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Charlotte Warner
Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 1:11:29 pm

I create experimental short videos that are shot in HD and consist primarily of Shake composites and FCP filters. My target audience are the international art museum and gallery communities, not film/video festivals or movie houses. At the museums and galleries, these HD shorts will be projected on loop with an HD projector/Mac Pro desktop setup.

My question is about the best compression product for my DVD samples that I will be sending to art curators in my proposals for exhibition.

I need to send the highest-quality DVD samples possible of my video shorts. FYI, these curators will be viewing my video samples on their computers, not on stand-alone DVD players.

What compression product do you recommend for my DVD samples? I've been reading that Cinema Craft Encoder offers the highest quality of all the Mac-compatible products. However, the only Mac product they offer at the moment does not output 1920 x 1080. If the quality is that superior, I would consider downsizing my samples from HD to SD, and paying its higher price. I have no problem if it's more complex to use, too. I'm a dogged learner.

After lots of research and tweaks, I have managed to compress a decent 1920 x 1080 m2v sample of my videos with Compressor 3 that plays/looks great on my own Mac Pro. But I'm not confident it'd look as good on other computers, or if the composites or filters would work properly on all computers using Compressor's encoding.

So if there is another comparable, Mac-compatible, superior-quality compression product that supports 1920 x 1080, I'd love to know about it. Or if the quality of the Cinema Craft Encoder is impressive enough to downsize my samples to SD, I'd like to hear that, too.

Thank you!







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Daniel Low
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:07:27 pm

The only other products worth considering are Digigami MegaPEG.X http://www.digigami.com/megapeg/ or Episode from Telestream.

__________________________________________________________________
Please post back saying what solved your problem. It could help others, and saying 'thanks' is free!


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 7:48:13 pm

Thanks, Daniel. I'll look into these suggestions. If you, or any other reader, care to share your thoughts on the strengths and limitations of these products, I'd really appreciate it.


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Kris A. Wotipka
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:40:30 pm

Do you want to create a DVD or create a FILE? You mention DVD but then you say that it will be viewed and played back on a Mac? Why not just create a high resolution Quicktime file? You can use "just about" any codec / compression ratio that fits your format. The whole thing can be sent FedEx via a USB type drive. Just a thought.

kw

kris@wotipka.com
Image maker


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:32:42 pm

Hi Kris. The protocol in the art world is to send DVD samples that are viewable from computer drives. Most curators, many of whom are not tech savvy, would not bother with artist samples in a portable USB hard drive, even if the larger files better represent the video.

Whatever DVD sample I submit has to look outstanding, otherwise my exhibition proposal won't stand a chance.

As usual, it's the compression that's the rub. So I'm looking for recommendations from all the pro readers in the Cow for the best Mac-compatible compression product out there for compressing my HD shorts onto DVDs.

If my exhibition proposal is accepted, I would have the liberty of setting up the projection of my videos to my specifications. I guarantee you I'd use anything but DVDs! Most likely I'd use either my HD projector with a Mac-Pro station or a blu-ray player.



Charlotte Warner


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Daniel Low
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:18:49 pm

Ok. What I think you are saying here is that you don't want the curators having to copy files from a DVD disc onto their hard drives?

If that is the case and you want to deliver a typical DVD then you will be limited to standard definition only. I.E. 720 not 1920.

That 1920x1080 MPEG-2 M2V file you have generated may play back fine on your Mac Pro but it's unlikely to play well on an older Mac and it certainly won't playback from any DVD.

Your choices therefore are to deliver a 1920x1080 file that will need to be played back from a drive, either the curators hard drive, after being copied from DVD, or from a portable USB drive as suggested by Kris.

OR

You take your 1920x1080 source file and do a top quality transcode to SD MPEG-2 with compressor, then author it to a DVD with menus, if you like. This will then play as typical DVD would when the Curators insert it. With good quality HD source and compressor doing the transcode to widescreen SD, it will look great.



__________________________________________________________________
Please post back saying what solved your problem. It could help others, and saying 'thanks' is free!


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:47:38 pm

Thank you, Daniel. You've answered an important concern of mine: that for reliable DVD playback of my file, I need to compress my HD sample to an SD format.

