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If you use Windows Movie Maker, you may already be familiar with its Compatibility List, where you can toggle codecs/filters on or off, at least with respect to those available to the Encoder. Open the list by going to the main menu > Tools > Options > Compatibility List.
The list puts you in control of some of the filters or codecs on your system and how they interact with the Encoder. A checked item is enabled, available for the Encoder to use when previewing a file or using it to render new one. An unchecked item is off limits. Turn one off when it’s involved in crashes or hangs of the Encoder, and enable it if a video can’t be imported or used without it.
You can find yourself turning the same line item off for one job and then back on for another. Codecs are like people; sometimes they work together fine and at other times you need to be a referee.
It’s extremely difficult to understand the interactions of codecs and filters with the software that uses them. I go with the flow… use what works and ignore or turn off what doesn’t. If you use the Encoder a lot, you can use the Compatibility List to learn more about the filters and codecs on your system.
I’ll illustrate the use of the Compatibility List by taking the same VOB file from a DVD to each of 3 computers.
My XP laptop currently has 57 items in the list [Image 1]. It’s been my main working computer for 2-1/2 years and the Encoder 2 has seen more action on it than it has on my other computers.
I was checking the Encoder to see if it could use a VOB file from a DVD. With all line items checked it worked fine. With all unchecked I got an ‘Unknown’ error message [Image 2]. By turning the line items on and off, I experimented with the VOB file to narrow down the list to learn which ones the Encoder was using. It turned out to be 3 MPEG line items from ULead that were installed with PhotoImpact 11 software. I’d not have guessed the relationship or found it by doing online research.
My less used Vista Home Basic laptop, which doesn’t have a DVD burner, showed 20 line items in the list. [Image 3]. With all of them unchecked the Encoder couldn’t use the VOB file. The computer also had the ULead software and, having learned from the XP computer, I went right to the same 3 line items as on the XP, checked them, and that was enough for the Vista Home Basic laptop to handle the VOB file.
A newly installed Vista Ultimate system on a desktop computer showed no items in the list when first opened [Image 4]. It was only when I started importing video files that the list started to add line items for each video file type. Add another but different file type and more codecs show in the list. It grows as you add new ones but doesn’t shrink as you remove them from the work space.
After importing just a few files, the list on the new system was up to 18 line items. It was interesting that, with a new Vista Ultimate system the Encoder 2 couldn’t handle a VOB file. The error message was ‘cannot find audio codec’. The same VOB file worked well in Windows Photo Gallery, Movie Maker 6, and Windows DVD Maker on the same system. Besides not working in the Encoder, it didn’t open in Windows Media Player 11, where the error message was about not being able to skip to the requested location on the DVD. If I was in a production deadline it could be serious or critical. But as this was an exercise for this article, it was another of many learning experiences.
What became clear was my 3 systems handled the same VOB file differently. That’s the confusing world of codecs. Each system had an easy way to get the VOB file into a video editing app such as Movie Maker, but if I was trying to use the VOB file in Expression Encoder 2 on the Vista system, or hadn’t installed the ULead software on the other two, the picture would be significantly different.
Use the Encoder and its Compatibility List to explore codec options for a particular file type.
Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 – Compatibility List
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A 6 part series on doing file conversions with Microsoft Expression Encoder 2.