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Messages - Vurbal [ switch to compact view ]

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601
Thanks for the explanation.

Is it far off to say then that for a given source (image, video, audio clip), sampling is a process of creating a set of components (samples) which can later be assembled to create something akin to the original source?
Yes, that's basically what it is. The other important point to remember is that the samples do not contain the entirety of the original.

Where it gets more complicated is audio sampling. In video what's displayed are the samples themselves, In audio (assuming we're talking about lossless aka LPCM) the samples are merely numbers which can be transformed back into a (theoretically) perfect copy of the original waveform based on the Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem.

602
I don't know if this can be simplified enough to make it worth adding to that post but I can explain in basic terms. I'll stick to video sampling for the moment because digital video and digital audio have some fundamental differences.

Sampling is sort of like looking through a screen door. You can't actually see everything on the other side of the door. What you see is everythng in between the vertical and horizontal lines. Those spaces are essentially analog samples. Even though your vision is being partially blocked your brain can fill in the details between the samples to produce a complete image.

Digital sampling is a little different. Going back to the screen door, if you increase the size of the spaces you're looking through you also increase the information in each sample. A digital sample, on the other hand, has a fixed amount of information. Each video sample represents one point or a single RGB value. When you reduce the number of spaces in the grid what you are really doing is increasing the space in between samples.

To get away from the screen door analogy entirely, think of a digital image as a grid made up of samples (data points) and gaps (the space between them). More samples means smaller gaps and less information your brain has to fill in. The goal is to have enough samples that you don't notice the gaps.

603
Living Room / Re: Computers Outlawed in Florida
« on: July 20, 2013, 09:59 PM »
The points above mostly all make sense, given that:
  • The police/SS seem obliged to deem cash business to be implicitly/potentially illegal, because you cannot trace the source of the money being used in the transaction to establish:
    (a) proof/certainty as to whether it was used for bona fide legal/legitimate purposes (e.g., it might be operating an unlicensed casino), or
    (b) whether the cash came from a "legitimate" or criminal source (e.g., as in money laundering).

  • There seems to be a necessary drive by police/SS to exercise State control over all financial transactions so as to be able to "prove" them at the POS (Point Of Sale), as the police/SS are otherwise unable to effectively police various areas of crime engaged in money exchange/laundering.

Fans of the Breaking Bad series will recall the problems with having all that illegally-obtained cash (millions) stashed away in the wall linings of your garage or wherever...

@sword may well be right though:
See, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", by Lewis Carroll
(Which I thought was a very droll comment.)    ;)

   But there is at least one other important aspect to this that I can think of - banking transaction "tollgate" fees - which are a huge real/potential source of revenue.
We have witnessed that payments intermediaries/agents (e.g., PayPal, Visa, Mastercard) can pick and choose at their whim which of their commercial accounts can use their services - e.g., withdrawing access to their payments service and freezing accounts for "pirating" organisations frowned on by the **AA or by the State (e.g., Wikileaks).
   There will undoubtedly be a financial benefit for this "self policing", probably in terms of some kind of a fee from the **AA or the State, and/or from the use-of money interest by effectively sequestering the funds (assets) in any frozen or "unclaimed" or "unclaimable" accounts.
   The precedent for this form of highly lucrative and legitimised piracy bonanza was set in the case of the thousands of secretive anonymous Swiss Bank accounts of wealthy Jews killed in the Holocaust, and of the hundreds (or more) of Nazi/SS generals who had squirrelled away their humungus stolen assets - the spoils of war. Sitting on that sea of "gifted wealth" after WW2 was what made the corrupt (QED) Swiss banks even more secretive (lest they be discovered and were asked to pay the legitimate account monies to the descendants/heirs of the "untraceable" account-holders) and is apparently the main reason for Switzerland's strong economy today and their pride of place in the respectable (ho, ho) banking community.

   So that represents a  view of the population providing lucrative revenue from the accounts that you have as a banking/financial intermediary. But what about the accounts that you do not have? They could be potentially very lucrative.
   Well, every cash transaction is a missed tollgate fee, and there are likely to be billions of them, and once you have established your bank as the tollgate financial intermediary for those accounts, you can collect a fee on every transaction. It's a tax levied by nominated financial barons, for an ephemeral service, and which is authorised by governments and their Agencies (which collectively are otherwise the authorised thieves tax-gatherers). The government cannot function without a well-subsidised banking system creating the magical "trust" money (debt) that government necessarily feeds upon for its projects. For example, to conduct its philanthropic "peace-making" wars on a global scale, or to conduct philanthropic global mass surveillance...
   Some people (not me, you understand) might say that this issue (fees and commissions to feed the banks) - and not crime - might be the main reason that cash transactions must be discouraged in favour of EFT-POS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point-Of-Sale), or similar - all operated by/through the banking system - but I couldn't possibly comment.
I had actually been trying to work out the regulatory gatekeeper angle on this because it smells exactly like the kind of crap that everybody from online rideshare services to more upscale operations like Uber have had to deal with from the crony capitalists who regulate taxis. I suspect you've hit the nail on the head.

MasterCard and Visa have an extremely disproportionate amount of influence on the electronic payment infrastructure in this country. Their insane fee structures are the reason most businesses prefer smaller transactions to be in cash. Not by coincidence one of the more embarrassing revelations from the State Department that sent the US government on their Wikileaks witch hunt was about their "lobbying" on behalf of those 2 companies WRT Russia's development of their own electronic payment system.

(By the way, this may indicate that Bitcoin or similar must be verboten.)
According to the DHS goon squad it certainly is. You know somebody has friends in high places when they get to rent out the copyright police for their party.

604
Glad to help! It took me literally thousands of hours of reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading to understand this stuff so I know how frustrating (and unnecessarily confusing) it can be.

605
Before I get any deeper into this (oops too late) I think the best thing is to establish a common baseline so everybody (including me) knows what I'm talking about. Like anything technical it's essential everybody is speaking the same language so a lot of it will be pretty rudimentary. Also, see my signature.

