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The Expression Encoder team has announced the plans for SP1 of their product (announced, not released).  You can read all the details on their team blog for more information, but two things caught my attention that are probably of most interest: H.264 encoding and a Silverlight 2 template in the box.

The H.264/AAC encoding support is a result of customer feedback (as well as preparing for future Silverlight support).  While the profiles in this service pack will be limited and may not meet the needs of everyone immediately, it is a great step and will probably meet the needs of most.

The templates produced by Encoder 2 right now have been Silverlight 1.0 templates.  This has been a sore spot for some wanting to move to Silverlight 2 and remove themselves from all the javascript that the templates have.  There have been a lot of solutions popping up (shameless plug: SL2VideoPlayer on Codeplex), but people still want the template in the box (note: you can do this with your SL2 players today as well).  The team announced they will be providing SL2 templates based on a core control called MediaPlayer which supports a wide range of features.  As you could imagine the template will support basic and advanced playback capabilities and will be able to be styled as well as advanced property manipulation in Expression Blend.  This one feature caught my eye and makes me happy:

Byte-range seeking: When a user clicks forward on the timeline into a non-downloaded region, the player will cancel the current progressive download and start a new one from the point that has been seeked to.

Sweet.  I can’t wait.  The SP1 will happen by the end of the year and will be a free upgrade to existing Encoder 2 customers.

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So you want H.264 support in Silverlight?  So do we.  In fact we will be showing a preview of H.264 and AAC support in Silverlight at the International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) this week in Amsterdam.  Scott Guthrie comments on this saying:

At IBC 2008 we will be demonstrating a technology preview of H.264 video and Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) audio playback support in Silverlight, and H.264 authoring using Microsoft Expression Encoder and Windows Server 2008 for delivery. Until now, Silverlight has supported the SMPTE VC-1 and Windows Media formats, as well as MP3 for audio, enabling customers to take advantage of broad support across the Windows Media ecosystem, including third-party tools, service providers and content delivery networks.

We’ve always wanted Silverlight to support a variety of formats, so today we’re announcing that H.264 and AAC support will be available in a future version of Silverlight, which will offer content owners greater flexibility and choice to deliver video and audio.”

One thing that I didn’t know was that Microsoft has been an active member in the standardization of H.264.  Microsoft’s Gary Sullivan was the chairman of the Joint Video Team (JVT) which developed the H.264 standard.

This is exciting news for the future of Silverlight.  I hope that this is good news to the implementers of media and Silverlight.  You can find out more information about the IBC here and a full Q&A with ScottGu here which also gives some great information about the results of viewing at NBCOlympics.com and where other uses of Windows Media Server were implemented (CCTV for example).

UPDATE: To clarify, this support will be in a future version of Silverlight.

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