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Old December 27th, 2008, 08:34 AM   #1
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Delivering to DG

Anyone have experience delivering spots with DG Fastchannel?

I'm doing so for the first time with local commercials shot on EX3 and EX1, edited in FCP, and I'm not happy with how they look on the air. I don't know if the problem is on my end (and if so, where in the workflow) or the local station's. For lack of a better word, they look "local"--a bit soft and videoish. Apparently most other spots are also delivered by DG to this station, and many of those look significantly better than mine.

Details below, but if anyone cares to take a look, a sample of a final delivery file can be downloaded here: http://robcollins.net/dgsample.zip

This opens into a 97MB MPEG-2 file--Mac users will need to view in VLC. I'm happy with how this looks on a computer monitor, but not broadcast. Here's how I got to this file:

1. The studio shots are EX3 1080/30P. The B-Roll is EX1 (with Letus Extreme) 720/30P overcranked to 60. The animation comes from a PNG sequence done in Blender (not by me).

2. I'm editing in HD uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 1280x720 progressive (field dominance none). This looks great--one local station will soon be able to broadcast it in HD. Flash version of this here.

3. Then I export as a self-contained QT and drop into a SD timeline, also uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2, 720x486 progressive (field dominance none). Rescale to 66 (slight letterbox), apply 110 broadcast safe filter. I'm monitoring to a pro Sony SD monitor, properly calibrated, fed via component by an Intensity Pro card, and it looks great there.

4. Then I export as a self-contained QT and bring into Episode to convert to MPEG-2. According to DG, Episode is the only Mac software that can compress to their specifications--I spent a while trying to make Compressor work before spending $450 on Episode but every file was rejected by DG. So in Episode, I used the compression settings recommended by DG, which are MPEG-2, 2-pass CBR 20000 kbit/s, interlaced bottom field first, 720x512.

I did find that it was better to let Episode convert to interlaced rather than make a interlaced timeline in FCP.

Any thoughts on ways I could improve the workflow? Thanks for any help.

Rob Collins

Interesting: My displeasure in how the spot looks was based on watching it live on an older tube TV. Then I DVR'd it and watched on a LCD HDTV, and it looks pretty good. Interlacing issue?

Last edited by Rob Collins; December 27th, 2008 at 09:28 AM. Reason: Additional data
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Old December 27th, 2008, 10:31 AM   #2
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I'm pretty sure the snag is the number of times you "export as quicktime" and the re-size. each of these processes have a detrimental effect on the image quality, and repeated compression is going to destroy the image quality. I would edit at the highest quality level I could - get the product right, and then if it has to be provided on QT, do a single export with the necessary crop at the same time.

If I've read it right your uncompressed footage is compressed twice with QT, then again in the conversion to MPEG - this will make a real mess of the image. I'm not a Mac man so can't comment on the individual processes and how they're done on your system. I always try to remember each conversion throws quality away, and 3 of these chuck data away sessions doesn't leave much?
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Old December 27th, 2008, 10:44 AM   #3
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Thanks Paul. By using uncompressed 8-bit codec, I thought I was avoiding that problem. No?

I need to have a HD master, SD master, and the MPEG made from the SD master. I'm mostly cropping the sides to get the SD, but like a very small letterbox. It seems like the only thing I could change would be to down-convert another way, like using Compressor or Episode on the HD master file. I'll experiment with that.

Were you able to look at the MPEG file by any chance?
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Old December 27th, 2008, 11:25 AM   #4
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So I tried making the MPEG directly from the HD file--it letterboxes more than I'd like, but if it improves the quality I could be OK with it. I can't see any difference though.

Here's that file: http://robcollins.net/dgsample2.zip
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Old December 27th, 2008, 03:57 PM   #5
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Rob, I've gone from EX to DG for local cable spots and from FCP to Episode.

In my case I shot 1080i60, edited in Standard Def Apple ProRes422. Export Quicktime self contained and use my Episode DG preset.

When putting 1080i in SD timeline in FCP, FCP adds a Field Shift filter automatically.

I encode at 2 Pass CBR 18000kbits (which DG says is the max data rate). Color space is 4:2:2 as per their spec.

The softness you refer to may be directly related to how you downscale but in both our cases we're using FCP to do the downscale.
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Old December 27th, 2008, 04:17 PM   #6
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Thanks Craig. I'm wondering if I should have shot interlaced. Any chance you might download one of my MPEG's to compare quality to yours?
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Old December 27th, 2008, 05:44 PM   #7
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Rob I had a look at your spot with VLC.

