
Movie Maker and Photo Story are still the tools to use to make
video content... the Encoder can do things like trim (using
one trim start and one trim end point), crop and resize the inputs, but it
can't do the more detailed editing, like splitting a clip and discarding an
It's another great tool for
your ever-growing video-editing toolbox.
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...