Basic Terminology

  • Frame: A frame is the smallest group of samples you should need to be concerned with. Don't think pictures (like video frames) but rather data frames like in networking. Each group of samples has a header both to provide metadata and for muxing and decoding.
    • Video Frame: Every video frame, regardless of what standard is used for encoding, contains all the samples for 1 entire picture. The terms are basically interchangeable.
    • Audio Frame: The number of samples in an audio frame is determined by the relevant encoding standard. Any further details will be handled by the relevant DirectShow filters so this is already more than you probably need to know.
  • Stream: A stream is a sequence of video or audio samples.
    • Elementary Stream: This is a stream of video or audio frames. Some files appear to be containers (eg MP3) but are really just elementary streams with additional information tacked on.   
    • Raw Stream: A raw stream consists of nothing but samples. It typically has no file header and there are no frames. I only mention this because H.264 does not use frames (except in the video sense obviously) so except for special circumstances (which we shouldn't have to worry about it) should always be in a container.
  • Mux: Multiplexing multiple streams together is typically referred to as muxing. This is also similar to multiplexing in a data network except that the frames have to be in sync in terms of timing. Typically this means alternating between 1 video frame and multiple audio frames. This should be handled automatically but I figured it was worth explaining.
  • Container: When you mux streams together you put them into a container. The container has its own header to store metadata about the streams so they can be separated correctly later.
  • Demux: Predictably demultiplexing the individual streams from a container is better known as demuxing.
  • Encoding: Just like any other type of information video and audio have to be encoded in some standardized data format for processing by a computer. Encoding and format are not the same thing (see container) but they're commonly used interchangeably. If you're going to do that just make sure you're clear that's what you mean. If you want to be extra clear it's safer to call it encoding, standard, or encoding standard but even I'm not that much of a language nazi.
  • Encoding Standard: Some encoding standards are inseparable from the software used to create them. For example QuickTime refers to both the encoding standard and the encoder. However the most common encoding standards are entirely separate from the software itself. It makes things easier if you can separate them in your head. For example there are encoders called DivX and XviD but both encode video according to standards defined in MPEG-4 Part 2. It is not DivX or XviD video, but rather MPEG-4 ASP or MPEG-4 SP video.
  • Definition: Definition is the accuracy of a sample or group of samples. In other words the amount of detail captured. Once a stream is captured the maximum definition is set. It can never be increased but can be decreased.
  • Resolution: Resolution is the precision of a sample or group of samples. In other words the amount of detail encoded (stored) for a sample or group of samples. Increasing the resolution does not increase definition but decreasing the resolution permanently decreases the definition.
  • Interpolation: If you're familiar with this mathematical term that's all this is. Otherwise just think of it as a mathematical educated guess. It's used to create new information, typically for upscaling to a higher resolution.

Picture Groups

One way to reduce the size of a video stream is to avoid duplicating details which don't change from one frame to the next. This is particularly relevant to screen capture where it's common for several sequential frames to be exactly the same and many others to be nearly so. This section describes how this can be done by grouping pictures together. To best understand this information I recommend you read through the descriptions, attempt to follow the explanation which follows, and then repeat as many times as necessary.

  • I-frame: An Intra picture, more commonly known as an I-frame, is a full picture equivalent to a normal image file.
  • Delta Frame: Delta frame is the generic name for any frame which describes changes compared to one or more other frames. It cannot be decoded by itself. Any other frames it references must be decoded first. These may be Intra frames or other Delta frames - often both.
    • P Frame: A Predicted picture, more commonly called a P-frame, uses only references to previous frames. These are the most efficient delta frames in terms of encoding and decoding efficiency but the least efficient in terms of file size.
    • B Frame: A Bidirectional picture, or B-frame, describes changes relative to both previous and future frames. They are (on average) the most efficient in terms of file size but the least efficient in terms of encoding and decoding efficiency.
  • Keyframe: In the most basic terms a Keyframe is an I frame where video decoding can begin without referencing any previous frames. Although keyframe and I-frame are sometimes used interchangeably, not every I-frame is automatically a keyframe. Also be aware that whether a particular I-frame is also a keyframe may be a function of a particular application and not determined exclusively by the properties of the video stream.
  • GOP: A Group Of Pictures, or GOP, is a sequence of frames beginning with an I-frame which is followed by 1 or more P-frames and/or B-frames and sometimes also additional I-frames.
    • Open GOP: A GOP is considered open if it includes one or more delta frames which reference frames from preceding and/or subseqent GOPs.
    • Closed GOP: A closed GOP is entirely self-contained. No frame in a closed GOP references a frame from another GOP. At the very least a closed GOP cannot end with a B-frame.

This is an example of a fairly simple GOP structure, like what you might find in a MPEG-2 file. At the top is the order these frames will play. At the bottom is the order they will be encoded, decoded, and stored. Most of the I and P frames are encoded (and must be decoded) out of order because otherwise the encoder or decoder won't have the necessary information for the preceding B frames.

DisplayVsStreamOrder.png

It's also worth mentioning that the first GOP (00-05) ends with a B frame so it cannot be closed while the second (07-09) ends with a P frame so it can be.

For capturing you may use P frames (depending on your choice of encoder primarily) but never B frames because they're not suitable for realtime encoding. When you reach the final step of encoding for upload (or most other distribution methods) you will rely heavily on B frames to retain maximum quality at a minimal file size.

