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How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????

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William Urschel
How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 3, 2008 at 3:54:29 pm

I have been using many DV camcorders with various software and computers (both PC and Apple) since 1990, with great results. Likewise, I have been producing both Blu-Ray and Standard Definition disks from the Sony FX-1 - and I and my customers like the results very much.

But the DVD results from the EX-1 have been an Absolute Abomination, and totally unacceptable to me and any of my customers. Blu Ray Discs produced from the EX-1 are superb. But anything, any way regarding DVDs are terrible. I am shooting NTSC 1920 x 1080 p or i.

Last summer I posted a query about this issue on another forum, and received some potentially very helpful responses, none of which, unfortunately, helped. Since then, I have spent 542 hours (according to my time reports) attempting to produce ANY acceptable DVDs from the EX-1 with no success. The best I can do is to shoot progressive, introduce very significant Gaussian Blur, convert to 720 x 480 progressive using Cineform Prospect 4K, and then produce progressive DVDs, to be played, of course, on progressive output DVD players - but the result is lousy - not anything as good as DVDs produced from the Sony FX-1 HDV! If I shoot interlaced and produce interlaced DVDs, the results are really totally unacceptably soft. If I shoot interlaced and then use an anti-flicker filter, the horizontal (but not the vertical "twitter" or "flicker") is pretty much removed. If I do not go through any of these insane dances, the horizontal AND vertical twitter on the DVD is unwatchable. In the 18 years I have been in the field, I have never seen such garbage. The new $200 "HD" mini camcorders produce far superior results to this. In the meantime, for my normal day work, I continue to use the FX-1.

Before I go into any technical details, two points are definitely in order. First, when I produce a down rezzed progressive 720 x 480 AVI file (utilizing Cineform), the clarity and lack of artifacts are stunningly positive as viewed on 24 inch "hi-def" computer screens. It is only when the AVI file is converted to MPEG2 for the DVD that the result is horrible. Second, I realize that there are hundreds of producers out there who produce great DVDs from the EX-1 - I have seen many of them. But not me. And before I sell off this camera and all of the accessories (including $5,000 worth of cards), I am taking one last shot at hoping someone has a possible solution for me. My customers with Blu Ray players and full hi-def screens love what the EX-1 can shoot - unfortunately, most of my customers have only DVD players.

I am committed to PCs at the moment, so Apple as an alternative is out of the question. My main editing machine is a Boxx 8400, running two dual Xeons (3 GHz), 4 Gig Ram, 150 G 10k rpm program HD, and 800 G data HD, with all the usual bells and whistles, Windows XP, NVidia Quadro 1500, Adobe CS3 everything, updated, Cineform Prospect 4K. Two major Adobe programs used are Premiere and Encore.

In desperation, I purchased and installed the much vaunted and recommended Procoder 3 (it really messed up everything after I unsuccessfully tried it and un-installed it, and I had to do a complete re-install of everything to get the machine working again, and it appeared to have the same as Adobe's much maligned and dreaded Main Concept program!). Then I tried Vegas - the full version, with its DVD encoder, Nero 8, etc., etc. I tried ALL of the commercial top versions of many programs with which everyone was having success, but not me!

I also attempted to install and use some of the "free" programs that were supposed to be the creme de la creme, but I failed, somehow to get the hang of them (they may be perfect, I just couldn't figure out how to jump through all the hoops to make them work properly).

By the way, I've been assembling "home theaters" for 24 years, before there was any such thing out there, for my self and many others, and the terrible results I've been seeing on the big screen from the EX-1 produced DVDs are about the only terrible presentations I've seen (except for some very, very early commercial DVDs), as seen on some of my current up-rezzing facilities - 4 DVD players, 2 Sony Blu Ray Players, 2 Toshiba HD-DVD players (remember HD-DVD?), as displayed on a variety of units from a Samsung 42' flat panel LCD to a 109" Stewart Filmscreen Firehawk screen, projected by Panasonic's latest AE-3000U Projector - needless to say, all theater units incorporate the very latest downloads. The up-rezzing processors range from some marginal Faroujas to some great Faroujas and Silicone Optix Reon chips.

