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AVCHD Format Discussion
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Old December 17th, 2008, 02:50 PM   #211
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Thanks Larry. I understand all that you have said. In my first attempt to make an AVCHD DVD of my second program springtime along the Lake Michigan shoreline, I tried to put in an hour and eleven minutes of spring landscape/scenery type shots with lots of details present such as leaves, tree branches, dune grass, moving birds, moving water, etc. What I got was jitters when any motion was in the frame; or more like a moving double exposure. The jitters would show two tree branches jittering back and forth between themselves, while if there were no motion present, the image was cleaner but not what I would call HD (not the same as my previous AVCHD DVD), with blurred edges and distant object hazy.
When you do some searching within the Nero program, there is a point where you can choose which quality setting you want for your resolution. I first tried automatic exposure, and then the second try I chose 1440x1080 (which turned out much better). In so doing, I had to trim back from one hour eleven minutes to just forty five minutes. Kinda makes me wonder what the automatic chose as a resolution. As I write this, I am curious what a full resolution of 1920x1080 would allow as far as the amount of video on the disc.

It is strange that with my first AVCHD program of trains, there were a lot of moving trains across the picture, sometimes with the trains close-up. I wonder how I was able to get an hour and twenty five minutes of AVCHD content on that DVD and have such a beautiful, clear, HD picture.

So much to learn and so few neurons left to work with.

Thanks.
Mike
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Old December 17th, 2008, 04:12 PM   #212
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Mike,
I suggest you use Nero Show Time to view your finished AVCHD disks and files. If you enable the optional information display, it will show you all the particulars, such as video and audio bitrates, VBR or CBR, type of encodings used for video and audio, and a continuously updated display showing instantaneous encoding rates.

This will allow you to see how your prior and future stuff is being processed.

In general, Nero defaults to Smart Render which keeps the original file format intact, unless you add effects, titles, etc.

Picture quality and recording time are, for all compression methods, inversely related.... One goes up and the other goes down. True for mpeg, jpeg, mjpeg, AVCHD/h.264, etc. For a given method like AVCHD, you only get more recording time by decreasing PQ. Decreasing PQ is done by lowering detail / resolution, slowing the frame rate, dropping frames, and / or using longer GOPS. In most cases for AVCHD the effects are pretty obvious since very highly compressed video can't tolerate much change without it being damaging to PQ.

Not sure if this addresses your issue entirely.....

Larry

Last edited by Larry Horwitz; December 17th, 2008 at 10:32 PM.
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Old December 18th, 2008, 09:51 AM   #213
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Originally Posted by Larry Horwitz View Post
Mike,
I suggest you use Nero Show Time to view your finished AVCHD disks and files. If you enable the optional information display, it will show you all the particulars, such as video and audio bitrates, VBR or CBR, type of encodings used for video and audio, and a continuously updated display showing instantaneous encoding rates.

This will allow you to see how your prior and future stuff is being processed.

In general, Nero defaults to Smart Render which keeps the original file format intact, unless you add effects, titles, etc.

Picture quality and recording time are, for all compression methods, inversely related.... One goes up and the other goes down. True for mpeg, jpeg, mjpeg, AVCHD/h.264, etc. For a given method like AVCHD, you only get more recording time by decreasing PQ. Decreasing PQ is done by lowering detail / resolution, slowing the frame rate, dropping frames, and / or using longer GOPS. In most cases for AVCHD the effects are pretty obvious since very highly compressed video can't tolerate much change without it being damaging to PQ.

Not sure if this addresses your issue entirely.....

Larry
I understand and agree with you entirely. I am thinking that because I added more transitions to my second program, that and the longer length, contributed to the terrible PQ I got the first attempt. Only after eliminating about 25 minutes of video and a few transitions, did the PQ improve dramatically.

As for using Nero to preview my stuff before burning, I know about that and do some spot checking (sometimes), but normally I am too impatient to get my footage on disc. I guess in the long run I would be saving time by previewing the entire show first.

Another project is waiting in the wings, so I will keep you updated as to what I experience.
Thanks Larry.

