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Old December 3rd, 2008, 08:40 AM   #1
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How to Convert EX-1 to SD for DVD

I have been using many DV camcorders with various software and computers (both PC and Apple) since 1990, with great results. Likewise, I have been producing both Blu-Ray and Standard Definition disks from the Sony FX-1 - and I and my customers like the results very much.

But the DVD results from the EX-1 have been an Absolute Abomination, and totally unacceptable to me and any of my customers. Blu Ray Discs produced from the EX-1 are superb. But anything, any way regarding DVDs are terrible. I am shooting NTSC 1920 x 1080 p or i.

Early this last summer I posted a query here about this issue, and received many potentially helpful responses. None worked for me. Since then, during after hours and weekends, I have spent 542 hours (according to my time reports) attempting to produce ANY acceptable DVDs from the EX-1 with no success. The best I can do is to shoot progressive, introduce very significant Gaussian Blur, convert to 720 x 480 progressive using Cineform Prospect 4K, and then produce progressive DVDs, to be played, of course, on progressive output DVD players - but the result is lousy - not anything as good as DVDs produced from the Sony FX-1 HDV! If I shoot interlaced and produce interlaced DVDs, the results are really totally unacceptably soft. If I shoot interlaced and then use an anti-flicker filter, the horizontal (but not the vertical "twitter" or "flicker") is pretty much removed. If I do not go through any of these insane dances, the horizontal AND vertical twitter on the DVD is unwatchable. In the 18 years I have been in the field, I have never seen such garbage. The new $200 "HD" mini camcorders produce far superior results to this. And all of my normal "day work" has been with the FX-1.

Before I go into any technical details, two points are definitely in order. First, when I produce a down rezzed progressive 720 x 480 AVI file (utilizing Cineform), the clarity and lack of artifacts are stunningly positive as viewed on 24 inch "hi-def" computer screens. It is only when the AVI file is converted to MPEG2 for the DVD that the result is horrible. Second, I realize that there are hundreds of producers out there who produce great DVDs from the EX-1 - I have seen many of them. But not me. And before I sell off this camera and all of the accessories (including $5,000 worth of cards), I am taking one last shot at hoping someone has a possible solution for me. My customers with Blu Ray players and full hi-def screens love what the EX-1 can shoot - unfortunately, most of my customers have only DVD players.

I am committed to PCs at the moment, so Apple as an alternative is out of the question. My main editing machine is a Boxx 8400, running two dual Xeons (3 GHz), 4 Gig Ram, 150 G 10k rpm program HD, and 800 G data HD, with all the usual bells and whistles, Windows XP, NVidia Quadro 1500, Adobe CS3 everything, updated, Cineform Prospect 4K. Two major Adobe programs used are Premiere and Encore.

In desperation, I purchased and installed the much vaunted and recommended Procoder 3 (it really messed up everything after I unsuccessfully tried it and un-installed it, and I had to do a complete re-install of everything to get the machine working again, and it appeared to have the same as Adobe's much maligned and dreaded Main Concept program!). Then I tried Vegas - the full version, with its DVD encoder, Nero 8, etc., etc. I tried ALL of the commercial top versions of many programs with which everyone was having success, but not me!

I also attempted to install and use some of the "free" programs that were supposed to be the creme de la creme, but I failed, somehow to get the hang of them (they may be perfect, I just couldn't figure out how to jump through all the hoops to make them work properly).

By the way, I've been assembling "home theaters" for 24 years, before there was any such thing out there, for my self and many others, and the terrible results I've been seeing on the big screen from the EX-1 produced DVDs are about the only terrible presentations I've seen (except for some very, very early commercial DVDs), as seen on some of my current up-rezzing facilities - 4 DVD players, 2 Sony Blu Ray Players, 2 Toshiba HD-DVD players (remember HD-DVD?), as displayed on a variety of units from a Samsung 42' flat panel LCD to a 109" Stewart Filmscreen Firehawk screen, projected by Panasonic's latest AE-3000U Projector - needless to say, all theater units incorporate the very latest downloads. The up-rezzing processors range from some marginal Faroujas to some great Faroujas and Silicone Optix Reon chips.

I'd post screen shots where possible, but its only when I play the resulting DVDs on the big screens that the problem can be seen, ON THE SCREEN, with the picture in motion - the 720 x 480 progressive resolution on a computer screen looks stunningly good, as do still grabs, but on LCDs and projected images, twitter twitter twitter with ANY DVDs, except, as mentioned, material softened to the point of impossibility.

