It's an evolulution of the work we did for HD DVD/Blu-ray but with some further enhancements since then. Smooth Streaming can use a longer Group of Pictures (distance between keyframes) than Blu-ray, which offers some encoding advantage. But we could get roughly the same quality in a Blu-ray encode if needed at the same bitrate using the same new techiques. There's nothing about this stream that would be harder to decode than a Blu-ray stream; it's actually a lot lighter-weight given its much lower bitrate.
We've got a number of vendors demonstrating Smooth Streaming encoder at the show right now. So support will be widely available this year.
We'd be happy to see cloud encoding services using Smooth Streaming, of course. I'm not aware of anyone announcing that yet, but I think we're got a very compelling technology for cloud-based delivery among others. Being http based makes things much easier in that market.
Alas, the link to Alex's blog in fact explains all of this .
You could say that Smooth Streaming is an evolution of the classic "Intelligent Streaming" MBR with some significant changes
The the file format (fragmented MPEG-4) allows us to make each GOP of video a simple byterange in the file, which ASF didn't allow.
We make sure that there are clean switching points between each bitrate, so the last frame of a GOP and the first frame of the next GOP can be decoded one after the other. This means we never have to run two decoders, or pause playback when switching streams.
The wire format has each GOP as its own little file with its own unique http request. This makes proxies and caching in general much easier. And as http, there aren't any firewall issues.
The heuristics that control stream switching are delivered in managed code as part of the player, and so can be updated daily if desired, and tuned for particular content and audiences. Intelligent Streaming was hard-coded into WMP. The bitrate switching implementation in WMP was one of the hardest things to get right, and you only had a chance every few years.
We also got the multilingual captioning and audio language thing nailed down a lot cleaner than with ASF.
Great suggestions. I'll pass them on to the Expression Encoder team.
As for exporting and importing script and marker streams, have you experimented with the XML import/export features inside EE? Did that work for you at all? I've found it pretty easy to manipuate those with Excel.
I very commonly run multiple instances of EEv2 SP1 without any issues. Can you provide any more details on what you're trying and what errors you're getting?
I haven't done consulting work outside of Microsoft since I joined, but I'll continue to work with Silverlight partners, compression tool vendors, etcetera on implementations. It's like the best parts of consulting, without having to charge anyone.