I'd post screen shots where possible, but its only when I play the resulting DVDs on the big screens that the problem can be seen - the 720 x 480 progressive resolution on a computer screen looks stunningly good, as do still grabs, but on LCDs and projected images, twitter twitter twitter with ANY DVDs, except, as mentioned, material softened to the point of impossibility.

My workflow is either from the BPAV files, either as immediately handled by Sony program into Adobe Premiere CS3., or brought into Premiere after conversion to 1920 x 1080 p or i by Cineform Prospect 4k (no matter which, the visual results in intermediate or final files appear the same), edit in Premiere, with color and other adjustments (with or without, the twitter problem is the same), conversion of the final, edited Premiere 1920 x 1080 p or i timeline to 720 x 480 p or i file (Cineform does a superior detailed, artifact free conversion, far better than ANY other technique I have used!), conversion of the resulting file to MPEG2 for DVD by the Main Concept program in Adobe Encore, and then after setting up menus in Encore, burning the DVD on a Sony burner in the 8400 Boxx.

Sooooooo, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. If anyone out there has ANY thoughts that might be helpful and work for me and get rid of the blasted twitter (vertical and horizontal), without softening the DVD picture to obliteration, you have my abundent gratitude!!!!!!!!


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Noah Kadner
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 3, 2008 at 7:29:38 pm

I have no clue why the prospect cineform and gaussian blur are part of your workflow but they seem completely unnecessary and are probably adding more noise and concatenation than anything. In my workflow in Final Cut Pro- sorry not PC but you'll get the idea, it's really simple. I cut XDCAM EX QuickTime at 1920x1080, then send my completed edits directly to Compressor to make 16:9 24p NTSC SD MPEG-2 and put onto DVD. Looks great.

So I'd move up to CS4 at the least and maybe look at a different authoring program as Encore is not by far the only game on the PC. Might be time to look into Sony Vegas for example and Sonic DVD products. Also get a better MPEG-2 encoder, that's ultimately the main deciding factor assuming your source footage is of good quality and within broadcast safe specs. Cinemacraft for example- good encoder, not cheap but good.

Noah

Check out My FCP Blog and my new RED Blog. Unlock the secrets of the DVX100, HVX200 and Apple Color.
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William Urschel
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 3, 2008 at 7:50:05 pm

Noah:

Thanks much for your thoughts. My post was probably way too long, because I had mentioned that I purchased and tried out Vegas (actually, Vegas Pro 8), and one of the many other programs I purchased and tried out was Nero 8 Ultra - still, all the DVD's on the EX-1 downrez to SD for DVD were garbage, when exactly the same
workflow out of the FX-1 to DVD looked great!

But I was not acquainted with Cinema Craft - sometime in the next week I'll try the $2,000 version trial download, and post the results here of how that performed. Thanks again.



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Craig Seeman
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:13:27 pm

I'm sympathetic to the twitter issue. I shoot 1080p30 predominately and I had one shot of a slow zoom in a botanical garden with lots of thin horizontal lines and I couldn't get a donwconvert to DVD that I was happy with. I think the issue is if the resultant line is less than one scan line when downconverted it can be a problem. With the slow zoom it danced like crazy. BTW I've seen similar problems with credit rolls coming from film (24p obviously).



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Rafael Amador
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 4, 2008 at 12:15:31 pm

Hi Willian,
I'm also very happy about how well the EX-1 footage looks downsized and so the good quality that you can get in DVD.
I fallow a workflow similar to Noah but I make the downscaling in FC too. Cut the EX-1 in a SD ProRes 16x9 sequence and CC. Before rendering set FC to the higher rendering quality. The downsizing is done in 10b and normally looks great.
If you have something like an AJA or BM, you can downsize in the card and in the camera.
Cheers,
rafael


http://www.nagavideo.com


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Curt Pair
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 5, 2008 at 7:31:09 pm

William,

This post came to me from a friend who reads these regularly. My name is Curt Pair. I own a video production company in Phoenix, AZ: Picture This Productions, Inc. We do all sorts of production with MANY different cameras: from the EX1 to XD Cam HD (F350/700) to F900 Cine Alta HD Cam, and even things in between. I am a member of Sony's ICE Team, (sort of like a product evangelist). I know a GREAT deal about the ENTIRE XD/EX line.

