Web version of short film for Withoutabox. . .h264 ain't cuttin it at DVinfo.net

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Old October 21st, 2010, 11:17 AM   #1
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Web version of short film for Withoutabox. . .h264 ain't cuttin it

Hello all. I don't know how many of you are familiar withoutabox, the electronic service that basically submits your film, after you go through an exhaustive process of entering all info about it, to film festivals for you (thus saving the time and effort of individually mailing out forms and even the actual DVD/tape sometimes), but I'm using it a lot to submit my new animated short film to festivals.

Withoutabox allows you to store an online version of the film, and simply pay to submit that way vs mailing out discs each time to a festival.

I want, therefore, a decent or even high quality online version of this short and am having a hell of a time gettng something decent.

The movie is (right now at least, some recent feedback is leaving me to consider shortening it) almost 13 minutes, 1080p (I suppose the online version could be 720 if that's what you guys recommend here), and entirely animated from Anime Studio Pro (think Flash if you're not familiar).

As an FCP/mac user, I'm instintually drawn towards QT formats, especially H264 and x264. After exhaustive testing though, I don't seem to be able to make a file using these that does not stutter/jerk throughout the movie, at least in QT player. You can see it skipping frames.

I would prefer, because I don't trust the humans to go through extra effort, for the movie to play perfectly in whatever program generally opens it (so a .mov should play fine in QT, AVI in whatever, etc.), instead of having to tell folks "open with VLC player, please", or something. Especially true for the competitive world of film fests.

All this being said, any ideas for solid reliable digital files? I don't think I have the ability to make FLVs with FCP or Compressor/any of the FCP suite, right?
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 10:24 PM   #2
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Withoutabox won't take anything lager than 1280x720, so your 1080p will need to be downsized.

Here are their recommended specs:

We recommend the following settings to optimize video quality on the IMDb site:

* Size: Up to 2 GB file size. Most files should be substantially smaller, though.
* Length: A 2 GB file can usually accommodate a full feature film.
* Frame: Up to 1280px by 720px at 30 frames per second
* Format: Flash Video (Codec: Sorenson or VP6 codec) or Quicktime

I uploaded a 480x360 Quicktime Apple Motion JPEG, because I was in a huge hurry to meet the Sundance midnight deadline, and didn't have time to export my movie the way I wanted (long render because of filters).

Anyway, my export looked fine, but once IMDb recompressed it, it looked pretty crappy. I didn't have skipping issues with my export like you describe.

My advice is IF your film is short enough, export it in an uncompressed format like ProRes, and then submit it; hopefully their compression won't be able to screw up an uncompressed image too badly. The trick is to get your total export under 2GB, and ProRes files are huge. And unless you have some seriously fast upload bandwidth, it's going to take a looooong time to get your entire movie onto the IMDb server.

With a longer movie, you're simply going to have to experiment with differing codecs, and tweak the bitrate settings to bring the file size under 2GB. I'm not sure what your issue with h264 exporting is -- I've never had a problem with it, but I always export h264 using Compressor via FCP, and not FCP directly. Maybe you might try that if you already haven't.

Also, since you're exporting Animation, have you tried using the Apple Animation codec? It's also lossless. As nice as h264 is, it's still compressed.

Good luck!
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 11:15 PM   #3
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Thanks. . .I didn't realize they had recommended specs/rules.


Here's the deal, movie is 13 minutes, though I've just created a shorter version that I might submit around and see if I have better acceptance luck with. That one's just over 11 minutes.

Tried the animation codec. Yes, it is lovely, but at 720 it was looking like it'd be 4 GB for the whole thing. So that's out.

Yeah, for some reason (and I had another DVI member test a sample) the H264 as well as x264 is very choppy. Maybe 'cause it's animation and not live action? Dunno.

Have not tried this MJEG thing - by the way. . .don't see motion jpeg under codec options. . .do you mean photo jpeg?

I've been toying with MP4 codec/.mov wrapper at various bit rates, and it seems like the way to go. This will create a 3-500 MB file for the whole film, pretty nice quality.

Have no way to do FLV, (as I said, unless there's a way to do it with the FCS2 suite).

All encoding done via compressor, by the way, from an FCP reference mov.

Thanks.

PS wish I had done this with my Sundance submission. I sent off the DVD, about ten days before the earliest deadline, did not arrive til 10/5. I'm out $50 and the film missed both deadlines (I gave up when I realized I was up against the late dl), so it's not even entered.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 12:01 AM   #4
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Yeah, I meant the Photo JPEG codec.

Sorry to hear about your Sundance misadventure. As soon I as discovered that I could upload my movie at the last minute, I was thrilled to have the extra time to work on it. (Slamdance late deadline is Oct. 29th!)

MP4 sounds like a good option. It's easily parsed by encoders, so no worries on that end. I wouldn't suggest FLV in any case -- too compressed. As I mentioned, IMDb (like YouTube) re-encodes your upload. So you're better off with the highest quality you can get on your end that meets their requirements.

