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Microsoft Announces Commercial VC-1 Encoder SDK


At the 2007 National Association of Broadcasters convention (NAB2007), Microsoft Corp. announced the new Microsoft® VC-1 Encoder software development kit (SDK), available to manufacturers building video encoding solutions. Taking advantage of the same core encoding techniques major Hollywood studios rely on to deliver the recognized high quality of HD DVDs (more than 90 percent of HD DVD titles authored in the United States use VC-1) and other high-definition optical discs, the commercial SDK offers substantial quality and performance improvements over the previously released Windows Media® Format SDK. Improvements include better picture quality, faster encode times, new features optimized for various video distribution channels, and ease of integrating future updates.

“Our strong heritage in video encoding with Windows Media Video and our years of work with Hollywood studios are reflected in this latest VC-1 Encoder technology and new support program,” said Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of the Consumer Media Technology Group at Microsoft. “We’ll be rolling out new advancements to tools manufacturers in a consistent and familiar way, giving licensees the assurance of always having the latest encoder improvements and making it easier for them to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of video distribution.”

The new commercial VC-1 Encoder SDK allows licensees, for the first time, to easily deliver VC-1 video beyond the Windows Media Format container, utilizing Microsoft’s high-quality encoder optimizations. Improved delivery scenarios include a program or transport stream for HD DVD or Blu-ray, MPEG-2 transport stream for broadcast and Internet Protocol television (IPTV), Material eXchange Format (MXF) for easy interchange, and the MP4 file format container. For broadcast and IPTV, in particular, it is now easier for tools manufacturers to implement closed captioning, improve interlaced encoding quality and performance, and enable easy output to MPEG-2 transport streams. Special features have also been customized for market segments such as high-definition optical discs; the Microsoft VC-1 Encoder SDK can enable parallel encoding for significant improvement in speed as well as segment-based re-encoding, which allows users to re-encode only the portion of the content that would benefit from another encode.

Leading companies are already offering products built on the new VC-1 Encoder technology, including Inlet Technologies with its line of Spinnaker live encoders for IPTV, Web-based applications and mobile delivery; and Tarari Inc.’s Encoder Accelerator for Windows Media, which increases VC-1 encoding speed by up to 15 times over software alone. The recently announced Sonic Solutions CineVision PSE for HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc is also built on the new VC-1 Encoder technology and includes parallel encoding and segment-based re-encoding capabilities.

“Microsoft’s VC-1 Encoder SDK is a key enabler in our ongoing commitment to providing Hollywood’s compression professionals with the best image-quality processing technology possible,” said Rolf Hartley, senior vice president and general manager of the Professional Products Division at Sonic Solutions in Novato, Calif. “With Microsoft’s focus on the core elements of VC-1 efficiency, Sonic is able to concentrate on developing the most-effective controls and workflow possible to deliver uncompromising capability and encode quality to Hollywood.”

The new Microsoft VC-1 Encoder SDK will be delivered as a stable and consistent set of application programming interfaces (APIs), allowing companies that manufacture content-creation tools to easily integrate the latest updates from Microsoft without having to re-engineer their applications.

An official Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) standard, VC-1 video is ubiquitous on the Internet and provides superior playback across a wide array of scenarios regardless of bit rate or resolution. These scenarios range from the PC (where VC-1 playback at 1080p is possible) to set-top boxes, gaming systems, wireless handsets and next-generation high-definition optical discs (HD DVD and Blu-ray). Microsoft’s VC-1 Encoder technology has quickly become the tool of choice for Hollywood studios producing HD DVD discs and delivering digital downloads through leading online services such as the Xbox LIVE® Marketplace.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.


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