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Using Mpeg Streamclip advice


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 05:22 PM

Due to it becoming increasingly harder and harder to get the studios to give me a video copy of what I've shot for them (despite it being in my contracts) I'm resorting to ripping footage off of DVD's using Handbrake and converting them using MPEG Streamclip for editing in FCP.

Trouble is that I haven't found a combination of settings that get rid of motion stuttering in the copy. The Handbrake capture seems fine. Any advice?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 05:54 PM

What are you exporting it to now a days? DV? I haven't had too much issue with MPEG stream clip myself but then again I don't use it too much, but I always just seem to be going to 29.97 DV with it. I will often pull out the interlacing later on with quick time pro (7.6.6 which I kept even after upgrading to "x")
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 08:10 PM

What are you exporting it to now a days? DV? I haven't had too much issue with MPEG stream clip myself but then again I don't use it too much, but I always just seem to be going to 29.97 DV with it. I will often pull out the interlacing later on with quick time pro (7.6.6 which I kept even after upgrading to "x")


I tried most of the options under "QT", from Motion JPEG to AIC to MP4... wouldn't outputting to DV be softer, more compressed than picking 100% quality with these other formats?
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 08:42 PM

I don't think DV would be more compressed than any of the others, especially considering you're coming from an already heavily compressed DVD-- it's what I normally use mainly out of convenience for working within FCP. Another option might be working from handbrakes MP4s into Compressor and going out as ProRes. I don't honestly see the point of that, but it might be worthwhile to check on. If you'd like, David, I'll have some free time over the weekend (saturday/sunday) and I can play around with some settings on my end so we could both work through all the possible settings to figure out what's best; comparing short clips over e mail or the like. Let me know.
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#5 Brad Webb

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 03:20 AM

I have to do this all the time for work. We cut a lot of sizzle reels for the studios and it's like pulling teeth to get them to send us an HDCAM or even a Digibeta of a feature. First I rip the VIDEO_TS folder with all the VOB files using Mac the Ripper. Use Main Feature extract and not Full Disk. This gets the feature onto your desktop so that you can convert the video files. Once that is done I drop the VOB file into MPEG streamclip. Sometimes there are some dummy files in there. You may get an error message that says that there are timecode breaks. Click "Fix Now" and then click "Do not skip any frame" on the pop up box.

Usually I convert them to Apple Pro Res 422. Another good codec is Photo - JPEG. Both of these codecs are FCP native. Make sure you check the Deinterlace Video check box.
You can also mark In and Out points in MPEG Stream clip, so that you only export the scenes you need. I for in points, and O for out points (just like in FCP).


I haven't used handbrake in forever, but I think it rips the file into an MP4. Going from this codec to a larger one may be causing some of the motion stuttering.

If you're still having problems feel free to PM me here, or at Reduser.
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#6 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 07:24 AM

[

I tried most of the options under "QT", from Motion JPEG to AIC to MP4... wouldn't outputting to DV be softer, more compressed than picking 100% quality with these other formats?

No, DV is like a series of JPEGs, one for each frame, so you avoid the rather savage intra-frame compression of MPEG4. This takes up more file space, but that shouldn't be a problem.

But your problem is you're trying to copy video that's first gone from a DV master to MPEG2 on the DVD, then you're ripping that MPEG2 data to MPEG4, and then back to MPEG2. And unless you can directly stream that data into the final DVD data, it's then going to undergo another MPEG2 decode/encode in the editing process, so given the amount of intra-frame compression those systems use, it’s hardly surprising you’re getting artefacts.

What you really need to do is extract the MPEG2 data stream from the relevant .VOB file on the source DVD, cut out the bits you want, and essentially feed that stream directly to the DVD burner.

I’ve done this myself using nothing more than the basic copy of Power Producer Gold that came with my DVD burner about 6 years ago, and the original DVD and my edited/burned versions look remarkably similar! Actually for my limited purposes the only thing really wrong with PP is that it’s so painfully slow; apart from that it does a first class job.