Containers

  • Matroska: Matroska is a free (as in speech, beer, and patent encumbrance) universal multimedia container. If Matroska doesn't support it you almost certainly shouldn't be using it. The only down side is a lack of support in video editing software and possibly a lack of support by online video services although YouTube is happy to accept Matroska uploads. If you want to use one of the big commercial editors Matroska will give you problems. Matroska files typically have a MKV extension for video or muxed video and audio. It can also be used for just audio although MKA is more common.
  • WebM: WebM is Google's open source media container. Actually it's just a subset of Matroska. However unlike Matroska you can't put just any stream you want into it. It's intended specifically for VP8 video which is a successor to the VP7 codec Flash Video was based on. Google bought On2, the company behind VP8, a couple years back to create an open source competitor to H.264. That hasn't happened yet. This one is more interesting than useful.
  • MP4: As the name suggests MP4 is the official MPEG-4 container. You can put H.264 or MPEG-4 ASP (DivX, XviD, and the like) video in this container and MP3, AAC, or AC3 audio. Other than storing H.264 streams (because they're a pain without a container) I don't have much use for it because I use LPCM or FLAC audio in my YouTube videos. If you prefer MP3 or AAC it's not a bad choice. Theoretically you can also put MPEG-2 video in it except I don't know about software support for it and I don't bother with MPEG-2 any more. The file extension should always be MP4 but you will see M4V used for video only files or M4A for audio (thank Apple for that one).
  • RIFF: RIFF is a ancient and generic container format for any type of data. Because it is not specific to any particular type of data it uses chunks instead of frames. Unlike a frame, a chunk does not have a header of its own. Instead it is referenced in 1 or more indexes at the beginning of the RIFF file. Each index amounts to master header for a group of chunks.
  • WAV: The WAV container is an implementation of RIFF specifically designed for audio streams. Although it can hold various types of audio you shouldn't be using it for anything except LPCM. For practical purposes it's enough to know that a WAV file can be treated like an elementary audio stream.
  • AVI: The AVI container is another specialized application of the RIFF format. It stands for Audio Video Interleave. Interleaving is just another way to describe muxing. Like all RIFF-based formats AVI files store the metadata (equivalent to frame headers) in monolithic indexes at the beginning of the file. There is one index for each stream so in our case there would be 2 - 1 each for video and audio.
        The relatively primitive nature of AVI's chunk-based approach makes it unsuitable for B-frames because VfW was designed around the assumption that frames are stored in display order. It can be done, but it is always a hack. That's why VfW has generally been ignored by x264 developers.
    • AVI 1.0: The original AVI specification, commonly referred to as AVI 1.0, is the only type of AVI file you can work with via the equally ancient VfW interface. It is officially limited to a file size of 2GB, although with some trickery AVI 1.0 files up to 4GB can be created and read. You may notice that these sizes exactly match the limitations of the FAT16 and FAT32 file systems respectively.
    • AVI 2.0/OpenDML: AVI 2.0 files use a Matrox extension of the AVI 1.0 standard called OpenDML which removes the 2GB/4GB file size limitation. There are other technical differences, but at the end of the day that's the problem of your DirectShow filters. As long as we're going through DirectX (which makes use of VfW components but not VfW itself) this should be the only type of AVI files to worry about.
  • ASF: This is Microsoft's proprietary container for Windows Media (WMV and WMA) if you capture to these formats you'll use it for initial storage and then you'll convert it to something else and switch containers. Almost nobody uses ASF because almost nobody uses WMV and WMA is almost exclusively used in Windows Media Center. The extension, predictably enough, is ASF.

Video Standards

  • AVC/H.264: MPEG-4 Part 10 defines an advanced video encoding standard better known as H.264 (the ITU designation), MPEG-4 AVC, or simply AVC (Advanced Video Coding). It is far and away the best video encoding standard in terms of quality vs. bitrate (file size) but due to the complexity required is also relatively CPU intensive to encode, and potentially also to decode. It also has a lossless profile which is particularly suited to low motion video like typical screen captures. H.264 streams are raw, rather than elementary so they should always be stored in a container. Although they can be stored in MPEG PS or MPEG TS containers MP4 or Matroska are typically used.
  • WMV 9: Windows Media Video is a family of video encoding standards of which only WMV 9 is of any particular interest as it is designed for everything from screen capture software to streaming. The VC-1 standard (aka WMV3, WVC1 or SMPTE 421M) used on some Blu-ray discs is a subset of WMV 9. At relatively high bitrate the quality is comparable to H.264. Being a proprietary Microsoft technology, WMV files are stored almost exclusively in their ASF container.
  • CamStudio Lossless: CamStudio Lossless is an encoding standard implemented by the VfW codec of the same name. There is also a decoder, but no encoder, built into FFmpeg. It is highly optimized for realtime encoding (eg screen capture) of low motion video. Within those constraints it offers unbeatable efficiency (small file sizes). The one caveat for this codec is that it can be tricky to decode in AviSynth. For some reason AviSynth doesn't handle the way CamStudio Lossless handles duplicate frames properly. To bypass this you simply need to use the FFmpeg-based FFMS2 source filter rather than VfW to decode it with. It can be stored in either AVI or MKV containers.
  • UT Video: UT Video is one of the newest lossless codecs. I haven't used it personally but for general purpose use it is reputed to be as good as it gets. I can almost guarantee it won't hold a candle to CamStudio Lossless for screen captures but if it's more "normal" video rather than super low motion like the typical screen capture it is apparently in a class by itself. Even if you don't use it for capturing it should be a great choice for intermediate tasks like editing. Being a codec means you'll need to put it in either an AVI or Matroska container.
  • FFV1: FFV1 is FFmpeg's lossless video standard. It can be encoded either directly with FFmpeg or via VfW using ffdshow (don't look for a release version it's in perpetual beta). For normal or high motion video it's one of the most efficient but it is fairly CPU intensive. For screen capture probably most suitable as an intermediate format for editing. However it is not considered as fast or efficient as UT Video so I'd go with that one first. You will need to store it in either an AVI or Matroska container.
  • MSU: MSU is a commercial lossless codec that's free for personal use. People seem to either love this one or hate it - either it works flawlessly or it chews up CPU cycles and takes forever. Tests I've seen seem to indicate it's efficiency (output filesize) is better than FFV1 but not as good as UT Video. I'll probably never bother to try it out just because I prefer open source alternatives which the rest of the lossless codecs on this list are. Once again this is an AVI or Matroska container.
  • HuffYUV: HuffYUV I include more for sentimental reasons than anything else I suppose. It's the original open source lossless codec and was originally written by Ben Rudiak Gould who also created the first version of AviSynth. It should be less CPU intensive than FFV1 or MSU, but still not as good as UT Video. Efficiency wise definitely at the bottom of the list. However it does have the advantage of being available either as a standalone codec or part of ffdshow. Again, AVI or Matroska container.

Audio Standards

  • LPCM/PCM: LPCM stands for Linear Pulse Code Modulation which may also be referred to as just PCM or uncompressed. This is a sort of universal and simple way of storing audio used for everything from Betamax to CD to DVD and Blu-ray. There is no standard LPCM elementary stream but LPCM in a WAV container can be treated like one.
  • FLAC: Free Lossless Audio Encoding or FLAC is an open source encoding standard for losslessly compressing LPCM audio. Unlike LPCM FLAC does use elementary streams which can contain a variety of (mostly CD Audio related) metadata. It can be stored by itself in a FLAC container. It can also be stored in a Matroska container either by itself or muxed with other streams.
  • MP3: MPEG-1 Layer 3 Audio is losslessly compressed audio typically found in an elementary stream which also has a sort of secondary header added for tag metadata. It can also be muxed into pretty much any container although typically it's found in MKV, MP4, or AVI files.
  • AAC LC: Advanced Audio Coding Low Complexity is part of the MPEG-2 standards family. At very low bitrates (128kbps or less) it tends to have slightly superior sound to MP3 at the same bitrate. At higher bitrates they are more or less equivalent. It is often referred to simply as AAC. Apple uses this encoding standard for iTunes downloads. There is no elementary stream format so raw AAC streams are typically found in MP4 containers by themselves. They can be muxed into MP4, MPEG PS, MPEG TS, or Matroska containers.
  • WMA: Windows Media Audio is a family of audio encoding standards which include a lossy standard more or less comparable in quality to MP3 as well as a lossless one. I could give you a lot more details but WMA really isn't worth the effort.

