Encoding DV for computer playback?
March 5, 2007 9:52 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to encode DV for playback on Mac and Windows? I'm editing in Final Cut and would like output that doesn't mess with the aspect ration (no fat/squished heads), no interlacing jaggies, and can play on a G4 ibook or Pentium4 without stuttering. (Bonus points if the file size is smaller than DV!)

Final Cut outputs .mov files that contain the DV. The problem with these files is that by default "high quality" is off - so you need Quicktime Pro to go into movie options and check a box and resave. (if you don't, you only see half the resolution.) Another problem is that quicktime on windows cannot play the file at high quality without stuttering (Pentium4 mobile). Media Player can play it - but only in low quality (it ignores every other scan line and looks terrible.)

Exporting from Quicktime (6.5 Pro) always gives me nasty interlacing jaggies. (i tried sorensen 3, h263, apple mpeg4...) I can't believe Apple doesn't provide any way to de-interlace.

Are there other options?

Also, if I can squeeze in a related question: What is the correct aspect ratio for NTSC DV on a computer screen? I know DV has rectangular pixels and computers have square pixels - so some conversion is required. 720x480 looks a bit wide (fat heads) and 640x480 a bit too narrow (squished heads).
posted by kamelhoecker to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We export seminar videos to a "Fast Start" Quicktime file, with the following video specs, using either QT Pro 7 or Compressor:

• H.264/MPEG-4 multipass
• 640 x 480 deinterlaced
• 688 Kbps
• 29.97 fps

I don't notice jaggies, but that's just me.

QT 7 (free) will play these files on Windows and Mac.

In general, the file sizes we've been getting are around 400 MB per 65-70 minutes of footage. Very much smaller than DV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:59 AM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: i forgot about Compressor! You're right there is a de-interlace filter in there. Which setting do you use? (Blur, Even, Odd, Sharp) I just tried "Sharp" and it looked ok. (I also increased the bitrate to 1200kbps since it looked way too chunky/pixelated.)

I'll do some more tests...

(btw, I still think 640x480 looks a bit too thin! Maybe my perception is distorted from looking at all the fat heads on badly configured widescreens/flatscreens.)
posted by kamelhoecker at 10:19 AM on March 5, 2007

Do you need to manipulate the video after creating it? What about a DVD? MPEG2 encoded on a DVD is only slightly degraded compared to the original DV file.

Below the "High Quality" checkbox in QT Pro, I recall there being a "De-interlace" checkbox. Is that an option?

As to the resolution issue, I'm not sure of this number so I shouldn't be posting it, but I am, and that is 720x486. Someone will probably correct me. There is mention of it on this KeynoteUser.com page with FCP info that I didn't take the time to really parse.

Try the Creative Cow FCP forum. I haven't used FCP in awhile but last time I did, that was the place to find information on all the pesky technical details (and the place I wish I had consulted before using OfflineRT for 12+ hours of footage).
posted by reeddavid at 10:22 AM on March 5, 2007

Have you tried compressing into a flash file using Sorenson Squeeze's VP2Pro codec with 2 pass throughs?
posted by oronico at 10:37 AM on March 5, 2007

I make the video for this site and it's ripped to DV from a beta tape through FCP.

Here's what I do:

After editing the DV, I export it as "Quicktime (Custom)"-- "photo - jpeg" is the compressor setting. Size depends on the ratio of the original. For 4:3, I do 800x600, for 16:9 I do 800x450.

Then I run that video through Cleaner-- two pass 3ivx Quicktime and Windows Media, both set to deinterlace the video.

Anything remotely fancy directly out of FCP takes forever and looks like poop.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:50 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

If this is a final product for viewing, not re-editing, I second H.264 , it's great. On a side note, I'm having a slightly similar problem with Final Cut Pro that maybe fits into this question:
When trying to export as DV, to keep a full-quality backup DV, for some reason my files come out at 640 * 480, or at least that's what Quicktime says when it plays them. The originals are normal 720 X 480. Am I losing the extra resolution because of the rectangular pixels in DV? What's the deal and how do I keep a high-quality backup of my work when my camera won't work with the "Print to Tape" options?
posted by wavejumper at 10:54 AM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: wavejumper: Make sure you aren't doing any conversion when exporting. On Final Cut Express it's just File -> Export -> Quicktime Movie. (not Quicktime Conversion...)

This will be just the original DV. (It will also be fast when exporting, since it's just copying files not doing any converting.)
posted by kamelhoecker at 11:12 AM on March 5, 2007

Thanks, kamelhoecker, it looks like it's something about Quicktime that's playing it back at 640 * 480, making me think I'd "lost the resolution."
posted by wavejumper at 11:40 AM on March 5, 2007

Best answer: DV is 720x480, non square pixels.
If you have "square" pixels, you can do the conversion based on the height (480) or the width (720).

