Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Freebie - There's Something To Be Said For Compatibility

I'm sure at some point during your travels of the interwebs, you've come across a video (pr0n related, no doubt) that just wouldn't play on your system. Blame codecs - there's too damn many of them out there to keep up. There's Xvid, DivX, HuffYUV, and those are just some of the more popular among the internets 1337. Wouldn't it be nice to create a video that you knew would work on any PC running Windows? Sure would, and the solution is at hand:

Now, I'm no Microsoft fanboy - I'm a firm believer in the fact that Bill Gates and Google are in a race to take over the world. But I have to admit that using the Windows platform - while frustrating at times - does offer some convenience. And to that end, we have the Windows Media Encoder. This little guy is designed to take a wide variety of video files, or live capture, and transcode the file into the Windows Media Video (WMV) format. This will ensure compatibility with any PC running a modern copy of Windows, as WMV files are natively supported in Media Player.

Of course, MS is quick to tout numerous other supposed "benefits" of the WMV format, but honestly, these are no different than what any other codec creator will tell you. Nonetheless, with this program you do get a full featured interface for transcoding your files over to WMV. There are even numerous preset options for bitrates and other variables, broken up into categories based on what you plan on doing with the video (saving it to your hard drive, internet streaming, etc.). This is nice for all the noobs out there who haven't had that much experience working with video files.

Unfortunately, there are no provisions for editing video files, so you'll need to do that elsewhere. But that's not really the point of this tool. After all, if you wanted to edit and save a video in the WMV format initially, you could just use Movie Maker, which ships with every copy of XP. Instead, this tool is best for converting older files over to ensure compatibility.

Do I suggest that you convert your entire video library to WMV? Hell no. Unless you're streaming videos to an Xbox 360 or something, there's just no point. But when you need to make sure that a video will play on another machine, this is a nice way to do it.

The Windows Media Encoder homepage can be found here, and the download is right here (there's an alternate version for those of you on 64-bit OSs right here). Also, for you Vista guys, MS has noted some possible compatibility issues, so be sure to check out this Hotfix. Man, if Microsoft can't build apps for Vista, what chance to third parties have...

And for those of you wondering about a tool for audio files and the WMA format, don't bother. Despite their best efforts, Microsoft has yet to derail the MP3 train, so that's your best bet. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


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