Hello. I’m Elliot and this is my first official post on Expression IQ (xIQ). I am the principal writer for Expression Encoder and I’m quite excited about this new release. In this space, over the coming months, I will explore in depth some of the new and enhanced features of Expression Encoder, as well as write some conceptual topics to help those new to the technology or the product to become acquainted with the great, high quality encoding experience that is Expression Encoder. Over time, I would also like to directly address issues and comments that you have about the documentation and using the product.
On initial thing to clarify is that Expression Encoder 3 actually comes in two versions:
- Expression Encoder 3 with IIS Smooth Streaming. This is the full version, which contains full access to all the features and codecs necessary for a wide range of streaming and encoding scenarios. This version is available as part of Expression Studio 3 or as a standalone download.
- Expression Encoder without IIS Smooth Streaming, which is referred to as just Expression Encoder 3. This version contains nearly all of the features in the full version, minus some codecs and Smooth Streaming. This version is free, non-expiring, and is exclusively available for download.
Below is a comprehensive list of the features in Expression Encoder 3 with IIS Smooth Streaming that are not included in Expression Encoder without IIS Smooth Streaming:
- Encoding using H.264 codecs.
- MP4/H.264 decoder.
- TS (Transport Stream)/MPEG2/AC3 decoder.
- Smooth Streaming.
- Unlimited screen capture duration. In the Expression Encoder without Smooth Streaming version, you are limited to screen capture durations of 10 minutes.
What is IIS Smooth Streaming?
Smooth Streaming is the Microsoft implementation of adaptive streaming technology, which enables a video to be encoded in varying bit rates and, on playback, to stream in “chunks.” The Microsoft Silverlight playback client determines the amount of bandwidth available for the content chunk and, depending on availability, plays back only the stream encoded in the bit rate that is best suited for the viewer’s bandwidth availability. In essence, Smooth Streaming enables you to encode high quality video with the confidence that most viewers using a Silverlight client will be able to play back your video. For some great, comprehensive information on Smooth Streaming, see Alex Zambelli’s Smooth Streaming FAQ.
Your Silverlight tool
Expression Encoder is your primary tool for preparing your media for the Silverlight experience. Silverlight is a cross-platform technology that supports a true subset of the XML-based XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) and enables next generation, rich web client experiences, and delivers a lightweight client that supports vector graphics, 2D animation, rich audio/video integration, and a rich .NET Framework programming model. Using the included templates in Expression Encoder, you can very quickly transform your video into a sleek, Silverlight package, ready for streaming. In fact, some of the new and enhanced tools in Expression Encoder greatly facilitate that exact workflow–getting your video quickly assembled using the multiple clips and overlay features, then getting your encoding parameters quickly applied by using one of the many included presets, and finally getting it quickly wrapped in a Silverlight package and published to your site, directly from the program. Of course, along the way, you can take the opportunity to experiment with different encoding methods, you can trim and cut your clips, and you can add captions and script commands.
Three new features
For this post, I’ll introduce three features that I will concentrate on in upcoming posts: applying and creating presets, getting familiar and comfortable with using the multiple clips feature, and recording your on-screen actions using Screen Capture.
The presets feature is an exciting new addition to the Encoder lineup. Essentially, this feature enables you to apply a number of encoding settings to your media all at once. You can access the Presets panel either by clicking the Presets tab. If the tab is not visible, then, on the Window menu, click Presets to select it.
The Presets tab displays a list of preset categories that you must expand to see the presets themselves. Each of the presets are optimized for a particular playback scenario, for instance, encoding for Silverlight using the H.264 codec for Broadband playback at a constant bit rate. Encoder includes over 60 presets with settings designed to create the highest-quality encodings. And, if none of the included presets suffice, you can simply create your own.
Settings for the “VC-1 HD 1080 VBR” preset
As you can see in the image above, presets auto-fill all the key parameters necessary to create the output of your choice. To see the parameters of any preset, just hover the cursor over the preset whose parameters you want to view. My next blog post will go into detail about the presets, how to apply them, and how to create your own.
Work with multiple clips
Another great addition to the Expression Encoder feature set is the ability to assemble multiple clips on the Timeline. Now, if you want to combine several clips into a single presentation using simple cuts, you don’t need to open up that nonlinear editor. Once you’ve imported a “master” clip and displayed it, you can now import any number of source media clips and add them to your master clip. This is facilitated through the Clips panel. To see the clips panel, either click the Clips tab, or if it’s not visible, go to the Window menu and click Clips to select it.
Multiple clips (top left) arranged in the Clips panel (top right) and displayed on the Timeline (bottom).
The Clips panel is your central location for bringing in and organizing multiple audio and video clips. Look for a blog post in the near future that will show you how to use the Clips panel like a pro.
Finally, there’s Expression Encoder’s new Screen Capture feature. This is a standalone tool that is a full-functioning screen capture utility, allowing you to capture all of your screen movements while simultaneously recording audio and video. You can launch it either from Expression Encoder by clicking the Screen Capture button, or you can click the Start menu, then click All Programs, and click Microsoft Expression. From there, just click Expression Encoder 3 Screen Capture.
The Screen Capture starting point.
The Screen Capture tool works very well for creating on-screen tutorials, which makes this a great tool for instructional design as well as for any situation where you need a high-quality, motion screen capture. And, of course, once you finish the capture, you can bring the file into Expression Encoder and, like any media file that you import, you can now add presets or customize it to achieve optimal encoding and wrapping in an interactive Silverlight environment. For creating a rich, quality instructional package for web streaming, you only need to have Expression Encoder 3. Watch for a future post that will instruct you on staging and obtaining top-notch screen captures.
Defining an area for capture.
That’s it for now. Welcome to xIQ, and we’ll see you next time.