And you're also right--I sure don't want the curators to copy my sample videos onto their hard drives. I simply want them to pop my DVD into their computer drive, so that it activates their DVD Player (or equivalent) to play my compressed (but high quality) video sample.

You mention that I should use Compressor. However, my attempts to downconvert to SD with Compressor have produced lousy results. This is why I'm asking if there are better compression products out there for what I'm trying to do.

Do you still recommend Cinema Craft Encoder, Digigami MegaPEG.X, or Episode, and if so, is one better than the other?

Thanks for sticking with me on this question.



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Daniel Low
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:00:45 pm

Compressor should give you excellent results, there must be something not quite right with your settings.

To start with, what does you source content consist of? Is it Video? Scans of paintings/drawings? AfterEffects? 3d? etc.

__________________________________________________________________
Please post back saying what solved your problem. It could help others, and saying 'thanks' is free!


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:43:54 pm

Okay, Daniel. My source content are videos that are, on average, about 12 minutes long. All of my videos are silent. I use FCP as my editing software, and about 95% of the clips consist of Shake-composited footage. I use lots of cross-dissolves and transitions between clips, too. In FCP the video is in animation format (since it's not lossy), set to 1920 x 1080 and 29.97.

When I've tried to export my animation file to Compressor to downconvert to SD, the quality was hideous, and some of the transitions didn't work. So I stopped trying that approach, and came up with a combination that works on my computer, at least, and looks great, and that fits onto a DVD:

I exported my animation file to Compressor, created a beautiful AppProRes(HQ) Interlaced file (approx. 22 GB). Then I imported that AppProRes .mov file into DVD Studio Pro, and converted that into an .m2v file, which I then burned onto a 4.74 DVD. To do all this, I used the settings recommended in Ken Stone's website, and I applied many of the workarounds listed in the Cow for dealing with the gamma shift issue in QT movies.

Although my decent-looking DVD file does not play on my standalone DVD player, it plays pretty well on my DVD Player on my Mac Pro. There is some very minor stuttering that I can live with in the DVD samples (but no seizing), and the color and resolution look pretty good. All of the transitions work properly, too.

Is there a way to achieve the same results with a Compressor SD file?


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Daniel Low
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 27, 2008 at 9:21:14 am

How were the videos shot? Format? SD or HD?

Progressive or interlaced?

What method and settings, in detail please, did you use to downconvert your animation in compressor?

Did you use the high quality settings in the Frame Controls and Geometry Controls in the inspector tab?
Did you deinterlace at the highest quality settings? -
Not using those controls is the most likely reason the downconvert looks bad, or that your expectations for SD material may be too high?

__________________________________________________________________
Please post back saying what solved your problem. It could help others, and saying 'thanks' is free!


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:59:06 pm

Hi Daniel. I shoot my videos with my Sony HDR-FX1 in 1440 x 1080i. I capture in FCP 6 with AppProRes HQ preset at 29.97. I composite most of that footage in Shake and export it back into FCP in animation format at 29.97. Back in FCP I assemble my clips and apply lots of FCP and VFX filters. I then export the completed, unrendered animation file directly into Compressor. In Compressor, I tried the SD High Quality Encodes over the Fast ones. The results were unacceptable. But the HD Encodes work beautifully. But, as I explained, I need to create a high-quality HD to SD .m2v file.

So I searched the forums to find solutions. What I found were many forum entries such as mine, and in those cases the experts pretty much recommend solutions such as blu-ray (which wouldn't work in my case), or Cinema Craft Encoder, Episode, etc. The conclusion in most of those entries is that Compressor is not up to the task of creating high-quality compressions from HD into SD, and that there are better compression products.

I've accepted that, and am now asking for comparative reviews of those better compression products from folks who use them, so that I can make a more informed choice.

I'm curious, since you seem to be promoting Compressor, are you suggesting that there won't be much of a quality difference between HD to SD Compressor results, versus the same attempts with Cinema Craft Encoder, Episode, etc.?



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Daniel Low
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 27, 2008 at 1:27:27 pm

I'm not promoting compressor - I don't use it anymore because of various performance and reliability issues, but it's all you have right now, so it's worth giving it a chance....

Have a look at this page and the embedded links:
http://www.produxion.net/2008/04/08/hd-to-sd-conversion-the-holy-grail/

I think one of the key things mentioned is the field dominance settings - Ken Stones method does not cover this.

