WMV Studio Pro is a product I've been in search of for a long time. Basically, it's
a plug-in component (and application) for Apple's QuickTime to provide support for
Windows Media formats. It enables any Quicktime multimedia supporting products (think
Quicktime Player, Final Cut, iMovie, etc.) to play, edit, use and create Windows
Media formatted/encoded files as easily as any other QuickTime-supported format.
Goodbye Microsoft Windows Media Player or needing to use a PC to create or convert
standard or high-definition WMV-formatted video!
WMV Studio Pro is the top-of-the-line product in the Flip4Mac family, which starts
with WMV Player, a $10 product that just provides play capability, extends to WMV
Player Pro, which costs $49 and provides play, edit and WMV import conversion capabilities.
Next in the series is the $99 WMV Studio which adds the ability to save in standard
WMV video format, and then the $179 WMV Studio Pro which extends WMV Studio by adding
output support for high-definition WMV formats and pro audio. The WMV Player products
are aimed at end users while the WMV Studio products are aimed at content creators
who don't want to leave their Macs to generate WMV formatted video products.
This review is for WMV Studio Pro. It provide import of WMV 7, 8 or 9 and output
of WMV 9 video formats, including format variants that can't be played in Windows
Media Player 9 for Macintosh.
WMV Player Features
- Supports Windows
Media Video 7, 8, 9, ISO MPEG-4, and Microsoft MPEG-4 V2 and V3
- Supports Windows
Media Audio 7 through 10 Professional and Lossless
- SD, HD playback
WMV plug-in for
- MMS protocol, ASX
- WMV Player Pro Additional
- Import Windows Media
into QuickTime applications
- Convert Windows Media
to other QuickTime formats
- Edit Windows Media
- Mac OS 10.3 or 10.4
- QuickTime version
6.5.1 or 7.0
- Dual G5 PowerMac
- TiBook running 10.4.2
The product downloads as a .dmg file, which expands to a standard Mac OS X package
file that installs with Apple's standard Installer utility.
After installation, you get a new WMV Player Preference Pane added to your System
Preferences (installed into /Library/PreferencePanes), where you can tweak basic
settings and also purchase a license or register your purchased license code. Basic
settings include plug-in behaviors, movie options, audio options, and license options. The
license tab is where you enter your WMV license to unlock the Player or Player Pro
WMV Player Systems Preferences pane
installs WMV import/export QT components into your system (/Library/QuickTime), as
well as a WMV Browser plugin (/Library/Internet Plug-ins) that enables WMVs to be
played directly in the browser using its QT support. (It moves Microsoft's Windows
Media browser plugin to a disabled plugins folder if it was previously installed.)
I made sure to run Repair Permission after installation (which I do after most software
installs), and this seems to have been a good practice as other users reported export
problems in the Flip4Mac discussion forums for which that was the 'fix'.
A user can run the application in Trial Mode (it's available for free downlaod/trial
from the vendors' website) which restricts the duration of WMV files it plays or
can create. In Trial mode it will only play 1/2 of the WMV file, and output is restricted
to 1/2 the movie's duration or 30 secs, whichever is smaller. These limitations are
fair and adequate to get a feel for the product before purchasing.
Note: if you haven't upgraded your QuickTime to "Pro", you won't be able
to export WMVs from QuickTime Player, as Export in any format is a Quicktime Pro-only
feature. You can still use other Quicktime applications to export WMVs (such as iMovie,
Final Cut, etc.).
There is no interface application for WMV. It works by extending QuickTime's format
WMV adds the Windows Media export option to your QuickTime applications
You'll have to enter
your license again when you export a WMV for the first time using the the "Windows
Media" export panel. WMV Studio provides both import and export plug-ins (vs.
WMV Player which only comes with import). You have to register the license for both
plugins. The Import/Play plug-in is registered in the WMV Player systems preferences,
and the Export plug-in is registered via the Windows Media Export Settings dialog
which appears when you choose to export to WMV format from your Quicktime authoring
In my testing, I limited my use to QuickTime Player Pro and iMovie, as they are the
primary products I use. As mentioned earlier, any Quicktime-enabled application can
be used as well (such as Final Cut Express, Motion or dozens of other 3rd party apps).
I was able to easily open and play Windows Media movies in QuickTime Player. I was
able to edit them and export them as both MOV and WMV files. I was able to compose
a movie in iMovie made up of original clips from both MOV and WMV formats. I
was able to successfully play WMV videos from CNN and BBC websites, although they
open/play in QT Player rather than opening in the browser window as I'd expected.
WMV Player System Preferences - Movie options
There still seems
to be a few types of WMVs that won't playback. For instance, I couldn't get WMV's
from MSN to play. There's many different WMV formats - from the different revisions
of Windows Media Video 7, 8, 9 and Windows Media Audio 7 -10. WMV is like Quicktime,
it's a wrapper that can contain various codecs for audio and video content within.
MSN is using a codec that is Windows-only (WMP10) and therefore not supported
in the current version of WMV Player/Studio (as documented in the Flip4Mac support
forums). For the codec/technically savvy - there are issues with streamed WMV video
in "Pipeline" format or which uses Intelligent Stream or MultiBitRate.
WMV, which use the VF3 codec, also has issues with .asx files and with MMS-type streaming
servers. There are also some issues with how specific websites call the WMV video
they're providing which can cause issues for the Flip4Mac WMV browser plug-ins. Flip4Mac
has a very active user forum, and is very responsive to identifying and and building
support into updated versions of WMV Player/Studio to provide support for additional
formats which don't currently work.
