Capturing DV video straight to MPEG2?
August 21, 2007 11:17 PM   Subscribe

I have a project coming up where I will need to capture (digitize) a full 8-10 hours of footage (to be captured on DV tape) and make DVD copies for 3 people by the end of the next day. Ok, so I know how to go from DV to MPEG2 via either Final Cut Pro (v. 5.1.4) or Avid Xpress. What I'm wondering is, is there a way to bypass capturing the footage to DV (then converting to MPEG2) and going straight from the tape to MPEG2 so I can save myself hours of encoding from DV to MPEG2 and then burning discs?

I have Final Cut Studio 5, an Intel iMac 2ghz w/2gigs of RAM, in addition to a Dual Processor G4 (which I'm hoping to use to multi-task), enough external storage (I figure I will have around 120 gigs of raw DV footage) and enough coffee to keep me going for a while.

I'm open to software and hardware recomendations within reason, meaning with what I have or minimal (under $150 or so) expense.

posted by eatcake to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you will find any hardware MPEG2 encoder (which you would use for realtime encoding) under $150. They generally start around $500 and go up from there.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:29 PM on August 21, 2007

The Hauppauge PVR series of TV tuner cards will take video in via s-video and encode to mpeg2 using the on-board hardware mpeg2 encoder (up to 12Mbit/s). I just bought an OEM PVR-150 for $150AUD. Um, except they don't work in macs after a quick google.

Apparently they make a USB one for macs called the myTV.PVR the internet tells me they cost $140ish and still have a hardware encoder. The PVR series work ace, I have no experience with their USB offerings though.

That said, a vaguely decent computer (like your iMac) with a video card that has video-in could do it in real time in software, depending on resolution and required bitrate, again, not sure of mac software sorry.
posted by markr at 11:47 PM on August 21, 2007

With a $150 budget, can you hire one of the video cameras that record to DVD?
posted by bystander at 12:48 AM on August 22, 2007

Fitting 10 hours of video onto a DVD with MPEG2 means that the playback quality will be utter shit. Most commercial DVDs use about 1100 megabytes for 25 minutes of material in order to get acceptable quality.

To fit 10 hours onto a single 4G DVD, you'd have to use 1/7th as much storage, and that means the video playback would be nearly illegible.

(Or you'd have to cut the horizontal and vertical resolution by half, and halve the frame rate. 320*240*15fps is 1/8th the datastream of 640*480*30fps.)

In order to have any chance at all of doing what you want at full resolution, you'd have to use MPEG4. However, MPEG4 encoding is very, very slow. Depending on your processor and the settings you're using, it can take as much as three times playback speed to get it done, which would mean that 10 hours of video would require 30 hours of computing to encode.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:22 AM on August 22, 2007

First, let me give you my suggestion for an answer, then I'll explain the problems involved.

Solution: Forget editing. Buy a standalone DVD recorder, record 2-4 disks in real time, use the mac to duplicate them.

Detailed answer:
You can't do it. At least not this way.
Neither Final Cut nor Xpro will capture directly to MPEG2.

MPEG2 is horribly compressed and both will want a codec where every frame has 'all' the information (an Iframe codec.) Avid uses their own internal format (at different compression rates) Apple will let you use a number of codecs (mostly camera codec).

After your capture, either of these would have to then compress (to mpeg-2) which is likely greater than real time and then finally author to dvd.

You could try and find a hardware encoder (the best way to do this in real time); but there are no 'reasonable' cost ones (given your definition of reasonable). You'd be unable to edit the resulting MPEG-2; and you'd still have to go through the DVD authoring process.

DVD Spec:
Speaking of which, 10 hours exceeds the bottom end of the DVD spec. of 2mb/s. (Plus it would look like shit. Pretty much anything below 4mb/s does).

Now, you could cheat - it's not commonly done, but the dvd spec permits MPEG-1s to be used (and you'd still be flirting at the quality level - VCD's are 1150k/s, still above the data rate you'd need for 10 hours.) But MPEG-1 still looks pretty crappy.

Buy a standalone DVD recorder. You can get a decent one @$150.
You could plug your miniDV tape directly to it. Press record, and you'd be making a direct copy. Don't put more than 3 hours on it (I'd argue that 2 hours is the max). Then just duplicate. This will take (total) about an hour longer than your footage...then all you have to do is duplicate (which will likely be another 2 hours or so of time)
posted by filmgeek at 4:35 AM on August 22, 2007

Various manufacturers also make video cameras with hard disks inside, and these often use MPEG2 encoding on the disk. You'd still need to do the DVD authoring step if you started with one of these, but you wouldn't need to transcode.
posted by flabdablet at 5:29 AM on August 22, 2007

I agree with filmgeek. I run a 2 hour live show to DVD every night, and we use 25 DVD recorder decks (20 Panasonic, 15 Sony). The Sony RDR-GX330's were the most recent purchase, and it looks like they run around $175 now.

You'll have real-time for the transfer, and then finalizing the disc only takes 5 minutes. So for 8 hours of footage, you'll be looking at 9 hours to get them all to disc, plus duplication.
posted by shinynewnick at 5:29 AM on August 22, 2007

Response by poster: Stecen C and filmgeek: I'm not trying to fit the whole 10 hours on a single disc, it can be multiple discs

I realize this isn't going to be great quality, I just need to get multiple people their copies in time.

It looks like the easiest way to do what I want is to buy a DVD recorder and go directly to disc instead of camera=>computer=>encode=>disc. I kinda don't have too much room (or time apparently) for error or to redo things so I'm trying to plan ahead.

Anyone know if FCP is capable of recording live video straight to disc? (though it would not be MPEG2, it would save a step).

Thank you for all your suggestions.
posted by eatcake at 5:50 AM on August 22, 2007

FCP and Avid will record directly to disk (technically, that's what capturing is...)

It's usually a mistake to do this in a live environment - if something goes wrong, can you stop everything?

If you just need DVDs of a live event (non-edited); why not get a Camera that records directly to DVD? These are a nightmare to deal with in post (quality, timewise)...but this will give you a dvd of the event.

I would have suggested something like a Firestore - a hard drive that connects to the camera. This can bypass the capture process in Avid or FCP, because you just have to copy the materials to your editing system. It still takes a gig a minute, or about 12 mins/hour of material. It won't get around the MPEG2 conversion. But your post stated $150, and frankly, it's way more than $150.

Given your requirements, a direct to DVD recorder is your best bet.
posted by filmgeek at 4:47 AM on August 23, 2007

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