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Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?

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Mike_S
Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 1, 2005 at 11:15:31 pm

Any thoughts on best quality encoding routes - ideally of course with lots of control, ease of use and reasonable speed as well ...


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 2, 2005 at 7:23:31 pm

Mike,

It would require a book to answer a question like that. What platform are you on?

DRW


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Mike_S
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 2, 2005 at 7:50:34 pm

Hi David,

That would be a fairly short book, I hope! I'm on Windows, mostly, producing corporate pr and training mostly, with a small line in publishing specialised training materials (formerly on vhs, now on dvd, and I provide services for the occasional independent short film.

I produce on a mix of digibeta, beta sp and dvcam according to project. I've been using digigame's megapeg encoder for a while (a few years back, with settings suitably tweaked, it seemed to me to allow for a much better encode than Cleaner), and am wondering how much things might have moved on.

I saw a terrific encode for Fuji on a dvd flyer promoting their new film stocks ... and wondered how it was done, apart from originating on de luxe film stock: the comparable kodak demo looks less impressive, and I suspect that those results wouldn't necessarily be mirrored if we were to view the projected film.

So I'm hoping to get input on how to do better .... apart from Procoder, which has a lot of good recommendations, people have mentioned Bitvice to me. TMPEG / Tsunami seems to get very mixed reviews - some outstanding. It looks like Ligos are moving out of the field. Cinema Craft - haven't seen the output, but $2000 seems out of my immediate range ... don't know how good their basic version might be ?

Thought this forum might have some expert input - I'd love to get the very best results I can afford (probably most people would)!

So I'm up for learning from a small book's worth of info and opinions - how to get great results, reliably and without breaking the bank ... speed doesn't hurt either, though it's not the first consideration for me at the moment.

All best

Mike




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David Roth Weiss
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 2, 2005 at 8:11:46 pm

Mike,

I'm also on the PC platform so I'll give you the very short book. Procoder 2 is a great way to go. It does so many things, and does them all well -- and MPEG2 encoding is what it does best. You'd be well served to bite that bullet. I've tried 'em all, and I see no compelling reason to go with a competitor, unless you feel compelled to spent $2K on Cinema Craft, simply must have a cheaper solution, or for some reason must have an all-in-one authoring/encoding package.

For authoring, I still prefer ReelDVD for most day to day stuff, because it produces compatible disks that never seem to come back. But, its very limited, and is strictly authoring, with no graphics creation app attached. Adobe Encore and Ulead DVD Workshop are two comprehensive DVD creation packages that are currently in favor, and both are very good. Adobe seems to be the most wise of the two, as Ulead's future is questionable now, with a hostile takeover rumored.

The Fuji demo you saw was most likely encoded on a hardware encoder. Today the difference in the output of software and hardware encoders is not great, so unless you plan to make DVD creation a very big part of your business, or need to output in realtime a whole lot, you probably needn't entertain hardware encoders at all.

Hope that helps...

DRW


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harold
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 4, 2005 at 5:02:29 pm

hi mike,

cinema craft encoder SP is worth EVERY CENT. that said, if you are willing to give up some of the controls, the basic version ($69 if my memory serves) has the same encoding engine and produces very good looking encodes. here is a quick sampling of what you sacrifice by going with the basic version:

- advanced video filtering

- multi-pass encodes (basic version supports 1-pass cbr, 2-pass vbr; SP supports more passes than any sane person would use... at least nine passes... for vbr _and_ cbr)

- adaptive quantization matrices

- inverse telecine (w/ pull-down lists)

- forced i-frame placement

- control of video filtering settings GOP by GOP

- control of bitrate GOP by GOP

there is much more, but i shall not bore you with it. the manuals for both products are available for download at http://www.cinemacraft.com/ and you can also download limited trial versions of both products. CCE SP is probably the best software encoder on the market right now.



cheers,
h





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David Roth Weiss
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 4, 2005 at 10:06:47 pm

[harold] "- multi-pass encodes (basic version supports 1-pass cbr, 2-pass vbr; SP supports more passes than any sane person would use... at least nine passes... for vbr _and_ cbr) "

Procoder will do 12-pass at Mastering Quality -- other than spending a lot more of your valuable time, I would imagine that could derive some benefit from 12 passes if you happen to have perfect original, a perfect online, a perfect monitor, and perfect eyes...



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Dave Friend
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 5, 2005 at 6:43:16 am

Mike,

I created my own little shoot-out last week using software encoders. I encoded a :30 tv spot using different pieces of software that are either part of DVD Authoring Packages or stand-alone encoders and, in one case, integrated into an NLE.

