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Old October 6th, 2003, 12:25 PM   #1
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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the D-VHS

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the D-VHS

Okay, here's the working pointers for the Windows folks who want to export their movies with 5.1 Dolby Surround sound to D-VHS machine NOW.

Note: according to David Newman, Aspect HD for Premiere Pro will be able to do that when it is released (no hard date on that, but not NOW.) Aspect HD is a plug-in that supposedly costs $1200 to $1600 depending on version.

Note 2: Vegas+DVD may be able to do that now, we're waiting on Mike Eby's report on this.

On to the pointers:

- Fire up your Premiere Pro project with 5.1-channel sound.

- File - > Export -> Adobe Media Encoder -> MPEG2. PPro has built-in MainConcept's MPEG2 encoder.

- Choose your audio/video settings according to the MPEG2 specs (1280x720 18.3Mbps VBV 448, Main level/High1440, sound 384Kbps 48K 16 bit 5.1 channel via SurCode plug-in etc.)

- Choose whether you want to export in MPEG2 or directly into TS format (!) using Multiplexer menu.

- Voila! - you get your file for the transfer to D-VHS device... NOT!

- Why not? Because Premiere Pro (I have version 7.0 C522-8/11/2003) is BUGGY when it comes to MPEG2 export. Specifically:

1. If you choose TS output in multiplexer, it goes all the way through encoding, then always reports an error at the very end that complains about the improper settings, and the resulting file is not working.

2. If you choose MPEG2 output in multiplexer, then the encoding goes through just fine, and resulting mpg file actually has both video and surround sound multiplexed in it. Bug here is that the video DIMENSIONS are nowhere near what they supposed to be. PPro forces them to 720x480, 1440x960, or 1920x960 depending on the Prifile's LEVEL setting in its embedded MainConcept's MPEG2 encoder. Of course, this should not be like this (and Premiere 6.5 with the same encoder as plug-in does NOT have such bug, as pointed by Andrew Jesmanowicz and confirmed by my own tests.) Complaints to MainConcept resulted in them pointing their mpeg-wrapped finger back to Adobe for their Premiere Pro's implementation of MC's encoder, which incorrect implementation MC says was Adobe's fault and not MC's.

- So WTF? How do you export the video project with multi-channel sound from Premiere Pro to D-VHS when all these PPro bugs are stopping us from doing so? Fear not, just output your PPro project as 2 separate files:

1. AC3 Dolby 5.1-encoded sound file using Adobe Media Encoder with only Audio checked; and

2. AVI (HYFFYUV compressed) Movie output.

- Then use TMPGENC to convert that AVI Movie into ES (Elementary Stream) m2v MPEG2. Beloved TMPGENC is never wrong, and of course it outputs the file size as you tell it to, which is 1280x720p30.

- Then open Womble, and Multiplex that m2v ES stream and AC3 audio into m2t Transport Stream file!

- Voila! - now just open the HD utility that came with your JVC HD camcorder, and Export that TS file to your D-VHS recorder... NOT!

- OK, now what? Well, the JVC's HD utility for some reason chokes on the sound and introduces some weird volume fluctuations (mutes the sound) about every 6 seconds for half-second. Playing the file in Elecard's player does not exhibit such problem, so this is - you guessed it - a bug in HD utility. Nice...

- So how do you export your fine movie to D-VHS? You are so close, yet the results are unacceptable... OK my friends, I'll tell you if you pay me $100. Well, $50 will do. Ah, alright, I'll tell you for free: Fear not, and

- Just use DVHStool instead of HD utility to transfer your TS file to your D-VHS box! (DVHStool calls it "Archiving", but at this stage I just don't care).

- Voila! - your HD movie with 5.1-channel Dolby sound is now recorded on tape, ready for Distribution!

Disclaimer: it is possible that HD utility is not really buggy, but simply is not optimized well. Maybe it would work on a very high spec PC. Mine is P4 2.4Ghz 1G memory, and HD utility chocked on it.

Further, I only checked a short 35-second clip. I do not know whether the approach described above will hold with, say, feature-long movies.

Back to the alternatives:

1. Even if Vegas+DVD does output TS files directly, the pointers above are still useful to PC users because:

- Not all of us have the $500 Vegas. I don't, for instance;

- Even if you do, how do you import your Premiere Pro project into it for further export to TS? (Please note that this mini-guide is aimed for the *professional* folks who positively cannot use Vegas as their primary editing application. Vegas reportedly is a very nice *consumer* editing tool. Please do not take it the wrong way if you own Vegas.)

2. Aspect HD for Premiere Pro is not here, and for me it certainly would be an overkill as I *do not EDIT* in mpeg2, but only need to output the complete project back to TS. My feeling is that by the time Aspect rolls out its support for Premiere Pro, and/or Adobe fixes its PPro bugs, this whole thing will not matter anymore because Windows Media 9 STANDALONE players will be on the scene, which will render the whole D-VHS distribution scheme obsolete immediately.