Resizing based on the height is smarter, as it leaves the field lines alone, yielding 640x480 pixels. (The 720x534 is the 'other' set of numbers, but distorts field information.)

Quicktime saves the pixel aspect ratio directly in the DV files - so when you open them it autoscales them to 640x480 (but all the data is there.)

"Jaggies"/fields/high quality are methods that apple does to get around the fact that temporally, the two fields are separated by 1/60th of a second and therefore apple hides the field to make it look cleaner. They reduce the quality to insure playback on slower systems as well.


I can think of about a dozen or so solutions given the requirement:
Older Windows (P4)+ Mac (g4 ibook)

Formats: WMV, h.264, MPEG4, MPEG2, will all succeed. Data rates vary on a per codec basis. MPEG, for example, requires higher data rates than WMV - but that's the difference between proprietary codecs vs. Standards.

Sorenson 3 will require too much horsepower at full size, photo jpeg produces large files.

Tools to try/use:
Sorenson Squeeze
...and about a half a dozen other tools.

Since you have FCP - you have compressor as well; I'm going to suggest a couple of settings (as well as a modifcation or two.)

1) iPod setting - change the size to 640x480 (may not work with earlier windows/mac due to player requirements.)
2) PhotoJPEG 75% of source (this is in the motion graphics folder - and yeah, I know that I said about that it may require too much bandwidth - just try it anyway.)
3) H264 LAN (may not work with earlier windows/mac due to player requirements.)

You may have to install QT7 (and it may be more sensible than buying packages like Squeeze or Flip4Mac.)

Two smart rules about compression:
TETO - Test Early Test Often. Seriously - it's easy to build a bunch, test them out on your slow machines, and then adjust as needed.

Secret advice. When you "send to compressor", put an In/Out on about 20 seconds of representative video. Instead of compression the whole thing - only do 20 seconds. You could run a dozen or more tests in less than a half hour. It'd take you less time to actually TRY THIS than for me to write the damn answer. You can actually do this in almost all compression software (but most people miss that.) Don't tell your boss, still pretend that it took you hours or days to do.
posted by filmgeek at 7:09 PM on March 5, 2007

As far as the "High Quality Enabled" issue with DV .mov's, you can download a free utility called HiQual (Mac only), which lets you drop a bunch of QT files onto its icon, and it will enable that checkbox, en masse, even without Quicktime Pro.

Quicktime 7 has eliminated the need for all this, though.
posted by melorama at 3:14 AM on March 6, 2007

When you "send to compressor", put an In/Out on about 20 seconds of representative video. Instead of compression the whole thing - only do 20 seconds.

This is very good advice, but keep in mind that a few codecs will throw up an inflated bitrate for clips that short. Don't worry if it's the really popular ones like WMV and sorenson 3. They won't. But I know for a fact that 3ivx can. 3ivx is a pain, but the results are so sweet!
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:47 AM on March 6, 2007

One thing to keep in mind with the 20-second-clip tests is the encoding time.

In dealing with long video sessions like we do, and balancing that against deadlines, the encoding time is definitely a consideration in the codec and settings we choose.

You may want to consider the relative encoding times of the various codecs you evaluate.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:49 AM on March 6, 2007

Response by poster: ok, it sounds like an upgrade to QT7 is worth it, especially with the h.264 codec and fixing the 'high quality' flag business. (i'm waiting until my projects are done before upgrading, and i've been saying that for months...)

filmgeek: awesome reply, thanks for sharing. there's lots to absorb, but i did a test with the jpeg output and it looks great on my g4 and on windows. (The filesize is about half of the DV original.)

mayor curley: why do you output to 800x600? (wouldn't that just make the file larger - bytewise - without an increase in quality if DV is 720x480 - or 640x480 w/ square pixels?)

i played with 3ivx years ago. Just looked at their site and I see it decodes with the built-in QT codec. Nice. Thanks for the tip, I'll check them out again.
posted by kamelhoecker at 4:27 PM on March 7, 2007

Response by poster: btw, i found a site that breaks down aspect ratios. It claims that most of our aspect ratios are wrong. Using his numbers and formulas (it looks more complex than it is!) i came up with 720x480 DV should be 654x480 with square pixels.

And you know what, I think that's correct. The heads don't look stretched, and they don't look squished. neat.
posted by kamelhoecker at 5:37 PM on March 7, 2007

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