Windows Specific

  • Uncompressed Video: In Microsoft land uncompressed video is defined as RGB 4:4:4 (every pixel includes all three color components). Uncompressed video can be encoded or rendered directly without any additional components.
  • Uncompressed Audio: Microsoft defines uncompressed audio as LPCM at any bit depth and any samplerate. Uncompressed audio can be encoded or rendered directly without any additional components.
  • Compressor: A component used to encode video or audio to a format other than the ones listed above as uncompressed.
  • Decompressor: A component for decoding any video format except those listed above as uncompressed.
  • Splitter: This is Microsoft speak for demuxer. Functionally it's exactly the same thing.
  • Renderer: A component used to send uncompressed video or audio to your display or speakers.
  • VfW: VfW is Microsoft's ancient attempt to copy Quicktime. Most things you can do via VfW are better handled either through DirectShow or a standalone executable.
  • Codec: In VfW Compressors and Decompressors for a given format are typically included in a single Codec. However it's still possible to have a component that's just a compressor or a decompressor.
  • DirectShow: This is the DirectX multimedia framework which replaced VfW. While it is a huge improvement in terms of playback, it isn't always reliable for random access.
  • Filter: Rather than monolithic components like the codecs in VfW, DirectShow uses discrete components called filters. Each filter performs a single, specialized task like opening or writing a file splitting streams from a container, decoding or encoding a stream, or rendering uncompressed video or audio. DirectShow filter files have an extension of AX.
  • Pins: The inputs and output of DirectShow filters are called pins. To send information from one filter to another you connect the output pin from the first filter to the input pin on the second. Depending on the filter an input or output pin could also connect to a file or a device.
  • Filter Graph: In DirectShow the chain of filters used for a given set of operations is called a graph. A graph is built automatically by video playing or processing programs. It consists of the filters themselves and the connections between the various pins.
  • GraphEdit: Alternatively you can use a free Microsoft tool called GraphEdit to either open a file to see what filters are involved or manually build a graph by selecting your own filters and connecting them yourself. You can even save a graph to open with various tools just like opening a file. I actually use an open source tool called GraphStudio which offers the same basic interface but more features. In either case these are good tools for troubleshooting DirectShow problems. It's probably one of the better pieces of software Microsoft has ever produced.
      FilterGraph.png
    • MFC: Media Foundation Classes is essentially DirectShow except that it's locked down so they don't have all those pesky volunteer developers turning their crappy closed ecosystem into something infinitely more useful and interesting like they did with VfW and DirectShow. Just remember that no matter how much an MFC filter looks like something from DirectShow they're intentionally designed not to work with it.

    Color

    This seems like a simple enough subject. When you look at an object in the real world like your keyboard what you're seeing is whatever frequencies of light aren't being absorbed. Instead they're being reflected back. That's subtractive color. When you look at a computer monitor you are actually seeing light being shined directly at you. That's additive color.

    Each pixel on your monitor is actually 3 different dots, one red, one green, and one blue. This is called RGB color space. The intensity of each one determines the final color of the pixel and can be expressed in a value from 0-255. That's 8 bits per color or 24 bits per pixel making it 24 bit color.

    Video uses a different color scheme. Instead of RGB it uses YUV. The Y represents luma (light and dark) while the U and V represent chroma (color). Technically the chroma is only red and blue because your eyes are more sensitive to green and therefore it's more or less included in the luma. This is the YUV color space

    That also means the UV components don't need to be at full resolution because you won't be able to tell the difference. In fact they are usually only 1/4 the resolution which saves a lot of space. So now instead of 24 bits per pixel each block of 4 pixels uses 32 bits for luma but only 16 bits for chroma for a total of 12 bits per pixel. In other words half the original size.

    Additionally video colors have a different gamut than computer colors. For video, whether RGB or YUV, the values range from 16-235 instead of 0-255. That means not every color your monitor displays correlates to a legal color for video. These illegal values are called out of gamut colors. What this ultimately means is that the colors in your final video will be different from the colors on your desktop. It shouldn't be a big deal but it's easy to think you're doing something wrong when that happens or that there's some way to "fix" it. You're not and there isn't.

    What you should try to make sure of, though, is that you're not converting between RGB and YUV (actually YV12 once you include the chroma downsampling) more than once. If all you do is capture and encode that shouldn't be a problem. If you do any kind of editing in between you should figure out what colorspace your editing tools use and compare that to your capture codec. If your editing tools operate in RGB color space you should make sure you capture RGB. If they use YUV you can capture either RGB or YUV as long as you only perform the conversion once.

    Other Useful Software

    • AviSynth: This is one of the most useful and flexible video tools ever created. It's a script-based editor that uses its own custom scripting language. It's extensible with plugins and can even be linked directly to programatically. Even though it's GPL licensed there are also exceptions written in to allow developers to link to AviSynth.dll without worrying about whether they have to open their code as well.
          It basically works like this. You write a simple script specifying a source file or
      files to open and any processing instructions you may have and then save it with an extension of AVS. You can then open that script with just about any program that can open an AVI file and it supplies the output of your script as uncompressed video and audio frames. That sounds a little complicated - and it certainly can be - but it can also be as simple as 1 or 2 lines:

              AviSource("D:\Videos\MyFile.avi")
              ConvertToYV12()

