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Scan Converters

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Bob O'HearnScan Converters
by on Aug 31, 2008 at 8:13:39 pm

Man, this is a great resource!
I just lost a job to an another outfit i because they can make the client's powerpoint presentations look better than what I put out on DVD. The client uses a dark blue background with yellow text on all presentations. They also embed video of ultrasound scans on each. I have tried all the screen grab products and they look good on the NLE timeline but when I compress them for DVD they really come apart. The text color bleeds and gets jaggy. I have just become aware of scan converters and need to know if I spend a couple of thousand dollars on one will I get a good result on the final dvd? I have read all the posts I can find on the subject and I am willing to spend the dough cause I do this sort of thing frequently. Mark Suszko mentions Scan Do Pro and I see one for $2700.00. that looks like it would fit the bill. Any information would be appreciated
Thanks in advance.

Bob O'Hearn

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Mark SuszkoRe: Scan Converters
by on Sep 2, 2008 at 3:00:31 pm

Mark Suszko says that he uses the Scan-Do Pro ULTRA, which is now a little old but was six grand brand new. The latest version I was aware of the the Ultra-D for digital, which adds more capability.

I would suggest your next step regarding a scan converter is to rent one for a day, or take a deck and laptop over to a rental shop and get a demo, try out the controls, see how well it works for you. Preferably with one of the client's older ppt samples.

But from reading your post, I'm thinking the scan converter issue is not your real problem. Too many people have great results with screen recorders, including the COW experts who post tutorials here, for us to easily blame your screen recording software. If you are using one of the top recording programs then we might have to find the problem elsewhere.

I think you may be looking at more of a workflow and settings issue with the steps you're taking to compress the files for the DVD.

Powerpoint as it comes in default mode in my experience does not format quite right for our screen dimensions, and it doesn't generally use NTSC-safe colors and levels. That means you'll already lose some resolution when you have to re-size, re-scale, and re-proportion that initial screen shape, which is probably one source of your "jaggies" problem. The bleeding colors are another gift from the fine folks in Redmond.

So, I think the first thing to try, before spending money, is to open up the presentation from within your own copy of the powerpoint application itself, and see if you can adjust the screen dimensions, safe title area, color palettes and fonts, shadows, edges, etc. for better results. (I need to do this frequently with client submissions, though sometimes it's more cost-effective to have the Scan-Do handle it all.) The more you improve your inputs, the less repair and correction you need to do to your outputs, it just makes sense. Be sure the client knows you're making these changes, sometimes the colors and etc. are locked down due to marketing and legal reasons.

The more powerful scan converters like the Scan-do and high-end Extron have the ability to proc-amp the input levels and adjust things like out-of-gamut chroma and too-high white levels or crushed black levels. You can also do that color correction within an NLE timeline, of course, or, the individual slides could be batched into photoshop and REALLY corrected. You lose the transitions that PPT gave you, but no big loss; your NLE can do the same and better. In your unique situation though, Bob, photoshop isn't going to be much help with the embedded video segments. AfterEffects could handle this job, but it strikes me as "stepping over dollars to pick up dimes" to have to use a big gun like AE to fix a powerpoint presentation. A time-intensive gun at that. In your case, Bob, I might first try running two locked and duplicate timelines in a stack; one that just crops and shows the motion video, and lets you adjust only that, and a layer below that handles all the static slide screens. Render the final to one single flattened stream.

After we've massaged the presentation in powerpoint as much as we can, and tweaked it on our NLE timeline, we need to look at how you are encoding these to a DVD. What compression and codec choices did you make? Are there better ones? I think this is where you'll solve your problem.

For casual stuff, I'm working in FCP and using export>using quicktime conversion>MPEG2 and picking "2-pass VBR" (Variable Bit Rate) mpeg 2 encoding, with the quality sliders turned all the way up. Takes a little more time but looks much nicer than single-pass encoding, particularly with challenging, high-detail content.

I then import those m2t and aiff files generated by the conversion into Apple DVD Studio Pro (DVDSP), just drag the imported assets to the DVDSP timeline, add a menu or first play and looping commands if needed, (just a matter of checking a box or 2) and create the final burn there. Fast and actually pretty simple, despite my over-detailed description. If I was doing something more serious, I'd first use one of the settings in Apple Compressor to pre-crunch my NLE's timeline files before the import to DVDSP.

But tell us, what are YOU doing when you make your DVD's out of these powerpoint shows? What's your exact workflow and what settings do you use? Maybe some expert here will spot something you can do differently or better.

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Bob O'HearnRe: Scan Converters
by on Sep 4, 2008 at 9:14:15 pm

Hi Mark,
I am very grateful for your response. I have tried a few things before I got back to you. First off, I can't make any changes to the slides because of corporate guidelines. I borrowed a scan converter, an inexpensive one from TVOne, a 320 I believe. As soon as I hooked it up and turned on the monitor I could see the yellow text bleeding and the colors were way off. The end result was worse. So now I'm back to Camtasia. I must be making my errors coming out the the program. The Camtasia tutorials all say that for the best results stay at 640 x 480 and use the techsmith codec. Most of what I do is green screen work. I have been using Ultra with great results so I stay on the pc for the duration of the job. I take the Camtasia file and drop it on the Sony Vegas timeline and scale it up. Still looks good up to this point. I create an mpeg II file using a 2 pass vbr directly from Vegas. The I create the final dvd using DVD Architect 5.0. That's when thing go to hell. Should I be coming out of Camtasia uncompressed or is there another setting I should be using? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Scan Converters
by on Sep 4, 2008 at 9:26:21 pm

Bob, if the borrowed scan converter didn't have any proc-amp controls on it to lower the chroma level and such, you would have needed to run the output thru a TBC/proc amp box first to control the chroma and white and black levels. Powerpoint often allows FCC illegal levels.

As fas as DVDA's settings, and Camtasia settings, I don't play with them so have nothing to suggest but to experiment. Though it bugs me that you are scaling up anything in Vegas first. Maybe what Vegas is showing you as pretty is actually not? However, if the 2-pass VBR encodes you make play well on some other computer or player, we've narrowed it down to something you're doing at the last step in the chain, in DVD Architect.

Just a guess, not an expert compressionist by any means ( I'm more of a "professional generalist") but I *think* DVDA is re-compressing your already-compressed encodes, or transcoding them to something else, first. Can you ask a friend to try compressing a sample of your encodes in another DVD authoring program? That should narrow it down even further.

As far as modifying the powerpoint file colors, we know that computer colors and gamma are not the same as TV colors and gamma. So we have to cheat or tweak the source material input to make the expected output. Or you can "fix it in post": do you have in Vegas a "safe colors" filter that clamps the output to stay FCC legal? We do in FCP, so I'm guessing you do as well. Should solve some of the chroma crawl and bleed problems before you encode them.

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