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Old 7 Jan 2003, 01:42 AM   #1
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Default DVD Quality?

Hi,

I am New to DVD authoring (i.e. Never Done it) but was hoping to create some using new equipment received over christmas, but am having several problems.

I was told that I could connect my Sony DCR-TRV310E DV camcorder directly to my PC using the firewire card, and get results of near-broadcast quality. This I have tried, using MGI videowave to capture the video, which it automatically saves as a AVI file. the problem is that the quality look nowhere near as good as when I simply plug the camcorder into the TV!??

The PC is a 1 month old Dell 8200, with a Texas Instruments 1EEE 1394 fireiwire card, 512 ram, 120 gb HD and a santacruz 128mb soundcard, Philips DVD+R/RW etc etc etc., but has no Video Capture card as I was told it was unneccesary, and all 5 PCI slots are occupied.

Is this a case of software, hardware, both, or am I just innept!?

Also, what file format are Film DVD's produced in? I understand I won't be able to get that quality with what I have, but its something to aim for.....


Many thanks

Dongledell
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Old 8 Jan 2003, 01:26 PM   #2
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Not too familiar with the cameras, but DVD files are MPEG2.

I have a ReplayTV, which I can extract video from in a simlar maner. The files are MPG files. I then dump the files into Sonic My DVD and it takes care of the rest.

If you aren't satisified with the quaility, you probably need a new extraction program unless you can change the settings on the extraction.

I'm sure this doesn't solve your problem, but I always hate it when NOBODY replies to one of my posts.

Did you cam corder include any software?
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Old 8 Jan 2003, 02:29 PM   #3
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Ok, the good news is that you can (potentially - that is to say with the right knowledge/skills, and right software) produce DVDs of near-broadcast quality. Yes, it really is true; DV camcorders (provided they are used in decent lighting conditions - this is very important to avoid picture graininess) are of such remarkable quality these days that they easily surpass the quality of VHS, and get very close to broadcast quality.

The main factors governing picture quality, from the point of view of the tools at your disposal, are:

#making sure that you have good lighting conditions when shooting your DV-cam footage. In dim light, the camcorder will have to compensate with digital gain (amplification), and this inevitably introduces picture noise. This will translate into even more noise when you encode it to MPEG for DVD authoring (although filtering prior to encoding may improve matters a little, but will slow down the authoring process dramatically). MPEG relies, for it's compression efficiency, on being able to carefully discard information which is consistent across several frames of video. It follows, therefore, that consistent information will, for the most part, be information which remains still across frames. In the case of a noisy/grainy picture, however, almost evry pixel is different from frame to frame, so the efficiency is dramatically reduced, because very little info can be successfully discarded. Therefore, your bitrate (which is always limited due to disk capacity) has to be spread too 'thinly' across the entire frame image, leading to reduced quality. What you really want is a clean image where info can be discarded for a large percentage of the picture and better allocated to the parts which really need it - in other words, the moving parts of the image, such as people or vehicles etc. I hope the very brief explanation makes sense, and encourages you to think about your lighting conditions when filming.

#using a high-quality MPEG encoder. There are numerous MPEG encoders on the market, but there are really only 3 that create truly professional standard output files:

Cinemacraft Encoder SP ($2,000)

TMPGEnc (shareware / £65 )

Canopus ProCoder (approx $700)


There is also MainConcept's new MPEG encoder, which is beginning to gain a following. (approx $149, last time I looked, I think).


For you to begin with, I would suggest you try TMPGEnc. Do not be fooled that it can't produce files of the same quality as the other three, simply because it is the cheapest. This isn't true. TMPGEnc is a true high quality encoder and is an absolute bargain. The only real downside is that it is the slowest of the four encoders, but you can't have everything, can you?

In order to use one of these encoders with MGI videowave, you will have to first do your capturing and editing, then export your editied project from VideoWave, using a DV AVI codec, and then close VideoWave and open the rendered DV-AVI file in TMPGEnc and encode it to DVD-compliant MPEG file(s). TMPGEnc even includes a wizard to help you with the correct settings, so it's pretty difficult to get things wrong at this stage. Once you have encoded your DVD-compliant MPEG files, these can be imported into your DVD-authoring software of choice, and authored into a DVD project. Do not be daunted by the number of different pieces of software which you will need to learn. Most of them are actually pretty simple if you approach them with an eager and open mind, and the results are well worth it. 5years ago, it would have been an impossible dream to author a DVD of near-hollywood quality (very near Hollywood quality!) on a mainstream PC, but these days it genuinely is a practical reality if you are prepared to take the time to learn how to do it.

Bear in mind that there are shortcuts but if picture quality is your aim, then proceed as I have outlined above. MGIvideowave is restrictive in that it won't allow you to directly frameserve to an MPEG encoder, so for the timebeing you will have to render a DV file and then import this into TMPGEnc. Alternatively, you could use VideoWave's own MPEG export plugin, but again, this will not match the quality of TMPGEnc. I strongly recommend that you do NOT try to create MPEG files DURING capture (using Cyberlink's MPEG capture software, for exmaple). I say this for two reasons:

1) MPEG is truly appallingly bad for editing purposes - you should always edit in a non-lossy codec (such as standard DV AVI), and only create MPEG once you have completely finished all your cuts and fades/transitions/titling/compositing.

