The Microsoft Windows Media Family - Introduction

The Microsoft Windows Media™ Family

 

 

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------------- ------------- When it comes to select a tool to broadcast radio or TV on Internet, we have to start with the most popular player Windows Media and a series of free tools available at Microsoft's website (Microsoft is the owner of Windows Media Family), using them wisely you are sure that your station can reach a wider audience, without new downloads of players, codecs, clients, etc into the listener's computer. Windows Media Encoder produces files that are fully compatible with Windows Media Player and are also recognized by almost every player and media client available.

An extra, and maybe de coolest adventage of using Windows Media Encoder to produce your station, is that you can, at the same time, broadcast video, it could be live or on demand, in other words, with Windows Media Encoder you can have your very own Internet TV channel or broadcast fixed images, live webcam images or recorded videos along with your radio station.

It's relatively easy to produce a radio station or a tv channel with Windows Media Encoder, you only need twenty minutes or less to setup your webcast, it depends of your goal and, of course, your available hardware and software.

The Windows Media Family broadcasting guide is going to be divided in several chapters; since it is a very extense theme, we need to add pictures, screenshots and examples about each step, in fact, we are going to setup two webcast using Windows Media Encoder:

The fist one is going to be a radio station broadcasting at 48kbps, more than enough to produce a decent sound quality stream without consuming a lot of resources.

The Second one, an internet Televison channel: if we are going to broadcast a live signal, we will need a TV card, or a webcam, we can also stream videos; in that case, our TV channel can be live or on demand, it depends on you.

This guide is composed by an introduction and five chapters

The introduction will explain several basic concepts along with a description of all the tools included in the Windows Media Family (we call them family, Microsoft call them: Microsoft Media 9 Series)

Let's begin:

1. Introduction:

1.1 DEFINITIONS

Codecs: Are the algorithms used by media servers and clients to compress / decompress the media files. Uncompressed audio and video content can consume a lot of bandwidth when streaming or create large files. By compressing the content, it can be broadcast over common Internet bandwidths or saved to a file of a reasonable size.

Constant Bit Rate encoding (CBR): CBR encoding is designed to work most effectively in a streaming scenario.(our case). With CBR encoding, the bit rate remains fairly constant and close to the target bit rate over the course of the stream, within a small window of time set by the buffer size.

With CBR encoding, you specify the bit rate that you want to maintain and then set the size of the buffer.

The size of the buffer determines the amount of initial delay when the content is played, but using CBR encoding ensures that the content is streamed smoothly, assuming that the bit rate is compatible with the client connection speed.

Variable Bit Rate encoding (VBR): Use VBR encoding when you plan to distribute the content for downloading and playing either locally or on a device that has a constant reading speed, such as a CD or DVD player.

Encoding mode options: You have three VBR encoding options: quality-based VBR (one-pass), bit rate-based (two-pass), and peak bit rate-based VBR (two-pass). Not all codecs support two-pass CBR encoding or VBR encoding.

Quality based - One pass encoding: the content passes through the encoder once, and compression is applied as the content is encountered. You only need to specify a desired quality level (from 0 to 100). Then, during encoding, the bit rate fluctuates according to the complexity of the stream—a higher bit rate is used for intense detail or high motion, and a lower bit rate is used for simpler content. The advantage of quality-based VBR encoding is that quality remains consistent across all streams for which you specify the same quality setting. The disadvantage is that you cannot predict the file size or bandwidth requirements of the encoded content before encoding; so is not good idea if your allowed bandwidth is very limited or you plan to broadcast video, unless of course, your audience is limited to few conecctions at a time

Bit rate based VBR - Two pass encoding: the content is analyzed during the first pass, and then encoded in the second pass based on the data gathered in the first pass. At any point, the bit rate may exceed the average bit rate but the overall bit rate does not exceed the average bit rate. Two-pass encoding can result in better quality content because the encoder takes its time to find the optimal combination of bit rate, frame rate, buffer size, and image quality based on the scene composition. However, two-pass encoding takes longer because the encoder goes through all of the content twice. Two-pass encoding can't be used when live events are broadcasted. The advantage of bit rate-based VBR encoding is that the compressed stream will achieve the highest possible quality level while staying within a predictable average bandwidth

Peak bit rate-based VBR - Two pass encoding: is similar to the bit rate-based mode, except that you also specify the peak bit rate. The encoder determines the image quality that can be achieved without exceeding the peak bit rate.

1.2 Microsoft Windows Media Encoder and Player Tools and utilities

Microsoft® Windows Media® Encoder

Is a powerful production tool for converting both live and pre recorded audio and video into Windows Media files or streams.

A Windows Media server meters the delivery of packets according to feedback information it receives while sending a stream to a player. When a player receives packets in this way, the presentation is much more likely to be smooth. Because bandwidth use is controlled, more users can connect concurrently to your site and receive streams that are free of interruptions.

Windows Media Encoding Script

Microsoft® Windows Media® Encoding Script is a command-line tool you can use to convert both live and prerecorded audio and video into Windows Media files or streams Using Windows Media Encoding Script, you can:

  • Convert files with .wma, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .wav, .mpg, .mp3, .bmp, and .jpg file name extensions.
  • Capture a live event from devices.
  • Broadcast the encoded files or live event.
  • Customize the encoding session, including specifying a profile, encoding specific portions of a file, and clipping and resizing the source video.

Windows Media File Editor

Microsoft® Windows Media® File Editor is a tool that enables you to open and edit a Windows Media file with a .wmv, .wma, or .asf file name extension. For example, you can trim the start and end points of a file, and add attributes, markers, and script commands. You can also import and export header files if you want to save your edits or reuse edits you previously made. You can also add general information about your content, such as the title, description, and author. During playback, the information can be displayed in Windows Media Player and any other players based on the Windows Media Format SDK.

Windows Media Stream Editor

Using Microsoft® Windows Media® Stream Editor, you can split or combine streams in existing Windows Media files to create one or more audiences in new output files. An audience refers to the stream or set of streams in a file that represent the content that is played simultaneously. Typically, an audio stream and a video stream comprise an audience. The following are examples of tasks you can accomplish by using Windows Media Stream Editor:

  • Combine streams from multiple source files
  • Split streams in a file into separate files
  • Add language support to a file

Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player is an all-in-one multimedia tool, you can use it to find and play digital media files that are on your computer, play CDs and DVDs, and play digital media streams from the Internet. In addition, you can rip music from audio CDs, burn CDs of your favorite music, sync digital media files to portable devices, and find and purchase digital media content on the Internet through online stores, Windows Media Player is included by default with all Windows versions. Microsoft Media Player is installed in almost all computers and mobile devices powered by Windows.

Windows Media Player provides a full range of options with a easy to use and intuitive interface, it is also compatible not only with Microsoft produced codecs but with third party codecs even with several produced by Windows Media Player competitors.

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