I was able to successfully save MPEGs and MOV as WMV format, and vice versa. I ran
into some difficulties at first with a couple of movies, but after consulting the
Discussion Forums on Flip4Mac's website, I was able to resolve them. One
of my issues was with trying to work with older and newer non-supported codec formats.
Another was the divisible-by-4 output resolution issue. Another was my lack of understanding
of what some of the particular export settings did. Any issues you run into seem
to be quickly addressable via the excellent Flip4Mac discussion forums.
One fix I read about was to change the Quality setting from the default 100 to 0
to get the export to work (changing the setting didn't seem to adversely effect the
quality). Another trick I learned was to not export movies with frame sizes with
a odd number of pixels in either horizontal or vertical. According to the forums,
WMV doesn't like that, and in fact dimensions which are divisible by 4 are best (has
to do with how the WMV 9 video compression codec works and generating 'square' pixels).
Occasionally I'd also run into a known bug where several extra white-screen frames
would be appended to the end of an exported WMV movie, but this was also correctable. The
correction is to simply open the resulting movie and delete the last few extra white-screen
frames, or trim the movie in your compositing application (like iMovie) to not use
them. This bug is being addressed by Flip4Mac in the next update.
As with even regular QuickTime movie authoring, understanding and getting the best
settings for WMV movie creation involves some complexity and learning curve as well as trial and error
setting selection is complex if you want to tweak/apply all of the multitude of settings
options available - this is true whether you are using Quicktime or WMV formats.
If you aren't interested in getting very deep into the underpinnings, then sticking
to 'default presets' is best and will provide 'good' but not optimized results. Whole
books are written about codec selection and settings choices for different applications,
and the online Help is quite good. The WMV Export dialog alone has over 400 permutations/combinations
to play with.
WMV Export Settings - Video options
provides an excellent User Guide (PDF format) that provides a comprehensive and in-depth
set of info on all aspects of the products functionality and options. (It even includes
links to Microsoft's website for detailed info on WMV encoding.) They've also provided
Preset Settings for many common applications to let users get good output right away.
For the more adventurous or skilled video author, there's a huge set of settings/selections
available to fine-tune your output. You are provided Windows Media Export Setting
dialog tabs for Video, Audio, Content (and License). The Video tab provides selections/settings
for Format (WMV 9 Standard or Advanced), and for Coding Method that includes: one
or two pass, constant or variable bit rate, quality, bit rate and key frames. There
are also Input Frame and Output Frame settings for Type (progressive or interlace),
size and rate to set.
WMV Export Settings - Audio options
The Audio tab provides
selections/settings for Format (WMA 9 Standard, Professional and Lossless), and for
Coding Method that includes one or two pass, constant or variable bit rate, and profiles
for bit rate, sampling frequency and mono/stereo combinations. The Content tab provides
the ability to provide meta-data for your movie such as Title, Author, Description,
Copyright and Rating.
I thought the Export conversion speed was quite good. On my Dual 2Ghz PowerMac G5
(3GB RAM), on one example - I converted a 15.26 MB originally MOV-formatted, 2 minute-long
movie trailer that was encoded in Sorenson Video 3 with MPEG 3 stereo audio to one
of the Presets called "Cable/DSL 384KB" in under 7 minutes. This conversion
resampled/resized both the video and audio. Higher quality conversions/exports obviously
take longer, but seem to be comparable performance-wise with native QuickTime movie
In general I found the software easy to use, and soon got quite comfortable working
with mixed MOV, MPEG and WMV files ignorant of formats/codecs. The software just
worked, giving very nice results on format conversions. I ultimately found the ability
to play, generate and convert WMVs directly on my Mac using my normal QuickTime tools
to be quite liberating, enhancing my flexibility and arsenal of capabilities/options
in video production.
WMV Studio Pro is an excellent product for importing and exporting Windows Media
files on the Mac using your existing QuickTime applications. Aimed at both amateur
and professional video creators, it truly provides seamless, equal-citizen support
for WMV formats. You only see the product by the introduction of additional menu
and codec selection choices during importing and exporting within your QuickTime
applications. There are some issues and quirks with the software, but there is usually
an easy work around. The Flip4Mac forum discussions is a great resource for learning
how to use the product, and WMV Studio Pro also comes with a very thorough Users
Guide. If you don't have a need to export in the WMV format, but still want to ditch
Windows Media Player, I recommend just going with the Flip4Mac WMV Player for just
$9.99. On the other hand, if you have a need to both import and export video in WMV
formats, then WMV Studio Pro is the way to go. As the top-of-the-line product in
Flip4Mac's WMV 'family', WMV Studio Pro provides the most complete set of features,
making it a great addition to your arsenal of multimedia tools.
- Plays WMV formatted
files in any QuickTime app without Windows Media Player
- Can edit and create
WMV files without using a PC
- Transparent product
- seamless adds it's WMV codec capabilities to your existing QT apps
- Nice choice of Presets
to instant, no-fuss WMV movie creation/conversion
- Responsive vendor,
updates/enhancements regularly added. Provides an online forum for user discussion
- Thorough and useful
- License allows two
activations (2 computer installations)
- 20% educational discount
available in the Player Pro and Studio products
- Still a few oddities/quirks
required with export settings, but I expect these to be resolved in updates
- Separate license
entries required for Player and Export enabling
- Steep learning curve
to using custom codec parameters/settings (but this is true even with non-WMV video
- Initial confusion
with inability to find/run a "WMV Studio" application upon installation
(there is no app)
- Seems somewhat pricey
($179) given these features on a PC are far less
4 out of 5 Mice