Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 FAQ

    General discussion

  • General

    Q. What is Microsoft Expression Encoder 4?
    A. Expression Encoder is a professional encoding tool that offers enhancement, encoding, and publishing of rich video experiences with Microsoft Silverlight. Convert and compress multiple video formats to SMPTE standard VC-1 video or H.264 for mobile, web, and HD video scenarios. For streamlined workflow, create branded templates with Expression Blend™, and encode on the desktop or server to guarantee a consistent viewing experience on Windows, Mac, and devices. See the Expression Encoder Overview page for more information.

    Q. Where can I get Encoder?
    There are two versions: a free version, simply called "Expression Encoder 4", and one that can be purchased with premium features called "Expression Encoder 4 Pro". You can obtain the free version here. You can purchase the Pro version here. Please note that there is also another flavor of Encoder 4 Pro called “Encoder 4 Pro without Codecs” distributed through OEMs as well as some MSDN subscriptions and Sparks packages, which includes all the Pro features except for the ones requiring licensed codecs. More information about the different SKUs is available in the Latest Expression Encoder 4 Information announcement above this forum.

    Q. What's the difference between the free version and the IIS Smooth Streaming version of Expression Encoder?
    The free version is a feature-filled VC-1 encoding application that supports the following: 

    • High performance multi-core encoding
    • Crop/scale/de-interlace operation
    • Multi-clip editing
    • A/B compare
    • Live encoding
    • Up to 10 minutes of screen capture
    • Smart encoding
    • Silverlight templates
    • Multi-channel audio import and export
    • Rich metadata support
    • Presets and custom plug-ins as well as
    • Full access to the .NET SDK for all above features
    • VC-1 Smooth Streaming (new for v4)

    The Pro version adds:

    • H.264 encoding (both MP4 and Smooth Streaming)
    • Live Smooth Streaming encoding
    • DRM
    • Native support of MP4/H.264, TS, M2TS, AVCHD, MPEG-2, ISM, ISMV, AAC and AC-3 files
    • Unlimited screen capture durations

    You can more information about the differences here.

    Q. In what languages is Expression Encoder available?
    A. Expression Encoder is available in those languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, and Korean.

    Q. I bought Encoder Pro and I have licensing problems. What should I do?
    A. First, make sure you entered the product key upon installation. Secondly, verify that you have correctly activated your copy via "Help->Activate Expression Encoder". If you still have problems, please contact Microsoft support line via the link "Contact a Support Professional by Email, Online, or Phone" on http://support.microsoft.com. You will not be charged for resolving a valid licensing issue.

    Q. Where is the command-line application?
    A. The command-line application is no longer supported. Instead, we suggest using our rich .NET SDK to quickly whip up custom applications for all your automated encoding needs. Note that we've also included a few simple applications, including a Power Shell encoding tool, to kick start your efforts.

    Q. Where is the SLS plug-in?
    A. Unfortunately, the SLS services are getting phased out and are not supported in Expression Encoder.

    Q. Many UI controls seem to be flickering between two positions after making some changes in the Encoder workspace. How do I fix this?
    A. This is a known .Net layout bug. At the present, the only solution would be to reset your workspace via the "Window" menu option and restart Encoder.

    Q. Is Expression Encoder supported on Windows Server 2003?
    A. Expression Encoder isn't officially supported on Server 2003 because the Windows Media SDK isn’t supported on that platform anymore. This means that some encoding options won't work. For example, the WMA Professional codec is not supported on Server 2003. However, this lack of support is probably the source of most issues with Server 2003 and you can resolve it by selecting a valid “WMA” audio profile on that platform.

    Q. How about Windows Server 2008?
    A. Server 2008 is fully supported as long as you install the "Desktop Experience" feature prior to using Expression Encoder.

    Q. Can Expression Encoder be run on a server / to batch run jobs?
    A. Yes, Expression Encoder includes an SDK to enable those scenarios. Please check the SDK section below for more information.

    Q. Where can I find more information about Expression Encoder?
    A. You can find more information about Expression Encoder either on the Community Site or the Expression Encoder blog.

    Expression Encoder SDK

    Q. Where can I download the Expression Encoder SDK? How about the SDK docs?
    A. The Expression Encoder 4 SDK and the documents are installed with the application. You can access the SDK from the Start menu by clicking All Programs and then clicking Microsoft Expression.