Without knowing ANYTHING else... I would have to agree with Noah. It seems that you're taking unnecessary steps that will only add to your problem. I don't understand the CineForm and Gaussian blur methodology. In any case, the blur won't help create the look you're after...

As my buddy, Brian Walker, who referred this to me says "Curt, you're the guy to help this dude!" I am a PC guy! (I'm the LARGEST "anit-Mac" person you could ever meet, but that's a long story, and not relevant here!) I also use Adobe Premiere! We do have different "systems" but I don't think that matters much, as Boxx makes AWESOME systems, and it seems that yours is more than adequate.

I'd LOVE to know your entire process here from acquisition on the SxS card all the way through to DVD... by what you've written, I have a pretty good understanding; I'll have to guess at some things, but here are some thoughts...

I need to know what version of PPCS3 you're using. Did you know you can cut the SxS files NATIVELY now? That skips that whole step with CineForm! Plus, if you have the Main Concept plug in, that was designed for this camera, with the help from Sony, and is used EXCLUSIVELY by Sony in their own Clip Browser program, I don't know why you aren't using that. (BTW: if you upgrade to CS4, even MORE, killer usability with the EX line is possible, as Adobe has implemented a "Clip Browser" feature INSIDE Premiere Pro CS4!)

I'm using the Matrox Axio card/system; I don't think that if you aren't using this system you can't get the same results, I may be faster.

I will admit, I too cut in HD, making color corrections, adding graphics and the like, THEN I export out of PPCS3 to Encore an make the .m2v file. I don't go through that process of CineForm or adding blur...

Until the Adobe's most recent update to CS3, I would open the files in Clip Browser 2.0, use the Main Concept codec to transcode the MP4, ORIGINAL/Native EX1/Sxs files to mxf, and then open the .mxf files in Premiere. (My reason/methodology for that is that my clients wanted "all files" on XD disc. This way, I could give them their "raw" footage on XD to match other things XD... They didn't have to have some files on XD media and some on hard drives. What ever format, even 720 DVC Pro HD, we'd try to give our clients the footage on the same acquisition format to make it easier on their "non-technology" types in the office.)

Now that CS3 can edit the EX1 footage in it's native format, I skip that step! I just "import" the .mp4 files into the HD/EX1 project with the appropriate settings (1080/720/24p/30p/60i...) ("Soon," and I'm salivating for this one... Sony will release an update to their PDW-U1 drive that will open up the "General" folder from it's current limitations of 500MB to the entire size of the disc! (23Gb/50Gb) That means I'll be able to give clients NATIVE EX1/3 files from the SxS card, saved on the XD Media, in the general folder, with no transcoding. We are trying to shoot EVERYTHING on XD Cam HD now, as I truly believe it's the "next Beta-cam." In the end our clients will receive all of their raw materials on the same media making it easier for them to post, if they don't use our facility.)

Once my edit is completed, I select the "MPEG2-DVD" file as my output type from the Adobe (in my case MATROX) media encoder, select the compression, either a Constant Bit Rate (CBR) or a Variable Bit Rate (VBR), the number of passes for the compression, I generally use two, the frame size, 16:9 letterbox, 4:3 squeeze, 4:3 edge cropped from the 16:9 HD file, (you know what I'm saying, it depends on the project and what the client wants) select a target folder, and let it rip.

I open in Encore, (The files won't have to transcode here now), "build" my DVD, with menus, navigation, etc. Let it rip!

I haven't had a single problem. It looks great. We have EXREMELY picky clients and we haven't heard a single negative comment. I personally test ALL discs leaving the building, and I haven't seen any problems. We've used Bravias (in SD mode, with pillar boxes on the side), SD 32" Sony, field monitors, and the like review the materials before distribution.

I hope, if you try a few of these things they help out. If not, please feel free to contact me directly; I'd love to help out. Don't do something drastic, and get rid of the best HD camera on the planet in the sub $6K range! There are ways to figure out the solutions!

