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60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?

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Andy Stokes
60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 25, 2011 at 6:12:36 am

Hi All,

I'm creating some content in After Effects for watchout playback. I'm used to working in PAL 25fps, but I know whatchout refresh is 60Hz.

If I render my content as 1080P 60fps would Watchout be able to play this back smoothly? Is this a good approach?

The content will be shared with other locations using Watchout, would it be universal to all Watchout systems? (i.e: Playback the same?)

Thx,
Andy



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Walter Soyka
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 25, 2011 at 2:41:44 pm

WATCHOUT is a software solution, and playback performance depends on the hardware it's running on. This is a big asset, as you are not locked into a specific set of capabilities and can expand or contract the system's capabilities depending on budget -- but it's also a big liability, because there are no hard and fast rules as to what will play well on the system.

WATCHOUT can play video at 60 fps, but the display computers will need to have fast processors and media drives to keep up with the decode complexity and high data rate. Older or slower display computers may not keep up.

You should get in touch with the AV vendors supplying the WATCHOUT machines and inquire about specs. As a point of reference, I generally like to use high-bitrate MPEG-2 video.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Matthew Keane
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 26, 2011 at 10:56:23 am

Hi,

As Walter says, contact the company supplying the player PCs and find out about the specs and, if possible, try and get hold of one or more of the players for testing. Depending on the number of video layers and the complexity of the project (blend modes, effects), you can't necessarily rely on the specs alone as a guarantee of fluid playback.

As to your original question - I just worked on a project where, with the 60fps playback in mind - we encoded the assets at 30fps rather than the usual 25fps. This has the advantage of smoother playback but without the overhead of 60fps files. This was for large assets (4380x1920px) though, so for smaller elements, you might not have any problems encoding at 60fps.


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Walter Soyka
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 27, 2011 at 4:11:54 am

[Matthew Keane] "contact the company supplying the player PCs and find out about the specs and, if possible, try and get hold of one or more of the players for testing. Depending on the number of video layers and the complexity of the project (blend modes, effects), you can't necessarily rely on the specs alone as a guarantee of fluid playback."

Absolutely -- testing is critical, and I absolutely should have mentioned that in my post. Unlike other some other media servers, WATCHOUT doesn't guarantee (and limit you to) X channels or Y effects, so it's possible to push a display computer too far.

One of my favorite things about WATCHOUT is that it's not a locked black box, and it's up to the user to manage system resources. This is also one of my least favorite things!


[Matthew Keane] "This was for large assets (4380x1920px) though, so for smaller elements, you might not have any problems encoding at 60fps."

Large assets like that can be pre-split, reducing the playback demand on each display computer to only the pixels it will actually display.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Matthew Keane
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 27, 2011 at 8:44:36 am

Hi Walter,

Yeah, I forgot to say that we split the large renders into files for each display, so our largest files were 1080p30. Since each display has to display 2 layers of HD (3D background plus an effects layer, kept separate for flexibility) plus some other smaller elements (720p30 and some 640px), it was decided not to risk trying 60fps renders, although the hardware should probably have been capable of playing it.

Matthew


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Andy Stokes
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 28, 2011 at 6:45:05 am

Hi All,

Thanks for the comments. I am planning to split the renders into 3x 1080P 60fps MPEG2 clips.

There will not be any other content on the screen, so in theory I think it should be ok. Any tips for what bitrate to encode the MPEG clips at?

Is this still a feasible approach or should I go 30fps? The content is quite fast moving and looks way smoother on my 60fps tests.

Thx,
Andy



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Walter Soyka
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 28, 2011 at 10:21:56 pm

[Andy Stokes] "There will not be any other content on the screen, so in theory I think it should be ok. Any tips for what bitrate to encode the MPEG clips at?"

It's tough to say -- compression is a balancing act between quality and capability. Both your footage and the display computer will influence your decision. I'd do several encodes at different bit rates. For reference, the maximum bit rate for MPEG-2 on Blu-ray is 40 Mbps.

Encoding 1080p60 MPEG-2 video may be a challenge, though. Episode 5 can do it, but they changed the encoder with the new version, so neither Episode 6, Compressor, nor ffmpeg can. (I'm not in front of my ProCoder system to try.)

You might be better off with WMV-9 or H.264 in this case. They will look better than MPEG-2 at the same bit rate, but they have much higher decode complexity -- so we're back to Matthew's advice to test.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Matthew Keane
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on Apr 28, 2011 at 10:37:26 pm

Hi,

It was having to compress 1080p30 clips that made me finally ditch Compressor (at least the FCS2 version) in favour of Adobe Media Encoder. I just checked and, with AME, you can encode MPEG2 at up to 60fps and even, apparantly, push the data rate as high as 80Mbps! Not that I've ever tried playing anything like that back, but it looks like, if you have the hardware to deal with it, AME will let you encode it.

Normally, based on the recommendations of the local Dataton dealer, I stick to around 20-25Mbps for 1080p30, which is fairly conservative, but pretty much guaranteed to play smoothly. For 60fps you'll probably want to push the data rate a bit higher and, as Walter suggests, maybe encode at a few different data rates so you have some options.

Matthew


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Andy Stokes
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on May 12, 2011 at 3:46:36 am

Hi Matthew,

How did you get Adobe media encoder to let you set 60fps in the MPEG2 settings?

I cannot seem to make it work from my 60fps source.

Any tips would be appreciated.

Thx,
Andy



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Matthew Keane
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on May 12, 2011 at 7:49:27 am

Hi,

I'm using the CS4 version of AME, so not sure whether this applies in CS5. I chose the generic 'MPEG2' under the format pulldown and then, in the settings window was able to choose 60fps (for a 25fps source, so it doesn't seem picky about what source footage it will use). Profile is set to 'Main' and Level to 'High' (with other Level settings, there are fewer frame rates available to choose from).

I haven't actually tried an encoding test at 60fps though, much less tried to play back a 60fps file!


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Andy Stokes
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on May 20, 2011 at 9:56:40 am

Hi Walter/Matthew,

Just wanted to say thanks for all the advice. In the end 60fps h.264's at 20Mb/s worked very smoothly!

The Watchout display computers were feeding Christie roadsters which are SXVGA not full HD. (1400x1050). Each machine had one 1400x1050 clip so wasn't too taxing to playback.

FYI Matthew, I checked AME CS4 and as you pointed out it does indeed state 60fps. However, if you actually try and process it fails with a format mis-match error! I made MPEG2 versions as backup in Episode 5 although they weren't needed, but useful to know.

Hope this thread helps others if they have similar situation. Thanks again guys!

Cheers,
Andy



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Matthew Keane
Re: 60fps render from AE for Watchout playback?
on May 20, 2011 at 10:12:28 am

Thanks for the feedback - glad the show went well.

You're right - I just did some tests and, with MPEG2, encoding fails at 1080/60fps but succeeds for 720/60fps. With h264 though, I managed to encode a 1080/60fps file, so it may be a limitation of the MPEG2 format.


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