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Jon Geddes
HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:28:38 pm

Obviously there are problems with all NLE programs (not just Final Cut or Premiere) with converting HD projects to an SD DVD. Even with the best settings, there is still horrible aliasing especially noticeable on titles.

Many of you FCP users may not even notice the problem since you've been used to it for so many years, and probably attribute the poor quality to it "just being SD". But once you see what it could look like, you will wonder how you ever settled for what you are doing now.

A couple months ago I wrote an article, complete with image comparisons and all, on achieving professional quality down-conversion results using completely free software. This article was geared towards the PC user, since the programs used were designed for the PC. Many hours of research and two months later, I am still unable to find a solution on the Mac that even comes close to the quality of the method discussed in my article for the PC.

I recently wrote another article which describes how to use the method for the PC using files from Final Cut:

http://www.precomposed.com/blog/2009/09/hd-to-sd-final-cut-pro/

I'm curious as to what methods everyone else is using for their down-conversions. All the methods that are commonly used, such as exporting straight out of FCP as m2v, using compressor with best settings and best resize under frame controls, using DVDSP to downconvert, creating an SD sequence in FCP and nesting your HD sequence inside of it, or using MPEG Streamclip, all produce very poor results compared to the method I describe for the PC.

If you have any other methods or programs to produce a high quality down-conversion, please explain. If you have Windows (have not tested, but you can probably use Parallels or Boot Camp), then you are welcome to read my articles and use the method I describe. You will see the amazing difference in quality.

Jon Geddes
http://www.precomposed.com


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Rafael Amador
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:49:50 pm

Hi Jon,
I'm using VideoPurifier (Innobits) for resizing.
Some times i downscale in FC, setting "Render in High Precision" and "Render Motion Effects: BEST".
Motion have a "Lanczos" filter that should be very good for downscaling.
I'll try to have a look to the workflow you propose for PCs.
Best,
rafael

http://www.nagavideo.com


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Jim Carswell
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 5:53:39 pm

My workflow involves a real time down conversion to tape through my Kona 3 card. Than I recapture the video to an SD timeline and follow the usual steps for DVDSP.

Jim

Jim Carswell
Spyhop Productions, Inc.
Savannah, GA
http://www.spyhopproductions.com


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John Pale
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:07:04 pm

The articles you linked to don't specifically say what your settings were precisely to do the downconvert.
One of the photos showing aliased graphics appears to be the result of incorrect field dominance being introduced. I usually do not see anything that severe on font sizes that large. I have had good results exporting to Compressor without aliasing issues...the settings need to be correct though.
It is always good practice to make separate SD and HD graphics whenever possible. Fonts that look good in HD can be very difficult in an SD environment. Even with high quality hardware based downconversion, you can get softness or aliasing in graphics.


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Jon Geddes
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 6:29:01 pm

Yes, you would think the poor quality was the result of incorrect field dominance, but I assure you it was not. There was no deinterlacing or reversal of fields. Footage is kept at Upper Field First throughout the process. Quality is at 7 Mbit CBR or VBR 2-pass (same aliasing problems).

The images in the article were cropped so you can see what it looks like at 100%.

If you'd like, I can process a 5 second sample clip of yours using the method in the article and you can compare. You can even send me a clip that has difficult titles (script fonts with thin lines) and I can show you what SD footage is capable of looking like.

Jon Geddes
http://www.precomposed.com


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Ken Jones
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 8:28:46 pm

I'm with you Jon.

Almost every day on this forum I see a post from someone asking "how do I get my HD footage to look good on an SD-DVD." and there is usually a response from someone saying "this question gets asked all the time, but here's a link with instructions."

I gotta tell you that I think have tried everything that has been posted on these forums but STILL cannot get my HD footage to look decent on an SD-DVD. It ALWAYS has weird "interlacing" or "field order" artifacts. My associates tell me I am being too picky and that nobody but me will ever notice it, but it drives me crazy.

I bought Innobits Bitvice software and it dramatically reduces the amount of artifacts - but it is STILL present. I also own Video Purifier but have not yet tested it for scaling HD to SD.


