Newbie questons on Video capture to Encoding

I am new to the world of Digital video capturing and editing, curtesy of purchasing a Sony DCR-HC37 cam. I am have few questions which no doubt are are easy for some users on these boards.

  1. How do I know (or which tool to use to verify) that I am not dropping frames when capturing footage to my computer. This is via Firewire card.

  2. I am getting about 1Gb of avi file for about 5 minutes of footage. I want to be able to archive this footage on my external HD. But I need to reduce the space it takes as I can’t afford that much disk space. Please suggest the best encoder to use for minimal data loss and reasonable reduction in file size (i.e compression). Also which format should I keep the archived stuff in for later easy authoring.

  3. The toughest question yet: I got my self Ulead Movie Factory 6+ as part of the process. I am mostly happy with it. However, when it encodes the avi file to mpeg2, I notice the detoriation in quality i.e slight jerking/blurring of footage. To the point that it is slightly stressful on the eye to watch it. This is most obvious when panning a landscape. I got other encoders which are not that much better (TMpgenc, mainconcept etc). I have had the Bitrate setting at constant 6000kbps but still marginally there. Anyone else had the experience/suggestions or am I being too fussy! My PC is a Pentium 4 2.3Ghz and 1 Gb of RAM Dell Optiplex 280 box

Thanks in advance for your help

  1. Don’t know–don’t have a camcorder. But was under the impression that simple transfers via firewire didn’t incur dropped frames very often. Haven’t read much about this. Someone else with more experience will probably chime in and tell me I’m full of it, but I least I admit ignorance now and again :slight_smile:

  2. If you plan to eventually author to dvd with your archived videos, the easiest to use is mpeg2, especially if you encode to dvd compliant specifications in that first encoding. If you are in the US, that means NTSC standards. There are some allowed variations, but it usually is 720 x 480 resolution, no more than about 9800 bitrate to be split between the audio and video, 29.97fps, pcm or ac3 audio. Look at this page for DVD video specs.
    The only other easy option is to go to xvid or divx and play the videos on a dvd player that is capable of using those formats. You’ll get much smaller files, but less universal playing capability.

  3. Try using TMPGenc or Mainconcept set to 2 passes using variable bitrate encoding. Set the average bitrate higher than 6000kbps, more like 7000, with a max of 8000 and a minimum of say 2000. Your files will be larger, but you should get a better result. You’ll just have to play with these variables a bit to find a result you like. You can reduce the overall size of the video slightly by using ac3 audio instead of pcm. Don’t know if you have the ac3 plug-in for TMPGenc though.

You will always get some dropped frames, but it is an AVI file which will be processed further. You are going to cut, make transitions and so on to your raw footage so really a few frames will not make any difference.
Think of it as a film. If you worked with 8mm and cut one frame out of the sequence, you hardly noticed any difference in motion.

Rest is as [I]Kerry56[/I] say.

Even capturing old vhs tapes, dropped frames are rare. With a video camera - firewire capture, you may get 1 or 2 dropped frames once in a great while. But as stated by other posters, not really a problem.

I agree with MPEG2, unless these are for your own use, and you have a dvd player that can handle divx or xvid (higher compression), and you can get a bit more per dvd without much quality loss.

Thanks to all who have replied so far. I will check out the 2 pass encoding as suggested by kerry66 including the bitrate settings and report back. I too was hoping to archive in the mpeg2 format. However, it was the jerking that was putting me off to do that yet. Getting a decent mpeg2 file out of the avi files, I feel will do the trick for my points 2 and 3.

BTW, I used the WinDV app which was handy as it reported no dropped frames. One thing I did not highlight before is that I am in England. Hence, I am using the PAL format and 25fps and bottom field first settings for encoding. I am not sure what are the standards on PAL for bitrate setting and audio format.

Since most of my judgement on the quality of the end product of various encoding has been pretty subjective, is there a tool which can more objectively confirm quality of mpeg2 files based on the same 38 second clip of panning a landscape?

Bitrate standards are the same, but for audio there’s the additional option of MPEG1 Layer II (.mp2).

All the objective analyses in the world won’t replace the best test - your eye.

I have an update for all, especially those who tried helping me out. I think I am making progress. I managed to get a mpeg2 encoded output with which I am happy with. This required lot of fiddling with things and to spare all the painful details, it came to basically 3 things to get a mpeg2 file which did not jerk (my point 3 in the orginal post)

  1. [B]Use of a decent software to view results[/B]. I was using some freeware including VLC etc …etc… Even though they are good in few things, they are not suited to playback mpeg2 files for measure of quality. I have since used Cyberlink PowerDVD. Open to suggestions for better ones if any one has opinions

  2. [B]Used the Variable bit rate for max 7000K.[/B] even the Constant bit rate of 7000 was worse. It was really lot of trial and error. 8000 is Ok but anything less than 7000 proved to be jerky. p.s using the encoder that comes with Ulead MFM 6+. Similar results using other encoders.

  3. [B]Use of Lower/bottom field first[/B] This was a case of fine tuning, and trust me, it makes a difference. I was using the initial default of Frame-based.

Also I am getting a 33Mb mpeg size for a 140Mb AVI clip. This I think is ggod enough for my archiving needs. So all in all, my faith and sanity has been restored to some extent…for the moment anyway!