Blending, Mixing and Mashing

There are times when Microsoft does something right. Yes, I am talking about Silverlight. Being able to bring rich experiences to the web without having to compile them (aka, Flash or Java) and deal with the inherent restrictions in talking to pages and services (also Flash and Java) is nice. Very small download. Available for different browsers and platforms.

Then, there are times Microsoft does something wrong. In this case, I am talking about rushing Blend to market. Expression Blend is a great product, but it is far too rushed to be useful for many of the types of projects we will want to build. It will be extremely easy for us to step outside of the box. Of course, those who learn how to hand code XAML will be more valuable in the coming year(s).

If you have not yet watched the keynote from MIX, it is something you should at least glance at. Just tune your browser to So you can get to the juicy parts, here is an outline (these are approximate):

0:00 – 25:40            Ray Ozzie
>>15:45 – 17:45      Video samples of Silverlight applications
26:00 – END            Scott Guthrie
>>32:00 – 41:40      NetFlix demo (Neil Hunt & Darin Brown) – movies on demand
>>44:00 – 59:25      Expression Studio and Silverlight (Wayne Smith)
                              45:30 – 49:47   Expression Media Encoder
                              49:47 – 51:00   Expression Design (Output to XAML)
                              51:00 – 55:50   Expression Blend 2 Preview
                              56:10 – 56:55   Back to Expression Media Encoder to reuse Blend work
                              56:55 – 59:25   Expression Web 2 (Silverlight Media Extensions)
>>60:10 – 65:00     CBS Television demo (Jonathan Lees) – HD news broadcast including user video

The rest gets into some demos with PHP and other languages, which is really cool. I did not have time to get back to video pointers.

Expression Media Encoder

I really like the Media Encoder. Nice tool for preparing video for the web. And, the ability to watch the video in both its original and encoded format (to see degradation at certain levels) is sweet. It is also nice that you can save the XAML skins and reuse them. In Wayne’s demo, he shows the following:

  • Encoding a video
  • Video preview
  • Working with Templates (also focuses on mixing Design and Encoder)
  • Saving Blend work to reuse as an asset in Media Encoder

Expression Design

Expression design is a design tool. Of most use to designers and developers (at least web designers) is the ability to output your design to XAML. This is what is focused on in Wayne’s demo.

Expression Blend

Expression Blend 2 gives designers and developers the ability to pull Media Assets and XAML assets from Expression Design to create fully "blended" Silverlight or WPF productions. In Wayne’s demo, he shows how to set up a clipping path and use it for Video display.

Expression Web 2

I like Expression Web 1. It is a nice product for CSS compliant websites. I also have a bit of a hate relationship with it, as it currently has hard coded lists of components. I cannot tell, from the video, if you can add to the toolbox in Expression Web 2. It is nice that they have added the AJAX extensions, along with Silverlight stuff, but if it is still hardcoded, Expression will still be less valuable to me. But, then, Orcas has a lot of the feature set.


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