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The Expression Encoder 2 is one of those modern looking software apps with an inviting look and feel to the main working window. It seems to say “… there can’t be too much to learning and using it…”. But under that clean exterior are enough features, options and settings to keep the more serious user busy for days, weeks, months or more. These are the kinds of software apps I thoroughly enjoy playing with.
The downloaded 30 day trial version is fully functional with all features. The only thing that happens when the free period ends is that some features stop working. If you didn’t use them during the trial period, you might never what you're missing. I’ll use this article to tell you what they are to either plan on getting along without them or springing for the full version. You won't go wrong either way.
This Microsoft website includes a list of features that stop working as the trial version turns into the Express.
Here are my suggestions about the 3 main features involved.
Profiles: the quality settings you choose from when rendering a new file
The choice of profiles becomes very restricted, with only a handful of choices appropriate for online viewing [Figure 1]. The choices don’t include ones of sufficiently high quality to use as inputs for video editing projects, such as those you want when converting VOB files from a DVD to comparable quality input files for Movie Maker.
If you’re using this tool for file conversions, get the full version of the Expression Encoder 2 or continue using other conversion utilities. The Encoder 2 Express app is great for making files for online distribution.
Live Encoding Mode: [Figure 2] Broadcast directly to your viewers
This option changes the main working to a totally different view, a studio-like control panel where you can select and mix video files on your hard drives with live recording being captured and streamed to the world of viewers. It’s a tool for professionals more than do-it-yourself video producers who use internet services to broadcast uploaded files. If you don't think about using it during the trial, you’ll probably not miss it in the long run.
A/B Compare: See before and after comparisons of visual quality, updated dynamically
It’s a great feature as it lets you see the before and after frames as you preview what you can expect your new file to look like. This lets you tweak the quality settings before you commit the job to perhaps hours of rendering, and then wishing it looked better when you view the new video. The super casual user who is heading for free online hosting services won't miss it. The serious quality minded user will.
There are two display options:
- A split screen with a movable vertical separation [Figure 3]. The original file is on the left and the preview of what the new one will look like is on the right.
- The side-by-side view [Figure 4]. You see full frames of both the before and after.
If one or more of these options are worth the cost, go for the full version. If your conversion needs are basic and the features to add leaders, trailers, and overlays satisfy you, continue using the Express version and upgrade someday when you’re ready.
Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 – Express or Full Version?
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A 6 part series on doing file conversions with Microsoft Expression Encoder 2.