The spot was edited on an NLE using uncompressed files/footage and a lot of computer generated material too. Four of the encodes used an uncompressed AVI (Pinnacle YUV codec) that was a "mixdown" of the NLE timeline. The fifth was encoded directly from the NLE's timeline. The same bit-rate was used for each encode and, as much as the various application's options allowed, all other settings were duplicated.

The five contenders:
1. Ligos (direct from the NLE timeline)
2. TMPGEnc 3.0 XPress
3. Cinemacraft Basic (the $58 version)
4. Main Concept (via Adobe Encore, Main Concept provides the encoding engine to Adobe, and others)
5. Ulead (via ULead DVD Workshop v2.0. They seem to have rolled their own encoder.)

The easy winner was CinemaCraft. Multiple sets of eyeballs agreed.

My only downside to CinemaCraft is the lack of support for ac3 audio. ULead, TMPGEnc and Encore can create ac3 audio output.

(Weiss, email me your ftp coordinates and I'll give you the uncompressed file so you can run it through ProCoder. I'll also give you the CinemaCraft mpeg file for your evaluation.)

Dave






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George W.
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 5, 2005 at 2:08:20 pm

Out of curiosity:

1) what were the settings used for your encodes?
2) what type of monitor was used to view the results (9" TV, or 46" TV, or computer monitor, or ???)
3) what were the "judging" criteria -- quality only, or was speed considered?
4) afaik, I thought DVD Workshop used the Mainconcept Encoder (or a version of it)???


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Dave Friend
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 5, 2005 at 3:42:26 pm

"1) what were the settings used for your encodes? "

2-Pass CBR @ 6.5Mbits. Relatively small GOP attempting to create a structure that looked like /IBPBPBPBPB. Not every encoder allows tight control over the GOP structure or the setting is masked by a 'user friendly' interface. But I got as close as I could.

The choice of 6.5Mb/s was made because many experts in the science of MPEG technology (folks who understand the math of Discreet Cosine Transformations the way I understand the math of addition) state that 6.5 is the 'sweet spot' for mpeg2. Personally, I just wanted a bit rate that might show some artifacting so I wouldn't have to use the high-power part of my bifocals to see what was happening.

"2) what type of monitor was used to view the results (9" TV, or 46" TV, or computer monitor, or ???) "

A Sony PVM-14M2U by way of a Y/C connection out of an off-the-shelf Sony DVD player.

"3) what were the "judging" criteria -- quality only, or was speed considered? "

Mostly looking for obvious mpeg2 artifacts like mosquito and contouring noise. The source video isn't torture test material by any stretch of the imagination. Actually, there aren't any really complex motions happening so couldn't really evaluate that aspect. Instead interest was high in seeing how text and other graphic elements were showing up. So much of the work we do is high in that type of material and clients really notice jaggies on their 'important text messages'.

Speed was not a consideration. The input video was only :30 and so no obvious speed differences were noticed. Then again, I didn't pay attention. (Sounds like I need to devise another test bench.)

"4) afaik, I thought DVD Workshop used the Mainconcept Encoder (or a version of it)??? "

That may well be. I do not know for sure. The encode settings controls in DVDWS don't have the Main Concept look and feel that I've come to expect. Also, there is no copyright citation for Main Concept technology in the ULead literature, help files or "About" box.

Other questions?

Dave


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Peter Corbett
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 7, 2005 at 1:16:54 pm

Quote: 2-Pass CBR @ 6.5Mbits. Relatively small GOP attempting to create a structure that looked like /IBPBPBPBPB. Not every encoder allows tight control over the GOP structure or the setting is masked by a 'user friendly' interface. But I got as close as I could.

David, what's the guff on gop? What advantages are there to playing around with GOP? That part of MPEG encoding is a black art to me.

Peter Corbett
Powerhouse Productions
Australia


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Borjis
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 7, 2005 at 5:58:49 pm



The lower the number the higher the quality, but also bigger
file sizes.

ideally you would want the smallest GOP possible.


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Dave Friend
Re: Best quality mpeg 2 encoding software / approaches?
on Apr 9, 2005 at 1:43:46 am

"The lower the number the higher the quality, but also bigger
file sizes. ideally you would want the smallest GOP possible."


Not necessarily. Small GOP (down to an all I frame structure) only looks good when you have a high enough bit rate to make decent pictures. It's a bit rate higher than allowed by the DVD spec to be certain. Also, picture quality will will often improve with a longer GOP at the data rates that are typical of a long-form (feature length) DVD. Even if you are not filling the disc and can run at or near the max rate for a DVD there are advantages to using at least a moderate sized GOP.

I


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