Hello all. In this episode, I’m going to introduce you to a new feature of Microsoft Expression Encoder 3 called the Presets panel and, though the concept of presets is not revolutionary, the power they wield over your Encoder experience certainly is, in terms of how quickly and accurately you can achieve the sort of encoding results that can take hours of experimentation to implement. Think of presets as a generous transfer of encoding and industry knowledge from our experts to you, in a neatly-wrapped package.
In general, presets are a preconfigured group of settings that you can apply to your data in one move. You specify the preset you want to apply and, in an instant, you’ve set new values for any number of parameters relating to your data. Presets work this way in Expression Encoder too, but, because Expression Encoder offers you such a wide range of adjustment options, it is advantageous to be able to hit the ideal ones all at once. That way, you can be fairly sure thatthat your target audience will be able to play and enjoy your media.
Think of it this way: presets reduce the amount of time that you spend experimenting. They do this either by providing ideal settings for you out of the box, or by providing an accurate groundwork of appropriate settings with which you can then experiment. The time savings are obvious for the former, but for the latter, they can be significant too, since if you have an ideal starting point for experimentation, you are less likely to randomize your efforts.
Inside a preset
Here is a typical preset in Expression Encoder. You get to this particular preset by clicking the Presets tab, expanding the Encoding for Devices category, and finally, expanding the H.264 Zune HD category.
You would use this preset if you wanted to encode a video using the H.264 codec and would like it optimized to play back on your Zune. As you can see, Expression Encoder has done the dirty work for you–no need to do much experimenting. The preset includes all the settings necessary to assure that your video plays back in high definition on your Zune.
To apply this preset, you just select the video that you want to apply the preset to and, in the Preset panel, click the Apply button.
As the preset tool tip menu states, the following will be true of your encoded video:
- It will be an MP4 file encoded with the H.264-Baseline codec, which is the standard video codec for files intended for playback on mobile, low-power devices.
- It will have a frame size of 480X272.
- It will have an average bitrate of 1500 Kbps and a peak bitrate of 3000 Kbps and will be encoded using VBR (Variable bitrate) Constrained. VBR allows for a range of complexity in encoding to faithfully reproduce data that requires a higher bit rate.
- It will have an audio channel encoded in stereo using the AAC audio codec, with a 192 Kbps bitrate. In contrast to the video, the audio will be encoded using CBR (Constant Bitrate) Single Pass. CBR encoding sets a limit on the variance of bitrates, thereby reducing peaks and valleys in the stream. In this case, the bitrate will maintain a nearly constant 192 Kbps.
Experiment with the settings
However, if you do want to experiment with your settings, you have a great starting point. For example, say you really do like this preset, except, that you would like to produce a smaller file. You decide that you don’t need the audio to be at 192 Kbps because most of it is just a narration, with simple music underneath. So, if you reduce the audio bitrate, you can also reduce the final file size. In this case, just choose the preset, then head over to the Encode panel. In the Encode panel, expand the Audio category and choose a lower bitrate from the Bitrate menu–128 Kbps is ideal for this situation.
That’s it. You’ve now retained your preset, but lowered the audio bitrate. Now you will have good video quality, and good audio quality, but a smaller final file once the encoding is finished and the audio and video streams are combined, or muxed. You are free to do this with any setting in any preset, just make sure the change you are making is beneficial.
If you find that you have created a new setting that you want to use again, you can save it as its own preset. To do this, first go to the Presets panel. Then, just click the Create new user preset button to open the Save Current Settings as Job Preset dialog box. Give your preset a name and click All to capture the settings.
If you want it to show up in the Presets panel, you need to save it to the User directory. By default, the User directory is located at “~\Expression\Expression Encoder\JobPresets “. Navigate to that folder and click OK. Now it will show up in the User tab of the Presets panel and be ready when you need it.
But there’s more
Of course, you are not limited to choosing HD playback on your Zune, nor are you limited to playback on a Zune. Here are all the presets that Expression Encoder offers for encoding your media for playback on devices:
As you can see, you have a choice of MP4 and WMV output formats, with several profiles for each format.
So, as you can see, Expression Encoder presets can save you a lot of time, while making sure that you create the best encoding and playback environment for your media and its intended method of delivery. Okay, that’s enough of me for now. Next time, we’ll delve deeper into creating your own presets from scratch. Happy encoding!