Microsoft Azure Review
Bending the Azure Media Services – clip or trim your media files

Disclaimer: What I will describe here is not officially supported by Microsoft and by Windows Azure Media Services. This means that if task fails you cannot open support ticket, nor you can complain. I discovered these hidden feature by digging deeply into the platform. Use the code and task preset at your own risk and responsibility. And note that what works now, may not work tomorrow.

So, we have Windows Azure Media Services, which can transcode (convert from one video/audio format to another), package and deliver content. How about more advanced operations, such as clipping or trimming. I want, let’s say to cut off first 10 seconds of my video. And the last 5 seconds. Can I do it with Windows Azure Media Services ? Yes I can, today (5 April 2013).

The easiest way to start with Media Services is by using the MediaServicesCommandLineTools project from GitHub. It has very neat program – RunTask. It expects two parameters: partial (last N characters) Asset Id and path to task preset. It will then display a list of available Media Processors to execute the task with. You chose the Media Processor and you are done!

So what task preset is for Clipping or Trimming? You will not find that type of task on the list of Task Presets for Azure Media Services. But you will find a couple of interesting task presets in the MediaServicesCommandLineTools project under the etc folder. Lets take look at the Clips.xml:

01 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?>
02 <!--Created with Expression Encoder version 4.0.4276.0-->
03 <Preset
04   Version="4.0">
05   <Job />
06   <MediaFile>
07     <Sources>
08       <Source
09         AudioStreamIndex="0">
10         <Clips>
11           <Clip
12             StartTime="00:00:04"
13             EndTime="00:00:10" />
14         </Clips>
15       </Source>
16     </Sources>
17   </MediaFile>
18 </Preset>

It is a very simple XML file with two attribute values that are interesting for us. Namely StartTime and EndTime. These attributes define points in time where to start clipping and there to end it. With the given settings (StartTime: 00:00:04, EndTime: 00:00:10) the result media asset will be a video clip with length of 6 seconds which starts at the 4th second of the original clip and ends at the 10th second of the original.

As can also see, I haven’t removed an important comment in the XML – "Created with Expression Encoder version 4.0.4276.0". Yes, I used Expression Encoder 4 Pro to create a custom job preset. You can try that too!

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.

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