Curt Pair
Sony ICE Team
F900/F350/EX1
Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 HD/Matrox
Phoenix, AZ


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Curt Pair
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 5, 2008 at 7:40:35 pm

William,

This post came to me from a friend who reads these regularly. My name is Curt Pair. I own a video production company in Phoenix, AZ: Picture This Productions, Inc. We do all sorts of production with MANY different cameras: from the EX1 to XD Cam HD (F350/700) to F900 Cine Alta HD Cam, and even things in between. I am a member of Sony's ICE Team, (sort of like a product evangelist). I know a GREAT deal about the ENTIRE XD/EX line.

Without knowing ANYTHING else... I would have to agree with Noah. It seems that you're taking unnecessary steps that will only add to your problem. I don't understand the CineForm and Gaussian blur methodology. In any case, the blur won't help create the look you're after...

As my buddy, Brian Walker, who referred this to me says "Curt, you're the guy to help this dude!" I am a PC guy! (I'm the LARGEST "anit-Mac" person you could ever meet, but that's a long story, and not relevant here!) I also use Adobe Premiere! We do have different "systems" but I don't think that matters much, as Boxx makes AWESOME systems, and it seems that yours is more than adequate.

I'd LOVE to know your entire process here from acquisition on the SxS card all the way through to DVD... by what you've written, I have a pretty good understanding; I'll have to guess at some things, but here are some thoughts...

I need to know what version of PPCS3 you're using. Did you know you can cut the SxS files NATIVELY now? That skips that whole step with CineForm! Plus, if you have the Main Concept plug in, that was designed for this camera, with the help from Sony, and is used EXCLUSIVELY by Sony in their own Clip Browser program, I don't know why you aren't using that. (BTW: if you upgrade to CS4, even MORE, killer usability with the EX line is possible, as Adobe has implemented a "Clip Browser" feature INSIDE Premiere Pro CS4!)

I'm using the Matrox Axio card/system; I don't think that if you aren't using this system you can't get the same results, I may be faster.

I will admit, I too cut in HD, making color corrections, adding graphics and the like, THEN I export out of PPCS3 to Encore an make the .m2v file. I don't go through that process of CineForm or adding blur...

Until the Adobe's most recent update to CS3, I would open the files in Clip Browser 2.0, use the Main Concept codec to transcode the MP4, ORIGINAL/Native EX1/Sxs files to mxf, and then open the .mxf files in Premiere. (My reason/methodology for that is that my clients wanted "all files" on XD disc. This way, I could give them their "raw" footage on XD to match other things XD... They didn't have to have some files on XD media and some on hard drives. What ever format, even 720 DVC Pro HD, we'd try to give our clients the footage on the same acquisition format to make it easier on their "non-technology" types in the office.)

Now that CS3 can edit the EX1 footage in it's native format, I skip that step! I just "import" the .mp4 files into the HD/EX1 project with the appropriate settings (1080/720/24p/30p/60i...) ("Soon," and I'm salivating for this one... Sony will release an update to their PDW-U1 drive that will open up the "General" folder from it's current limitations of 500MB to the entire size of the disc! (23Gb/50Gb) That means I'll be able to give clients NATIVE EX1/3 files from the SxS card, saved on the XD Media, in the general folder, with no transcoding. We are trying to shoot EVERYTHING on XD Cam HD now, as I truly believe it's the "next Beta-cam." In the end our clients will receive all of their raw materials on the same media making it easier for them to post, if they don't use our facility.)

Once my edit is completed, I select the "MPEG2-DVD" file as my output type from the Adobe (in my case MATROX) media encoder, select the compression, either a Constant Bit Rate (CBR) or a Variable Bit Rate (VBR), the number of passes for the compression, I generally use two, the frame size, 16:9 letterbox, 4:3 squeeze, 4:3 edge cropped from the 16:9 HD file, (you know what I'm saying, it depends on the project and what the client wants) select a target folder, and let it rip.

I open in Encore, (The files won't have to transcode here now), "build" my DVD, with menus, navigation, etc. Let it rip!

I haven't had a single problem. It looks great. We have EXREMELY picky clients and we haven't heard a single negative comment. I personally test ALL discs leaving the building, and I haven't seen any problems. We've used Bravias (in SD mode, with pillar boxes on the side), SD 32" Sony, field monitors, and the like review the materials before distribution.