    Q. What's new in the Expression Encoder SDK?
    A. In version 4, we added screen capture to our SDK, as well as access to all the new functionality (DRM, Live Smooth Streaming, advanced H.264 encode settings, etc). See this blog entry for information on the new features of the Expression Encoder SDK.

    Q. Which programming languages are supported?
    A. We actively test with Managed C++, C# and VB.NET. But all .NET languages are supported.

    Q. Can I use the Encoder 4 SDK with Visual Studio 2008?
    A. Unfortunately, Encoder 4 is dependent on components like .Net4.0, which requires VS2010.



    Q. What formats are supported by Expression Encoder?
    A. The free version supports the following: WMA, MP3, WAV, WMV, MOV (if QuickTime is installed), DVR-MS/WTV (depending if OS supports it), MJPEG, most AVI and many other formats with the use of appropriate DirectShow decoders. The Pro version adds: MPEG-2, TS, MP4/H.264, AVCHD, M2TS, AAC and AC3 files.

    Q. I purchased the Pro version, but I still can't seem to use the codecs that are bundled. How come?
    A. If you haven't already, make sure you activated your copy of Encoder via the Help menu. If your copy is already activated but still not having access to the codecs, you probably have "Encoder Pro without Codecs", which does not include the royalty-based codecs. You can verify this by checking the About dialog in the Help menu.

    Q. Why can't I use QuickTime files in Expression Encoder with the latest version of QT?
    A. See this blog entry for a solution. Note that the newest version of QT seems to have fix this problem, so upgrading QT will most probably fix this issue. Please note that a reboot is necessary after installing the newest QuickTime to resolve this issue.

    Q. My file X of type Y isn't importing. What gives?
    A. Using media files on the Windows platform can be tricky, mainly because of the multitude of formats and codecs available. If not supported natively, you will have to find the right codecs for the files that you are trying to use. Expression Encoder comes with some built-in codecs such as: WMV/VC1, MPEG2, H.264 and AAC. Some other codecs are available from the OS, such as: AVI, MJPEG, DV, MP3, etc. But most other file formats will require the right 3rd party codec to be installed. In general, if you can playback the file in Windows Media Player, you should be able to import it into Expression Encoder.

    Q. Can I encode my WTV files?
    A. Expression Encoder supports encoding unencrypted WTV files on platforms that have the proper codecs to support them. Currently, only Windows Vista with Media Center TV Pack and Windows 7 have that capability.

    Q. My WTV file has multiple audio streams, but I can't find a way to switch the audio stream in Expression Encoder.
    A. For WTV files, the played stream is controlled via the default selected language in the Media Center Edition (MCE). Temporarily changing the stream in MCE prior to importing the file will effectively enable you to choose which stream will be used to playback and encode in Expression Encoder.

    Q. Expression Encoder is unstable and/or I get bad preview or encoded output with certain files. How do I fix this?
    A. We're sorry you're encountering problems with our application. This can be due a multitude of reasons, but one of these steps may help resolve this:

    • Make sure latest video drivers are installed, as well as the latest version of any other video application or codec.
    • Try disabling hardware accelerated decoding. To disable this feature, go to the Tools menu and click Options. In the Options dialog box, click Compatibility, and then click Allow hardware accelerated decode to deselect it.
    • Try turning off some or all 3rd party codecs. To do this, go to the Tools menu and click Options. In the Options dialog box, click Compatibility. Below the codec list, click Disable All or, in the codec list, click any codec in the list to deselect it.



    Q. Can I encode to format X? Do you support plug-in DShow encoders?
    A. The free version of Encoder only supports WMV and VC-1 Smooth Streaming encoding. Encoder Pro adds MP4/H.264, H.264 Smooth Streaming and Live Smooth Streaming. Encoder currently does not support plug-in DShow encoders.

    Q. Some of the metadata tags aren't getting imported and/or propagated to my encoded file. How can I fix this?
    A. The current Expression Encoder behavior is to transfer only standard metadata tags; all other metadata tags, such as custom tags, are ignored. The easiest way to circumvent this limitation is to use our .NET SDK to infuse the lost metadata by creating your own custom metadata tags. We are investigating better ways to deal with metadata in future releases.

