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Old December 3rd, 2008, 09:48 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.

Last summer I posted a query about this issue on the Cimeform forum (on which I have also posted this query, now), and I received many helpful responses, noe of which worked for me. Since then, 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. So, in the meantime, I have been using the FX-1 in my normal "day work".

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 - 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!!!!!!!!
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 10:16 AM   #2
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Are you ready for some out of the box thinking? If so RUN, and I mean RUN to get this:

Amazon.com: Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player: Electronics

It just came out and it's simply AMAZING!! For about $100 and a cheap USB2 drive (another $100ish) you can say good bye to DVDs and Blu-rays for good! (not really but it's GREAT!) It hooks up via HDMI and I now have every HD Master I have ever made on ONE drive! This is the magic box that I've been waiting for. It'll play many, many formated files. All in HD. Unlike the Apple TV which is hamstrung by only doing 720p at 24f, this will play full 1080p and my EX1 footage looks AMAZING on it! I simply take my EX1 edited master file (Apple Pro-res, but it doesn't matter) and make an MP4 or H.264 file at full res. Load onto the drive and then plug the drive into this unit. A simple interface comes up, you click through to the file you want, hit play and watch all your footage in 1080p glory!

I've been waiting for apple to support Blu-ray, but now, I don't care! I can buy this for my clients, pre-load it and there they are, files can be looped for playback, (great for trade shows) and it can hold as much as the drive you connect to it. It's very small, light-weight and portable. I can't say enough about it! Some few bugs still but it's brand new and they are talking about firmware updates in Jan., mainly some files can't be scanned, but I find MPGs and H.264 can. Search AVS Forum for LONG discussions about it.

Don't sell or trade your EX1 until you try this out! It's the missing link as far as I'm concerned! I won't go so far as to say Discs are dead, but once you see how this works, you'll be sold! I have a home theater with a Sony Pearl and this looks AMAZING on a 10 foot screen! I bet every home theater enthusiast will love this thing! It doesn't have the long boot times of Blu-ray and can play many, many HD files instantly!

Good luck, I just got mine and it's been a revelation this week! I'm so jazzed. Before to show my HD stuff I had to drag an HD camera along, with an HDV master tape, now it's so much better!
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 10:42 AM   #3
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Some food for thought: The .avi that you think looks great on an hd monitor might not look so great on a calibrated sd monitor after all. Your system seems to lack one of the most important components for accurate post production work, an Aja or Blackmagic card which would give you the ability to properly monitor your videos in SD/HD in the correct color space, etc.

You'd be able to have an accurate way of previewing your end product and then it would take the guessing out of which stage is causing the problem. Perhaps its the conversion to AVI? In any case, if does look good then your issue is a compression issue and all of the steps of blurring, etc. will just make the footage look worse as you've experienced. Then you need to spend time playing with the compression settings rather than all that other stuff, which probably aren't the problem.

The vortex training videos did an excellent job of down-converting, the footage looks really stunning (although there are some minor tweaky glitches in the authoring), perhaps you can find some answers over there.

Good Luck!
Gerry
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 02:48 PM   #4
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I'm still finding this problem amazing.
I just render using sony vegas. Render to mpeg-2, burn with dvd architect.
I get stunning quality.
No faffing about going from this program to that program etc etc.

Paul.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 04:28 PM   #5
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Gentlemen --- thanks for your responses, thoughts, and suggestions:

Paul - I already have the WD device you reference, and over 2 terebytes of free hd, so I intend to try it out at some point - all of my HD edited videos are saved in the Cineform Prospect 4k format (AVI), which needs to be further converted to MPEG 2 before the WD will handle it - I just haven't had the opportunity to convert and try this out as yet.

Gerry - Again, everything else I burn on DVD on the same equipment (FX-1, DV, Hi-8 converted) looks fine, for th level of quality going in, color space, etc., aside. I agree and understand that the Vortex training videos look great - I believe those were handled on Final Cut Pro, etc.. I understand what I am doing should work, but it doesn't!

And Paul K - I also find it amazing. One of the may, many options I've purchased and tried was Sony Vegas Pro 8, with the same dismal results, as always with EX-1 sourced DVDs. no matter what.

On another forum, someone suggested that the root of my problem may well be the MPEG 2 encoding, and has suggested that I try out Cinema Craft SP2 Encoder, which I hope to test within the next couple of weeks.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 05:21 PM   #6
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William,
you firstly need to understand the nature of the problem.

Interlaced video is limited in vertical resolution to prevent problems of line twitter and aliasing. This is achieved in a SD camera by two means. An Optical Low Pass Filter between the lens and the imager(s) and line pair averaging. Sampling theory and Nyquist explains part of the problem but doesn't exactly cover issues of line twitter.