My workflow is either from the BPAV files, either as immediately handled by Sony program into Adobe Premiere CS3., or brought into Premiere after conversion to 1920 x 1080 p or i by Cineform Prospect 4k (no matter which, the visual results in intermediate or final files appear the same), edit in Premiere, with color and other adjustments (with or without, the twitter problem is the same), conversion of the final, edited Premiere 1920 x 1080 p or i timeline to 720 x 480 p or i file (Cineform does a superior detailed, artifact free conversion, far better than ANY other technique I have used!), conversion of the resulting file to MPEG2 for DVD by the Main Concept program in Adobe Encore, and then after setting up menus in Encore, burning the DVD on a Sony burner in the 8400 Boxx.

Sooooooo, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. If anyone out there has ANY thoughts that might be helpful and work for me and get rid of the blasted twitter (vertical and horizontal), without softening the DVD picture to obliteration, you have my abundent gratitude!!!!!!!!
William Urschel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 17th, 2008, 02:02 AM   #2
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I'm puzzled by the fact that you have gotten so few responses on your thread here because I'm one of those - obviously many persons- having these same unhappy experiences.
To make a long story short - and reading through your cioncerns - I find myself saying "been there - done that". Add to it :avisynth, Dan Isaac's hd2sd, HCencode etc etc.
For me the best results are seen when I encode via After effects ( applying levels 16-235 and a small amount of unsharp mask and adjusting gamma curves a bit) This helps quite a bit in my opinion but is far from perfect. Fact is that my 10 yrs old Panasonic consumer cam produces just as good results as my FX7 , a1e and PMW EX1 all together! -- in DVD format.
But dont you sell your ex1 - BR ivasion is just around the corner ;)
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Old December 17th, 2008, 12:05 PM   #3
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Try this:
Shoot a clip in 1080i29.97
Convert the MP4 file to Cineform AVI at 1080i29.97
Verify that the AVI looks right, and import that AVI into After Effects
Ensure that your footage is being interpreted as 29.97 with upper field first
Make a new comp and resize it to 720x480 29.97 1.2 PAR, (DV Wide)
Scale footage to fit the comp (45% I believe)
Send to render que, and under render settings, choose "Field Render->Lower Field First"
Export directly to MPEG2-DVD, use Qual 5, bitrate at least 6Mb, Wide NTSC, LowerFirst
Import that .MPG file into Encore to Burn a disc to test

We usually shoot 24p with the EX, and so also add WWSSW pulldown in the AE render settings, but either way, this should result in a high quality image on disc. If this is successful, the main steps are just applied to a final AVI export instead of a source clip, for a full project to utilize this conversion process.
For more information on these topics, check out my tech website at
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Old December 18th, 2008, 09:11 AM   #4
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Just Before All Hope is Given Up!


Thank you for your response - you now join me in puzzlement about the lack of response here since my posting here some time ago! I have some information for you below about a myriad of recent solutons posted elsewhere, which may be of great interest to you - please link to them, if you care to. I have not yet found a solution with them, but I have only just begun to apply them. If I find ANYTHING that works for me, you can bet that I'll post it here, and elsewhere. Before I go on, though, what is your comment, "BR ivasion is just around the corner"?????? I just spent another half hour doing Internet searches with 13 search machines, attempting to find out about BR ivasion, and came up with some very bizarre responses - admittedly interesting, buth nothing relavant - it would be much appreciated if you could even very briefly elaborate about "BR ivasion", and where I might find info regarding it!

And Mike, thank you likewise, for another solution - I have not tried AE in the workflow as yet, even though I have seen many. many postings all over the place as to its use. As presented below, my next attempt will involve the use of Premiere, AE, and Encore in their CS4 form - they have been sitting on my shelf while I read some of the horror postings as to Adobe's latest mess, but I'm now willing to try CS4 out, given the relatively massive fix downloads/updates that Adobe is apparently providing so that anything will work in CS4 (do you note Adobe's latest financial reports? - sales flat, but profits up! - at who's expense?). My query of you, is, can I use Cineform's avi within AE CS4, given that Cineform still hasn't provided an update for CS4 given Adobe's evidently complete makeover of some of the underlying program elements?

