Microsoft’s Windows Media Player (version 7 or newer) can play many common media formats. I like to abbreviate the program’s name WMP because, well, it’s easier to type than Windows Media Player. WMP comes pre-installed on computers that run Windows Me or Windows XP. Although the name says “Windows,” versions of WMP are also available for Macintosh computers that run OS 8 or higher.
Windows Media Player can play video in MPEG and AVI formats. Although Pinnacle Studio can output both of these formats, they’re not terribly useful for online applications because they create big files and have an appetite for resources. Windows Media Player can also play Windows Media Video (WMV) format, and Studio can output that as well (by using the Streaming option in the Make Movie window, I’ll show you how later in this chapter). I like the WMV format because it provides decent quality (for Web movies) with remarkably small file sizes.
What are the compelling reasons for choosing over other players? Choose Windows Media Player as your format if
- Most or all of your audience members use Windows. Most Windows users already have WMP installed on their systems, so they won’t have to download or install new software before viewing your Windows Media-format movie.
- You want the look, but not the expense and complexity, of streaming media. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting up and maintaining a streaming-media server, Windows Media format files can provide a workable compromise. WMP does a decent simulation of streaming media with progressive downloadable video: When downloading files, WMP begins playing the movie as soon as enough of it is downloaded to ensure uninterrupted playback.
- You’re distributing your movie online and extremely small file size is more important than quality. The Windows Media format can offer some very small file sizes, which is good if your audience will be downloading your movie over slow dial-up Internet connections. I recently placed a 3:23-long movie online in Windows Media format and the file size was only 5.5MB (megabytes). Of course, the movie was not broadcast quality, but because most of my friends and family still have slow dial-up modem connections to the Internet, they appreciated the relatively small download size.