Mike
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Old December 18th, 2008, 10:48 AM   #214
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Mike,

As you are most likely already aware, Nero puts a copy of the final AVCHD folder it burns on your hard disk also.

So when you are done burning the AVCHD, without any additional time being wasted, or at any future time, you can look at the hard disk folder with ShowTime and see all the specific details if you have questions about encoding.

I sometimes go back and use this after I have played the disk on my PS3 or BluRay player to see details of the encoding rates which neither my PS3 or BluRay player shows me. It is a handy way to see if, for example, the bitrate has dropped significantly during a particular portion of the clip where the quality appears soft or fuzzy.

I use this player approach most often when I am editing and authoring with programs like Sony Vegas Pro or Pinnacle, neither of which have Smart Render and neither of which provide much information about their rendering activity. When I use Nero, Corel, Arcsoft, or Power Director, which all Smart Render, then the playback data displays are not really as vital since the Smart Rendering almost always keeps my original untouched clips in their pristine, crisp condition without changing any encoding at all.

Larry
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Old December 18th, 2008, 04:25 PM   #215
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... When I use Nero, Corel, Arcsoft, or Power Director, which all Smart Render, then the playback data displays are not really as vital since the Smart Rendering almost always keeps my original untouched clips in their pristine, crisp condition without changing any encoding at all.
Hi Larry, there's an agreement of opinion (consensus) in Cyberlink forums that "smart rendering" does NOT work properly with AVCHD in PowerDirector.

Quote:
I can confirm SVRT currently works with Canon HF100 until it has to render ie transition. It then renders all footage from then on (this has been brought up before) and effectively makes the SVRT pointless.
SVRT does not work at all with Panasonic SD9 clips.
I have had the same experience with my canon HF-10, moreover I personally contacted Cyberlink and this is the answer that I received regarding SVRT for AVCHD in the full paid version of PowerDirector 7 Ultra (2227c):

Quote:
In response to your issue we regret to inform you that the SVRT feature does not work with the AVCHD files. The SVRT feature works only with the Mpeg1 format files.
This answer doesn't make any sense, but give you an example of their costumer service quality.

I may be wrong, but in previous posts I pointed this issue out and you may need to review you opinion about PowerDirector.

Juan
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Old December 18th, 2008, 04:51 PM   #216
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Mike and Larry. I find it baffling, that with my two files, one made with PD and one made with Nero+VSX2, we have seen dramatically different results:

Mike: You find both files pretty much identical in quality.

Larry: You find that the PD file is superior in quality to the NERO+VSX2

Peter: I find the the NERO+VSX2 file is superior in quality to the PD file, except when I burn the NERO+VSX2 file to disk, in which case it becomes very stuttery.

Thanks for your guys help. I think for now I will stick with the workflow that seems to be guaranteed to work for all hardware configurations: Pixela for editing plus Nero for burning. Although Pixela is onerous, it's worth it for the quality and the low risk of problematic output.
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Old December 18th, 2008, 07:25 PM   #217
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Mike and Larry. I find it baffling, that with my two files, one made with PD and one made with Nero+VSX2, we have seen dramatically different results:

Mike: You find both files pretty much identical in quality.

Larry: You find that the PD file is superior in quality to the NERO+VSX2

Peter: I find the the NERO+VSX2 file is superior in quality to the PD file, except when I burn the NERO+VSX2 file to disk, in which case it becomes very stuttery.

Thanks for your guys help. I think for now I will stick with the workflow that seems to be guaranteed to work for all hardware configurations: Pixela for editing plus Nero for burning. Although Pixela is onerous, it's worth it for the quality and the low risk of problematic output.
Hi Peter. Not sure how accurate my observations were, since I was unable to copy your samples to a disc to view on my plasma. I am aware that my computer monitor may not be enough to really see minute differences. But on my monitor, the two clips were very similar.
As you can probably tell from my questions to Larry, I am relearning a lot, mostly now that I am working with AVCHD. My previous cam was a small digital Sony, and I had done lots of editing with Pinnacle for several years. I have learned that those days were simple compared to today. Well, with AVCHD, it is like starting over; new programs, more powerful computer, etc., etc. I am deeply grateful to people like Larry, with his expertize and patience, for taking the time to help with all my questions.
I wish you the best of luck. I will be watching this forum and reading comments from Larry, yourself, and others, in order to increase my own knowledge base.

