May 1st is a happy day for me! I went over to www.microsoft.com/expression, and was delighted to find that the Expression Studio 2 is now shipping, including the final version of Expression Encoder 2. There's a 30-day trial available for download. Boxed copies of Studio are available today at CompUSA and Office Max, with other retailers coming. There will also be the Microsoft Expression Professional Subscription for $999/year (academic and volume pricing coming soon), which includes Expression Studio along with Visual Studio, Office, Visio, XP, Vista, Virtual PC, and Parallels Desktop (to run all of the above on Mac).
As I've said before, I feel that Expression Encoder 2 is the best compression tool at fulfilling the needs of its market since Terran Interactive's Media Cleaner Pro 3.1 (so long ago I can't even find anything on the web about it!). Here are some of my favorite things about it from my obsessive compression nerd's perspective.
- First desktop priced VC-1 Encoder SDK based product ($199).
- And the VC-1 implementation gives you great quality by default, and gives you an advanced mode that accesses the useful features, while handling the more esoteric ones behind the scenes. For example, the rule for WMV PowerToy was use Static Motion Vector Cost if using P-frame DQuant, otherwise use Dynamic. So Expression Encoder 2 just has a DQuant setting, and uses the right Motion Vector Cost based on that.
- High quality scaling and deinterlacing modes
- WMA Pro support, targeting Silverlight 2's support for that. So danceable music at 48 Kbps.
- "Smart by default" - you can use the same preset and feed it a PAL 16:9 interlaced file and a NTSC 4:3 progressive file, and it'll do the right thing without having to do a single click: you'd get a 640x360 deinterlaced 25p file and a 640x480 29.97 file.
- Which means you don't have a huge combination of settings to deal with all the video formats. Instead, the presets are scenario based; you just need one "1 Mbps streaming" option that'll handle all the video file variants.
- Great multi-clip templates, so you can make a video gallery, with each clip having its own optional thumbnail-based chapter navigation (hmm, that deserves a nice demo).
- Easy creation of thumbnail-based chapter navigation!
- Captioning and metadata support, including ISAN.
- Available soon, an integrated publishing module to go straight to Silverlight Streaming.
- Support for a wide variety of source formats, including QuickTime, AVI, Windows Media, VOB (DVD), many other flavors of MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and AVISynth.
- Automation available via both command-line and a .NET object model.
- Simple editing features, like in/out points, preroll/postroll videos, and image and animated overlays.
- GPU acceleration for previews
- A great A/B compare feature, enabling short sections of the file to be encoded with a variety of compression settings, and then compared (playing in real time! zoomed in!, with an A/B split screen slider!) to both the source and each other.
- An unbelievably cool live encoding module, which supports multiple cameras with live switching, streaming from files, including looping, live metadata insertion, and big quality improvements from lookahead rate control and dynamic complexity. I owe you a blog post describing that as well.
So, in summary, I guess I'd say I like it.
I've had a some blog posts highlighting different projects done with Expression Encoder 2 which you can follow along with.
Hands on with high-touch encoding: Streaming Media All-Stars Redo
Encoding screen recordings for Silverlight in VC-1 with Expression Encoder 2
"What Happens in Vegas" - 720p Movie trailer at 2 Mbps via Silverlight Streaming
I've got other information about Expression Encoder and how it fits into Silverlight at
My NAB Presentations
Silverlight Media technologies overview in Expression newsletter
And, of course I'll be covering Expression Encoder 2 as one of the products we cover in my
My June 23-27th class at Stanford