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walter biscardi
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 8:25:03 pm

[Jim Carswell] "My workflow involves a real time down conversion to tape through my Kona 3 card. Than I recapture the video to an SD timeline and follow the usual steps for DVDSP. "

That is the absolute cleanest method and then I use BitVice from Innobits if I need the absolute best quality MPEG-2 for DVD or Episode Pro from Telestream.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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Vince Becquiot
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Sep 30, 2009 at 8:43:31 pm

After Effects down-conversions are hands down the best I've seen around, aside from hardware conversion.



Vince Becquiot

Kaptis Studios
San Francisco - Bay Area


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Rafael Amador
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 1, 2009 at 1:32:08 am

I haven't played the files, but I don't think a MPEG-2 compression is the way to judge a downscaling.
The artifacts/aliasing is introduced on the downscaling or in the MPEG-2 compression?
You don't know.
I think the downscaling should be tested in a uncompress to uncompress workflow.
rafael

http://www.nagavideo.com


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Jon Geddes
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 1, 2009 at 1:36:05 am

The mpeg compression is not the issue. It is definitely the downscaling. Straight SD to SD does not show the aliasing. Only HD to SD.

Jon Geddes
http://www.precomposed.com


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Rafael Amador
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 1, 2009 at 5:53:46 am

But how do you know is the downscaling and not MPEG-2 compression which is degrading the picture?
I trust Compressor for resizing, but I don't use it for MPEG-2 compression. For that I use BitVice too.
As I said before I think a fair resizing test should be done just resizing: No transcoding, no field-order managing, no time-base changes. Going from Uncompress to Uncompress would eliminate any element that could taint the test.
Cheers,
rafael

http://www.nagavideo.com


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Alan Langdon
AE in the HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Dec 12, 2009 at 1:30:59 pm

Vince-

I am interested in more details on your preference for AE downconverting HD footage. Could you describe the workflow? I am an extensive user of AE, and would tend to agree with you.

Currently I have a master HD file that is Apple Intermediate Codec 1920x1280 and would like to put in on a SD DVD. Do I stretch in the AE Render/Output Settings, or place the HD clip in a SD anamorphic comp? Should I introduce any fields or is this just adding noise/degradation?
My first intention is to have a SD master. Then, put it on a SD anamorphic DVD. I will use Toast, COmpressor and/or MPEG Streamclip for the encoding.

I was analysing a VOB from a anamorphic SD DVD somebody made, they originaly shot in 2K, but I dont know how they downconverted. But it looks pretty good on DVD and when I open the VOB in MPEG Streamclip, it claims the file is Upper Field dominant, although the image is definitelly not interlaced, but progressive 30p. Any ideas about this?

Sorry to through so many questions, I hope you can help with any of them. Thanks!



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Vince Becquiot
Re: AE in the HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Dec 12, 2009 at 7:40:02 pm

I usually just create a new comp, either square 854x480 (that will show you the reduction quality without pixel aspect ratio conversion), or DV widescreen, and resize inside it. Not much more to it.

Again, that's the way we've been doing it for years and there maybe (probably are) better ways to do this, especially with hardware conversion, but I'm pretty happy with the results, and I think that's about as much time as I can bare spending on that process.

Vince Becquiot

Kaptis Studios
San Francisco - Bay Area


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John Martin
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Aug 17, 2012 at 7:13:22 pm

Can't you just use KONA hardware to output to an MPEG or do you have to dump to tape and recapture? That seems excessive and prone to minute flaws...


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Jason Livingston
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 2, 2009 at 1:18:48 am

Ditto on what Jon and Ken said. I was thinking of posting something like this myself and I'm surprised it doesn't come up more often.

I've seen a lot of suggested HD-to-SD workflows for FCP and Compressor, but anyone who knows what good SD looks like will know that most of them look terrible. (I've actually done empirical tests using res charts and the loss of quality is obvious.) Some people say "well that's just what SD looks like" or "you have to watch it on a SD TV to see what it really looks like," but I've seen what a good hardware downconvert looks like and there is no comparison.

Sure you can print to SD tape and capture back in via a video card with hardware downconversion, but who has time for that?



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Michael Gissing
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 2, 2009 at 1:47:09 am

[Jason Livingston] "Sure you can print to SD tape and capture back in via a video card with hardware downconversion, but who has time for that?"

Two real time passes versus software rendering. I wonder who would win that race?