2) If you create MPEG during capture, it will not match the quality of the four encoders I mentioned earlier (of which TMEPGenc is, of course, one). Furthermore, it may not be suitably compliant for DVD authoring (I will not bore you with the technical reasons why, but it involves the structure of the encoded frame sequences).



The second piece of good news is that whoever told you that you only need a bog-standard firewire card to import your DV footage was telling you the truth!

You simply need to make sure that you capture when no other programs are running (and by that I also mean that you should not even click other buttons with your mouse or keyboard while capturing, no matter how trivial they may seem, because they may demand that the Hard Drive seeks for something, and you do not want to distract the harddrive when it is busy writing DV data as fast as it can!). Also be sure that you are capturing at full DV frame size (i.e. full "D1"). For PAL, this is 720x576, and for NTSC this is 720x480, and are definitely using a genuine DV AVI codec for capture (the standard MicroSoft one will do perfectly). If you are unsure about which codec is the right one, then your DV codec might also be labelled "type-1 or Type-2 AVI". You may use either type 1 or type 2.

Time and space will not allow me to write you a full tutorial here from start to finish of capturing DV footage to editing it, rendering it, transcoding it to MPEG, authoring the MPEG files to a DVD project (I suggest SpruceUp for your first DVD projects - not DVDit or MyDVD because they are not as stable or forgiving of MPEG file variations), and finally burning the project to disk (I recommend Nero for this), but if you have any specific questions, please read the FAQs on this site, and on other video-related sites (you know the main ones, Digital-Digest included, I'm sure), and if you still have any questions, I will be more than happy to assist you. Please do bear in mind that I contribute to more than 5 forums so my time is stretched and I cannot visit every day. You might even try catching me on one of the other forums if I happen to be online there, but I assure you that I will be checking back with this thread from time-to-time.

Apologies if the above seems a little disorganised - it's 3:30am here, and even if it was the middle of the day, there is just so much information to get across to you that it would take me hours to write it in perfect structure. I hope at least a little of the above makes some sense to you. Good luck and let me know how you get on.


Arky ;o)

Last edited by arky_123; 8 Jan 2003 at 02:50 PM
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Old 8 Jan 2003, 11:37 PM   #4
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Many, Many thank for your replies here, At the very least you haev saved me wasting money on the capture card I was going to buy!

I will give all the suggestions you have made a try over the next few days - the only things I am not clear on at the moment is how to check which DV AVI codec I have. I'll have a poke about and see if I can find it!

Cheers

Dongledell
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Old 9 Jan 2003, 01:45 PM   #5
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Well, this is most obvious when you are rendering after editing, but many NLEs offer you a choice during capturing as well. It may actually be that MGI VideoWave does not offer you a choice and automatically selects the Micro$oft DV codec as the default capture codec. I don't use VideoWave so I cannot confirm either way.

It would also help me if you described exactly what you meant when you said that the quality was not very good, and if you also told me what codec, and what settings you used, when you got unsatisfactory results.

If you still have problems, then just get back to me - there are plenty of alternative capture solutions, if need be.


Also, regarding the reasons for buying video capture cards, these only speed things up, by introducing hardware rendering of transitions and some special effects - there is NOTHING which can be done with a hardware capture card which cannot be done on a system which only has a standard firewire card. The only significant difference is speed - the system with the basic firewire card will have to render all effects in software, using the CPU to do all the number-crunching, and this is slower. As CPUs get faster and faster, however, they will be able to compete with Hardware cards on speed (and this will happen in the VERY near future, particularly with software products like Pinnacle Edition, which renders effects during the editing process, meanng that when you complete your editing, and are ready to export, most of the rendering will already be done, and you will consequently be able to export almost immediately in 'realtime'). The only real killer card, in terms of multiple simultaneous output to DV codec, is Canopus's Storm, but very few people truly require the capability of outputting several DV streams at once, in realtime, unless they frequently do Picture In Picture (PIP) effects, and face tight commercial deadlines. CPUs are really on the brink of matching this - the days of hardware cards are numbered! (I give them about 2years max).

In case you're wondering, I use a £20 no-name firewire card, with Edition, and it only slows me down when I use Boris RED to do special effects, which take more time to render than I do to edit. So what I tend to do in such cases, is begin authoring my graphics for my DVD, and when my DV has rendered, I can import it into my MPEG encoder, continue working on my graphics while that encodes, and then when the MPEG files are complete, so are my graphics, and I can import all these assets into the DVD-authoring environment


Arky ;o)

Last edited by arky_123; 9 Jan 2003 at 01:54 PM
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Old 9 Jan 2003, 08:27 PM   #6
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The biggest dissapointment for me was in the bitmapping occuring around particularly colourful edges. A good example is on the production of our Wedding Video (Required as a valid excuse for spending money on equipment!! ). Wherever there are shots involving the flower arrangements, which were red and white, shot in very bright sunshine, they block around the edges.

