Did you know that the single best way to get video encoded for Silverlight, or indeed your Zune for that matter, is free? Yes that’s right, free. There is a version of Expression Encoder available for download from the Expression Website which has all the tools you need to prepare and encode your video and provides a range of Silverlight playback experiences – it doesn’t time out and it doesn’t cost you anything! In fact, we are encouraging anyone who currently uses Windows Media Encoder to give it a try.

If, however, you have purchased either Expression Studio 3 or Expression Web 3, then you get a whole lot more. This includes an additional output format H.264, support for Dolby Digital, the ability to encode for IIS Smooth Streaming and unlimited length screen captures. To help clarify what features come with what edition, refer to the table at the end of this post. It’s not an exhaustive list of features, but it should help you decide which version is right for you. We do want to stress again though, that there is no “trial version” as such; you can use the standard free edition for as long as you wish.

We would also like to take this opportunity to mirror the questions asked by the Blend team recently. We would love to hear what you like and what you don’t like about the latest version of Expression Encoder, as well as what you use the product for. Maybe you’re using it to stream live video in an innovative application using the SDK to drive the encoding engine automatically – whatever it is you do with Expression Encoder we’d love to showcase it.

Edition Expression Encoder Standard Expression Encoder with IIS Smooth Streaming
Availability Free Download With Expression Studio 3 or Expression Web 3
High performance multi-core/multi-processor encoding Yes Yes
Basic editing functions Yes Yes
Screen capture 10 minute segments only Yes
Live Encoding Yes Yes
Multichannel Audio Yes Yes
Input Formats    
AVI Yes Yes
QuickTime (if installed) Yes Yes
MPEG-2 No Yes
DirectShow Filters Yes Yes
Dolby Digital No Yes
Output Formats    
Windows Media (VC1) Yes Yes
H.264 No Yes
AAC-LC No Yes
IIS Smooth Streaming No Yes