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Jason Livingston
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 2, 2009 at 6:32:50 pm

You make a good point, although not everyone has a DigiBeta or similar high-end SD deck and tape stock lying around. :)


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ross byron
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 6, 2009 at 4:39:21 pm

hi Jon i am going to try your PC method out latter today and tomorrow the way i have been down converting is going into compressor and choosing DV50-NTCS that knocks it down to size and makes it 29.97
i'll try and post some 30sec clips for everyone best Ross b
p.s will your method do the 23.98 to 29.97 frames? tia

Ross Byron Boughton
Editor / Webmaster / Sound Designer
http://www.inch.com/~bellevue/


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Jon Geddes
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 6, 2009 at 6:35:04 pm

[ross byron] "p.s will your method do the 23.98 to 29.97 frames?"

Not quite sure what you mean by that. Just about every mpeg2 encoder has the option of enabling the progressive flag.

Jon Geddes
http://www.precomposed.com


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ross byron
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 10, 2009 at 5:20:52 pm

hi guys my PC wont see the QTProres444 codac at the moment so i will come back to it,
got a bit closer in the mac environment compressor to 10bit uncompressed SD with all the frames set to best settings then a 2 pass mpeg in compressor at best settings
looking to try HC encoder for the .M2V files

Ross Byron Boughton
Editor / Webmaster / Sound Designer
http://www.inch.com/~bellevue/


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Jon Geddes
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 10, 2009 at 5:24:24 pm

Do you have the latest Quicktime version on your PC? Also, you may need to install the Prores codec as well.

Jon Geddes
http://www.precomposed.com


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John Martin
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Aug 17, 2012 at 7:58:01 pm

So what is your HD to SD hardware down conversion solution???


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Alessandro Capitani
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Oct 31, 2009 at 10:52:20 pm

Jon

I have read the entire post and since I am facing the same issue these days, I am completely with you.

First of all, I have not read in the thread of improvements provided by FCP7 (I am still using version 6) so I assume Apple has not worked on improving scaling/interpolation algorithms in FCP/Compressor/Quicktime in latest Final Cut Studio, that's a bit sad.

Second, since I am in an almost completely file based enviroment, the "pass through baseband" solution (i.e. via Kona/hardware downscaling) sounds a bit ridicolous in my case.

I have taken some time to test some solutions and I have find interesting results. My workflow is implying editing in ProresHQ 1080/50i and creating file masters at PAL resolution (720x576) both "anamorphic" and letterboxed.

First, the "bonsai method".
This is basically based on disabling the (weird) interpolation built in FCP by setting the “Motion filtering quality” setting in "Fastest (linear)" (not in Better Quality as I have read above, this is exactly where FCP is faulty in the way it interpolates during picture scaling! Apple, are you reading?).

Complete detail of the bonsai method here:
http://www.produxion.net/2008/04/08/hd-to-sd-conversion-the-holy-grail/

The solution is simple and free but it has its limits. It performs realtively well on "real life" pictures but, being antialiasing completely disabled, can create problems on graphics elements or sharp picture details. By the way it deserves at least a try, it is free and damn simple!

I have tested other solutions, I have got some interesting results with MPEG Streamclip (be sure you set "better quality scaling" in the Export window), but it is not perfect. Whilst 2D scaling is much better that FCP's one, it seems it uses a 4:1:1 codec as intermediate during processing, so I notice some visible sub sampling artifacts on border of sharp and heavily saturated colours, especially red.

Adobe Media Encoder provided some weird results, maybe I just need more time to go more in depth in testing this solution.

The best results so far are from a brand new conversion solution from Miraizon.
This (new to me) software company has just released version 1 of their format conversion software: Reframe (http://www.miraizon.com/products/products.html). I have tested Reframe (for downconversion to SD only, no standard conversion tests for the momement) and I have got some promising results.

If you will test Reframe yourself be sure to set approriate intermediate codec (I ended up on using Apple Uncompressed).
Known downsides for the moment:
- it seems it processes in progressive despite source is interlaced. My source material is psf, so in my case it is not an issue.
- if you have multi-channel Quicktime, take into account output is a stereo pair at a time for the moment.

