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Q&A With Microsoft's Ben Waggoner

I had to encode with command line – when can we expect to see application support?
Here are some workarounds you can use with the latest Windows Media format SDK:
- Via registry key. A colleague of mine, Alex Zambelli, has built a free tool called WMV PowerToy which provides a nice GUI with highly integrated help to set these parameters. This approach works fine, with the main caveat being that you have to change the keys globally on the system any time you want to make a modification.
- Using command-line. Alex has also made an updated version of the WMCmd.vbs to allow scripting. This is available at the same URL above.
- Through the DirectX Media Object (DMO). While most compression tools don’t directly access the DMO to encode, this approach enables access to all the registry key options.

These are really only interim solutions, with little to no official support from Microsoft. But the good news is the Pro, Enterprise, and Live versions of our VC-1 SDK include full API support for advanced parameters, and very soon we’ll start to see full user interface integration as partner products start rolling out support later this year.

What is Microsoft Silverlight and how does it relate to the new codec?
Silverlight is our new solution for cross-browser, cross-platform media experiences and rich interactive applications. It’s basically a lightweight browser plug-in, about 2MB in size, and it’s great for enabling all types of next-generation media experiences inside a browser, including overlays, interactivity, animation, effects, etc., as well as rich interactive experiences beyond video. However, from the streaming media perspective, the critical thing is how Silverlight marries the advanced capabilities of VC-1 with rich interactive experiences. It also provides content owners with the much requested option to deliver premium content using our industry leading digital rights management technologies.

From the codec perspective, Silverlight is delightfully simple. Its native A/V capabilities are chiefly Windows Media-based supporting WMV 9/VC-1, WMV 7 and 8 for video, and WMA and MP3 for audio. For streaming support, it uses Windows Media Services in Windows 2003 Server, and really starts to "sing" with the improvements coming in our new Windows Server, code-named "Longhorn". Basic Intelligent streaming support (multiple bit rates in a single file, with the correct version being streamed to the client) is included as well.

VC-1 is a great video codec for this environment, since it was engineered to provide both efficient video encoding and very performant decoding. For example we’re able to get a 720p HD playback inside Safari and Firefox on a MacBook Pro today, and the same goes for IE and Firefox on Windows – all without any hardware acceleration. Additionally, multi-core PC owners will reap benefits over other video offerings in the market thanks to Silverlight’s unique optimization.

Worth noting is the huge amount of content out there that is already 100% Silverlight compatible—even existing URLs to VC-1 streaming assets are 100% Silverlight compatible and just waiting for some new XML code to spruce up their presentation.

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