      I won't demonstrate how much more complicated it can get because that would be cruel and probably not something you'll ever use. ;)
    • FFmpeg: This is the holy grail of open source video and audio programs because it allows you to decode just about any file you can come up with and also bundles numerous impressive open source encoders including x264 and FFmpeg's own FFV1. It is also a nest of potential patent litigation so you have to be careful about where your server is located if you choosed to distribute it with a program. In most cases it's better to simply link to a website where somebody is providing a download from beyond the reach of the various trade groups.
    • x264: H.264 is the most important video format in the world for the forseeable future and besides being free and open source x264 also happens to be the best x264 encoder in the world. It is a command line tool but there are lots of front ends available and honestly the command line isn't all that intimidating because the built-in presets are probably all you'll ever need. As with FFmpeg though, beware patent traps and the trolls who guard them.
    • AviDemux: This open source and cross platform video editor uses FFmpeg libraries to do all kinds of basic editing. It can also be run from the command line, making it potentially a good tool for preparing captured video for upload.
    • ffdshow: This is a package of DirectShow filters using open source libraries (predominantly FFmpeg) and also includes a VfW interface for them as well. You may not need it but I've used it for years.
    • mkvtoolnix: This is the official toolkit for Matroska files. You can put streams in, take streams out, join streams together, and numerous other things.
    • LAV Tools: Yet another FFmpeg-based toolkit. This one provides individual DirectShow filters implementing FFmpeg features rather than a single package like ffdshow. One of the more useful of these filters is a Matroska splitter. You can't open MKV files using DirectShow without one.
    • Preferred DirectShow Filter Tweaker: When you have more than one DirectShow filter installed to handle the same type of file each one has a priority. Sometimes you need to change the priorities of one or more filters to make sure DirectShow uses the one you want. This program can do that for you.
    • Media Player Classic - Home Cinema: This DirectShow based media player can handle just about any file you throw at it. You can also get all of its built-in DirectShow filters as standalone AX files.
    [/list]

    606
    General Software Discussion / Re: Swapping Out Software?
    « on: July 18, 2013, 08:15 PM »
    ^ I think a good deal of Adobe's motivation in what they're currently doing is to reduce the number of CSS customers (i.e casual users and non-pros) they have and focus on the hardcore graphics professionals. A market where they're firmly entrenched for many reasons both good and bad - but mostly good.

    When selling complex products that require support, the last thing you want is to have every kid on the block using it badly. You can be profitable (sometimes even more profitable) with lower sales figures. Because sales don't automatically map out to better margins. Sometimes small, very fat, and happy is where it's at for a tech company.

    Besides, non-professionals don't buy into those high margin support packages and add-ons that the pros do. No do they sign up for those expensive training sessions and workshops. You're lucky if they buy a book. And even luckier if they do more than give it a quick skim when they do buy one. Amateurs much prefer to tie up the support lines for ages when they need help. ("I don't know about any of that! Just tell me what I need to click on to do this...what? The tools menu? Where's that?)

    Supporting unqualified users can seriously hurt the bottom line. Autocad realized that ages ago. So did the producers of most of the other heavy-duty CAD, 3D modeling, and animation packages. Many almost seem to go out of their way to try and steer the 'average joe' away from their flagship products.

    No. This isn't an oversight, or hubris, or something stupid on Adobe's part. It's a very sharp and calculated business decision. I call it a "velvet rope" approach: qualified, target segment customers only, please?
     (see attachment in previous post)You say you do this for a living?
    Because your name's not on my list.



    Time will tell if Adobe called it right with this one. FWIW, when it comes to CSS, I think they did. 8)



    That's an interesting theory but it has nothing to do with Adobe's decision, and on top of that it would be a sign that their executives are completely incompetent. If the problem was that hobbyists cost too much to support because they make too much use of Adobe's services and don't pay for the extras they would either limit the basic support to make people pay extra for what they're getting now or simply raise the price of the software. What you're describing is like treating a sprained wrist by amputating your arm at the shoulder.

    But I don't have to guess at Adobe's motivations because they telegraphed them clearly just a day after they announced Creative Cloud (in 2011 IIRC). That was the day they announced that starting with the next Creative Suite upgrade versions would no longer be available for anything more than 1 version back. They didn't make a big public announcement about that. It just got a quick and quiet press release on the Adobe website.

    The reason for Creative Cloud is that Adobe wanted a way to force their smaller customers, many of whom were only upgrading every other version, to buy every version instead. That year they also announced they were transitioning to an annual upgrade cycle.

    The fact that all those things point to the same conclusion is not a coincidence. Creative Cloud is not about shedding customers or trimming support costs. It's about forcing their customers to give them money on a fixed schedule whether it makes sense for them or not. To quote The Princess Bride, anyone who tells you anything else is selling something.

    Adobe's actions amount to nothing less than looking their customers in the eye (not all of them but apparently a significant number in their eyes) and saying, "We've heard your requests and you can stick them up your ass. You'll get what we want to sell you when we want in the way we want and that's the way it is." There's a word for companies who do that. That word is footnote. Today they're pissing off their small customers tomorrow they'll be pissing off some of their bigger customers and before too long they won't have any customers to worry about.

    607
    The problem is that it's not designed as a realtime encoder.


    Fair enough.. And it probably makes sense to split up the job of rapid lossless recording vs the job of getting good compression.

    So we're back to the idea that ESR should have a way to post-process (either on demand or automatically) video into a format for uploading and sharing.

    Probably - but let me get back to you on the FFmpeg thing first and see what the options are. I suspect x264 ends up being to CPU intensive either way but we should start with a better picture of the possibilities before getting invested in anything.

    608
    why x264 instead of other h.264 implementations?  Just wondering...

    (I think I found the answer on my own)

    Yep, that's a good technical explanation. The less technical one is that x264 is not just free (as in beer and speech, but not necessarily patent encumbrance) but also the best H.264 encoder available with the exception of certain situations involving gradients where CinemaCraft's encoder is supposed to be the only good choice. I say supposed to be because it's a high end professional encoder that costs something like $50,000 so needless to say I haven't used it.

    x264 is so good that The Criterion Collection paid the tens of thousands of dollars required for Blu-ray certification. If there's one thing Criterion is known for (besides their huge selection of art films) it's their uncompromising attitude to quality.

    609
    x264 in lossless mode sounds intriguing as a potential default recording format for ESR..
    That would be a tricky proposition. The problem is that it's not designed as a realtime encoder. There used to be a VfW version around but trust me VfW should be considered a last resort option and VfW x264 is a bad idea.

    I do put up with VfW for CamStudio because it's better than any comparable program that doesn't cost hundreds of dollars. And because the CamStudio Lossless Codec is only available in VfW.

    What you could do in theory is pipe the video to FFmpeg for encoding since x264 is integrated into it. I know FFmpeg supports pipe input but other than that I know basically nothing about it. I can see a lot of potential difficulties there like buffering.

    Actually, though, that does make me think of a different option. I seem to recall that ffdshow can decode CamStudio Lossless using libavcodec so there's definitely FFmpeg support of some kind. That leads me to believe there's probably encoding support as well.