Curious about the stuttering -- did you change the frame rate of the original movie on your export? Do the movies always stutter in the same place?
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 12:27 AM   #5
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So let me ask you this. . .if they re-encode anyway, should I try to get as close to 2 GB as possible, knowing they'll dumb it down (and I'm guessing reduce file size) later? Leaving the mac on for a few days is not a big deal, I'm more worried about end users (i.e. fest judges/watchers/whoever) getting pissed.

Stuttering is just kind of throughout. It's more like skipping frames, and it's limited, it seems to the QT player. If I can open the thing in VLC (some h264/x264 files won't open in it!), it will play smoothly.

I've already sent off to Slamdance, but as always, I'm not optimistic.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 12:45 AM   #6
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Ok, tried some tests.

Prores- way too big

Photo jpeg med quality - looks good will be 1.3 GB for 11 minutes

Animation med quality - screwed up and made it SD 4:3 instead of 720p, but looks to be about 1.2 GB for the same length, even at that size. So I guess that's out.

I guess my thinking is, sure, they SAY that files should be "substantially smaller" than 2 GB unless it's a feature, but these are OUR BABIES! And if it's the only thing they're going to see, and they're using it to judge whether we're in the fest, we want to put our BEST face forward, right? So obviously we want the quality as high as possible.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 06:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
I guess my thinking is, sure, they SAY that files should be "substantially smaller" than 2 GB unless it's a feature, but these are OUR BABIES! And if it's the only thing they're going to see, and they're using it to judge whether we're in the fest, we want to put our BEST face forward, right? So obviously we want the quality as high as possible.
Seriously. 2GB is nothing in the era of HD. And forcing filmmakers to compress the crap out of their work benefits nobody.

What happened to the MP4 version you were going to make?
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 07:10 PM   #8
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I made it, have not proofed yet. But my point is that this 350 MB MP4 will not look as good as a Animation codec version. It looks okay, pretty decent in most places, though sometimes you can see artifacts. I just hope that's not going to count against me.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 07:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
I made it, have not proofed yet. But my point is that this 350 MB MP4 will not look as good as a Animation codec version. It looks okay, pretty decent in most places, though sometimes you can see artifacts. I just hope that's not going to count against me.
You should be able to make some fantastic looking stuff with H264 as the Codec. Use what ever container you like (.mov .mp4 etc) and use AAC audio. Use the advanced features such as CABAC and 2 pass encoding and VBR and you should be good to go. I suggest using FFMPEG (free and open source) .

Here is a short I did with HDV and then compressed with FFMPEG into H264 video and AAC Audio.

File Info: 68MB, 720P 5 Minute duration
http://www.simplethoughtproductions....628k_w1280.mp4

Same file via Flash Streaming:
http://www.simplethoughtproductions....628k_w1280.mp4

Please note that this is 1280*720. You can go higher and make it 1080 but I have found most computers have trouble playing back 1080 material so I opted to use 720p for the time being.
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Last edited by Josh Chesarek; October 23rd, 2010 at 07:41 PM. Reason: Add examples
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 08:06 PM   #10
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As I said, 264 via compressor is creating jittery files that skip frames. Don't know why. . .not just my machine either. . .sent it to another DVi member and it's doing the same thing in his QT player. Hence the exploration of this MP4 thing.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 08:10 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
As I said, 264 via compressor is creating jittery files that skip frames. Don't know why. . .not just my machine either. . .sent it to another DVi member and it's doing the same thing in his QT player. Hence the exploration of this MP4 thing.
Understood but are you seeing this jitteryness and skipped frames with my video? I found that FFMPEG just did a better job overall compared to Apple Compressor, Adobe Encoder, and Sorenson Squeeze.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 08:32 PM   #12
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My bad. Did not look. I will try software and see what happens.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 01:43 AM   #13
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Okay, I'm finding this FFMPEG stuff really confusing. Even going through their installation for Mac OS instructions, I still have no idea how to use this. As in, even installing and opening the program.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 02:10 AM   #14
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Okay, I'm finding this FFMPEG stuff really confusing. Even going through their installation for Mac OS instructions, I still have no idea how to use this. As in, even installing and opening the program.
Hmm... for once it isn't easier on the mac... go figure. It is a command line tool so there isn't anything pretty about it but let me see what I can figure out on my mac and Ill see if I can get it compiled and sent to you with an example to run in terminal. Once you have the command all you really do is tell it where your video is and it encodes as fast as possible. No bells, no whistles just good compression.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 06:22 AM   #15
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I have to do an 18 min film for this soon from a pro res HQ 1920x1080i 25np master.

I will try it at H264 apple TV level first 1280x720p 5mbs and if that doesn't fit within the 2gb limit I will go to 1280x720p at 1.5mbs.

The film was shot on AVC Intra 100 10 bit 4.2.2 so it will be interesting to see the final quality.
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