I apologize if there's incompleteness in the pointers, or even some bitterness in my comments as above - I grew weary over the last week of non-stop experimenting, so no harm meant, OK?

Hope this guide is helpful for PC folks who need to export their surround-sound HD movies to D-VHS tapes NOW.
Alex Raskin is offline  
Old October 6th, 2003, 01:36 PM   #2
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Excellent tips! Thanks Alex,

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Chris Hurd is offline  
Old October 6th, 2003, 08:02 PM   #3
HDV Cinema
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Re: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the D-VHS

<<<-- Originally posted by Alex Raskin : this whole thing will not matter anymore because Windows Media 9 STANDALONE players will be on the scene, which will render the whole D-VHS distribution scheme obsolete immediately.

Well Bill would like this to be true, but no one has said the player will output HD.
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Steve Mullen is offline  
Old October 6th, 2003, 08:41 PM   #4
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Steve, I heard that Xbox outputs 720p or 1080i over Component right now.

Why is it not posible to use the same/similar platform to play WMP9 files in HD, and soon?

What everyone needs is means of watching as high definition video with as high fidelity audio as possible - at affordable cost, and in the convenience of their cribs.

If Bill can deliver that, I'm all for it. Amen.
Alex Raskin is offline  
Old October 6th, 2003, 09:11 PM   #5
HDV Cinema
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Your right, an Xbox should do it! Wonder if one could "mod" one?
Switcher's Quick Guide to the Avid Media Composer >>> http://home.mindspring.com/~d-v-c
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Old October 18th, 2003, 07:13 PM   #6
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PRACTICAL issues of HD editing on Wintel platform

OK, after some serious research and tryouts, here's what I currently think of the HD editing.

Note that I use the following:
Adobe Premiere Pro running on
Pentium 4, 2.4Ghz, 1Gb DDR memory, 400Mhz FSB.
33Mbs PCI bus with 3ware 7506-4LP "true hardware" RAID 10 using 4 WD2000JB drives (7200rpm/8Mb buffer each.) in hot-swap enclosure.

I'm sure my observations will still be valid for other NLEs, not only PPro.

As of this writing:

- Real-time ("online") HD editing is not possible without high-end computer. My PC (see above) that is a couple notches down from high-end is not up to the task.

1280x720p video files simply require too much PC resources, so PPro stumbles and stutters and downgrades the "real-time" playback down to a few frames per second to keep up with the data stream and effects/transitions applied.

Even a SINGLE data stream without any effects/transitions does *not* play smoothly at 30fps.

Note that I wrongly stated earlier that HUFFYUV AVIs do play smoothly. After extensive experimentation, I can say that not a single codec I tried, from uncompressed to HUFF to PICVideo MJPEG to Cinepak, did actually play in NLE in real-time. The trick is that if the video is uncompressed, the data rate is too high. If it is compressed, then too much processing power is needed to decompress it for real-time playback at HD resolution - even "entry-level" 1280x720p30.

I read Aspect HD thread, and it seems that Aspect uses a brilliantly engineered proprietary wavelet codec - which may be better than PICVideo's - but still requires a high-end PC to display more than one video stream in real time. Plus it is not available for Premiere Pro (yet). Plus it costs $1200. For less than $1200, anyone can upgrade their PC to dual-processor 800Mbs bus with 2Gb memory, and simply process whatever files they have - HUFFYUVs for example - in real time. So Aspect fails to sell me on their proprietary solution at present time.

- Real-time HD editing *is* possible on high-end PC.

We're talking as high-end as consumer can put their hands on: 3Ghz dual-processor, 800Mbs bus, 2Gb memory or better.

But even on these super-charged machines, the real-time HD editing is limited in terms of how many streams/filters/effects can be actually processed in real time.

So even a system upgrade is not a 100% solution (hey, otherwise I would've done it! :).

Sidenote on Hard drives: Note that there's contradictory information regarding RAID systems floating around. Most of the time, people imply RAID 0 when they say RAID. I would never consider that except for special cases (transit of the files, no need to keep them for any long period of time) after I lost a complete 6-minute short digital movie edit due to hard drive issue. I spent another 3 weeks restoring the movie from scratch; you tell me how much it put me back for. So my recommendation is that you forget RAID 0 (you lose data due to all hard drive failures just like with one drive) and rather use RAID 1, 5, or 10. I use RAID 10.
There's also a difference between software RAID as can be done with WinXP and some other OS's, and hardware RAID. Best affordable RAID cards I found are made by 3ware and seem to work perfectly. They implement "true hardware" RAID, as the opposite to "software runs on our microprocessor" approach of Promise. In order of RAID quality/speed/low impact on your system resources, better first: 3ware/Promise/software-based RAID running on your OS.
SCSI RAIDs are still slighly better than IDE ones I was talking about, but cost difference is huge - maybe 10 times more $$ for same-feature SCSI (especially hard drives) vs. IDE - so it looks like only IDE is a practical solution currently.
Also there's an urban myth propagated on Adobe forums that a single IDE drive performs better with Premiere Pro than even a RAID 0. Duh! Of course if you implement RAID 0 with 2 drives on a single IDE channel, with RAID driven in software by your OS, then you won't see an improvement. Rather, please see above on how to make a *good* RAID system.

