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Todd Terry
Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 22, 2011 at 4:33:44 pm

Hi gang...

Please forgive the question if this is not the appropriate forum....

I'm trying to create better looking .flv files for clients who occasionally need those as well. I've also asked in the Adobe Flash forum, but my question is really about Adobe Flash Encoder, so I think it might be a compression issue...

Ok, here goes...

A couple of our edit suites are almost identical... both Matrox AXIO LE machines, but one of them (mine) is running CS3, whereas my other editor's suite runs CS4. We mostly do broadcast commercials but I've also frequently made .flv files, usually when a client also wants to embed their production on their website. I've never had any trouble with this, and they always look great. I use CS3's stand-alone "Flash Video Encoder."

Well, my other editor does not have nearly as good luck when he tries to make .flv files. Since CS4 no longer has the stand-alone Encoder it must be done within the Adobe Media Encoder inside of Premiere.

He and I can both make files using exactly the same settings, same sources (usually uncompressed 10-bit Matrox AVI files), same codec, same bitrates, same outputs... and they even result in files that are almost exactly the same size. However, there is a vast quality difference in the finished .flv files. The ones I make with CS3 are much much better than the ones he makes with CS4. And not just a little bit ("Ehhh, I kinda think that looks better..."), but a lot. The CS3 files are much much noticeably better and sharper... there's no comparison.

The last batch we both tried were 200kbps, On2VP6 codec, 29.976fps, 425x240 pixels... mine looked quite good and his were borderline acceptable... if that.

Any idea what we are doing wrong? Or what I'm doing right that he's not??

Any help is appreciated... or feel free to direct me to a more appropriate forum.

Much thanks,

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Craig Seeman
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 22, 2011 at 4:43:08 pm

Were you using the exact same source?
It's hard to compare otherwise since content can impact the allocation of bits.

Were they both 2 Pass VBR encodes. VBR can look better than CBR because it more intelligently allocates bits.

Also frame sizes should be divisible by 16 best, 8 good, 4 acceptable. divisible only by 2 or odd numbers should be avoided.

These days you're better off using H.264 .mp4 or .f4v unless you specifically need Flash alpha channels. H.264 should give you better quality and it might be especially noticeable at the lower bit rate you're using.

Your bit rate is extremely low. I'm not sure your motive for that.

On2VP6 went through a change to E and S versions. Generally the S version was for easier decode on HD sized files though so it may not be impacting your encode.



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Todd Terry
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 22, 2011 at 5:12:32 pm

Hi Craig....

Thanks for taking time to address my issue....

Some additional info and facts....

Yes, we usually do 2-pass VBR with most types of encoding (such as encoding for DVD authoring, or making broadcast Mpegs for uploading to television stations), but in this case they were single-pass CBR. The CS3 Flash Encoder will not do two-pass (or if it does I have never seen that option), and it has never been an issue with me making great-looking .flv files so I had my other editor (using CS4) make them with exactly the same parameters.

The source file was the same with both systems. Although the project started as HD, the final output was for DVD delivery so it had been downconverted to standard def, and that was the master used as the source file with both systems. The source file was a 10-bit uncompressed Matrox AVI file, NTSC 29.976fps. The letterbox bars were cropped off when making the .flv files to restore the 16:9 ratio.

Yes, the bit rate (200) is very low... this was a spec dictated by our client.

The frame size (425x240) was also dictated by our client.

I could completely buy the argument if someone said, "Well, with those lousy specs the end result is only going to look so good".... if I wasn't getting decent results before. But when I create those files using CS3 (Flash Encoder) they look pretty darn good indeed (especially considering the low bit rate). Yet when they are created in our CS4 suite they look pretty terrible. I'm trying to resolve the discrepancy so when my other editor has to make .flv files they look as good as the ones I can make with my previous-version CS. It seems like soooo many times Adobe's "advancements" makes things harder to do, not easier (don't get me started about exporting a single frame from a Premiere timeline, which is one mouse click in CS3... yet about 12 hoops to jump through in CS4... grrr).

It's puzzling.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Craig Seeman
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 22, 2011 at 6:44:43 pm

Look to see if CS4 allows you to choose between VP6-E and VP6-S. The S version would look worse on small low data rate files as it was designed for easier decode of HD sized files. That was an On2 change in the codec that may not have been there in CS3. Previously it was all the equivalent to E. I'm not sure if it has to do with your issue but it's one place to look.

See this article.
http://www.streaminglearningcenter.com/articles/producing-vp6-video-–-wha...