    Well that's it. Now I'm on a mission to work this out. Damn you mouser!  :P

    610
    General Software Discussion / Re: Swapping Out Software?
    « on: July 18, 2013, 10:40 AM »
    If Adobe doesn't amend its cloud-only subscription policy I'll be switching from Creative Suite to the first competitor to include the features that I want (I suspect that will take a while to occur).
    -cranioscopical (July 18, 2013, 08:45 AM)
    The good news is that Adobe's decision makes it much more likely for that competition to emerge. Let's face it, some of the features you get in a program like Photoshop are just flat out unrivaled. I can't pay what it costs and couldn't justify it in any case but as a GIMP user I'm insanely jealous of some of the things even someone with my limited skills can do with it. They could sell it for cheaper but it would cost so much to develop something comparable it's possible nobody else could.

    But now Adobe has created a new opportunity for clearly inferior competitors based on a stupid policy that they mistakenly think is a feature. It's not. Features are what your customers want. So now somebody else can get their foot in the door and steal some of Adobe's customers with a product that's just good enough. It won't be good enough for the hardcore Photoshop users but it will be good enough to take some percentage. That, in turn, will produce an influx of revenue which can be used to accelerate the development process and eventually it will be good enough for more Adobe customers and then all bets are off.

    This, in a nutshell, is the never ending cycle of business.

    611
    I consider myself something of an expert on screenshot software. For years screenshots have been a staple of my work at AfterDawn. My philosophy for writing guides is to come up with images that explain a process in full. The text is just there to flesh out the details.

    IMO there is only 1 program even in the same class with Screenshot Captor and that's SnapDraw. The 2 programs use basically the same object compositing approach. In fact they share most of the same core features but SnapDraw is oriented almost entirely toward doing things 1 way and Screenshot Captor is designed to customize for whatever workflow you want. It also has more and better actual image processing.

    I do miss the separate preview tab from SnapDraw and also its option to composite a new capture on top of an already open one. There are also some cool resize and crop options which are cool in theory but I usually ended up fine tuning everything via text box anyway so no big deal. SnapDraw also has an Autonumber feature for its version of Arrows (Callouts) that was handy for me because I'm scatterbrained but not important as long as I can easily go back and change things manually.

    The tldr version is that SnapDraw is best for doing things the SnapDraw way and Screenshot Captor is the best for everything else. Or to borrow an analogy a programmer I worked with used to compare VB and Delphi, SnapDraw makes the easy things easier. Screenshot Captor makes the hard things easier.


    612
    I could have sworn I already replied to this. Must have gotten distracted and forgotten to hit the Post button  :-[

    Here's the easy answer to encoding screencasts for uploading. It's probably also incomplete because I've only tried it with YouTube. I encode all my video to H.264 using x264 in lossless mode because it's insanely efficient. The same caveat applies here as using CamStudio Lossless for capture - for anything but low motion screencap all bets are off. To give you an idea just how efficient it is I compress the 16/48 stereo audio with Flac and it still amounts to almost the entire size of the final MKV file.

    You might be able to use the same video format for most video sites but I have no idea how prevalent Flac support is. I'd be willing to bet MKV support is rare beyond YouTube but MP4 should be pretty much universal.

    I'm actually glad it will be a while before you get back to this. After years of procrastination I've decided I need learn some actual programming skills for various projects I want to pursue so I'm giving myself a crash course in Python. One of those projects happens to be an alternate version of AviSynth called Vapoursynth which uses Python instead of native AVS scripts.

    613
    Living Room / Re: Microsoft responds to NSA allegations
    « on: July 17, 2013, 09:44 PM »
    I posted this already at TechDirt but since I don't like sending people to another site in mid-conversation I'll just repost it here. Over the past few years I've had to cover a lot of businesses, lobbyists, politicians and lawyers for my job. There is a fine art to parsing a statement released by any of them because they pretty much never actually say what they're trying to convince you to believe.

    Mad Magazine used to occasionally run a feature called, "When They Say... They Mean." With apologies to the late Bill Gaines I present my interpretation of Microsoft's non-denial denial.

    When they say... Today we have asked the Attorney General of the United States to personally take action to permit Microsoft and other companies to share publicly more complete information about how we handle national security requests for customer information. We believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information with the public, yet the Government is stopping us. For example, Government lawyers have yet to respond to the petition we filed in court on June 19, seeking permission to publish the volume of national security requests we have received. We hope the Attorney General can step in to change this situation.
    They mean... As long as this is so embarassing to high ranking government officials we will have plausible deniability. Once they figure out how to spin this we'll coordinate together to make sure we keep our stories straight. We remain confident in the ability of career bureacrats to cover their own asses which they can't do without covering ours as well.

    When they say... Until that happens, we want to share as much information as we currently can. There are significant inaccuracies in the interpretations of leaked government documents reported in the media last week.
    They mean... We're really embarrased that people found out what we were up to. We can't actually refute a single fact from the leaked documents because they're all true. Also, we don't know what else that rat bastard Snowden leaked. Since the government is giving us lots of cover right now we can at least try to control the debate.

    When they say... We have asked the Government again for permission to discuss the issues raised by these new documents, and our request was denied by government lawyers.
    They mean... We're victims here just like you. It's us against them.

    When they say... In the meantime, we have summarized below the information that we are in a position to share, in response to the allegations in the reporting:
    They mean... Our crack team of professional liars in Public Relations has come up with a 100% substance-free defense. It strongly implies a complete denial of our complicity in NSA surveillance without actually commiting to a single relevant fact. The meaning is subject to change over time to match any additional revelations. We're confident major media outlets will simply regurgitate it without any critical analysis and the public will follow along like the sheep they are. That's why we're running Microsoft and you're asking us if we want fries with that.

    When they say... Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail): We do not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages. Full stop.
    They mean... Technically no human has direct access to anything stored on a computer but it sure sounds like we're keeping the government away from your data doesn't it?

    When they say... Like all providers of communications services, we are sometimes obligated to comply with lawful demands from governments to turn over content for specific accounts, pursuant to a search warrant or court order.
    They mean... Let's change the subject.

    When they say... This is true in the United States and other countries where we store data. When we receive such a demand, we review it and, if obligated to we comply.
    They mean... We were just following orders.

    When they say... We do not provide any government with the technical capability to access user content directly or by itself.
    They mean... Government agents get your information remotely and access is controlled by Microsoft servers. That's how cloud services work.

    When they say... Instead, governments must continue to rely on legal process to seek from us specified information about identified accounts.
    They mean... The NSA just happened to specify "All Information from Every Account."

