This is the third of a series of three reviews that will cover what is contained in the Microsoft Expression Studio 2 Collection. Expression Studio is the latest version of Microsoft's development design set. In Expression Studio 2 there are five programs that are geared to Web and application developers and designers. The products include Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design, Expression Media, and Expression Encoder. The goal is define what each product does and provide information of what it can do for you. Here I will look at Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 & Microsoft Expression Media 2.
To run Expression Studio 2, on Windows you need an 1GHz or faster processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista; on Mac, PowerPC or multi-core Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.11 – 10.5.4 (Leopard); in either case, 1GB RAM, 1024×768 display (1280×800 recommended) with 24-bit video card, 2GB hard drive space and DVD-ROM drive.
Expression Encoder is a program that can be used to encode a variety of video file formats, stream live from Web cams and camcorders, make simple edits to video files, enhance your media, and publish rich media experiences with Microsoft Silverlight.
It provides the ability to encode a wide variety of file-based media content. It will handle QuickTime, AVI, and MPEG files as well as many more. You can produce live Webcasts with multiple live and file-based sources. These can be mixed and switched in real-time for streaming and simultaneous archive. You can even use presets to process batch files from the command line to handle repetitive encoding tasks.
So what is new with Expression Encoder 2?
• Cuts Editing will let you make simple edits to clips directly. You can cut out setup noise, mistakes, or unwanted surprises.
• New VC-1 Codec will let you get better image quality with smaller file size all at a faster rate with the latest implementation of the VC-1 codec.
• Intelligent Encoding now understands when you import existing content, make edits and add fades and will identify the changes to the source file and only re-encode the modified sections.
• Multi-core/Multiprocessor encoding is supported in the new VC-1 codec.
• Silverlight Templates will let you get published faster. With more than a dozen built-in media player templates that you can use to take your Silverlight experience to the Web.
• Animated Overlays allows you to add animated watermarks to your videos. Import a XAML animation, and Encoder will embed the animation into the finished media.
• Object Model will let you access our encoding engine from other applications or processes. Use job presets to save multiple settings in an encoding job and apply these settings as a batch process via the Object Model or the command line.
• High Quality Live gives you high quality VC-1 and H.264 for devices encoded video. This will offer you greater control and higher quality video abilities.
Expression Media is a product that will allow you to catalog, organize, modify and distribute digital media file wherever they are stored. It has support for more than 100 media file formats, it makes it easy to manage all of your assets whether they are on shared folders, CD/DVDs, or just on your hard drive.
It gives you the ability to do simple image editing such as cropping, rotating, or color balance, you can add metadata, and store and add up to 128,000 files per catalog. You can even geo-tag your images to actual locations anywhere on Earth using Virtual Earth GPS mapping.
So what is new with Expression Media 2?
• Catalog Media Visually up to 128,000 files per catalog. You can store your files anywhere — shared folders, CD/DVDs, hard drives — and use integrated search tools to find them.
• Offline Workflow will let you see your assets even when they are offline.
• Organize quickly using the drag-and-drop organizer to quickly import and organize large volumes of digital media. You can even use the automatic synchronization and folder watching to simplify your tasks.
• Browse and Play over 100 different formats. You can browse them from five different views.
• Review, Compare, and Edit up to six different files at a time. Side-by-side or full screen, you can crop, adjust color, and more.
• Metadata can be imported, exported, added manually, and edited. This will give you full control over how you can search for specific items.
• Print, Repurpose, and Convert your content. You can print contact sheets or batch convert your assets, or in other ways repurpose your content.
• Present and Share by publishing and distributing media via sideshows, video, Web galleries and more.
• Archive and Backup easily to CD, DVD, or any mountable volume.
• Automate Tasks by using batch automation to streamline your workflow. Nearly every feature can be batched and by using the scripting capabilities, you can even integrate it with third-party applications and tools.
I liked Expression Encoder and the way that it was very easy to import and work with my video files. What you do is create a "Job" and then work within that job. There is a wide variety of destination codecs for both audio and video that target a wide variety of bandwidths. This is important when you are trying to target to a specific platform.
The fact that it has the latest VC-1 implementation assures that you will get better video quality and your turnaround times will be much faster, especially with the multi-core/multiprocessor support.
Out of all the products within the Expression Studio 2, it is the Expression Media 2 that sticks out. The interface is out of whack with the rest of the package. It still has that iView Media Pro interface and just doesn't look right when compared to the rest of the suite, as well as being clumsier to work with than it should be.
That said, I do think that it is not a deal breaker in the sense that it does get the job accomplished and that it does its job very well. The ability to add files and folders is easy to do, and its ability to scroll through files is fast. I also like the folder monitoring capability as well.
As with Web 2, I found Expression Encoder and Expression Media both easy to use and work with. I think that the studio route is the way to go especially if you are into Web and application development using Microsoft products. I can easily recommend Microsoft Expression Encoder and Expression Media 2.