The EX1 records video, especially in progressive, with very high resolution, greater than what SD interlaced video can cope with for the reasons above. You'll get the same issues with high resolution still images in SD video unless you're careful. This isn't a fault in the EX1/3 unless you consider it being better than any other camera a fault.

So when downscaling you need to wrangle / simulate what happens in a SD camera's OLPF and line pair averaging. Not an easy task without doing more damage to the image than is absolutely necessary. I can get very good results using Vegas Pro 8 but you need to know the magic recipe. Out of the box you will indeed have the issues you're seeing.

1) Drop your MXF files into a matching HD project.
2) Apply Gaussian Blur in the vertical direction only 0.001 to 0.003 should be enough. Best to monitor what you're doing on a SD CRT but not vital.
3) The order in which the GB is applied is important. From memory out of the box Vegas will apply the FX after downconversion. This is not what you want, you want to reduce the resolution before downconversion. In the GB FX window you'll see a little yellow triangle at the start of the FX keyframe T/L. Click that and it'll change direction so the FX is applied before anything else i.e. before downconversion.


The above should get you out of the woods. I'm still not 100% happy with the outcome. It looks pretty darn good on my 16:9 CRT. It still doesn't look quite as good as content from 16:9 SD DigiBetacam cameras which it should. A better filtering system running in AE might be the answer to wrangling every last bit of resolution from the EX into interlaced SD video. There was some time ago a post indicating they'd found the magic formula but no details were forthcoming. So far though I'm very happy with the results from my EX and Vegas 8 although shortly I'll install CS4 and see what I can get out of Adobe's effort.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 06:27 PM   #7
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OK, I have the same problem, But using FCP, So can any FCP users shed some light.

I shoot in 720p/50 look fine on a hdtv QT FILE. But downconvert to a SD dvd and play it back on the same hdtv, look crap.

(to me it looks like a bad conversion of interlaced to progressive 1080i to 720p)

i have tried bitevice,and compressor, no good either.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 06:52 PM   #8
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I haven't had much DVD image problem from EX1 1080i HQ, edited as Cineform sq.pix. 1080i.avi and converted directly to m2vi either with ProCoder or AME. I might add that I view these DVDs on HDTV with an "upscaling" DVD player- if the 480 image is simply stretched out to 720 or 1080 on HDTV without upscaling it looks pretty crappy.
But, I used to have big time problems of DVD image line twitter, softness, etc. with 1.33 pix. HDV. These were edited as Cineform 1.33 pix. 1080i.avi. I found that if I first transcoded the finished HD.avi movie to SD 480i or 480p.avi DI, then converted that to m2vi or m2vp, it looked good- better than I was getting previously with SD from a Sony PD-170 cam.
So, I dunno William, maybe there is a clue there- I am assuming that you are shooting HQ format (1920x1080i, sq. pix.) on the EX.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 07:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Bale View Post
OK, I have the same problem, But using FCP, So can any FCP users shed some light.

I shoot in 720p/50 look fine on a hdtv QT FILE. But downconvert to a SD dvd and play it back on the same hdtv, look crap.

(to me it looks like a bad conversion of interlaced to progressive 1080i to 720p)

i have tried bitevice,and compressor, no good either.
That could be half your problem there. SD DVD getting upconverted to HD TV is never going to be a particularly satisfying image.

Noah
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 08:03 PM   #10
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When I initially started to use my EX1, I would edit in Premier Pro then render to SD as an AVI or MPEG file which I would them pass to DVD Architect to create my SD DVD.

Absolutely horrible results.

Then I tried rendering to HD MPEG from Premier Pro CS3 (v3.2) and importing that into DVD Architect (v4.5) for creation of the SD DVD. It worked wonderfully. Excellent quality DVD images.

Hope that helps.
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Old December 4th, 2008, 08:49 AM   #11
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Gentlemen!

Well, I am overwhelmed with all of the responses here, far more cogent than I recieved on another board last summer when I started all of my late night and weekend research at any viable alternatives - again, thank you so much! I think in the future that this forum will be the one I turn to with ANY problems with the EX-1.

Bob G - I will install Vegas Pro 8 (updated) on an HP and a Toshiba (not my main editing computer, the Boxx, since I just do not want to take a chance on interference with all the Adobe programs I have installed on it. I'll have to take a look at both the HP and Toshiba - they may not be powerful enough (even at very slow speeds) to handle Vegas. By the way, you indicated that you were going to try out CS4 - good luck! I purchased it just after it came out, but after reading user's reports on Adobe and other boards, it appears to be an unmitigated mess, with inexplicable crashes, so its setting unused on my shelf until I get some indication that Adobe has offered some fixes.

