H.264 and AAC support coming in Silverlight v.Next

I’m on a mini pre-IBC vacation this week so I was caught a little off-guard when I noticed that the big IBC announcement that we had been working on for months now – went out this morning. I didn’t expect it’d go out before Thursday or Friday. 🙂

Anyway, here’s the big news:

We will be adding support for H.264 and AAC-LC decoding to the next version of Silverlight (post v2). This is in response to the loud and clear customer demand for H.264/AAC that we’ve been hearing since Silverlight 1.0, the general convergence of the video industry around H.264, and a continuation of Microsoft’s own investment into the MPEG-4 standard.

Here’s the official Microsoft press release, framed as Q&A with Silverlight’s Scott Guthrie:


The Q&A does a very good job of answering some of the questions regarding the seemingly complex relationship between H.264, VC-1 and Windows Media, but one answer in particular bears repeating:

Addition of H.264 support in Silverlight does not mark a departure from VC-1 or Windows Media, but instead serves to enhance and expand the existing video/audio format ecosystem. The idea is to give users more choice and allow Silverlight to adapt to their existing workflows, rather than forcing it the other way around. I’ve seen too many people over the past few years get bogged down in “VC-1 vs H.264 codec wars” and I always found such obsessions to be very counterproductive. Both codecs are efficient enough to deliver excellent video quality at similar bitrates, so the question of which one to use should really be answered with “whichever one best fits your workflow and project constraints.” By adding H.264 support to Silverlight, we hope to get to a point where Silverlight is codec agnostic and customers can spend their valuable time focusing on end-to-end media delivery.

We will be showing a technology preview of H.264/AAC playback at IBC in Amsterdam (September 12-16), for which we partnered with Inlet Technologies to produce the demo content. The exact techhnical details of “what” and “how” are still being worked out, but one thing I can tell for sure is that MP4 file progressive download will definitely be supported.

A few links to blogosphere coverage of this announcement:

About Alex Zambelli

Alex is a Product Manager at Discovery in Bellevue, WA. Prior to his current job he was a Product Manager at Hulu and iStreamPlanet (Turner), and Technical Evangelist for media technologies at Microsoft. He has been professionally involved with development of digital video and streaming technologies since 2002.
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