Basically on an unprotected DVD you will find two main folders: video_ts and audio_ts.
(TS = Transport Stream)
Audio_ts dates from the early days of DVD players and is nearly always empty so you can ignore that.

Video_ts contains a number of files, but you’re mostly interested in the ones that end in .VOB (Video Object) These are really just ordinary MPEG2 files that contain a bit of extra data peculiar to DVDs. Most DVDs break the main single program MPEG2 file up to a number of smaller VOB segments, often 1 Gigabyte each.

Most editors that can handle MPEG2 files can understand .vob files as well, but quite often the “open file” box doesn’t have provision for names that end in “.vob”. However you can usually fix this by simply renaming the file, changing .vob to .mpg. Of course to do that you need to transfer the file off the DVD onto your hard drive.

I presume the DVDs you want to access will have CSS copy protection at the very least, meaning they can’t be read by an ordinary DVD drive. So you have to first use a DVD “backup” program such as DVDFab which will allow you to transfer the .vob files to your hard disc with the copy protection removed. If you haven’t got a DVD ripper, DVDFab gives you a 30 day free trial, and it’s not that expensive to get the permanent version.
The venerable freeware ripper DVD Shrink also still copies most commercial DVDs, and you can still find copies of it out there (avoid soundalike ripoffs).

The VOB files are named in a simple numeric sequence, and you should be able to work out which one contains the footage you want by looking at the DVD player’s footage counter.

OF course, all this is PC-centered; if you're using a Mac, you'll have to ask somebody else, but the principle is the same.
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#7 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 07:29 AM

I have to do this all the time for work. We cut a lot of sizzle reels for the studios and it's like pulling teeth to get them to send us an HDCAM or even a Digibeta of a feature. First I rip the VIDEO_TS folder with all the VOB files using Mac the Ripper. Use Main Feature extract and not Full Disk. This gets the feature onto your desktop so that you can convert the video files. Once that is done I drop the VOB file into MPEG streamclip. Sometimes there are some dummy files in there. You may get an error message that says that there are timecode breaks. Click "Fix Now" and then click "Do not skip any frame" on the pop up box.

Usually I convert them to Apple Pro Res 422. Another good codec is Photo - JPEG. Both of these codecs are FCP native. Make sure you check the Deinterlace Video check box.
You can also mark In and Out points in MPEG Stream clip, so that you only export the scenes you need. I for in points, and O for out points (just like in FCP).


I haven't used handbrake in forever, but I think it rips the file into an MP4. Going from this codec to a larger one may be causing some of the motion stuttering.

If you're still having problems feel free to PM me here, or at Reduser.

Sorry, didn't see your post until just now, but we're talking about the same thing! You can make a perfectly good showreel DVD with ridiculously basic equipment if you know what you're doing ;)
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 09:30 AM

I tried most of the options under "QT", from Motion JPEG to AIC to MP4... wouldn't outputting to DV be softer, more compressed than picking 100% quality with these other formats?




Further to earlier answers, not necessarily. DV is indeed extremely similar to MJPEG, but with some enhancements that allow the 5:1 (or so) ratio of DV to match or beat 3:1 MJPEG. So, it really depends what 100% means, which is where the whole "apple mac" thing of reducing everything to one slider rather falls down because you don't really know what it is that you're dealing with.


However, I'm not clear what the original problem is: what do you mean by "stuttering"? Can you post a demo clip somewhere? A very short bit, in your intermediate format, don't recompress it for the web.


Yes, in general it'll be better to avoid recompressing it, but that is often quite hard to achieve; various settings will have to be right and the stars will have to be very much in alignment before this works out well. You will be limited to cuts-only editing on 15 frame boundaries, unless you can find something that will just recompress the edited GOPs. It's easy to convince yourself you're doing this, then you diff the decompressed frames and find that what's actually happening is that the dratted thing is silently recompressing it from MPEG-2 to MPEG-2 behind the scenes.