    Q. Encoding HD or Smooth Streaming is slow. What can I do to speed things up?
    A. The best way to speed encode with Expression Encoder without compromising quality is to have more cores/processors available to the encoding process. Quad-core PC’s extremely efficient at encoding video, especially last generation PC’s (example: Intel i7), are. To an extent, more memory, a faster HDD and a more powerful GPU may help too, but the main bottleneck at this point is the CPU load in most cases. If you want to optimize speed over quality, select the Fastest preset, which significantly improves encoding speed at the expense of picture quality. To select this preset, click the Presets tab in Expression Encoder, expand the Encoding Quality category, and double-click Fastest.

    Q. What is "smart” or "intelligent” encoding?
    A. This is the process in which an encoder or editor would be able to directly copy the data from a source file to a destination file without decoding or recompressing the unedited frames. This operation can greatly speed up overall encoding time, but can only be done if specific conditions are met.

    Q. Does Expression Encoder support smart encoding?
    A. Expression Encoder currently supports smart encoding on some WMV, MP4 and Smooth Streaming sources. If available, the Video and/or Audio profile drop down will have a “Source" entry, which must be selected. Note that editing most of the settings will likely force a full re-encode (example: resize, crop, overlay, frame rate conversion, aspect ratio, bitrate, codec, etc). If smart encoding is not possible due to the source type or edited settings, Expression Encoder will utilize a normal encoding method.

    Q. I keep getting this unknown error with an error code  0x813A0002. What does that mean?
    A. Unfortunately, there are many possible reasons for that generic error to show up, but one more common than others is that the encoding pipeline ran out of memory. If that’s the case, maximizing the available free memory during the encode may help the encode succeed. Reducing the complexity of the timeline by encoding parts of it (and stitch them later via smart encoding) might also help.


    Silverlight Templates

    Q. What's new in the Expression Encoder 4 player templates?
    A. Randy Oakley, one of our developers, wrote a blog entry on this topic.

    Q. How do I use Blend to edit or tweak an Encoder 4 template?
    A. Randy also wrote this blog entry to answer this question.

    Q. How to update an Encoder 4 template to use an updated version of the Smooth Streaming Media Element (SSME)?
    A. This blog post from Randy has the answer.

    Q. Some of the Smooth Streaming templates have a graph with many colored lines, what does each line mean?
    A. Here is an explaination for each of them:
    Cyan line: Dropped frame rate.
    Yellow line: Measured CPU processor load
    Straight yellow line: CPU processor load limit. If CPU load exceeds this, the "CPU Heuristic" will lower Smooth Streaming bitrate available for download.
    Light green line: Estimated CPU processor load at next higher bitrate.
    Straight light green line: Estimated CPU processor load "UP" threshold. If the "estimated CPU processor load at next higher bitrate" line is below this value, the "CPU heuristic" will attempt to play the next higher bitrate.
    Fat purple line: The highest bitrate that the "CPU heuristic" will make available for download.


    IIS Smooth Streaming

    Q. What is IIS Smooth Streaming?
    A. IIS Smooth Streaming enables adaptive streaming of media to Silverlight clients over HTTP and provides a high-quality viewing experience that scales massively on content distribution networks. See the Smooth Streaming article on this website for more information. IIS Smooth Streaming is available only on the Expression Encoder IIS Smooth Streaming version.

    Q. Does Encoder support Live Smooth Streaming?
    A. Yes! Encoder 4 Pro includes Live Smooth Streaming functionality. You can find more information about the Live Smooth Streaming feature here. Please note that the minimum requirements to use Live Smooth Streaming (found here) are much greater than are general application requirements.

    Q. How do I setup network auto-recovery for Live Smooth Streaming?
    A. While Expression Encoder doesn't support this, Sam Zhang from the IIS Media team posted a workaround solution here.

    Q. How do I figure out what my PC can encode in Live Smooth Streaming?
    A. We have a performance tool available here, which will help you determine roughly how many streams your PC can reliably encode.

    Q. Is there a way to stream to iOS devices?
    A. While we don't directly support iOS playback with Silverlight, there is a way to support iOS playback of SmoothStreaming files using features from IIS Media to repackage the streams on the fly. Please see this blog post for more information.



    Q. Which device is supported in Live?
    A. Most webcams as well as some capture and tuner cards are supported. We keep a list of the hardware that we do constant testing with here. Note that we are actively working with hardware vendors to extend this list.

    Q. Does Expression Encoder support Black Magic Intensity Shuttle? I would like to capture an HD source from a laptop.
    A. The Black Magic Intensity Shuttle device has very specific hardware requirements to properly function, which most laptops don't have. For more information about hardware requirements for this device, please contact Black Magic support directly at support-usa@blackmagic-design.com.

