Archive Page 2


Improve the quality of your WMV files, use Silverlight!

Strange but true.

If you run the same WMV file in Windows Media player and compare it to the exact same file running through Silverlight in the browser you would assume they they must look the same.

Well I thought they would.

Not so.

The version running through Silverlight displays more colour depth and better contrast than the same file running through Media Player. I then thought this must be a trick of the browser, maybe it’s something as simple as the browser tweaking the colour gamut – so I took the same video and used an embedded windows media element and played it back.

The result?

Exactly the same as the previous test. The version running in Silverlight has better contrast and colour than the same file, running in the same browser via an embedded media element.

When I get a chance I’ll hook up two videos to show this as it’s easier to see on the moving imagine but here’s a couple of stills.


Windows Media Player

Capture hist1



Capture - Copy hist2


In terms of colour both the warm and cold hues have more depth and clarity, and when you look at the background where the man is standing there is more contrast in the Silverlight version. I took a quick look at the histogram of the stills and the Silverlight version shows an extended range.

So what’s different? Why is Silverlight proving better quality with the same video?

The difference seems to be down to where the video is decoded.

In Silverlight we don’t rely on the GPU for decoding or format conversion, and Silverlight also does all its scaling transforms outside of the decoder/color space conversion code. WM on the other hand relies on the GPU.  So it seems that the GPU is actually giving a small hit to the overall quality.

I’d be interested to see if machines with different GPU’s see the same, mines a ATI 1600 Radeon. I’ve tried this with 5 different pieces of video and they all look better in Silverlight.

So, improve the quality of your video, use Silverlight πŸ™‚


World changing products…

Often when watching a movie, particularly Sc-Fi you’ll see a piece of technology and dream of a day when it will become real. It’s normally something so different, so mind blowing and to put it bluntly, so damn cool that if you’re watching on DVD you have to hit the rewind button even though it ruins the flow of the movie.

This happened to me when I first watched Minority Report. The way Tom Cruise can manipulate data on the ‘data window’, a flick of the hand, a drag of the finger just blew me away.

Not for one second did I think that less than 5 years later I’d see that vision become a reality – yet – that’s what has happened today with the announcment of Microsoft Surface, a WPF and Vista based interactive… well, interactive surface!

Users can actually grab digitial content that is displayed on the surface,  moving and interacting with it using touch and gesture – I won’t waste any more words simply go along to the web site and take a look.

This really is the age of the Rich Interactive Application (RIA).


BBC demonstrates Web 2.0 project

During the keynote on the second day at Mix07, Microsoft’s 72 hour discussion held yearly in Las Vegas, the BBC demonstrated what for many was one of the highlights of the show.

This was an extremely complex project in terms of the make up of the team as it comprised people from five companies, Microsoft, BBC, Siemens, Ioko and AKQA, on top of this the time scale for delivery was very demanding with only a 3 week window in which to pull the whole project together. 

Three weeks, five companies, a new team, a new technology and no set brief at the start of the project, a huge timezone difference, as the designer was actaully in Singapore due to another project commitment – the project had all the signs of a roadcrash!

Taking all this into consideration I think one an amazingly aspect of this project is that it was actually completed a little ahead of schedule.

This was only possible due to two things. Firstly it goes without saying the talented design and developer team that worked on the project (well done guys – great job), but secondly, the really flexible way the Silverlight, XAML, JavaScript combo allows the work to be broken down and shared around the team. One developer acted as the hub of the team, the designer and two other developers fed into him. This allowed the designer to concentrate on the visuals, the two developers to concentrate on hooking and writing the JavaScript to provide the interactivity, and the third ‘hub’ developer to actually wire it all up in Blend and Visual Studio.

The final thing to bear in mind when you look at the video is – this was NOT Silverlight 1.1 Alpha with the built in CLR, that would have been too easy πŸ˜‰

This project was built using the Silverlight 1.0 Beta using Javascript to provide the interactivity… personally I think this is great, as it really shows off some of the potential of the technology even in its first iteration.

You can find further information here at the BBC website

You can also view the BBC section of the key note: BBC keynote

Enjoy πŸ™‚


Convert Flash SWF to XAML (WPF, Silverlight)

Electric Rain have produced yet another outstanding product… Harmony.

Harmony allows for the conversion of SWf files into XAML, which can then be utilised as part of either a WPF desktop application or Silverlight browser application.

This first version of Harmony is concentrating on the animation aspects of the SWF file and the great news is that it will not just be doing a simple frame by frame conversion, it will instead focus on shape definitions to keep the XAML file well written and compact.

You can view the full announcement at the Electric Rain website.


Expression Blend 2 May Preview Available Now!

That’s right at the MIX 07 keynote today not only did we annouce the shipping of Expression Studio but also announced that you can download a preview of Expression Blend 2.

This new preview allows you to start building great media with Silverlight today!

You can get the download from here:

Expression Blend 2 May Preview Download


UX Summit

Yes it’s time for the second UX Summit at Microsoft. A few days in Vegas when all the UXes from within Microsoft around the world can share war stories, exchange notes, debate on what’s worked and what hasn’t over our first 10 months of engagement. I’m really looking forward to it.

There’s a great, and varied team working at Microsoft in this area at the moment and it’s important to grab opportunities like this to kick back and chew the fat to enable us to work more effectively as a virtual team.

Can’t wait… and then next week it’s on to MIX!

Don’t forget if you can’t make it to MIX or you wanted to atend but were just too late as it sold out about six weeks ago, you’ll be able to see the sessions online at


People you bump into to…

It always amazes me how many people you bump into while walking round London, often you get stopped by so many people you know it feels like you’re in a small country town of about 50 inhabitants rather than a city with many millions.

It seems Microsoft is a bit like London in this respect.

The other day while I was in the office. I was just leaving a meeting room and who do I almost crash into on the other side of the door – non-other than Pete Barr-Watson (who I’d not seen since Flash on the Beach back in December). I’d first met Pete back in the day when he was at Kerb and Flash was a mere animation tool.

Mmmm… but Pete was wearing an orange name badge which implied he was contractor? Curious!

Later on in the day I caught up with him and it turns out he’s just joined Microsoft and that it was actually his first day! Pete is now a Senior Business Development Manager responsible for driving Silverlight adoption.

This is just GREAT news.

The Expression and Silverlight teams have a buzz about them, much like the early days of Macromedia, and I think this enthusiasm is slowly starting to seep into the outside world and other areas of Microsoft πŸ™‚ 

I think being able to attract great people like Pete highlights that the teams are travelling down the right track.