Using the Windows Media File Editor

The Windows Media File Editor is a program that is installed as part of the Windows Media Encoder 9 installation. The Windows Media File Editor serves the useful functions of allowing an encoded media file to be enhanced with closed captioning (to make the media file more accessible), indexing (to allow users to get to a specific location within the media file), and URL commands (to allow the media file to trigger the loading of web pages). The File Editor also allows adjustments to be made to the media file's title, author, copyright, and description information. Although every media file will not necessarily use index markers, captions, and URL commands, all of these can significantly enhance the media presentation, and, if the media file is destined for online delivery at Plattsburgh State, it is a minimal requirement that captioning be provided to ensure accessibility.

Getting Started

Before you begin using the Windows Media File Editor , you will have to have already encoded a file in the Windows Media format. If you haven't already done so, you'll find instructions on getting the job done in the Windows Media Encoder documentation on this site. If you have a file encoded, you are set to begin.

Begin by launching the program--if you have installed the Windows Media Encoder 9 on your computer, you'll find the Windows Media File Editor in a subfolder named Utilities along side the Encoder installation; in the Instructional Technology Resource Center, you'll find the File Editor in the Multimedia|Windows Media|Utilities folder.

Once the program has loaded, you will see the following screen:

Illustration of the Windows Media File Editor interface

Your first step is to load your Windows Media encoded file by selecting File|Open from the menu.

Illustration of the Windows Media File Editor file-open menu

After selecting your file with a click and then clicking the Open button in the Open dialog, your Windows Media file will be loaded into the File Editor 's black preview window, and you'll be ready to add index markers, captions, URL commands, and make revisions, if required to the media file's title, description, author, and copyright information.

Adding Index Markers

The index markers in a Windows Media file serve to mark potential starting points for playback--like, for instance, a bookmark or a table of contents entry.  If a file ahs been encoded with index markers, the audience gains the ability to quickly advance to a particular location in the file. In a long media file, this can be very advantageous, since the markers give the audience the opportunity to find a specific section of the media file to play, review, or return to.

Adding index markers is easily done in the Windows Media File Editor . First click the play button at the bottom of the media preview window, and then, at the point at which you want to insert an index marker, click on the pause button. (The play button toggles to pause and vice versa .) You should notice that the time indicators, both in the lower right of the playback window and on the timeline underneath it, indicate the precise time at which you pressed the pause button.

Illustration of pause point in Windows Media File Editor

To add an index marker at the location where the media file has been paused, click on the Markers button to introduce the Markers dialog window, illustrated below.

Illustration of Windows Media File Editor - Markers dialog

By clicking on the Add button in the Markers dialog window, you will be able to add the text which will be used to mark a new index point.

Illustration of Marker Properties dialog in Windows Media File Editor

The text you provide for your index marker should be descriptive without being altogether too long: remember, as you add names for index markers, that the names you supply will have to make sense to all people who might view your file and rely upon the index markers for navigation.

As you create more and more markers, you will see them represented by red marks on the timeline to the left of the Markers button, and you will be able to see them listed by name in the Markers dialog window that appears whenever the Markers button is pressed.

Illustration of Windows Media File Editor Markers dialog, with Edit and Remove options

Note: When reviewing the index markers in the Markers dialog, you have the option of selecting and then editing or removing markers that you have previously added.

Once you have added all the markers that your media file deserves, you can save the newly-indexed file using either the File|Save and Index or File|Save As and Index options. If you choose Save and Index , your original Windows Media file will have those index markers embedded into it; the Save As and Index option allows you to leave your original Windows Media file unchanged: the program will create a new Windows Media file containing your index makers.

Whenever a media file that contains markers is opened in the Windows Media File Editor , the marker points will automatically be loaded, so future revisions to the markers take little time.

When the indexed media file is played back in the Windows Media Player, the index markers will be available to users who select View|File Markers from the full-mode Windows Media Player menu.

Illustration of View|File Markers option in Windows Media Player

Adding Text Captioning

Adding captioning to a media file is the only way to make the file accessible, ensuring that those who cannot hear your content will at least be able to follow what is happening therein. All media files that are destined for Plattsburgh State's streaming media server are required to have captioning.

It is not technically difficult to add captioning using the Windows Media File Editor , but it can be a time consuming process. Remember, though, that you are not obliged to provide a word-for-word transcript (although that wouldn't hurt), but only such information as is required to make the action or sound in the media file intelligible. To test how well you've succeeded after adding captions, play the file back with the sound turned off and see if you can make sense of it relying only upon your captions.

To add a caption, the steps are almost the same as they are for adding index markers. Begin by clicking the play button in the File Editor' s embedded media window, and then click pause at the point where you would like your captioning to appear. Then, click on the Script Commands button at the lower right of the File Editor screen to introduce the Script Commands dialog.

illustration of the Script Commands dialog in the Windows Media File Editor

In the Script Commands dialog, click the Add... button to introduce the Script Command Properties dialog in which you'll be specifying that this is to be a TEXT entry that will become visible as captioning:

Illsutration of the Script Command Properties dialog in the Windows Media File Editor

Begin by clicking on the drop-down menu for the Type field, and set this to TEXT . This will cause the media player to treat the information you type into the Parameter field, below, as captioning information.

As you add captioning entries, you will find that they appear as green marks on the timeline that appears to the left of the Script Commands button. You will find that each new entry appears in the listing of script commands in the dialog window that appears whenever the Script Commands button is pressed.

