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Generating Faster Proxies with x264

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Allan White
Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 9, 2010 at 8:02:50 pm

I've been using Live Capture and CatDV to generate H.264 proxies of all our archival tapes, and CatDV to generate previews of file-based video we get from a variety of sources. Encoding those previews can take a fast machine a long time! At my facility, someone will walk in from a distant country with a box of 10+ tapes, and requests for a product ASAP!

Want to generate previews much faster? Have a look at the free x264 codec.

After installing it (it adds another codec to Quicktime), you can use it to encode video files. In your preview settings for Live Capture or CatDV, choose "custom" in your preview file settings:



I want fast, 1-pass, small (320x240) previews that don't take up much space. The audio I encode at a high quality, so I can use that in an edit if needed without recapturing.

Here's the settings I use:



Note that CABAC and B-Frame Pyramids are awesome - but High Profile settings that won't work in iOS devices or sometimes, QuickTime in general. I try to consider other places these previews might end up in the future. You can speed it up more (but lose quality) by disabling Adaptive B-frames.

What do you think? What kind of preview settings do you prefer for a given workflow?

- Allan White, Video Producer, Luis Palau Assoc.

Quad 3Ghz Mac Pro, 10GB RAM, X1900 GPU, XSAN, CatDV Server


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bryson jones
Re: Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 11, 2010 at 5:01:01 pm

Dude, thank you. I was wanting to test this and just haven't ever had the time. (common complaint in our world?)

Excellent info.

I've been using a mix of mp4 and h.264 for larger installs (and easy ipad/iphone compatability, but photoJPEG is the king for reality TV where I need frame accuracy for stringing out cuts.

Has anyone out there found anything that's frame accurate but better/smaller than photoJ? I'd love to lose it.

bryson

bryson "at" hidefcowboy.com

hidefcowboy.com


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Terry Mikkelsen
Re: Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 11, 2010 at 6:50:37 pm

So how much faster is the x.264 than the H.264?

I tried a really quick comparison with an older version of the x.264 for a streaming application. The video quality was much better, but the CPU overhead was outrageous. But it's probably not a fair comparison, as I am using a G4 for the streaming. With Apple's H.264, CPU usage is about 80-90%. I couldn't get a solid stream with x.264, so I moved over to a dual chip 2GHz G5. CPU usage there was in the 90's for both CPUs! Again this is using an older version of the codec (as it is compatible with the G series processors).

This is 320 x 240 video (incoming video is DV on firewire) with 16kHz audio.

Tech-T Productions
http://www.technical-t.com


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Allan White
Re: Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 11, 2010 at 7:00:12 pm

A couple of thoughts, Terry:

  • x264 is highly optimized for Intel (x86) chips. It will suck on PPC, if it runs at all. =P

  • You want full CPU utilization when encoding. A G4 won't cut it, or will mightily struggle; you need a modern Intel chip for H.264 encoding to make sense at all. By "faster", I mean faster encodes, which is of paramount importance when ingesting 10 hrs. of footage.

  • Scaling it to 320x240 (which I often do, btw) also incurs a cost of scaling the video. In some cases, not scaling is actually faster, yielding less overhead. Any other opinions on that? I do it both ways (less valuable footy gets scaled, and encoded as low as 400kbps)

  • I've been playing around with getting a Matrox MAX card (a fast, hardware H.264 encoder) to work with CatDV; should in theory. That would be a great addition to a PCI-X machine like your G5 for this use.

  • @ Bryson - you might try having an MP4 will keyframes set to "all"; not sure if that adds much benefit. I shudder at how much space P-JPG would take for the amount of footy I have... but I can see why it would help. I get "frame-accurate" when it hits Final Cut, so I don't worry about that too much in the "pre-edit" stage (where CDV gets used most in my shop).



- Allan White, Video Producer, Luis Palau Assoc.

Quad 3Ghz Mac Pro, 10GB RAM, X1900 GPU, XSAN, CatDV Server


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Jake Graff
Re: Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 12, 2010 at 3:59:46 pm

We're running CatDV Worker Node on a 8-core Intel xServe with 12GB of RAM. The source material is QT wrapped XDCAM and I'm generating h.264 proxies for preview using the Worker Node. In testing, I was first using the CPU to create the h.264 files. Performance was roughly 1.5x real-time. I then tested with a Matrox CompressHD hardware card. Using the card, we're seeing real-time performance. Similar to the suggested x264 codec, Matrox installs settings within QuickTime that allow you to make use of the card. An added benefit to using the card is that the CPU is still available for other processes. You could run CatDV Server and Worker Node on the same machine or anything else you may need the horsepower for.

-Jake


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Allan White
Re: Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 11, 2010 at 8:08:37 pm

Terry, I may have misunderstood - are you saying you're getting CPU's pegged on playback of H.264? That doesn't surprise me, if so - I've seen that on older machines.

H.264 is very efficient, in the size vs. quality arena; that's one reason it's become so popular. It does require a lot of horsepower to play back, though. iOS devices have hardware decoding, so it's very efficient there. Older CPUs won't.

- Allan White, Video Producer, Luis Palau Assoc.

Quad 3Ghz Mac Pro, 10GB RAM, X1900 GPU, XSAN, CatDV Server


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Eric Hansen
Re: Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 25, 2010 at 11:40:41 pm

have you tried the Elgato Turbo.264 HD? using it to make 640x360 H.264 at 1500kbps from Final Cut at ProResHQ runs at about 100fps.

i don't use CatDV, but i think it should work. it installs as a Quicktime Component and uses the USB dongle to hardware accelerate the encode. my 2009 Mac Pro 8 core will use about 400-500% processor when the Turbo.264 is encoding.

i have a Matrox MXO2 with MAX and i never use it for encoding any more. just the Elgato. it's not the prettiest encode in the world, but for offline files, it works great!

e

Eric Hansen - http://www.erichansen.tv


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Simon Evensen
Re: Generating Faster Proxies with x264
on Oct 17, 2013 at 10:11:15 pm

Allan, the images of your settings have disappeared. Do you mind posting them again?

Simon


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