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Looking to do high quality video conversion

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Really, REALLY FWIW...

I've been tinkering with video on PCs for better than a decade now... That doesn't allow me to make any claims to be an expert or anything -- & I don't!  :P

What I do want to add is a bit of experience: It's VERY possible to screw up your windows installation's video handling if/when you install any do-it-all tool, usually because they often register a bunch of filters, very often the same ones (though different versions). The more video tools you have, the more risk involved. At any rate, I'm not saying don't use them, but rather use a bit of caution and do things like back up the drive with windows. Problems might be rare, but when they occur (& you can read about them in most video forums), without a backup it often turns out the cure is a complete windows re-install.  :'(

Otherwise there are a Bunch of front ends listed at the video sites like that will do the work for you, most using the same freeware libraries and filters, many without requiring any install & so involve less if any risk. I wouldn't want to attempt a recommendation 1) because I've got a fair number of tools and I've experienced conflicts making it impossible to use *many* -- 2) over the years I've generally gotten so used to it I actually prefer the step by step routine.  ;D

Finally, the closest I've seen to a (hopefully) good solution to go directly from whatever to mp4 is actually bundled with Roxio's EMC9 which includes copy to DivX (& several other formats) from whatever (including DVD). Folks on their mailing lists (think I got there because of the EMC9 trial) have been almost spammed with offers from Roxio for their Deluxe suite at $45 US, & a $30 (very liberal) competitive upgrade rebate is available. Do the math, check out the package, which includes a Dazzle DVC 90... maybe it'll fill the bill.

I thought I might have screwed up my codecs and stuff at one point through this, it was after I installed the lagarith codec, nothing wanted to play. I forget what I did to fix it though, I think I just installed Xvid again or something... Or maybe I just restarted my comp? The problem didn't last very long so it's hard to remember the fix.

I definitely prefer the quality I get from the step by step routine, but to me the step by step by step by sept yb stpe vy esiop routine gets old.

Here's a couple more things I've learned...
There's an AVISynth filter called "SSIM" which uses an advanced seudo-subjective algorithm to compare 2 videos. It generates a score for every frame; "1" means the frames are identical, "0" means they're completely different. It takes all these scores and spits them out as a CSV (spreadsheet) file which can be used to create graphs. It's pretty cool! You can even compare 2 videos to a source video at the same time using other AVISynth functions...
Like DisA=AVISource("F:\!TV - Seperated\Seinfeld\05\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats.avi").Trim(0,61426)
B=AVCSource("F:\!TV - Seperated\Seinfeld\05\z-Compare\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats - 19.dga")
C=AVCSource("F:\!TV - Seperated\Seinfeld\05\z-Compare\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats - 3 Pass.dga")
StackVertical(ssim(A,B,"F:\!TV - Seperated\Seinfeld\05\z-Compare\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats - 19.csv","F:\!TV - Seperated\Seinfeld\05\z-Compare\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats - 19.txt",lumimask=0),ssim(A,C,"F:\!TV - Seperated\Seinfeld\05\z-Compare\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats - 3 pass.csv","F:\!TV - Seperated\Seinfeld\05\z-Compare\0519 + 0520 The Raincoats - 3 pass.txt",lumimask=0))
Looking to do high quality video conversion

x264 single pass "constant quality" produces very good quality video. I used SSIM to compare different quality levels to an existing 3 pass encode (set to "75%" in StaxRip). Quality:19 produced almost identical scores (almost always very slightly higher) and almost identical size (slightly smaller (353MB instead of 356MB)). To save a little space (with virtually 0 quality loss) I'm going to use Quality:20 (this particular video dropped to 298MB).

For some odd reason using the same source file, the same settings, with the same version of x264 (661) (the same everything) I'm getting slightly different encodes. It's definitely not enough to notice, but Beyond Compare and SSIM can tell. I don't care very much, but it does bug me a little... I didn't think this was suppose to be possible with com-poo-tars. It's as if x264 has a random number generator in it somewhere...

There's a tool and plugin for parsing AVC video into AVISynth. It's quite handy... It's made by the same dude that wrote DGIndex (formally DVD2AVI). It's called DGAVCDec and works exactly the same way.

Well, I'm giving up on StaxRip. It's sad, I thought it was the shit, but I was wrong...
The final flaw was that I cannot easily set the aspect ratio of the container. Since my main goal is "high quality" I've decided that since I'm using DVD video (which is always 720x480) as the source I might as well encode the final video at 720x480 and set the aspect ratio of the container (mkv in this case) to whatever it should be.
It is possible to change the aspect ratio in StaxRip, but you have to edit the command line sent to the muxer. I'm fine with that, but it doesn't seem possible to set it for a template (so it would have to be edited while setting up every encode).

So, the hunt continues...

[edit]Actually, going to postpone the hunting and go for creating. I wonder how much easier this can be using the command line interface of these programs and AutoHotkey...[/edit]

In case it helps...

While the orig aspect is .9 something in a 720 x 480 frame, you might not want that depending on your target viewing hardware. An orig 720 x 480 (D1) mpg2 will display correctly on a std TV, & DVD Player software will alter the aspect of the viewing window to compensate. However the same frame in another format will often not show correctly on a PC or a compatible set top player -- perhaps rather than trying to edit the aspect ratios of the newly encoded file it would be better to [optionally crop &] resize the frame correctly? AFAIK the main purpose of setting PAR in a mp4-type file is for the correct display of various wide screen ratios without any letterboxing (as you often get with 16:9 DVDs). Encoding black letterboxing is not good with mp4.

If you go the RYO (Roll Your Own) route you might find a combo of DGIndex, Avisynth, & possible VirtualDub handy. Avisynth is all about template files; DGIndex will parse the mpg2, create a template Avisynth .avs file, demux & convert streams including AC3 to .wav (for re-compression); if needed V/Dub can host the encoder. All are open source, have cli, and are widely used in this sort of batch program.

OTOH I think one of the hard parts to automate is if you've got a letterboxed wide screen frame, detecting the amount of letterboxing in order to crop. If you're working with broadcast recordings, you might want to look at including comskip. If playback on a set-top DVD Player is not an issue, perhaps Nero Recode would work well for you? The downside is that it requires the Nero player for post processing to look good. The upside is it's extremely fast (20 -25 minutes for 1 hr 45 min  video), and you might find the OEM CD that includes Recode online for ~$5 US. It'll handle or let you specify the crop, resize etc. & can include subs.

Thanks for the advice again! It's clear you know what you're talking about on the subject!

AFAIK the main purpose of setting PAR in a mp4-type file is for the correct display of various wide screen ratios without any letterboxing (as you often get with 16:9 DVDs). Encoding black letterboxing is not good with mp4.
...-mikiem (June 24, 2007, 03:20 PM)
--- End quote ---
First, to fill in anyone who doesn't know: PAR is Pixel Aspect Ratio. If the pixels of a dvd video were square the image would look squished/stretched (US-DVDs have a 3:2 aspect ratio), so DVDs have a "PAR". The pixels of a 4:3 DVD have a PAR of 8:9, pixels of a 16:9 (non-letterboxed) DVD have a PAR of 32:27.

The main reason I'm going to keep that PAR is to maintain quality (no scaling until playback). But avoiding letterboxing is also a very good reason for PAR.

I haven't had to crop anything yet, but I think I'll probably crop the letterboxes out completely and resize it slightly so that each dimension is a multiple of 16.

Regarding Nero, I've waved bye bye that that POS a long time ago, and I refuse to believe any "one stop solution" can offer anywhere near the quality:size ratio I'll get by using AviSynth and a little elbow grease.


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