Other than that, the most obvious drop of quality occurs during movement. From your previous post I am assuming this is down to the drop in bitrate, as admitedly the lighting conditions were not exactly perfect at some points. (Not that surprising, as the bloke who did the video was originally the director of "Top Gear" - and we all saw what that turned out like! )

Hopefully tonight I'll get a chance to install TMPGEnc and see if that makes a difference...

Dongledell
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Old 10 Jan 2003, 08:43 AM   #7
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Yes, assuming that the DV footage itself, PRIOR to editing and compression on your PC, is fine, quality-wise, then what you describe would indeed be a common side-effect of poor MPEG compression (e.g. poor encoder, but most notably inadequate bitrate). There are other possibilities, but this is the most probable one.


Arky ;o)
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Old 10 Jan 2003, 08:43 PM   #8
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Re your advice on trying TMPGEnc - I have downloaded and trialled this on a short bit of film, and must admit, quality was vastly improved over previous attempts! One area that I found a bit confusing is the settings for bitrate. Is this something that you would leave set at defaults, or is there any way of working out the "best fit" values?

A past-colleague also suggested I had a chat to his friend, who produces professional production DVD's. End result of his review of my initial footage was that the GOP rate was too high, and that I should set it to a max of 9. When I tried to change this in TMPGEnc, a warning came up about the perils of unlocking these options. Is this something it is safe to ignore - or am I opening a very large can of worms?!

The next problem to work out is why I can produce highlighted clips from my storyline in VideoWave, but when I try to Produce the whole thing, it brings up an error after 1 hour!

Cheers,

Dongle
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Old 11 Jan 2003, 11:07 PM   #9
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Dongle,

Pleased to read you are making some headway.

Checkout this site, if you want some free (well, 30 day trial) You can buy the Mainconcept MPEG2 encoder (less than £30 I think)

http://www.puremotion.com/index.htm


I use it, and it's very good.

And by the way, I'm not associated with them in anyway.

fisherman
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Old 12 Jan 2003, 02:10 AM   #10
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Maximum GOP length for PAL is 15 frames (30fields).
Maximum GOP length for NTSC is 18 frames (36fields).

Only settings you should really consider playing with (and only if you need to), are:

Motion-Search Precision

BitRate (adjust to maximum possible within your limited disk capacity - absolute maximum allowable would be 9.8mbps, but that's not advisable).

MacroBlock Smoothing

Any of the filters you feel you might need.


The above isn't concrete gospel - it's just general guidelines for using TMPEGenc. Generally, the wizard will do a pretty good job. If you get jumpy playback from material encoded with TMPGEnc (jumpiness may only show itself when played back on an interlaced device - i.e. a television -, and may otherwise seem perfect if played back on a computer monitor, which displays material progressively, so beware!), then try swapping the source field order. Generally, however, TMPGEnc does a good job at automatically identifying field order, and should produce good results straight from the wizard.


Arky ;o)
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Old 12 Jan 2003, 04:13 AM   #11
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Ok, I'll have a play with those settings and see what comes out! (beginning to discover this can be quite a costly learning-curve with the media I bought, getting through them a bit quick!!)

For some reason a new problem has arisen. I had just finished trawling through hours of capture, cutting it up nicely and creating a fair (ok, not that good, but it got the idea across!) piece of footage 30 minutes long. When I then asked videowave to Produce an AVI, it took 2 hours to complete, and the playback has some serious fault in it.

When pre-viewing in any apps, The top of the 1/3 of the screen is displayed in the bottom 1/3rd, and the bottom 2/3 are at the top! couple this with the right half being in the left side of the screen, and the left in the right, and the fact that each quarter of the screen is either blue, green or red - oh and did I mention the Buzzing noise thats in place of the soundtrack.......!!

Converting the original capture footage in large blocks using tmpgenc showed no problems, producing the individual sceens 1 at a time in videowave showed no problems, but spin the lot out - same thing happened again.

I'm beginning to wish I'd stuck to finance!!!!

Dongle
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Old 13 Jan 2003, 02:10 AM   #12
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Dongle,

This video editing lark looks so easy doesn't it ?

All of a sudden we find out otherwise.

A small suggestion, if you have never done this sort of thing before (end to end that is)

Start off with small "Chuncks", by this I mean gather together a few small clips, stick in a few transitions, do the odd saves etc. Create a VERY small project. No more than 3 minutes long.

The advantage being, none of hte different elements that can take hours (as you are finding out) take very long, minutes at most.

This way, if you have any settings set incorrectly. you get to know about them sooner, rather than later.

The number of threads I've read when people say, (I've spents hours putting this things together and it does'nt work).

Well, save yourself hours, and start small.

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Old 13 Jan 2003, 08:30 PM   #13
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VERY sound advice fisherman! I have finally had a real success, managing to create a 30 minute DVD, which came out absolutely perfectly!!!

Now all I have to do is remember how I did it......

Cheers

Dongle
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