At the moment, I am totally at a halt in posting elsewhere, and in trying out any more solutions, for three reasons: 1) a personal issue involving a potential tragedy with a close relative, requiring my attention; 2) demands resulting from an attempt to solve HDMI transmission problems in one of my customer's theaters; and 3) the ungodly mess created in my business with my last attempt to follow suggestions. It may be next year before I am back to attempting solutions, just before I junk the EX-1 and go back to four trustworthy Sony HDV camcorders, the results of which all of my customers find quite satisfying. My latest debacle with a potential solution started this last Saturday, very early AM, and effectively shut down my editing for my "normal" business until very late last night (the following Tuesday), after over 40 hours of work to try out solutions and fix the resulting mess so that my main editor would function again. My main editor is a powerful Boxx workstation - early Saturday I started installing on it sequentially a number of MPEG2 generating programs to be used between Adobe Premiere CS3 and Adobe Encore CS3 (utilizing sometimes also the EXDCAM Clip Browser, and Cineform Prospect 4k). Many of these I have purchased outright in hopes of finding a solution (yes, thousands and thousands of dollars more in futile investment), and then one free tryout on the Cinema Craft el cheapo version. And after a day and a half's work, involving conversion from 1920x1080 60i to MPEG2 720x480, and importing these into timelines in Adobe Encore CS3, and carefully checking everything out, I hit render, and then shortly an error code popped up and Encore crashed. Having rewritten my hard drive on the Boxx totally from scratch three times since my abominable attempts began last summer, I had previously backed up what I thought was a clean install of the OS, many programs, etc., as an image on one of many external hard drives. So, I downloaded the image, and found that no matter what I did, I kept getting one error code after another (well, actually only two, one or the other) just preceding a crash of Encore, no matter what I did. Sooooo, finally admitting that my clean install was anything but clean, I just gave up, and started alllll over with a totally new install, and rather than just reinstalling CS3, I installed CS4, which I am now using successfully (with some inexplicable crashes now and then) in my "normal" day work. And I found out subsequently why Encore CS3 had kept reported by a user on one of Adobe's Forums in early November, the exact error code and crash I was having was the result of a conflict with Quicktime!!!!!!!! And this was confirmed at Adobe's Forum by two other users with the same arcane error code, and all of them un-installed Quick Time and Encore CS3 worked fine!!!!!

Sooo, I am depressed, discouraged, and totally beside myself with grief about how much of my life, my career, my money I have spent on this futile misadventure.

Before I go, I have a few comments.

First, it appears that I am not alone at all in the horrors of trying to produce watchable DVDs from the EX-1, with or without Cineform Prospect 4k. There are many,many who have reported elsewhere that at best the DVDs appear very fuzzy, or if at all sharp (sharp, as can be seen, for instance from hi def shot with an FX-1) full of so many twitters, flickers, and unacceptable artifacts. And it is also evident that many others (probably in the vast majority?) do not have these kind of problems with EX-1 or EX-3 sourced DVDs. I have, of course, from the time when I purchased the EX-1 last spring, a DVD produced by Doug Jensen - Vortex - on the EX-1 (a great presentation, by the way, for those of you who haven't seen it, and potentially useful, even for those with experience with the EX-1). And the Vortex DVD, as played on the various home theaters I have, and most of the home theaters of customers, on which I've tried it out, appears wonderful! If I had an explanation for any common basis for the disparity, I would probably have a solution.

Second, I have tried various solutions including anti-flicker filters and/or gaussian blur - these have been suggested to me, here and many other places elsewhere. And while they have resulted in reduction of the objectionable vertical and horizontal flicker with standard definition DVDs, the results are just a smeared, very low resolution blob. When some others have seen that I am resorting to gaussian or other forms of blur or resolution reduction, they throw up their hands, at at kindest express utter puzzlement at why I would wreak the results of such a fine camera with anything of the sort - and some others have just outright ridiculed my effort.

Of course I and others with the kind of EX-1 DVD issues I have raised have been responded to with total bafflement - that we are making a very fine camera and an incredibly easy workflow into a totally unacceptable mess with an un-necessary complex, onerous, convoluted workflow. And when their straightforward, easy workflow is tried out, it does not work for us. Go figure.

Again, Ida, if you have gotten through all this, what is "BR ivasion". And again, Mike, thanks for your thoughts, but it will be a while before I get to that. Now I am back to my highly rewarding shooting, editing, and producing, with the Sony FX-1 and three other HDV cameras!!!!!!!!!!
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Old December 18th, 2008, 02:12 PM   #5
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My written english is barely sufficient to write these words, but what I mean with "BR ivasion" is that the shortcomings of the DVD-format inevietably ends up with a BLUE RAY INVASION ;-)
Yes - I've read through the threads you directed to - nothing new to be enligthened from. And I really hope you didn't invest in cinema craft encoder! Redicoulus interface, redicoulus pricing ,-- and Procoder3 leaves you with a better workflow and result in the end IMHO . I would even consider Nero a better choice.
Yes - as cineform is a very good intermediate codec porting to dvd is a different animal!
It seems from the readings i various threads like people have different experiences - to me this also reflects that quality demands may vary amongst them. Mine are high! And just as You (though I don't have your jitter problem!) I dislike finding myself more or less like a nerd tweaking various software settings/ knobs in order to achieve proper results. Had this high_cost_activity, these countless hours even paid off with a decent, not good, but very good result I wouldn't mention it. But as you say "we are making a very fine camera and an incredibly easy workflow into a totally unacceptable mess with an un-necessary complex, onerous, convoluted workflow. And when their straightforward, easy workflow is tried out, it does not work for us."