If you still can't produce better SD quality using those methods then it may be worth trying Episode (there is a free trial version). If you are unhappy with the output from Episode then you'll not see a huge difference with CinemaCraft or Bitvice.



__________________________________________________________________
Please post back saying what solved your problem. It could help others, and saying 'thanks' is free!


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 27, 2008 at 1:37:44 pm

Wow! Excellent advice, Daniel. Thank you so much! This is exactly the kind of lead I've been looking for. I can't thank you enough for it.

Incidentally, I just posted a similar vote for the better compression product in the FCP forum, if you're curious to see how those readers weigh in.

Many thanks again for your help!


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Joe Murray
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 28, 2008 at 3:04:01 am

One thing you may want to try is to create your shows in a progressive instead of interlaced format. Graphics and footage that are interlaced typically look much worse on computer monitors and plasma displays because they are best at displaying progressive frame rates...they're progressive scan monitors, not interlaced, and interlaced formats produce lots of artifacts when displayed on them.

For any DVDs we make where we have control of the frame rate from start to finish, we try to stay progressive rather than interlaced, usually at 24 frames per second. You'll have to render your comps at the same frame rate, edit in a timeline of the same framerate in FCP, and then encode for DVD, not just take your existing 29.97 material and encode it to 24. Try a test with Compressor and DVD Studio Pro and see if this improves your quality.

Joe Murray
Edit at Joe's
Charlotte, NC


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jun 28, 2008 at 1:13:01 pm

Thanks, Joe. I will try your suggestion, and your timing couldn't have been better. I actually had some success yesterday using the Bonsai method that Daniel offered, but the graphics looked pretty fuzzy. I'll definitely try converting everything to progressive.

I still plan to compare that result with other products' HD to SD DVD compression results, before plunking down any $ for the best one. Daniel pointed me to Episode's free trial version, which I plan to try today.

I asked my same question in the FCP forum, and Walter Biscardi recommended BitVice. BitVice also offers a trial version, which I plan to check out.

The offline compression product that seems to get the most favorable reviews is Cinema Craft Encoder SP. But other than Brian Gary's review, I can't find any other reviews or user feedback about Cinema Craft Encoder MP.

Have you or any readers out there tried Cinema Craft Encoder MP yet? They don't offer a trial version, so I can't test it in advance.


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Nook Kim
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 7, 2008 at 1:46:14 am

Hi,

I just wanted to share a workflow that works for me as far as FCP to DVD SP goes:

1. After your edit in FCP, clear out the render files by using Render Manager. Then, go "Sequence Settings" and "Video Processing Tab". Click on Render All YUV Material in High-Precision YUV.

2. Nest your HD sequence into a 10bit uncompressed SD.

3. Export the SD sequence with Compressor.

4. In Compressor, choose one of the "DVD Best Quality" settings.

5. In the Inspector Window, go under Encoder tab and uncheck "Allow Job Segmenting", and increase the Average Bit Rate to 6.5Mbps.

6. Compress and bring it into DVD SP to make your DVD's.

This has been working very well for me when I go from DVCPro HD with effects, CC, and titles to SD DVD's. Before I took this approach, I could see some nasty stuff, the worst being lack of tonal representation. I thought I was doing something wrong when I was shooting.

Hope this helps.







Nook Kim
http://www.nookkim.com


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Nook Kim
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 7, 2008 at 1:51:59 am

By the way, I wonder if you can make a H.264 Quicktime and burn that into a DVD as Data. Just asking since SD DVD will look blown-up if the client chooses full screen option. The bigger the client's computer monitor is, the worse your SD DVD is going look.



Nook Kim
http://www.nookkim.com


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 7, 2008 at 8:57:19 pm

Hmm. I've been under the impression that sending .m2v files (as opposed to data files) is safer for playback assurance.

Perhaps someone out there knows a setting that forces an .m2v file to display in normal mode only.

Otherwise, I was planning to print those instructions on the DVD jacket: eg., For optimal viewing, view in Normal Mode only.


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 7, 2008 at 8:43:14 pm

Thank you, Nook Kim. Unfortunately, I didn't have much success with your workflow, but that doesn't mean that others won't find it useful.

