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Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?

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cegelfand
Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?
on Jul 7, 2006 at 6:24:43 pm

Does anyone have any thoughts on this particular hardware encoder or any mac-based encoders that can do a better job than Compressor?


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Charles Simonson
Re: Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?
on Jul 7, 2006 at 8:24:01 pm

Unless you have a lot of tapes to encode from and they are sourced from film-based material, purchasing a hardware MPEG-2 encoder does not have much value these days IMO. Compressor 2 and MainConcept have very good encoders on the mac, and I would suspect you would get more value by purchasing a powerful PC and installing ProCoder 2 (best MPEG-2 encoding) on it than just a buying single-format card.


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cegelfand
Re: Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?
on Jul 7, 2006 at 8:37:33 pm

compressor seems to have too many flaws- i keep getting chunky dissolves, bad blacks, lots of noise...and i've tried 1 pass CBR, 2 pass VBR, GOP open and closed...etc...I am working in DV now and seem to always have a project that needs encoding and am finding the sources that are available to be subpar- do you find Procoder 2 to be superior to the Mac options? And when you say "single-format card" do you mean a card that only does DV as opposed to HD and other formats? Just seems like time-wise a hardware encoder is far better and then quality-wise, at least for DV it's still better...but I'm just basing that on what I read...maybe you can elaborate more...thanks


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Charles Simonson
Re: Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?
on Jul 8, 2006 at 5:43:59 am

Yeah, there are definitely times where Compressor just won't encode a project correctly no matter what settings you use, although I do find version 2 to be infinitely better than version 1.

Being that you are using DV, then I would say that there is almost absolutely no reason to go with an MPEG encoding card. The benefit of a card based solution is mostly evident when using sources that provide very little compression, like D5 or DigiBeta and the SDI input connection on the card. By single-format, I mean that the card can only encode to one format, therefore its options are limited.

As far as time, these days a software encoder on a fast system is actually faster than a realtime card, believe it or not. A real-time card can only encode in realtime from a live source. Whereas, a software encoder which encodes from a stored file can encode as fast as the data can get to the encoder and process it. A card would be faster even still, but in the case of Optibase, I don't believe the product accepts file-based inputs (could be wrong). Also, technically there is no reason why a good hardware encoder is better than a good software encoder. ProCoder 2 proves that.

FYI, with the MainConcept encoder, on a Dual G4 1.25GHz, I get encoding times of around real-time. On my Quad G5, it is much faster than realtime with MainConcept and Compression Master 4. With a Dual 2.6GHz Opteron, ProCoder 2 encodes faster than real-time as well, but not as fast as my Quad mac.


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cegelfand
Re: Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?
on Jul 8, 2006 at 12:56:34 pm

I see. That makes sense. Thank you, Charles. Now would you factor BitVice into the picture here or you swear by MainConcept? I've also heard Digigami's a contender.


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Charles Simonson
Re: Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?
on Jul 9, 2006 at 6:57:11 am

There are honestly 5 or 6 good MPEG-2 encoders on the mac right now, including the shareware app ffmpegX that uses open source encoder mpeg2enc. If speed is your thing, then I would recommend Popwire Compression Master 4, MainConcept 1.5, or Apple Compressor 2. If it is color that is true to the source, then Compression Master or Compressor. If it is quality, then I suggest Compressor, Compression Master, MainConcept, BitVice, or mpeg2enc. Digigami can offer very good quality too, but that requires using the longest encoding method, which is very slow. If you want encoding options, the Digigami and MainConcept encoders have you covered. And I would by all means stay very much away from Cleaner's and Squeeze's encoder.

The best news is that all of the encoders I list have at least some sort of demo available for download. I suggest trying them out yourself to form your own opinion as to what would be best for your needs and workflow.

The following is an idea of encoding times that should give a bit more detail. The source was a 480p square pixel 16:9 uncompressed 10bit QT movie using a Quad G5 w/ 5GB RAM and OS X 10.4.6. The times from each encoding without audio (1x=Real-time) : Popwire Compression Master 4.0.1 = .4x/pass; MainConcept encoder 1.5 = .7x/pass; Apple Compressor 2.1 = 1.1x/pass; ffmpegX 0.0.9w4 mpeg2enc = 1.5x/pass; ffmpegX 0.0.9w4 ffmpeg = 1.5x/pass; Sorenson Squeeze 4.3.3 = 1.75x/pass; Innobits BitVice 1.7 = 1.9x/pass; Digigami MegaPEG Pro HD 3.3 (best setting) = 2.4x/pass; Autodesk Cleaner 6.5 = 2.6x/pass.