Mike
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Old December 18th, 2008, 07:28 PM   #218
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Mike,

As you are most likely already aware, Nero puts a copy of the final AVCHD folder it burns on your hard disk also.

So when you are done burning the AVCHD, without any additional time being wasted, or at any future time, you can look at the hard disk folder with ShowTime and see all the specific details if you have questions about encoding.

I sometimes go back and use this after I have played the disk on my PS3 or BluRay player to see details of the encoding rates which neither my PS3 or BluRay player shows me. It is a handy way to see if, for example, the bitrate has dropped significantly during a particular portion of the clip where the quality appears soft or fuzzy.

I use this player approach most often when I am editing and authoring with programs like Sony Vegas Pro or Pinnacle, neither of which have Smart Render and neither of which provide much information about their rendering activity. When I use Nero, Corel, Arcsoft, or Power Director, which all Smart Render, then the playback data displays are not really as vital since the Smart Rendering almost always keeps my original untouched clips in their pristine, crisp condition without changing any encoding at all.

Larry
Hey thanks Larry. I will take note of that. I was not aware of that capability. Might very well be an eye opener.

Take care.

Mike
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Old December 18th, 2008, 09:49 PM   #219
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Mike,

Very glad to help you Mike!

Larry
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Old December 18th, 2008, 10:02 PM   #220
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Holzel View Post
Mike and Larry. I find it baffling, that with my two files, one made with PD and one made with Nero+VSX2, we have seen dramatically different results:

Mike: You find both files pretty much identical in quality.

Larry: You find that the PD file is superior in quality to the NERO+VSX2

Peter: I find the the NERO+VSX2 file is superior in quality to the PD file, except when I burn the NERO+VSX2 file to disk, in which case it becomes very stuttery.

Thanks for your guys help. I think for now I will stick with the workflow that seems to be guaranteed to work for all hardware configurations: Pixela for editing plus Nero for burning. Although Pixela is onerous, it's worth it for the quality and the low risk of problematic output.

Peter,

Having spent a lot of time downloading, analyzing, authoring, and writing you about your specific sample files, I can only offer 1 remaining comment / suggestion:

Take a look at the two different final AVCD files you create using Nero ShowTime player, using the individual 1920 by 1080 full frame capture feature it provides. Do what I have done.......namely.........grab a specific frame in your Power Director created output and compare it to a frame captured using the lower rezed method your prefer. It is also informative to look at the original clip taken directly from your camcorder as a reference.

Take the PD frame and the down-rezed frame and enlarge them using any photo viewing and editing program. You will see IMMEDIATELY what I am referring to. The smart rendered output from Nero Vision or Power Director or Arc Soft will look crisp and clean exactly as the original footage looks. The down rezed method will look much more fuzzy and slightly less colorful (lower saturation) as well.

There is just no way that passing the video through 2 NLEs as you do will improve the quality compared to the original.

I understand that your computer has problems smoothly handling the PD file, and that your friend / neighbor's PS3 will not, for whatever reason, play it. Mike and I have both told you that a quadcore such as we both have will not exhibit the jerkiness you are encountering.

If you need help with doing the frame grabs let me know. ShowTime does not display the frame grab / capture button ordinarily so you have to open the little "drawer" on the left of the player in order to find and use it.

Larry

Last edited by Larry Horwitz; December 18th, 2008 at 10:36 PM.
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Old December 18th, 2008, 10:34 PM   #221
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Juan,

Regarding my opinion of Cyberlink PD7 Ultimate:

I've owned prior releases and dumped them from my machine since they ran so poorly.

When the new release took place of PD7 Ultimate, I read the PC Magazine review and comparison of all the available low cost AVCHD NLE's written by Jan Ozer, a video journalist whose opinion I respect, and saw that he awarded it the Editor's Choice as the best low cost video editing suite, and purchased it on his recommendation.

