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settings to convert HD Feature Film to SD dvd

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Damon Zwicker
settings to convert HD Feature Film to SD dvd
on Sep 30, 2010 at 6:08:33 pm

Hello All,

We currently have a feature length film (101 minutes) plus Deleted Scenes (30 minutes) shot on the Sony F900 with an HDCam recorder. We digitized footage using ProRes 422 codec on a FCP system 7.0 (latest updates installed).

We will be burning the finished product to a DVD 9. What is the best compression setting to use?

What other compression options are there besides Final Cut Pro Compressor? What compression program to HIGH END DISTRIBUTORS USE?

Thanks in advance for any help,

Damon Zwicker


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Chris Blair
Re: settings to convert HD Feature Film to SD dvd
on Oct 2, 2010 at 1:21:49 am

There are DVD calculators available online to determine your compression settings. Google DVD bitrate calculate. If you're going to standard def DVD, you'll have to keep your total data rate (audio/video) below about 9MB/sec and if you want reliable playback across older DVD players, below 8MB/sec.

In terms of compression settings, the MPEG2 spec for DVDs is pretty tight. Your video MUST be 720x480 (4:3 or 16:9), and must use an MPEG2 codec using 4:2:0 chroma sampling. Audio can be PCM, MPEG1 Layer 2, or AC3. AC3 is the most efficient codec of the three and can give you more "headroom" for higher video data rates.

Make sure you set your encode to 16:9 so that flag gets set in the video. If you don't do that, your video won't letterbox on a 4:3 TV.

There are a bazillion MPEG2 compression options out there, from freebie programs to $49 programs, to professional products like Telestream Episode and Sorensen Squeeze. Apple's compression app is kind of in the middle, good for most things and will likely be fine for what you're doing.

High-end faciliites probably don't use software at all, but instead use hardware based encoding solutions. Digital Rapids is one such solution. They have all sorts of hardware based color correction and noise reduction features built in. Although with the power of software based apps and the sheer speed of desktop computers, there are probably some that use software. However, it would not be out of the ordinary for a high-end facility to use Telestream products, which run the gamut in terms of price and functionality.

If you just do some googling you can probably find a ton of information to answer all of your questions. The biggest issue you're going to face is getting a clean down-conversion from HD to SD MPEG2. Invariably, scenes that are gorgeous in HD can end up with weird jitter where there are thin lines or thin patterns, like say a rooftop, or patterned clothing on talent.

But...if your content is good, the average viewer doesn't even notice these things. We've found that adding a slight amount of blur to an HD piece to soften thin lines or patterns can work wonders. Also adding a tiny amount of grain can help with color gradations and the like. One thing you'll want to also do is convert your color space from 709 to 601 SMPTE. If you don't, you might get color shifts and gamma changes. Again...google this. Most mid to high-end compression software has filters for this....at least on the Windows side (which I typically work on).

Good Luck.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog


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Damon Zwicker
Re: settings to convert HD Feature Film to SD dvd
on Oct 2, 2010 at 7:07:35 am

Thank you. We're exploring all options at present and you post helps - Thank You.


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