Illustration of Script Command markers and entries in the Windows Media File Editor

As with index markers, you can edit or remove an entry from the dialog window by clicking on it to select it and then clicking on the Edit or Remove button, as appropriate.

Note: the captions that you add are persistent. When the media file is played back, each caption will stay on the screen until a new one takes its place. If you want to clear a caption after a set time, you will have to add a contentless caption at the time you want the previous caption to disappear from the screen. You can do this by clicking on the Script Commands button, clicking the Add button in the ensuing Script Commands window, and then, in the Script Command Properties window, setting the Type field to TEXT , add a single period in the Parameter field (you can't leave the field blank), and then clicking the OK button. Now, at the set time, your caption will be replaced by an unobtrusive dot.

Because the timing of captions is often quite important, you may find yourself tweaking the points at which they appear after you've finished adding them. You can do that either by editing the entries (i.e. by clicking on the Script Commands button, selecting the entry in question, and clicking the Edit button and modifying the time manually) or, more simply, by moving the appropriate green marker to the left or right along its timeline. As you adjust the times when the captions will appear, you should consider that it is general practice to have a caption appear as words are being spoken , not after they have been said . Towards this end, if you are transcribing your captions as you go, you will probably find yourself making small adjustments using one of the methods discussed above.

Once your captioning tasks are completed, you can again save the file using the Save and Index or Save As and Index options discussed above. You will then have to perform the additional step of  applying the "scripts"--your captions--to the file header of the saved file. This sounds more cumbersome than it actually is. From the menu, select File|Move Scripts to Header . When prompted in the Save dialog for the name of the file to which the "scripts" should be attached, identify the file you have just created, and then click the Save button. At this point, you've successfully added captioning to your Windows media file.

Note: If you have two versions of the same media file (one encoded for the web and one for classroom distribution), you can repeat the "Move Scripts to Header" step above and specify the other version of the file, and that file will then have the same captioning information attached to it.

Playing Captioned Content

If you are using the MediaFileThingy utility to post your Captioned or URL-encoded media file to Plattsburgh State's web site, you need not provide students with additional instructions on displaying captions or allowing URL script commands to be run. If, on the other hand, you are planning to distribute your content via CD, you will have to offer your audience some additional guidance.

Setting the Media Player to Display Captions

When distributing your captioned Windows Media file, you will have to prompt your audience members to ensure that their Windows Media Players are set to display captions.  The setting can be found under the Play|Captions and Subtitles menu in the full-mode Windows Media Player.

Illustration of Captioning switch in Windows Media Player 9

By setting the option to On if Available , the media player will display captioning when it has been encoded into a Windows media file, as illustrated below.

Windows Media Player, showing captions with video.

Setting the Media Player to respond to URL Commands

As with any changes to security settings, users should only be encouraged to make changes to these settings unless they fully understand what is at stake. While the commands that you are working with (URL/TEXT) are harmless, it is not impossible that more harmful scripts could be delivered. If you suggest to your audience that they make any setting changes, you should also prompt them to return their settings to a more secure state once they've finished.

The following default setting allows files posted to the media server to play your TEXT/URL scripts, but it will not permit scripts to be run in a stand-alone player. It's the most practical security setting, but it will limit some of the utility of the media if delivered as a stand-alone file and not embedded into a web page.

 Illustration of the Windows Media Player Security Settings

Adding URL Commands

URL Commands allow the media file to serve as a trigger for loading a web page. For instance, by adding a URL Command specifying the location of the Plattsburgh State web site at the 15-second mark of an audio track, then the media file will, on playback, load up the Plattsburgh State web site at exactly 15 seconds into the file. Through this mechanism, you can create slide shows, link to relevant sources, and draw on all that the web can offer by invoking URLs via your media file.

The process for adding URL commands is the same as the process for adding  text captions: cue the file to the location where you would like the new web page to be invoked, click the Script Commands button, and then click the Add button in the Script Commands dialog. In the ensuing Script Command Properties window, set the Type field to URL , and then, in the Parameter field, type the full URL of the web page which you would like to invoke.

Illustration of URL Command in Windows Media File Editor

As you go about adding new URL commands, you should consider that web pages take some time to load, and that you can't count on the prospect that everyone has a very fast internet connection.  If you place your URL commands too close together, your audience might find that the first web page hasn't yet loaded before the second one is already being called to the browser.

Adjusting the File Attributes

The final step in working with the Windows Media File Editor is making any final adjustments to the media file's attributes: the information governing the Title, Author, Copyright, and Description of the media file itself.

By clicking on the tab marked Attributes towards the top of the File Editor screen, you can make such adjustments as you need to.

Illustration of the Windows Media File Editor Attributes Screen

Remember, all files that are to be posted to Plattsburgh's streaming media server must have information filled in for Author, Title, Copyright, and Description.

If you've made a modification to the file attributes, you should again return to the file menu to save the file. If you save the file to a new name, be sure that you also remember to run the File|Move Scripts to Header option against the new file name.

Next Steps

At this point, you should first test your freshly overhauled file, and then decide how you will deliver it.  If you are pursuing deliver via a web page, you'll probably want to go on to visit the MediaFileThingy section of this web site for information on generating a web page and posting it to the server.  If you're thinking of delivering it on CD, you may be interested in examining our pages on Creating CDs.