It turned out to be a POS, and I wrote a very nasty review on the PC Magazine website:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2319845,00.asp

If you scroll down, you will see my comments. Note that my comment is the first entered in July, and all of the other following commments reflect essentially the same opinion. I have repeated my comment below to make it simple to read:


________________________________________________

LSHorwitz
Member rating:
July 19, 2008
I own and use PowerDirector 7 Ultra as well as several other low cost video editing and authoring programs, and PD7 feels very sluggish on an extremely fast Quad Core Extreme QX9650 Dell when editing AVCHD, and often (and I do mean often) crashes despite installing 3 different releases so far. It has no smart render ability for AVCHD, making rendering times painfully long. It fails to burn DVDs on either of my 2 burners despite all my other programs burning without problems. This program really needs further debugging.
_____________________________________________

I also wrote a private email to the author, Jan, whom I have corresponded with before, with the same complaint......


Several months after this disappointing experience, and after a few email, file sample, and patch exchanges with Cyberlink Customer Support and with the forum moderator at the Cyberlink Forum, Dafydd, I was sent the 2.2.2.7c release, and, much to my pleasent surprise, the rendering speed has shortened by a 9 to 1 ratio and the SVRT logo now filled the window whenever I authored AVCHD disks. Moreover, the program no longer crashed, and, most important, the video quality went from looking very weak to looking the same and running as quickly as what I was getting with all the other smart rendering programs I have here (Corel, Nero, Arcsoft).

It may indeed not smart render properly, and stop smart rendering exactly as you say. I typically do transitions, effects, filters, and other changes which always require re-rendering anyway in Sony Vegas Pro 8. I use BluffTitler for titling. By the time my clips are used for authoring in PD7, they smart render since I apparently do not hit the bug which still exists when transitions are used within PD7 directly.

Given the impact that this remaining bug still has, and given the recent patch from Corel to fix the "blip" which some people have encountered with Video Studio X2 Pro, I certainly would shift my "allegiance" more to Video Studio X2 Pro.

I want to apologize if my earlier "endorsement" may have been too favorable. I use all of these dozen or so AVCHD tools and don't have extreme expertise in any of them. As I have stated a number of times before, I am mostly a jack of all trades and not a master of one when it comes to AVCHD tools. Moreover, with this many programs undergoing frequent patches and updates, it is extremely difficult to really have a totally unchanging opinion of any of them.

Sony, for example, recently released a new version of their DVD authoring program, DVD Architect (part of the Vegas Pro suite) which FINALLY does a truly superb job of making menued AVCHDs. Up until a few weeks ago, I just could not consider using it since the AVCHD disks were so crummy. Now the situation has changed dramatically with this new update.

Also, the reference to mpeg1 SVRT only you cite is incorrect, and was once true but only for the demo version.

Larry
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Old December 21st, 2008, 11:25 PM   #222
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Sony, for example, recently released a new version of their DVD authoring program, DVD Architect (part of the Vegas Pro suite) which FINALLY does a truly superb job of making menued AVCHDs. Up until a few weeks ago, I just could not consider using it since the AVCHD disks were so crummy. Now the situation has changed dramatically with this new update.
Larry
Hi Larry, as you remember my workflow begins with mpeg-2 as native from the Sony PMW-EX1 camcorder. I struggled trying to find a 24p with AC3 5.1 surround Vegas Pro 8.0(c) AVC template that would be accepted by DVD Architect without re-encoding it.

I hate re-encoding but one pass is unavoidable with this cam as the native bit rate is too high for consistent Blu-ray playback across all players, (at least for red laser DVD5/9 media types). Until now what I would do, is use Vegas to code a 25 mbps mpeg-2, which was still too high for most players outside of the PS3. If I dropped the bit rate further, more players could support it but at a loss of quality. But the Vegas encoded mpeg-2 output would thereafter pass through DVD Architect without further re-encoding.

Then it dawned on me, the native EX1 mpeg2 is inside a MXF container (material exchange format). There is a template for MXF inside Vegas, and it smart renders !!! Whoa!!! I feed that straight to DVD Architect 5.0 and it does a fantastic render to AVC, and lets me choose a separate AC3 elementary stream for the audio.