Bottom line: upgrade your system or not, you still won't be SURE that you get real-time playback of your timeline.

- Solution: offline editing.

This puts us in the situation as per 10 years ago with SD DV, when neither computer power, nor hardware/software support was there.

So now we deal with this deja vu all over again, now in HD version.

Answer: do not push your system by trying to edit HD in real time.

Rather, create proxies (small-size copies) of your HD files, and edit them (including all filters/transitions/effects applied etc.).

When your "offline" project is completed, simply substitute Source files for the HD originals (you will lose real-time preview at this point, of course), and Render your "online-d" project.

Practically, I use HUFFYUV compression to create original AVI source video clips in 1280x720p from JVC's TS files.

Then I use VirtualDub to create what I call "mini-Me" proxy versions of all of them. Use Resize filter with dimensions 640x360. This is exactly 2 times smaller in each dimension than originals, keeps you in 16:9 format, and puts your NLE in a VERY comfortable processing spot as these miniMe files are even smaller than DV at 720x480. In case you're wondering, miniMe's are 1/4 resolution of the original HDs.

No more stuttering; real-time previews do fly.

Don't forget to substitute miniMe project source files with Original ones when done.

Quality of the miniMe's is still OK to make confident editing decisions. If in doubt, substitute particular clip for HD one temporarily and view frame by frame.

In Premiere Pro, to substitute your "offline" miniMe proxies with the HD originals, simply use "Unlink Media" command, then "Link" to the HD file.

So here you have it: the Practical solution to edit HD with real-time previews on virtually *any* PC, using offline technique.

Flames/kudos expected, but PLEASE don't be trigger-happy on either.

Practical, tested, affordable, high-quality alternative solutions are most welcome.
Alex Raskin is offline  
Old October 18th, 2003, 09:02 PM   #7
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Try getting off that 400mhz bus. P4's need 533mhz bus minimum to streach their legs. Set up a RAID 0+1 (if you must have redundancy) for your Video Drive, with a seperate drive for WIn.

Cinelerra, the free HD NLE for Linux recommends a
Dual 2Ghz Athlon.
200 GB storage for movie files.
Gigabit ethernet

Single 2.4Ghz Athlon.
512MB RAM.
No storage.
100MB ethernet with boot ROM

As many Renderfarm Nodes as you can afford. Linux also has the ability to stack network cards for unlimited network thouroughput!
Eg. (2) Gigabit ethernet cards, (2) 100 Lan cards and (1) firewire and (1) usb 2 for a theoretical network bandwidth of 3080 base!
Although the system bus would be maxed. But regardless the farm would be very fast.
Damnit Jim, I'm a film maker not a sysytems tech.
Ken Hodson is offline  
Old October 18th, 2003, 10:48 PM   #8
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Ken, thanks for the suggestions.

I should mention that I do have a separate boot-up drive. (As a paranoid, I'd love to have it on RAID 1, but not yet :) ...and then again, redundant power supply would be nice :)

RAID 10: is slightly better than 0+1 in both reliability and data availability.

Linux-based solutions: actually I'm trying to stay with Premiere Pro for HD editing. I love the application so far. So Windows it is.

Farms: I'm trying to stay real and manageable. This means, one PC for video editing/rendering at this time. The farthest I went so far was rendering Bryce5 files using other 2 non-video dedicated PCs on the network.
Alex Raskin is offline  
Old October 19th, 2003, 05:12 AM   #9
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Re: PRACTICAL issues of HD editing on Wintel platform

<<<-- Originally posted by Alex Raskin : As of this writing:

- Real-time ("online") HD editing is not possible without high-end computer. -->>>

Please use the term PC since what you describe may or may not apply to a Mac. :)
Switcher's Quick Guide to the Avid Media Composer >>> http://home.mindspring.com/~d-v-c
Steve Mullen is offline  
Old October 20th, 2003, 02:17 PM   #10
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I bought a floor model (with no remote or manual, natch) D-VHS from Sears. Their return policy is the MOST liberal: 60 days! It cost $500 and I don't plan on keeping it. For the next month, I'm going to SHOOT the heck out of Palm Beach County, Florida, then report ALL my findings to you all.

If the D-VHS really works, though I have a Mac only..., I'll buy one of the $300 models.

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Heath McKnight is offline  

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