    When they say... Not surprisingly, we remain subject to these types of legal obligations when we update our products and even when we strengthen encryption and security measures to better protect content as it travels across the Web.
    They mean... This is not about your data. It's about our business. Government contracts account for a significant percentage of our profits and we intend to keep it that way. You don't shit where you eat.

    When they say... Recent leaked government documents have focused on the addition of HTTPS encryption to Outlook.com instant messaging, which is designed to make this content more secure as it travels across the Internet.
    They mean... See, we're doing everything we can to protect you. We really do care.

    When they say... To be clear, we do not provide any government with the ability to break the encryption,
    They mean... Seriously, let's change the subject. We are not doing what nobody accused us of doing.

    When they say... nor do we provide the government with the encryption keys.
    They mean... While we're at it, though, let's address that story about how the NSA has their own backdoor built into Windows. We didn't provide them with that. They provided it themselves. We just put it on your computer.

    When they say... When we are legally obligated to comply with demands,
    They mean... As long as they have a court order signed by a judge we have enough plausible deniability to give them whatever they ask for. Fighting for your basic Constitutional rights is a high risk, low reward proposition and it's not our job.

    When they say... we pull the specified content from our servers where it sits in an unencrypted state, and then we provide it to the government agency.
    They mean... We don't let the NSA tell our servers to give them all your data. We tell our servers to give the NSA all your data.

    When they say... Cutting through the technical details, all of the information in the recent leaked government documents adds up to two things.
    They mean... Seriously, though, that's all over your head anyway. Here's a dumbed down version even you can understand.

    When they say... First, while we did discuss legal compliance requirements with the government as reported last week, in none of these discussions did Microsoft provide or agree to provide any government with direct access to user content or the ability to break our encryption. Second, these discussions were instead about how Microsoft would meet its continuing obligation to comply with the law by providing specific information in response to lawful government orders.
    They mean... If we repeat these talking points enough most of you will convince yourselves we did nothing wrong because we're pushing the right psychological buttons. We don't need no stinking facts. We just need to give the part of your brain that wants to believe us an excuse to shout down all your reason and logic. One way to do that is repeat the same thing over and over.

    When they say... SkyDrive: We respond to legal government demands for data stored in SkyDrive in the same way. All providers of these types of storage services have always been under legal obligations to provide stored content when they receive proper legal demands. In 2013 we made changes to our processes to be able to continue to comply with an increasing number of legal demands of governments worldwide. None of these changes provided any government with direct access to SkyDrive. Nor did any of them change the fact that we still require governments to follow legal processes when requesting customer data.
    They mean... Rinse, lather, repeat.

    When they say... The process used for producing SkyDrive files is the same whether it is for a criminal search warrant or in response to a national security order, in the United States or elsewhere.

    They mean... Every government has the power to compel us to hand over information. What the US government is doing is nothing out of the ordinary if you look at it on a completely abstract and theoretical level. Of course on that level vanilla and chocolate are exactly the same because they're both flavors.

    When they say... Skype Calls: As with other services, we only respond to legal government demands, and we only comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. The reporting last week made allegations about a specific change in 2012. We continue to enhance and evolve the Skype offerings and have made a number of improvements to the technical back-end for Skype, such as the 2012 move to in-house hosting of “supernodes” and the migration of much Skype IM traffic to servers in our data centers. These changes were not made to facilitate greater government access to audio, video, messaging or other customer data.
    They mean... How could a company that cares so much about you be colluding to violate your rights? We're not saying we didn't do exactly that, but we're hurt that you would believe it.

    When they say... Looking forward, as Internet-based voice and video communications increase, it is clear that governments will have an interest in using (or establishing) legal powers to secure access to this kind of content to investigate crimes or tackle terrorism. We therefore assume that all calls, whether over the Internet or by fixed line or mobile phone, will offer similar levels of privacy and security.
    They mean... Don't be naive. All your communications have been subject to secret surveillance since 9/11. All we're doing is complying with government policy. If you don't like it blame them.

    When they say... Even in these circumstances Microsoft remains committed to responding only to valid legal demands for specific user account information. We will not provide governments with direct or unfettered access to customer data or encryption keys.
    They mean... Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    When they say... Enterprise Email and Document Storage: If we receive a government demand for data held by a business customer, we take steps to redirect the government to the customer directly, and we notify the customer unless we are legally prohibited from doing so. We have never provided any government with customer data from any of our business or government customers for national security purposes.
    They mean... If you're an enterprise customer rest assured you are still a special little snowflake. Your willingness to pay premium prices for our software and services year in and year out is the lifeblood of our company. Fighting for your rights is the fiscally responsible thing to do, and by fighting we mean sending the government to you. After that you're on your own.

    When they say... In terms of criminal law enforcement requests, we made clear in our Law Enforcement Requests Report that throughout 2012 we only complied with four requests related to business or government customers. In three instances, we notified the customer of the demand and they asked us to produce the data. In the fourth case, the customer received the demand directly and asked Microsoft to produce the data.
    They mean... After all you're going to be just as receptive to government demands as we are anyway. You know better than to argue principle or due process with agencies that can crush you on a whim.

    When they say... We do not provide any government with the ability to break the encryption used between our business customers and their data in the cloud, nor do we provide the government with the encryption keys.
    They mean... We didn't do that thing nobody accused us of to you either.

    When they say... In short, when governments seek information from Microsoft relating to customers, we strive to be principled, limited in what we disclose, and committed to transparency. Put together, all of this adds up to the following across all of our software and services:
    They mean... Now let's make sure the last thing you read is our talking points. This will probably be all you remember anyway.

    When they say... Microsoft does not provide any government with direct and unfettered access to our customer’s data. Microsoft only pulls and then provides the specific data mandated by the relevant legal demand.

    If a government wants customer data – including for national security purposes – it needs to follow applicable legal process, meaning it must serve us with a court order for content or subpoena for account information.

    We only respond to requests for specific accounts and identifiers. There is no blanket or indiscriminate access to Microsoft’s customer data. The aggregate data we have been able to publish shows clearly that only a tiny fraction – fractions of a percent – of our customers have ever been subject to a government demand related to criminal law or national security.

    All of these requests are explicitly reviewed by Microsoft’s compliance team, who ensure the requests are valid, reject those that are not, and make sure we only provide the data specified in the order. While we are obligated to comply, we continue to manage the compliance process by keeping track of the orders received, ensuring they are valid, and disclosing only the data covered by the order.