So if you understand what I'm saying, it was always necessary to have one render of the native MXF, it's just that I have swapped which of the two applications is doing it. Before it was Vegas, now it's DVDA.

The DVDA render to AVC was slow, but gorgeous. I don't remember there being many user settable parameters, but I think it is multi-pass. The bit rate as observed on the PS3 will hover at 18 mbps, but peaks between 4.2 - 32.4 at the extremes, and more generally from 12.5 - 25.2 mbps.

There is a separate hack now, I detailed it in the Vegas forums. The index.bdmv and movieobj.bdmv files gets patched, allowing the following features:

- BDMV format on red laser DVD5/9 media.
- Full menu functionality with introductory video, button controls, animations, backgrounds etc.
- AVC encoding
- True 24p playback output without pulldown or 60i container.
- AC3 5.1 surround audio

Basically, the package is complete. I tested it on several players, flawless playback on the PS3, the Sony BDPS350, the Panasonic BD35.

For someone like me using the Sony PMW-EX1, Sony Vegas Pro and DVDA, the solution is now end to end...(finally).
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 07:27 AM   #223
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This is great news Tom, and long overdue. DVD Architect, not unlike DVD Studio Pro on the Mac, is an extremely competent program in its own right. Both can transcode and handle more formats than they publicize. Sony has been way too slow to make their products work well together when it comes to authoring high quality / high definition disks. Even now, the fact that hacked .bdmv files need to be created / manually patched is entirely horrendous. It would be so easy for Sony to make a truly automatic authoring process.

Does your new method improve upon the results with making BD5/9 disks with TSMuxer previously discussed? No doubt the menu / navigation choices have to be infinitely better. I am asking mostly about retaining mpeg2 versus transcoding to AVCHD. i assume 35Mbit/sec HDV is not an option for directly authoring BD5/9 disks except for the PS3 based on your comment above.

Larry

Last edited by Larry Horwitz; December 22nd, 2008 at 08:01 AM.
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 11:53 AM   #224
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You raise an interesting possibility Larry. I don't remember trying to use TSmuxeR with AVC. It may work though, albeit no menus. I'll give that a whirl. The main reason for doing so would be to get the bitrate low enough for playback on the majority of standalone players without losing too much quality.

That said, creating menus is an enjoyable activity. It took a little investment in time to learn the ways of DVD Architect. If I don't continue to practice, I could lose speed. I plan to continue incorporating AVC to pursue maximum compatibility within the pool of existing Blu-ray players including the PS3 but not limited to it.

As for the hack(s) required with BDMV DVD5/9 hybrids, I'm afraid it is no accident. The obstacles have been deliberately placed in our way so that we are guided along the far more profitable path to the purchases of Blu-ray burners and media.

Also, even 35 mbps mpeg-2 will not play reliably on the PS3 from red laser media. It will stutter and skip after 30 seconds of play. Transcoding to AVC allows reading compressed data from the disk at a lower bitrate while decompressing to near the same level of quality as the native mpeg-2. Being able to read from the disk at lower bitrates as Steve Mullen correctly noted, is key to compatibility with the standalone Blu-ray players. I believe the PS3 is an exception because it can spin a DVD5/9 at 2x, the standalones cannot. They have the processing power, but the bottle neck is the read rate.
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 12:45 PM   #225
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Thanks Tom for the reply. Guess I am not surprised that the player has been deliberately limited to slow playback speed. Those of us who have ripped DVDs have, no doubt, seen read speeds of 4X, 6X, and in some cases as high as 12X on zones of the disk where maximum transfer occurs. The optics and servo and detector can, do doubt, do much better on the BluRay players, if the Consortium had elected not to constrain this specific transfer rate.

Given this bottleneck, it entirely makes sense to use a higher density compression algorithm such as AVC/h.264 to get the 35Mbit/sec video through the chain.

I would doubt that TSMuxer will offer you much in the AVCHD domain. I played with it once and came up entirely dry.

The menu creation is interesting and each authoring program has its own unique set of tricks. I never made any effort to learn DVD Architect up until just a few weeks ago when the new release took place. It reminds me of DVD Studio Pro on the Mac and thus it is easier for me to learn. I am very impressed with it so far.

Larry
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