P




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#9 Sean Lambrecht

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 01:34 PM

The MacTheRipper > Mpeg Streamclip route that Brad mentioned is really the way to go to minimize the number of format conversions. You can extract individual chapters as well. It's an extremely convoluted process to get the latest MacTheRipper version, more so now since the developer seems to be on some sort of sabbatical. Google for the older 2.6.6 version which didn't require jumping through hoops to get your hands on.

Peace,
S-
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 11:13 PM

I've tried Mac the Ripper now, Handbrake, and iSkysoft. Basically the problem with iSkysoft is that the best quality level isn't high enough, the copy has a ton of compression artifacts.

With Handbrake-to-MPEG Streamclip, the problem I am still having is that only output format that doesn't stutter randomly in motion is DV, but it is the softest-looking image. All the other output formats (Photo JPEG, Motion-JPEG A, Apple ProRes 422, etc.) produce a slightly sharper picture but with bad motion.

Mac the Ripper totally crapped out because of the fact that "Jennifer's Body", the movie I'm trying to copy for my reel, has two versions (theatrical & extended) that are somehow branched, so the VOB file basically randomly cuts between the two versions, usually in mid-shot. It's a mess.

I may have to go with the Handbrake-MPEG Streamclip-DV version because at least it is playable, but the fact that it is softer really sucks since this is for a cinematography reel.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 12:08 AM

I think I've got this now... I tried Mac the Ripper again but only ripping a single chapter, that seemed to get rid of the problem of the copy playing two versions back & forth.

And it went through MPEG Streamclip fine using the QT output, not DV, and it doesn't stutter.

All these versions though tend to increase the compression artifacts a bit compared to the original, I guess that's the whole problem of copying a DVD.

Anyway, the only odd thing is that all my clip tests are a bit darker than what the movie looks like playing on the iMac's DVD Player. Except for the DV version, which is a touch lighter, matching how the DVD looks when playing.

I tried adjusting the picture in MPEG Streamclip by making it brighter in the picture adjustments control, but it also makes the blacks lighter, and the movie playing on the DVD Player is brighter more in the highlights.

I don't know whether this is a set-up issue or something, how FCP plays the clips versus how the DVD Player plays the movie, and whether I should be trying to compensate for it by brightening & adding contrast to the new clips.
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#12 Rob Vogt

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 01:28 AM

You'd think that because of the increasingly popular file-based data storage the studio would be more likely to give you a CF card or email using a file service an HD copy of your footage... That might actually have been cheaper for them and definitely better for you. Such is life :rolleyes:
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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 06:06 AM

Getting a digi or HDCAM of a complete movie out of a production company is like pulling teeth - I've done it. It's like you're asking to borrow a kidney.

The problem of the branching VOB may be difficult to solve; it's actually pretty rare, so I suspect most of the average piracy tools aren't written to deal with it.

P
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#14 Sean Lambrecht

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 04:02 PM

I don't know whether this is a set-up issue or something, how FCP plays the clips versus how the DVD Player plays the movie, and whether I should be trying to compensate for it by brightening & adding contrast to the new clips.


I think the problem is you can't judge what's actually happening due to the way Quicktime handles (frequently mishandles) gamma on the Mac. It could be making adjustments during playback so the colors and gamma you're seeing may or may not be accurate on the computer, or even inherent in the clip itself. You'd need to go through the whole workflow- try outputting the same clip with several codecs (don't make any color adjustments at this point), and put them all on a DVD-R to see which best matches the original DVD when played back on your TV.
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#15 Sean Lambrecht

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 04:45 PM

David- what is your work flow after your edit in FCP?
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#16 Brad Webb

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 04:47 PM

David,

If you can get me a Blu Ray and a drive, I'll dub all the scenes you want to Digibeta and then get you Apple ProRes or uncompressed 8 or 10 bit Quicktimes.



brad
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 06:15 PM

David- what is your work flow after your edit in FCP?


What should it be? I'd want to make a 480P QuickTime for the web, probably hosted on Vimeo, and also put a series of them (montages) onto a DVD with a simple menu.

Some of my movie material is on DVCAM tape (I have a deck) so I guess it would have to be deinterlaced and reverse telecined to get back to 24P/480?