Although the Holy Grail method above has yielded the most decent result I've had so far, I'm seeking the highest quality HD to SD compression possible, within my budget. So I decided to go ahead and trust Brian Gary's review of Cinema Craft Encoder MP, and buy the thing. The price is steep, so I hope I see noticeable results!

I'll report my impressions after my CCE-MP arrives in the mail and I've had time to use it.


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Nook Kim
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 8, 2008 at 2:31:47 am

Sorry it didn't work out for you. I assume it's the difference in between the original format of the video (ie. DVCProHD vs. HDV).

As for the H.264 option I suggested, it should be fairly easy for the client since it's just double clicking the file. However, the playability of the data DVD could not be reliable depending on the client's computer. For one, if the client doesn't have the quicktime player, they will have to download it, which they may not prefer. Also, there are other factors that could make the H.264 data DVD not too viable such as the speed of the DVD player. I guess I'm suggesting it will be too risky for you to try unless you know the exact specs of the client's computer. Sorry to suggest an option that was not so helpful for your situation in the first place.

I hope you will find the result that you're looking for with the CCE product.



Nook Kim
http://www.nookkim.com


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 8, 2008 at 10:40:36 am

Hi Nook Kim, please--absolutely no need to apologize! All the opposite, actually. I appreciate your taking the time to share your own workflow. I agree with you as to why it probably didn't work for me, and why sending data files in my case is risky. Once blu-ray usage becomes the standard, I won't have to contend with these compression headaches. But until then, I depend upon the generosity and workarounds put forth by readers, such as yourself, in forums such as this one. :)

Thanks again.


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cowcowcowcowcow
Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 16, 2008 at 11:06:42 am

I thought I'd close this thread with my impressions of Cinema Craft Encoder MP: it's simply remarkable.

I did have to experiment with various settings to figure out the best ones for my video files, but once I did I was floored by the difference in quality. It was well worth the $800 price tag.

Although I did have to upgrade (with trepidation) to Leopard to use CCE MP, I find that the plug-in works reliably with my quad-core MacPro, even though the CCE folks recommend an 8-core.



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Daniel Low
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 16, 2008 at 2:08:03 pm

Thank you very much for reporting back on your findings.

If you were to mark out of 10 the products you have tested so far, how would they rate?

__________________________________________________________________
Please post back saying what solved your problem. It could help others, and saying 'thanks' is free!


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Charlotte Warner
Re: Best compression product
on Jul 17, 2008 at 3:09:59 pm

Hi Daniel. I wound up not trying the free trial versions of Bitvice and Episode after all because of time constraints, and decided to go ahead and purchase CCE MP. The fact that CCE MP's Xstream encoding engine is dynamic and features an up-to 99 multi-pass option sold me (see, Brian Gary's review in kenstone.net). But I'll be happy to rate the 3 methods I tried for compressing HD to SD DVD.

The FCP to Compressor's Best Quality SD attempt produced awful, useless results. Not worth adding to the library of similar opinions already in the COW.

The Holy Grail method that you recommended yielded the best results I had, up to that point, working with FCP and Compressor. Although I saw a considerable improvement in resolution, color, and transitions, it was weakest in compressing motion graphics. But considering it's free, I think it's an impressive compression method if you're on a tight budget.

For me, CCE MP outstrips the above results by far, and that's only when compressing with 6 passes, averaging 6250 kbps. I don't plan to try 99 passes, but I do plan to try up to 10 or 12. But even with 6 passes so far, I see noticeable sharpness in the motion graphics, and also improvements in gamma and color.

FYI, I'm viewing all of my SD DVD results on my computer using Apple DVD Player's "actual" or "normal" mode. If I settle for the DVD Player's automatic full screen view, even the CCE MP's quality results fall apart big time.




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Rahul Gandotra
Re: Best compression product
on Apr 1, 2010 at 10:34:48 pm

Hi Charlotte,

I've just gone through your postings from two years ago when you were trying to figure out which dvd encoding software to use for your portfolio material. And believe it or not, I find myself in the same position as you trying to figure out how best to go about creating my portfolio dvds.

It seems as if to try Cinema Craft before you buy is still equally difficult as it was two years ago. And so I'm wondering, now that you've bought and used the program for a bit under two years, what your impression of the program is. Would you still recommend buying and using the program over Compressor's in-built engine.

Any advice and feedback would be highly appreciated!

- Rahul



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