    Q. Why am I getting a “Device in use” error when trying to cue my device?
    A. This is unfortunately a generic error that is returned from the device telling us that it’s not available in the mode we’re trying to use it in. If really not in use, the error typically points out that the device isn’t supported by Encoder with the drivers installed on this particular OS. Make sure to try to install the latest drivers from the manufacturer for your specific OS, as many instances of this error are related to using an old driver. If using the latest released driver still doesn’t fix it, please open a new thread with information about the device and your PC for us to investigate. We are constantly trying to contact device manufacturers for them to fix any issues with their current drivers, but knowing what devices are failing definitely helps us prioritizing the efforts.

    Q. Why am I losing frames when trying to archive a live source?
    A. While our Live mode could theorically be used as a capture engine, its real purpose is to be a live broadcasting pipeline that encodes in real-time. While there is a little bit of buffering, the Live pipeline main purpose is to stay live, and will drop frames if the encoding process can’t keep up in real-time.

    Q. If Live mode is a real-time encode engine, why is there some latency?
    A. While we thrive to have as little latency as possible, our encoding pipeline isn’t really meant to be used in no or low latency scenarios. Note that while a few seconds of latency are being generated by the encoding process, most of the end-to-end latency is due to multiple buffering at the broadcast, server and player layers. Reducing keyframe distance may help reducing the latency due to buffering, but will not eliminate it.

    Q. Does Live mode support archiving or streaming to MP4?
    A. While Encoder 4 Live mode supports encoding to H.264 Smooth Streaming, it does not output directly to a MP4. Please make sure to vote for this feature here for it to be considered to be added in a future release.


    Screen Capture

    Q. How do I use the Screen Capture application?
    A. Elliot, our technical writer, wrote a nice article on this here.

    Q. How can I remove the 10 minute limit?
    A. Expression Encoder v4 SP2 update removes the 10 minute limit. The upgrade can be found here.

    Q. What are XESC files and how do I use them?
    A. XESC is the screen capture proprietary file format. In v4, we made the codec available as a DShow codec, which means that any application supporting DShow will be able to import the XESC files. Furthermore, the codec is available here for general distribution (coming soon).

    Q. Why is my screen capture looking bad in the screen capture preview (aliasing artifacts)?
    A. The playback using expression encoder screen capture will show aliasing artifacts sometimes due to resizing.  Using Expression Encoder or Windows Media Player will show the real quality of the recording.

    Q. I have a Pro SKU of Encoder, but the 10 minute limit still kicks in.
    A. There is a known issue on some PCs when using the original v4 RTM English version (4.0.1639.0) which got fixed. Please see the Latest Expression Encoder 4 Information announcement above this forum for more information on the matter.

    Q. When trying to screen capture, my recoding area gets all white. What can I do to fix it?
    A. Some current display drivers seem to have a bug rendering our flashing boundary. Until the drivers are fixed, simply disable the flashing boundary by selecting “Settings” (gear button), “Others” and uncheck “Show flashing boundary”. Doing so should resolve this problem.

    Q. Why can't I do screen capture in full screen mode?
    A. The current implementation requires that the dimensions be divisible by 4, so resolutions like 1680x1050 or
    1680x945 will fail. We are working on a solution for this in our next version, but in the meantime, either try to capture in windowed mode or change your resolution to something that's divisible by 4. Also note that for playback on XP, some video drivers require the XESC files to have dimensions divisible by 16.


    General Support

    Q. I don’t see feature X anywhere. Where can I suggest it?
    A. We’ve added a way for our users to suggest new features as well as voting for them here. The voting will be used to prioritize our features for future versions.

    Q. How do I get technical support for my purchased version of Expression Encoder?
    A. Visit Microsoft Help.

    Q. Is customer support offered with the free version of Expression Encoder?
    A. While formal support is not offered for the free product, you can find help on the Expression Community site and the Encoder forum.

    Q. Why are my XESC files not playing in WMP on Vista 64-bit or Windows Server 2008?
    A. There was an issue with our original release of Encoder v4 which got fixed. Please find more information in the Latest Expression Encoder 4 Information announcement above this forum.
    Q. What's new in Expression Encoder?
    A. This forum entry describes the new features.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 1:33 AM