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Brian Alexander
Flip4Mac WMV - Best Settings: h.264 equivalent quality (is it possible?)
on Feb 1, 2009 at 7:32:35 am

I'm all about Mac, Compressor, and h.264 for my distribution codec; however, I have a lot of clients who are on PC and need wmv for embedding video in PowerPoint presentations. I don't seem to have all of the solid answers for WMV like I do when I'm talking h.264. I need some help.

I'm creating wmv with Flip4Mac and I almost always get pixelated frames for the first second or two of my video before it clears up and looks good. The only time I don't get that is when I'm using an "archival" setting which yields near 30Mb/sec HD files. Most of the time it's a guess as to what quality I'm going to get from my video.

Here are some screenshots help with troubleshooting: http://brianalexanderphotography.smugmug.com/gallery/7244053_b44Fm#46546648.... Remember to look at these at "original" size to see the compression artifacts.

I have posted the same question to the Flip4Mac forums but just get answers like "All video is difficult to encode and you would most likely get the same results from any codec you use" and "it depends on your source material, Microsoft's HD gallery is created from pristine source material - that's why you don't get the same results." Hogwash. I can get excellent quality from h.264 using almost any source material that looks good from the start using these guidelines: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/tutorials/h264.html

I'll post more details if any of you want to get into further discussion but to start I have 2 basic questions:

Is there a simple bit rate guide for creating WMV files like the h.264 link above? (I've read Ben Waggoners document but it didn't help me: http://www.streamingmedia.com/article.asp?id=9510&page=1&c=4)

Do you have to have uncompressed media to get good looking files from Flip4Mac?

Thanks in advance for any help.


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Craig Seeman
Re: Flip4Mac WMV - Best Settings: h.264 equivalent quality (is it possible?)
on Feb 1, 2009 at 7:24:59 pm

[Brian Alexander] "I'm creating wmv with Flip4Mac and I almost always get pixelated frames for the first second or two of my video before it clears up and looks good. The only time I don't get that is when I'm using an "archival" setting which yields near 30Mb/sec HD files. Most of the time it's a guess as to what quality I'm going to get from my video.
"

Make sure you've updated to the current version of Flip4Mac (2.2.1.11 currently).
Data rate, key frame rate, CBR vs 2 Pass VBR can all have impact.
I would not use CBR for WMV unless you're putting the file on a streaming server (where CBR is a must).
Certainly transitions (fade up for example) or fast moving video or graphics may need higher data rate, 2 Pass VBR, more frequent key frames.

You CAN NOT use Quicktime to measure the data rate of a WMV file. You must use either WMP9Mac or WMP on Windows. You can figure out the data rate using the file size in Finder though.

I can tell by your pix that your data rate is too low for the frame size. It probably should be at least double if not four times what you're using.

What you're seeing is the macroblocks ("pixelated" can imply many other issues).





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Brian Alexander
Re: Flip4Mac WMV - Best Settings: h.264 equivalent quality (is it possible?)
on Feb 1, 2009 at 10:59:36 pm

Excellent, thanks Craig.

F4M is up to date (2.2.1.11 Flip4Mac WMV Studio Pro HD) and I understand that all of the pertinent settings have an impact on the quality of the encode; this is why I'm searching for a easy to read document on what settings to use like the h.264 document I linked to in my previous post.

The presets in F4M do not seem to help with creating good looking content and is a bit limited for HD frame sizes. I'm still not sure if this is because I'm using a Mac, it's just the way WMV's are, or there are specific settings I must create in order to achieve the quality I want.

Telestream advises that the highest possible quality, an archival setting, is a 1 pass VBR with the Q set at or near 100. This of course provides excellent quality but large bit rates and very large files.

I'm basing my image potential on the quality of the 1080p files in the Microsoft HD Showcase here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/musicandvideo/hdvideo/content... E.g., The Discoverers is a 1080p clip, 145 MB with a TRT of 2:31. My calculations show (correct me if I'm wrong): 145 MB = 1,160 Mb/151 seconds = 7.68 Mb/sec. Correct? That's equivalent to an h.264 bit rate for a 1080 frame size - 7,000 to 8,000 kbits/sec.

[Craig Seeman] "Certainly transitions (fade up for example) or fast moving video or graphics may need higher data rate, 2 Pass VBR, more frequent key frames."

Should I be creating a specific number of keyframes dependent on the complexity of my material each time I encode a file? This seems counter productive; my next project, I'll be creating over 150 wmv files. h.264 can be set to Automatic Keyframes - does WMV have a hidden equivalent?

[Craig Seeman] "What you're seeing is the macroblocks ("pixelated" can imply many other issues)."

Ok, got it. Visible Macroblocks is what I'm seeing and like I said, these do smooth out and go away after 1 second but no more than 3 seconds into the video.

Here are my original questions again:
Is there a simple bit rate guide for creating WMV files?

Do you have to have uncompressed media to get good looking files from Flip4Mac?

Thanks again for your help here.


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Daniel Low
Re: Flip4Mac WMV - Best Settings: h.264 equivalent quality (is it possible?)
on Feb 2, 2009 at 2:04:31 pm

"Is there a simple bit rate guide for creating WMV files? "

WMV9 AP = VC1 which is very similar to H.264 and similar datarates can be used to get the same quality - You need Flip4Mac Studio, Studio Pro or Studio Pro HD to get access to that.

"Do you have to have uncompressed media to get good looking files from Flip4Mac?"

Like for any codec, uncompressed files will give you better quality output than compressed files, but given the same material, and compressed correctly, you shouldn't notice much of a difference between VC1 and H.264 at the same datarates.

PS, set manual keyframes to between every 5-10 seconds.

PPS Have you tried viewing your encodes in VLC?

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


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Rich Rubasch
Re: Flip4Mac WMV - Best Settings: h.264 equivalent quality (is it possible?)
on Feb 5, 2009 at 1:25:28 am

I will stand by the statement that you will NEVER get the results you seek without encoding on a PC. For the best encodes with excellent deinterlacing at lower bit rates and so that they play smoothly on a PC we only encode on a PC. Excellent results.

For quick preview client review WMVs right out of FCP we do use flip4Mac and it is invaluable for that.

But for any final encodes it goes straight to the PC.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media



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Brian Alexander
Re: Flip4Mac WMV - Best Settings: h.264 equivalent quality (is it possible?)
on Feb 12, 2009 at 5:05:53 am

Thanks for the reply. I've been told that the Flip4Mac uses the same processing engine as Windows Media Encoder. I'm guess that by the tone of your post such may not be the case. I'm finding that the cleanest WMV's with no audio/video sync issues are done with a single pass vbr but that gives me pretty massive files.

What's your workflow to get the files to PC?

FCP -> ProRes -> Windows Media Encoder -> Good WMV

Something like that?


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Tobias Straka
Re: Flip4Mac WMV - Best Settings: h.264 equivalent quality (is it possible?)
on Mar 31, 2010 at 2:36:39 pm

So did you find a good solution yet? What I have discovered is that exporting from Compressor, QT or FCP results in really bad quality images. Enter MPEGStreamclip - same settings plus setting the option "" give a pretty decent quality.What CAN'T this tool do?! :)


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