quite correctly so. For instance - try increasing bit rate for encore above 7-7.5 --> leads to input contract violation error. (To my knowledge Adobe states 9 as upper limit)
I see others recommend 8.5 (peak), for me not possible. Nada. No way. Nicht moglich.
So for my part - I give in. I'm fed up. I wont invest more time and money into this HD/HDV to DVD joke. But addicted to this long lasting a_bit_more_than_hobby , I'll use my cameras,DOF adapter software etc.etc - within the frames of BLUE RAY ! ( after some more investments!!)
btw : you may want to visit my site progresite and have a look at some pictures and short movies (480x270 flv) from northern Norway where I live

Again, Ida, if you have gotten through all this, what is "BR ivasion". And again,
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Old December 18th, 2008, 07:03 PM   #6
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Screen shots and video


I have followed all of your posts hoping that you would find your "ultimate" solution. I wish I could help but I am not quite there yet.

*** Please don't give up!!******

Is it possible you could post some screen shots of your work? Maybe your high end shots that meet your standards and post next to it the shot that is not to your liking?

Can you also post some video footage on the web with a link?

This would be invaluable to me and maybe others on the forum.

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Old December 18th, 2008, 07:33 PM   #7
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If he's truly having a quality issue with what is being burned to DVD then we'd need a snap of the original file on the timeline, and a snap from the same frame as an Mpeg2. the question I have is where is stuff falling down.

Since he claims the bluray versions look fine, I have to assume that on the timeline, things are still peachy. So there can only be an issue in one of three places.

1. The resize function from 1080 to 480
2. The compression to Mpeg2
3. The data writing onto the disk.

Issue number three is likely NOT the culprit so that narrows things. To rule out #1, it would be interesting to simply render the timeline, or part of it, to an uncompressed 720x480 avi file and put that on the timeline and check it's quality. If it's still acceptable, then we know the mpeg2 compression is the culprit. Otherwise the resize is what's causing the issue and a different tool should be used.

Personally, I am thrilled with my SD results and use the following workflow:

1. Place 1080p (I deinterlace my footage before bringing it into the NLE) on timeline
2. Render to master codec. Usually uncompressed, Cineform, or Huffyuv
3. Cut Proxy files if needed.
4. Load proxy/master file into NLE, edit, color, etc.
5. Render finished master and back up.
6. Render distribution formats (mp4, wmv, mpeg2 for DVD)
7. If going to DVD, load authoring software, import mpeg2 and AAC file, and prepare to author.
8. Author DVDs.

Tools I use:

Sony Vegas as NLE
Virtualdub as prep software. Inside VDub, I deinterlace, resize (Lanczos), decimate, and do any other housekeeping tasks to prepare the files to go into the NLE. I have been absolutely thrilled with my results and recommend this workflow to anyone.
DVX100, PMW-EX1, Canon 550D, FigRig, Dell Octocore, Avid MC4/5, MB Looks, RedCineX, Matrox MX02 mini, GTech RAID, Edirol R-4, Senn. G2 Evo, Countryman, Moles and Lowels.
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Old December 30th, 2008, 12:21 PM   #8
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To those who provided your expert experience, insights and advice, above, my many thanks again. But I am totally shut down at the moment, as I made the latest mistake (one of many mistakes since I've last been here) of uninstalling CS3 and installing CS4, with the result that I now can transfer nothing from the timeline on Premiere (where is Cineform when we need it?), and Encore will not recognize ANY of my Blu-Ray burners. So after better than 12 years with Adobe, I am now going to attempt Sony's Vegas installation - if and when I EVER manage to get ANYTHING to work, I will be back. And, OF COURSE, if Adobe provides a more comprehensive repair, and Cineform provides updated Prospect 4k for CS4 (I have only a glimmering of the difficulty that Cineform might be experiencing in this regard, given what I have seen of CS4), I'll be far more ready to EVER consder CS4 again. I wish you all a Happy New Year, and greater success than I am having at the moment! What an informative and interesting forum this is, and delightfully so, compared to the rude hostility sometimes found on other forums.
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