I hope, if you try a few of these things they help out. If not, please feel free to contact me directly; I'd love to help out. Don't do something drastic, and get rid of the best HD camera on the planet in the sub $6K range! There are ways to figure out the solutions!

Curt Pair
Sony ICE Team
F900/F350/EX1
Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 HD/Matrox
Phoenix, AZ


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Michael Slowe
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 5, 2008 at 11:04:26 pm

Curt, one question. What bit rate do you set for your 'average' when encoding VBR two passes? I encode with BitVice (great software) and aim for about 7.5 average with minimum of 4.5 and a max of 8.25. If the production is 1 hour I decrease those figures slightly.

Any advice would be welcome. I do find the scaling from HD takes 5X the programme time but it's a good quality scale.

Michael Slowe


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Curt Pair
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 6, 2008 at 1:21:13 am

Michael,

I think you are right in line with the bit rates... I've found over the years that MOST dvd players are in that range. When I started authoring DVDs, 12 years ago, I tried shooting as high as the software would allow, given the length of my program. I was getting "hey, this won't play in my dvd player..." more than I wanted, so I started decreasing my mid range bit rate, which is the majority of what your compression engine will shoot for. I set that between 6.5-7.5, and have phenomenal results. I think my general magic numbers are really 6.8-7.1 at two passes.

As far as my minimums and maximums: 4.2 & 8.0-8.5, depending on length of the program.

Are you using software or hardware acceleration to accomplish your task? I ask because if I use Adobe's media encoder it generally takes (and you're right...) 4-5X the program length to encode, if originally cut in HD; the mathematical equations are great to do all that downscaling! If it's an SD original project, it's about .75X real time or less in most cases.

If I use the Matrox media encoder that accompanies my card in my Axio system, it's about 3X the program total run time to encode in HD (down converting to SD). If it's an SD program, the Matrox takes about 1/3-1/2 the TRT, and in some cases, depending on the type of video even shorter than that!

Hardware will speed up this process.

I hope that helps. Feel free to throw out questions anytime! We're all here to help each other!

Curt Pair
Sony ICE Team
F900/F350/EX1
Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 HD/Matrox
Phoenix, AZ


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Michael Slowe
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 6, 2008 at 2:17:23 pm

Thanks Curt, glad to hear that I'm on the right track. I think the BitVice downscale (Hemming?) is software only but my Media 100 downscale is slightly superior and that is using their HDx board. Trouble is their new versions don't have that (expensive) board anymore and they use an AJA board and the dowscales are done by software only.

I have just seen my latest DVD projected in a cinema on a huge screen and it looked stunning, I couldn't believe it was a DVD. They use an upscaler and a good projector, the sign of the futute I suppose. That particular cinema group are only putting digital in their re furbished screens so no more film for them!

Michael Slowe


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Bo Skelmose
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 8, 2008 at 5:14:54 pm

I can only say that my way of making DVD´s is working great.
I use premiere cs3,2. Now I record only progressive, since interlaced never looks great on a modern flatscreen. I start a project that fits the EX files. Like 720 P25 - thats the format I record in.
I export the files as a Matrox DVCam progressive file - I have the matrox codec installed on that machine. I move the file to another machine on which I have the Vista 64bit ultimate system. Then I use its own burner program to make the DVD - it never failed burning a stunning DVD.
Played on my Sony Blu-ray, that upconverts too HD on my Sony Bravia - it almost looks as a HD movie.
I am not sure I could see the difference.



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William Urschel
Re: How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD ?????
on Dec 30, 2008 at 3:04:54 pm

To all of those who provided your expert experience, insights and advice, above, my many thanks again. But I am totally shut down at the moment, as I made the mistake of uninstalling CS3 and installing CS4, with the result that I now can transfer nothing from the timeline on Premiere, and Encore will not recognize ANY of my Blu-Ray burners. So after better than 12 years with Adobe, I am now going to attempt Sony's Vegas installation - if and when I EVER manage to get ANYTHING to work, I will be back. I wish you all a Happy New Year, and greater success than I am having at the moment!



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