It certainly looked OK. The thin mathematical font certainly looked sharp. I was able to see some motion blur on some of the camera moves but that's the nature of 30p.

I was torn when I had to chose which HD format to shoot with. I normally shoot 1080p30 also. I figured I'd shoot in one of the two broadcast HD standards (1080i60 or 720p60) since they can handle fast motion.

BTW I do consulting for Telestream on Episode. I'm one of the beta testers. I also occasionally field tech support phone calls from DG specific to Episode. I have a very simple setting which always passes DG certification. One of the things I do during Episode beta testing to send files to DG.

Can you tell me the reason DG was giving you for the failures?

I think the only way to test scaling is to compare FCP to Compressor to Episode. DG is, of course, only judging on the technical aspects of the spots. Episode shouldn't introduce any softening assuming you're not touching any of its filters.

It certainly would be a worthwhile test to downscale (pre mpeg program stream conversion) with FCP vs Compressor vs Episode and play that out to a SD broadcast monitor as well as HDTV as SD source (that only tests the scaling in your HDTV though).

You mention you thought your spot looked softer when aired compared to others. When it comes to TV spots I see things "all over the place" as far as that's concerned. Keep in mind TV spots might range from 35mm 24p or 30p to stuff shot on DigiBeta to lower budget stuff shot on older Beta SP or even DVCAM or DVCPro so it's really hard to compare.

Life will get easier when more local stations accept HD. Despite the fact that all the stations both broadcast and local cable, are HD, the two cable companies still only accept SD here. I've repurposed spots for HD Digital Signage advertising though so I'm also faced with delivering both HD and SD versions.
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Old December 28th, 2008, 07:48 AM   #8
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Thanks so much Craig. DG rejected the spots when I used Compressor--once I got Episode, it was fairly easy. It was a hard $450 to spend, but it's a good program. I've started to use it over Squeeze for FLV and over QT for iPhone.

I'll test out the different downscaling options some more, but thus far I can't see much difference. The simplest option is to use Episode to make the MPEG from the HD master, but that only seems to give a letterbox or cut option. I'm doing half and half for the SD. I'd be OK with letterbox but client doesn't like it. Though once I can deliver in HD I'll be forced into framing for center cut, which seems a shame--having all that extra room in the frame I can't use!
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Old December 28th, 2008, 08:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Seeman View Post
I was torn when I had to chose which HD format to shoot with. I normally shoot 1080p30 also. I figured I'd shoot in one of the two broadcast HD standards (1080i60 or 720p60) since they can handle fast motion.
If you are PRIMARILY shooting for a downconverted output and want smooth motion, then 720p/60 should downconvert better than 1080i/30 - it gives you a complete 1280x720 frame for every SD field. The 1080 interlaced material needs to undergo deinterlacing to give the 60 basic frames to downconvert, and that can't be a good thing.
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Old December 28th, 2008, 08:42 AM   #10
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I really don't care about smooth motion for these--I just want to avoid any field issues since the final delivery file has to be interlaced.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 01:54 AM   #11
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For various reasons Compressor can not meat DG spec.

Using Episode can give you the correct result. Your spot doesn't seem to have any field issues. I thought you mentioned you thought it looked soft though. DG only cares about technical issues. They can reject a spot for "jitter" which is field related issue. That's actually the most common issue DG techs have contacted me about.

Actually I've found that if you set Episode to "same as source" you'll have the least issues even though they ask for upper field first. I've also seen them report jitter on telecine (24 in 29.97) so I'd avoid that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Collins View Post
I really don't care about smooth motion for these--I just want to avoid any field issues since the final delivery file has to be interlaced.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 07:36 AM   #12
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Thanks again Craig. Are you saying that DG can actually accept a progressive MPEG?
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Old January 16th, 2009, 02:32 AM   #13
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FYI, this did solve the issue, making a progressive MPEG (set Episode to "same as input"). Looks great now. All other settings are the same as what DG suggested. I've attached the settings I'm using.

Though if anybody out there wants to use DG to deliver a spot but doesn't want to get Episode or go through the DG certification process, feel free to contact me. For a reasonable fee I'll be happy to help...
Attached Files
File Type: zip DG.zip (1.0 KB, 127 views)
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