For 129 bucks I think it also deserves a try. Money back guarantee in case your are not satisfied ;-)

Hope my findings will help you on getting a solution for your workflow. I will appreciate your opinion on this.

Best,
Ale.


"Editing is 80% diplomacy and 20% actual skill"


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Anthony Koelker
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:10:05 pm

Does anyone have an update to this issue? I've got a ProRes422 1080 29.97 HOUR LONG show that I've tried a few dozen paths to make look good on a DVD. Compressor and BitVice have not solved the resizing issue.
I'm using the latest FCP Studio and Snow Leopard. I do have a Kona LHi card, but my only out would be to DVCAM.
Any ideas will me greatly appreciated.


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Jason Smolesky
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on May 18, 2010 at 5:44:12 pm

I have a SUPER ...and a free solution.
However you also need access a PC/windows to do it...oh and external drive(Fat32) etc...so you can move files back and for between the 2...

First off let me just say....I have tried everything suggested nothing really seems to work well..except for just shooting in 16x9 SD in the first place, which isn't always an option with your client since they may want both a HD video file and a DVD version etc...

*I tried the Bonsai method and it did remove the line doubling but It still left strange noise around the subjects....like buzzing flies....gross!!!*

-My method-

Step#1 -Export you video from FCP as a self contained QT of course it will be humongous so you will need a large drive to move the file from the mac to a PC. My last 1 hr- HDV 1080i/60 Video was about 9.6 gig.

Step #2
Move it to a PC and download/install "Super(c)" it is a free encoder from erightsoft that supports tons of stuff- sorta like the PC equivalent of M-peg streamclip the download is hard to get to from their page so you may have to navigate 3 pages to get to the link--


http://www.erightsoft.com/S6Kg1.html

*scroll to the bottom and you will see the download link "

Step #3
Choose DVD Std.Complaint(VOB) -->output codex is MPEG-II

choose video scale size 720:480 and then mark 16:9 for aspect
change the bit-rate to between 7500-8000 for the test DVD I made I set it at 7968 -
click Encode.... Again these are the base setting I choose, experiment and I bet you may have better results than me...

Step #4
Move the new smaller(but still pretty big)VOB back to your MAC and bring it into compressor.... Use the settings for DVD best quality 90 min and I usually raise the VBR between 7.0-8.4 but this is up to you..... Import you M2v and Dolby 2.0 files into DVD studio...and burn away...

The line doubling is gone and it will great on both a DVD player and a computer..--

Again this may not work for everybody but if you have access to windows via Bootcamp/Parallels its may give you better results and its not too terribly hard to do...

In short I am using "Super(c)" to do my down scaling...and if I'm not mistaken I'm not really doing much extra compression going from VOB to M2V....again experiment with this and you may get better results....

worked awesome for me....

Let me know if this works for you :)....





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Jason Smolesky
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on May 19, 2010 at 6:42:15 pm

--oh and obviously you can use different conversions and get the same results maybe an h264 quicktime etc...since you still need to go back to compressor with this method it doesn't really matter a ton which format you use...I just chose VOB on a short DVD... but try other formats and experiment- The Scaler in Super (c) is the whole reason for using it...
oh and sorry bout the typos...


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Bill Nelson
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on May 29, 2012 at 10:29:04 pm

Walter got it right, half-way up this thread...

BitVice

Just produced the SD DVD for our feature "Redemption: For Robbing The Dead" with that tiny one-trick app. Looks fabulous. I did have some questions about Video Purifier settings, and I'll be danged if the app's CREATOR Skyped me with the details! I have yet to hear from the coder from Apple.

Just sayin'



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Leon Johnson
Re: HD to SD Best Quality workflow
on Jun 29, 2012 at 11:16:39 pm

Just bought Bitvice today, but as yet unable to get suitable results from a couple of HD 1440x1080 test movies.

In Bitvice, I selected Command+5 from the settings menu, and NTCS 720x480 anamorphic.

After ENCODE, I brought the file into DVD Studio Pro, but results were somewhat jerky on the DVD.

If I can get the settings right, I want to bring in to BITVICE a 120 minute HD 1440x1080 file for conversion to m2v and DVD Studio Pro.

Can someone suggest settings or a screen grab of Bitvice to help me.

Thanks.

Leon Johnson
Johnson Video Productions


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