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Todd Terry
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 22, 2011 at 10:13:37 pm

Hey Craig...

Thanks for the advice. Good thought, but unfortunately neither of our systems allows us to choose between E or S versions of On2 EP6... there's no version designation at all.

More testing going on here.....

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Craig Seeman
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 22, 2011 at 10:55:57 pm

Hmm, the S and E variants was the only change I know of in the On2VP6 codec. Of course it's hard to imagine Adobe themselves would do something to muck up implementation . . . especially since Adobe Flash was a primary target user of the VP6 codec. There are Keyframe, Sharpness, Complexity settings depending on what's exposed to you and maybe a few other things which might be less critical. Are you absolutely sure your settings match?



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Todd Terry
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 23, 2011 at 2:22:44 am

[Craig Seeman] "it's hard to imagine Adobe themselves would do something to muck up implementation"

Haaa... actually, I find that concept pretty easy to wrap my head around. Don't get me wrong, I love Adobe products and depend on them every day... but after watching about 15 years-worth of Adobe developments and updates of all kinds of their various offerings, I've lost count of the number of "advances" or "improvements" that actually made things more difficult, problematic, or give poorer results. Seems every new version software actually does do quite a few things better... but yet there are always one or two functions that they seem to either radically change (or abandon) and naturally they just happen to be the ones I depend on.



[Craig Seeman] "Are you absolutely sure your settings match?"

Yep... click for click, number for number, and setting for setting they are all the same. Actually CS4 has one or two more available choices and options than Flash Encoder in CS3 has, but everything that can be set the same has been. I guess it's time to play with some of those other settings... although the trial and error is getting a little tiresome.

Thanks for the help, advice, and direction...

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Rich Rubasch
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 27, 2011 at 1:30:31 am

I have found that FLV vs MP4 the FLV is never as good at the same bitrate. I think a standalone encoder like Episode or Squeeze can get you consistent results. I know the Encoder comes with the Adobe package, but it's not a comprehensive encoder either.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Founder/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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Chris Blair
Re: Compression and Flash Encoding
on Feb 27, 2011 at 5:30:28 pm

To add a little to this discussion.

Are you playing the two encoded files back on the same computer using the same media player? Media players (even the same version) on different computers can make video files look vastly different based on graphic card settings, media player settings etc.) VLC does the best job that we've seen at comparing files across computers.

But...provided you've done that already....we've seen the exact same thing that Todd sees. The ONLY explanation that we've come up with (and it's not scientific) is that Adobe Media Encoder sucks big donkey balls. Not only are FLV files worse looking, but we've never been able to get Adobe Media Encoder to output a 16x9 WMV file without screwing up the entire video. It actually moves graphics so they're misaligned and dissolves have little stutters and hiccups in them.

This...after multiple installs, reinstalls and an HP certified tech completely rebuilding our system using an image file specially designed for setting up a system for video editing with Premiere CS3.

Todd...try this...try making your FLV file from YOUR Premiere CS3 timeline, using the exact same settings as you're using in Flash Video Encoder. Then compare THAT result to your result out of Flash Encoder. I almost guarantee the one that came out via Premiere will look worse than the one that came out of Flash Video Encoder. That will elminate CS4 as the the culprit and point to Adobe Media Encoder or the Premiere encoding engine as the problem.

That's the test we did which made me decide to NEVER use the built in export engine in Premiere. It's horrible. We use Procoder (which is now dated), but it plugs into Premiere so when you export a timeline, it opens Procoder and renders out the encoded file from Premiere's timeline to Procoder's compression engine. Those files look very, very good and we never have weird issues from machine to machine.

The ONLY other things it could possibly be is some setting in the On2VP6 codec or a setting in a direct show or FFMPEG setting (if you've messed with or installed those). I seem to remember that ON2 installs a control panel app that allows you to tweak settings...but I thought it was for decoding and not encoding. You might check to see. Another thing to try is searching for the On2VP6 codec online:

Here's one:

http://www.videohelp.com/tools/VP7_Codec

Install is and see if anything changes. It shouldn't mess anything up as it simply plugs into Windows direct show architecture and Adobe should simply follow those settings when it encodes to a specific codec.

Also...if you've installed FFMPEG or FFDshow (or whatever they're called) go into their settings dialogue and check to see if they're controlling the ON2VP6 codec.

Those are the only things it could be. But we gave up on Adobe Media Encoder 2 or 3 years ago because of all the wasted time and headaches that came from troubleshooting what should be a simple process.

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


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