Bob Y - You've been kind enough to resopond to some of my queries before, and I have particularly appreciated your detailed responses, without some of the personal slamming that some others have given. I don't need to be told I'm stupid, again - if I wasn't stupid, I wouldn't have to be here asking these questions! When I posed essentially the same query last summer, prior to the massive amount of time I have put in in the meantime trying to come up with a viable solution, you were kind enough to post a methodical, detailed workflow which worked for you - I then used EXACTLY the same programs (including Cineform) and same workflow which you presented, and it doesn't work for me - based upon what I have seen on your Internet site, I can see that it works very nicely for you. I am shooting HQ (1920x1080i) square pixels (I finally gave up trying to make progressive shooting or editing work), transcoding HD.avi to SD.avi, and then converting to m2vi.

John - I may try your successful workflow - Premiere Pro CS3 and import into DVD Architect.

Just a couple more comments. First, on this and some other forums I have found some knocking Cineform (and some of the knockers are real contributory professionals deservedly highly respected by most as well as by me), which has really puzzled me. I have found Cineform's advertised "visually lossless" multigeneration copies to be well justified, which is why I archive all HD in Cineform.avi, even though it takes up comparatively massive space. And I have yet to find any other program, among the very many that I have to do such a great job of downrezzing HD to SD (including my much dreaded EX-1 data). Second, thanks again to you all, and before I have time and opportunity to post results of som of the suggestions here and elsewhere, some considerable time may elapse.
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Old December 4th, 2008, 10:05 AM   #12
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William,

I am a Vegas 8.1 user (64-bit) and I have experience poor results at times going direct from an HD timeline to DVD. However, I always build my projects in HD so that they are more future-proof. The problem seems to be related to just a poor down-convert - weather it is not using enough resources, time, compression, etc., I don't know.

So, what I've done that DOES work for me is a once I've finished my 720 or 1080 project, I save it and close it, and I begin a new project. The new project is 720x480 at 1.21 - SD widescreen in other words. I drop the HD .veg file into the project - this takes quite a while as it has to read the whole thing.

Then, when I render out to MPG2 for DVD Architect, I get a much cleaner result.
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Old December 4th, 2008, 11:03 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Frederick View Post
Are you ready for some out of the box thinking? If so RUN, and I mean RUN to get this:

Amazon.com: Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player: Electronics

It just came out and it's simply AMAZING!! For about $100 and a cheap USB2 drive (another $100ish) you can say good bye to DVDs and Blu-rays for good! (not really but it's GREAT!)
This is VERY cool, Paul. I just wish it had an SD card slot on it as well - Many projects/samples will only be a few GB's or less - and then you could forego the hard drive!
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Old December 4th, 2008, 03:20 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Robert Bale View Post
OK, I have the same problem, But using FCP, So can any FCP users shed some light.
It has taken some time because my goal is to deliver Blu-ray as well SD DVD with footage from my EX3. I just finished a 43 minute project that accomplishes this with very good SD results (sharp with clean edges) and amazing Blu-ray results. I used the attached workflow for EX3 1920x1080/60i (detail off), FCP 6.0.5 with an HD and SD timeline in the same project, then:

HD - Blu-ray via Encore CS4 4.01 (Export a FCP self-contained movie, set Encore project to 35Mb/s and PCM audio)
SD - DVD via Compressor 3.05 and DVDSP 4.2.1 (Export FCP reference with current settings, set DVDSP per)
Attached Files
File Type: pdf EX-XDCAM HD-to-SD Workflow.pdf (480.9 KB, 780 views)

Last edited by Barry J. Anwender; December 4th, 2008 at 09:35 PM.
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Old December 4th, 2008, 03:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Bale View Post
OK, I have the same problem, But using FCP, So can any FCP users shed some light.

I shoot in 720p/50 look fine on a hdtv QT FILE. But downconvert to a SD dvd and play it back on the same hdtv, look crap.

(to me it looks like a bad conversion of interlaced to progressive 1080i to 720p)

i have tried bitevice,and compressor, no good either.
Hi Robert, I think you are in PAL country in Aus aren't you? This is how I do it as a pom.

I shoot 720P50. Do all my editing in FCP. Then I export as a 720P quicktime movie using prores422 ( not HQ) as a self contained movie. the file size is LARGE. Once done, I do an easy setup, Pal DVD. Changethe settings of the sequence in advanced to 16:9 progessive and best. 50 frames per second.

Drop the newly made QT onto the timeline. It will ask if I want to chance to fit the settings of the file. Say no. the QT will then appear on the timeline and need rendering.

Render the file, then out to compressor as a PAL 16:9 SD in the highest quality you can get. Results have been superb and far higher than going from the timeline of the HD timeline to compressor and out.
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