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cegelfand
Re: Optibase MPEG Master (Macintosh) MPEG-2- good or not?
on Jul 9, 2006 at 4:15:13 pm

Thanks, Charles. Seems as if ffmpegx is a little quirky- I tried it out and got nothing but digital garble- maybe I did something wrong. Bitvice, Digigami and Compression Master are at the higher end in terms of price, but it seems like you would endorse MainConcept even more than those in some cases and it's a little cheaper. One thing I noticed was that Squeeze actually did a better job than Compressor in terms of dissolves and overall quality. But my issue with the Squeeze output and the MainConcept output was that they were very dark. Is this a gamma issue or just something I have to live with? And why did you not recommend Squeeze and Cleaner?


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Charles Simonson
Re: MPEG-2 software encoders on the mac
on Jul 9, 2006 at 6:25:21 pm

ffmpegX is definitely quirky, but what do you expect from a $15 shareware app. If you can handle it, the results can be quite decent for most encodings. I would make sure you have the proper support codecs installed and try just using the preset encode settings from the first tab. The forum for ffmpegX is quite good and active too.

Squeeze acually licenses the MainConcept encoder for MPEG encoding, but its the pre-processing where Squeeze shoots itself in the foot. For instance, Squeeze treats every source as though it is interlaced for MPEG-2 encoding, so if you have a progressive source and encode it with Squeeze, the result will show interlacing artifacts. Just unacceptable. Also, Squeeze's scaling engine and color space converter are among the worst on the mac for encoding.

I would have thought not recommending Cleaner would have been obvious. It is the slowest encoder on the market and doesn't output video that is among the top three quality encoders. Cleaner and Squeeze are in the same price range as Compression Master, so if those two are on the dockett, then I don't understand your reservations about CM. The versatility of being able to use CM for so many more encoding projects makes it very attractive. Plus, Popwire has yet to charge for any of their major upgrades (v2 to v3 to v3.1 to v3.2 to v4 have all been free).

As far as the darkness, the only two encoders that I think do a really good job of preserving the color space are CM and Compressor, but Digigami and MainConcept do have user-selectable color encoding methods which if tweaked would provide better results than what you are likely seeing by default.

Per dissolves, that may be an issue with interlaced sources. Compressor does have some issues there with deinterlacing. But I hope you are not deinterlacing the source for encoding. For MPEG-2 and working from DV, I would not deinterlace, especially if the target is TV playback. I would only deinterlace if encoding from D1 to 1/2 D1 (perfectly acceptable for MPEG-2) or if scaling from DVCPROHD or similar to SD MPEG-2.


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cegelfand
Re: MPEG-2 software encoders on the mac
on Jul 10, 2006 at 4:53:44 pm

Charles, I've tried the Compression master demo and it seems pretty good. But for some reason when I attempt to burn the final product onto DVD in DVD studio it reads Internal muxer error and won't create a disc. Is there a setting that I'm doing wrong in CM4?


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Charles Simonson
Re: MPEG-2 software encoders on the mac
on Jul 10, 2006 at 5:16:19 pm

I'd suggest sending Popwire an email on this. I have read reports of this before but I have never personally experienced this. I do know that Popwire's support is usually quite fast at answering your questions. They are a Swedish company, so there might be a delay in answering though.


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cegelfand
Re: MPEG-2 software encoders on the mac
on Jul 14, 2006 at 1:04:45 pm

Charles, in attempting to solve this whole which-compression software-works best dilemma- I have found that Popwire know about the Compression Master 4 issues with DVD studio 4. I received this from them: "We have discovered a issue with this and are looking into it right now actually. I will place your ticket On Hold until we have a fix." In the meantime I purchased BitVice and have found that it's gamma correction function is actually wreaking a slight havoc on my film. Have you used this program enough to know any solutions? It is only one scene and it causes a sort of opening and closing iris effect on the image as the software attempts to gauge what the proper gamma is for the scene. BitVice tech support hasn't given any advice as of yet.


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Charles Simonson
Re: MPEG-2 software encoders on the mac
on Jul 14, 2006 at 5:04:56 pm

Hmmm. Roger (chief developer of BitVice) is usually very responsive. Have you tried the BitVice forums? I know he spends quite a bit of time on there.


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