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Learning about Compression and compression programs

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David Rowan
Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Aug 13, 2005 at 9:37:31 pm

I've had a long career in broadcasting, where all I ever had to do was worry about tape. Now I find myself making more and more DVD's, and as I branch out on my own for side work I have to worry about Web Video too. So now I must compress my brain. Yeah, I guess I'll get Waggoner's book but for now...

I work on a FCP G5, 2x2.7, 4MBRam with Tiger and FCP Studio, which has Compressor 2. I have been using DVDSP to make the DVD's.

Recently I've been practicing by getting my own personal home movies ready for DVD. Some of them have been on Beta (digitized as SD 8 bit uncompressed) and some from DVCPro (DV/DVCPro Codec).

My results have been inconsistent. Sometime these MPEG2,s look great on the DVD, other times the edge detail looks iffy and there are motion artifacts. Mostly its the Beta stuff that has problems. I'm using the default settings, since I'm too new at this to mess with the controls.(NTSC 4:3 90 min best quality)

I don't know if this should be true or not, but it seems like when I go into FCP, throw the clips into a timeline and "Export Using Compressor" I get better results than if I just take the original file and drag it directly into Compressor. That shouldn't really be true, should it?

The main question I have is about getting another program to do this with. I see a lot of complaints about Apple's Compressor, but they seem to be about the flakiness of the program, not the quality of the results. Squeeze and Cleaner seem to be the other big ones.

Is Bitvice just for MPEG2 (that is DVD's)? Does it do a better job than Compressor?

I have not seen many people mention Compression Master. The reviews I found seemed positive, and I will need the Flash conversions, but how does it do on MPEG2?

Anyone want to duke it on Compression Program Wars?



DWR


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Charles Simonson
Re: Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Aug 14, 2005 at 11:52:08 pm

There is no technical reason that I can think of why you should be getting better results out of FCP over Compressor directly. The only thing I can think of is that you are using a self-contained file in Compressor. When creating a self-contained movie, FCP has to render out and copy every frame, which includes re-rendering your effects. For Uncompressed, this isn't an issue, but for DVCPRO, it can be noticable. When exporting directly from FCP, it can skip this step.

BitVice is just for MPEG-2, and it is the best MPEG-2 encoder on the mac market for SD sources IMO. BitVice should do a great job of encoding your Uncompressed 8bit sources. For HD sources and MPEG-2, I really like MainConcept. And yes, both are much higher quality than Apple's encoder.

Compression Master has a good MPEG-2 encoder. The last time I tested, it fell somewhere between Apple's and MainConcept's. If you like to tweak your image, then there really is no other choice on the mac as it has the best preprocessing and filtering of any software. CM also has just about every output format covered. You can probably get better FLV encoding from Squeeze, but I would never recommend anyone use it for MPEG-2 encoding (even though it does license the MainConcept Encoder, but does a terrible job enabling it).


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David Rowan
Re: Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Aug 15, 2005 at 12:50:37 am

Thanks for the input!

DWR


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Ben Waggoner
Re: Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Aug 15, 2005 at 6:21:32 pm

Charles,

In my recent testing, it seems that BitVice has fallen behind Compressor 2 in terms of compatibility, performance, and quality. Not hugely behind, but significant, with both 4:3 60i and 16:9 24p. I'd be curious to hear the cases where you see BitVice having an advantage.

My Book: http://www.benwaggoner.com/books.htm
Squeeze and ProCoder tutorials: http://www.classondemand.net/benwaggoner/
Compression Class at Stanford: http://www.digitalmediaacademy.org/compression.html


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Charles Simonson
Re: Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Aug 15, 2005 at 6:45:54 pm

Performance... yes. BitVice has never been the fastest MPEG-2 encoder on the market. And Apple's encoder has been pretty well optimized over the last year and a half or so. Compatibility... can't really say, as I haven't had any real problems with either one (of the resulting encodes). Quality... this is curious to me. As I've said in the past, I wouldn't use BitVice for HD sources (mainly because it either won't accept some HD formats or because it has to use QT to scale, which isn't that great), but for SD sources (4:3 29.97), it produces the most accurate to-the-source encodings I can get. With Apple's encoder, I still see large and ugly aliasing and contouring artifacts. I don't encode much 16:9 24 SD content so I couldn't offer an opinion one way or the other there.


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Charles Simonson
Re: Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Aug 15, 2005 at 7:01:45 pm

With all this said, I probably haven't done a real hard comparisson of MPEG-2 encoders on the mac in about a year, so hopefully I can find the time someday soon to re-evaluate all of the latest options. I know some of the encoders have been updated in that time, and it would be good to see if there have been any significant changes.


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Ethan Wolvek
Re: Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Sep 8, 2005 at 4:37:31 pm

I've been searching for an alternative to Compressor which seems to have lost quality in it's latest iteration.

I have a regular client for whom I author several weekly DVD's. The master footage is often poorly shot


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Al Davis
Re: Learning about Compression and compression programs
on Aug 28, 2005 at 9:36:43 pm

Ben,
I must say that I do consider you "the man" on compression; and read this thread with interest, as I have been having some mixed results with the new QT7/FCP5/Compressor line-up. I decided to plow forward and download a trial version of Bitvice 1.6 (their most recent offering) and perform my own test. Overall I will agree that I saw little difference between the two; however I saw some significant superiorities in and around transitions (simple 20 frame cross-desolves). Where I was getting some very blocky results with compressor, they were flawless out of bitvice. I also noticed less background fluctuations in areas with thin mids. This was using the same Quicktime, out of FCP5. A 12 minute video, 4/3 shot with mini DV. I used all default settings in Bitvice.
I will also point out that I can correct the flaws out of compressor by engaging the filter that reduces noise; however this added an overall "dulling" effect to the entire video (almost like adding a gausean blur).


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