I have both the store DVD of movies like "Northfork", "Akeelah and the Bee", and "Shadowboxer" and I'm wondering which will end up looking better, copying the DVD's (with all of that MPEG compression, but already 16x9 480P) or the DVCAM (interlaced 4x3 letterboxed NTSC).
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 07:08 PM

I think you'll find the DVD will look better because it isn't throwing away 30-odd percent of the resolution. How good the DVD looks is in itself quite variable; there are of course great ones and less great ones but these are at least modern movies produced on modern gear which shouldn't have massive amounts of MPEG-clobbering dirt and wobble all over them. Then it depends how much they spent on the encoding, optimising bitrate per scene and so forth. It's possible to get quite anal over this if you want to... whether they did or not is another matter.


Here's how I would do it.

I would pull the VOBs off the DVD and decrypt them using a tool that left them as MPEG-2 streams. I would then recompress them to a good edit format - ideally uncompressed. Some NLEs (such as Premiere) will work directly on these files, obviating that step.

You don't really need full blown external monitoring and SDI hardware for this, you're just top-and-tailing sequences which are already graded and ready to go. I would then cut it however I wanted it cut, add interstitials, etc. Then I'd bang it back out to an uncompressed file.

From that I'd create a file that Vimeo will use unaltered. This is important; got right, you can have Vimeo serve the h.264 file you give it directly, giving you all the control over bitrate and compression options (tick any box that makes it slower).
Mistakes here will cause the Vimeo backend to recompress your h.264 file with another pass of h.264, probably using quick and dirty settings which will lose you far more than any amount of MPEG-2 compression or messing about at the DVD extraction stage would.

It isn't ever going to get any better than that for the web; you must unavoidably recompress the MPEG-2 to h.264 at some point, and an uncompressed intermediate step will make negligible difference.

Equally, recompressing that uncompressed master file onto a DVD probably won't murder it; the original feature DVD would have used a lower bitrate than you can use on a reel disc that has a few minutes of material on it. It isn't ideal but you will want to add titles and possibly fade in and out of your demonstration sequences. Trying to create a workflow that will recompress only those parts of the MPEG-2 that you change is probably more trouble than it's worth, if you use a slow, careful compressor.

P
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#19 Sean Lambrecht

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 07:19 PM

Well, we're getting towards the limits of my knowledge here... But what I do know from experience:

For your web/Vimeo output I'd suggest going from your FCP master and exporting with Mpeg Streamclip again:

  • Compression: H.264
  • Quality 100%
  • Limit Data Rate: Checked- 7Mbps (not MB/sec)
  • Sound: Mpeg-4 AAC - Stereo - Auto - 256 kbps (might be able to lower this to 128 and get good sound)
  • 854x480
  • Better Downscaling: Checked (everything else unchecked)
  • Adjustments- Saturation: Boost this to between 110%-120% because H264 will dull your colors somewhat

If the tapes are matted/letterboxed, just stick with the anamorphic DVDs. They'll be sharper and you'll save yourself unnecessary pulldown and cropping steps.

Back to those VOB files form MacTheRipper- I was trying a few tests here with the 2001 DVD, and every codec I tried up to ProRes 10bit caused increased noise. I didn't go as far as burning the test onto DVD-R to check color/gamma because I didn't know how you'd be doing it, and we're just about at my limits there. I'm also below the system requirements to install DVDStudio Pro on my Mac Mini, so my workflow could get a little wonky there...

Remember too at the end of the day that it's near impossible to get your web and DVD versions to look 100% identical.
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 07:34 PM

I would pull the VOBs off the DVD and decrypt them using a tool that left them as MPEG-2 streams. I would then recompress them to a good edit format - ideally uncompressed. Some NLEs (such as Premiere) will work directly on these files, obviating that step.


You'd have to be more specific -- for example, if I bring the VOB thru MPEG Streamclip, do I choose Mpeg-2 as an output format? How do I know it's uncompressed? And does FCP edit that file format?
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