    Microsoft is obligated to comply with the applicable laws that governments around the world – not just the United States – pass, and this includes responding to legal demands for customer data. All of us now live in a world in which companies and government agencies are using big data, and it would be a mistake to assume this somehow is confined to the United States. Agencies likely obtain this information from a variety of sources and in a variety of ways, but if they seek customer data from Microsoft they must follow legal processes.

    The world needs a more open and public discussion of these practices. While the debate should focus on the practices of all governments, it should start with practices in the United States. In part, this is an obvious reflection of the most recent stories in the news. It’s also a reflection of something more timeless. The United States has been a role model by guaranteeing a Constitutional right to free speech. We want to exercise that right. With U.S. Government lawyers stopping us from sharing more information with the public, we need the Attorney General to uphold the Constitution.

    If we do receive approval to share more information, we’ll publish it immediately.
    They mean... All hail the hypnotoad. All hail the hypnotoad. All hail...

    To be fair I took a few creative liberties with my translation, though in my defense I've found Microsoft to be the easiest company in the tech world to read. In any case my larger, and entirely serious point is that Microsoft didn't deny anything. While its true they couldn't provide details about what did happen they were entirely free to deny specific allegations from the leaks but what they did instead was put on a gladiatorial match against their own straw man. Bread and circuses is right.

    614
    Living Room / Re: Domain Name Registrars
    « on: July 15, 2013, 07:11 PM »
    I ended up going with 1&1 for my domain last December but that wasn't a transfer - a domain I let lapse through GoDaddy several months prior actually - and all I'm using it for right now is email and IMAP access. I don't remember all the specifics of my own decision but I do recall it largely came down to bottom line price due to a lack of concrete long term plans for the domain. I've definitely never regretted my choice.

    Based on what I've read over the years I actually had Namecheap and Name.com on my short list and my research last year just confirmed my initial impressions of both.

    615
    You're right, it seems very slow loading the first time.  But bring it up again and it's faster the second and subsequent times.

    That said I usually use System Explorer instead, and leave it running.  It has most everything I need and some of the features are handy (like the running history of processes, connections and events).  If I need anything else I can fire up Process Explorer.  I don't replace the default Task Manager with either, as they are both simple to get at when I need them.
    I use System Explorer as well, but I do use it as a replacement for Task Manager (on Win7 and Win8) and don't leave it running all the time. I find it particularly useful for tracking down problems with hanging applications, particularly in Windows 8. Very often when Task Manager shows you that a program is hung System Explorer will also show that the DWM.exe (ie the compositing window manager that runs full time now in Win8) is also hung. In other words what really appears to be going on is that the userland program is only hanging because it's waiting for the window manager. That's a pretty important piece of information for troubleshooting.

    616
    I would never trust important data to long term storage on any burned optical disc. The problem is that nobody really knows how quickly the organic dye used will last. We're only now getting an understanding of how quickly the dye on DVD recordables degrades. For BD it's still an almost complete unknown. The manufacturers make claims but those are theoretical and as we're finding out with DVD they should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

    If you're going to go that direction my recommendation would be to find 2 different types of disc that use different dyes and make duplicate copies of everything. Of course you would also probably need to test at least a couple samples of each every 6 months or so if you want to be safe.

    As I understand it hard drives have a slightly different problem in theory. Supposedly it's not good for the lubricant used for the spindles if they don't spin up regularly. Having said that, I've had hard drives sit for a couple years and then go back into full time use without any problem. I don't think I've ever put one away that was working and then have it fail when I took it back out.

    618
    My name is Rich Fiscus and I write and create videos for AfterDawn.com. In my former life I was an IT monkey and for a couple years I taught community college networking classes. I found DonationCoder more than a year ago when I was looking for a launcher to alleviate my headaches with the Windows 7 [strike]Stop[/strike] Start menu. Now I'm hoping to give something back by contributing to the community and doing a little promotion for some of my favorite software.

    619
    General Software Discussion / Re: Best (free?) Sandbox?
    « on: July 11, 2013, 09:52 PM »
    Probably not very useful for your purposes, but Qemu and Damn Small Linux makes a brilliant portable sandbox. Really it's more of an underground bunker than a sandbox and it takes portable software to a completely different level.

    That's actually what I was looking for. I wanted a reasonably secure way to run a full blown GPG installation from my thumb drive. I haven't had time to get that far yet but there's no question it will work just fine. Good thing too since the tools for Windows GPG are a kludgy mess.

    Once I'm done with that I think the next step will be a Qemu Android VM for testing apps. I could even put Google OTP on it since I don't plan to have a mobile phone again until I find a carrier who won't try to bend me over on the price.

    620
    I decided to try this program out as a more barebones alternative to CamStudio. I actually do a lot of screencasting but I don't need anything special like annotations. I am, however intrigued by some of the options in this program and after skimming through this thread I think I could help out if you're still working on it. I have a lot of experience with video encoding, a decent familiarity with the ffmpeg command line and AviSynth has been my go to video editing tool for close to a decade now.

    Since I'm in the middle of a wipe and clean install of my system drive I'll have to wait to try the program out, but I already have a couple questions and comments so I figured I'd get a head start here. I guess the first thing would be just to say I'm a big fan of your software already. After more than a year of playing around with LaunchBar Commander off and on I'm making it the center piece of some articles for the website I work for (AfterDawn.com btw) which will also include some videos for our YouTube channel. You can expect a donation from me on the strength of Screenshot Captor alone once I have a few bucks to spare.

    But back to Easy Screencast Recorder, one of the things that caught my attention was the option to create MKV files but I'm not quite clear on what I need to have installed for that. It says the "MKV codec" is required but since Matroska is a container and not a compression standard there's no such thing. What it does need is a MKV muxer. I'm guessing you're using DirectShow and I'm guessing (or hoping at least) this uses the Dshow muxer from MPC-HC. If there's more information in the help manual feel free to just tell me to RTFM. My computer doesn't want to open CHM files right now (I did say I was reinstalling Windows) so I can't check for myself right now.

    On the subject of codecs, though, for anyone encoding normal screen activity (ie standard low motion computer use) I would highly recommend the CamStudio Lossless codec. For ultra low motion video it's more efficient than any other realtime codec by a couple orders of magnitude. For anything else it's pretty much worthless since it drops frames left and right.

    Also, if you're still thinking about some way to incorporate AviSynth functionality you don't necessarily need to have it installed. You should be able to do everything you need by just linking to avisynth.dll. I wouldn't want to guess how much work that might be since I'm not a programmer but you should be able to get any answers you need at the Doom9 forums.

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