VSO ConvertXtoHD review

vbimport

#1

VSO Software is a well known company amongst video enthusiasts, particularly for their program ConvertXtoDVD. Today I am looking at one of their newer programs, which has recently had its first official release, and is now out of beta status. That program is ConvertXtoHD.

Like many other companies, VSO has chosen to break up their conversion programs into separate units, with one meant primarily to go to DVD-video, another for conversion from Blu-ray to MP4 or MKV, yet another for DVD-video to assorted file types, etc. ConvertXtoHD is intended for compression of Blu-ray to smaller sizes, and for conversion of various types of files to Blu-ray or AVCHD formats.

Here is a screen shot of the main window in ConvertXtoHD:


#2

Once you start the program, you should adjust the Default Settings, which can be accessed at the top of the main window.

Here is what you will see in the General Settings tab:

There are eight different visual themes available here. I’m using the default “Elegant” theme.



#3

Most of the other tabs are straightforward in their options, but there are also quite a number of unexpected extras offered there. For example, there are dozens of templates for making your own menus, or you can set the program to make a Blu-ray or AVCHD with no menu at all.

ConvertXtoHD does offer you hardware decoding and encoding if your equipment has those capabilities, but my computer does not fit their requirements for hardware encoding. All of the testing I show in this review is done in software.

I do want to point out the lack of fine controls in the encoding tab. Here is a screenshot:

There are basically only two controls that affect the encoding speed and quality. VSO recommends keeping the Encoding option to Auto, instead of manually selecting for small, medium or large projects, so the only way to really affect quality and encoding time is with the “best quality” check box and selecting a 2 pass encode rather than the default one pass. What these sparse, undocumented controls are actually doing with the encoder is a complete mystery. Is one pass CRF (constant rate factor)? If so, what is the default level? Two pass is probably variable bit rate, but VSO does not explain much of anything in this user interface.



#4

The mechanics of using the program are fairly easy to understand. You can import a Blu-ray as folders on your hard drive, as an ISO or you can work straight from the disc if it is unencrypted. You can also import various types of media files, such as MP4 or MKV.

Once you have your imported file, you will see this window:

There are a number of tools included here, to remove extra audio streams, choose which subtitles you want, or crop the video. One of the most interesting is the Cut tool, which allows you to remove sections. And there is a Merge tool as well which lets you combine videos.

Here is a screenshot of the Cutting tool:

All encoding tests were done on one computer, based on an Intel i5 3570k Ivy Bridge cpu, running at stock speed of 3.4ghz. This computer has 8gb of ram, and has a Crucial 256gb M4 as the operating system disc. Video display is the Intel HD Graphics 4000 provided by the cpu. I’m using Windows 8.1 as the operating system, and all tests were done with decrypted Blu-ray on internal storage drives or unencrypted MP4 files as input.

Playback of all output from the VSO program was done on Arcsoft TotalMedia Theater 5, TotalMedia Theater 6 and PowerDVD 13.

Now we can proceed to the first test encode. I wanted to see the best quality that VSO ConvertXtoHD could produce, so for the first test I set it to High Quality and used a 2 pass encode. Output was to 1080p Blu-ray and a BD-25 target size. The original movie was How to Train Your Dragon 2, with a size of approximately 27gb for the main movie prior to processing. I chose not to make a menu for this first test, and retained the DTS HD MA audio.

Here is the MediaInfo sheet for the processed movie:

General
ID                                       : 0 (0x0)
Complete name                            : F:\AVS Output\VSO folder\How To Train Your Dragon 2 - Main feature\BDMV\STREAM\00000.m2ts
Format                                   : BDAV
Format/Info                              : Blu-ray Video
File size                                : 21.5 GiB
Duration                                 : 1h 41mn
Overall bit rate mode                    : Variable
Overall bit rate                         : 30.2 Mbps
Maximum Overall bit rate                 : 48.0 Mbps

Video
ID                                       : 4113 (0x1011)
Menu ID                                  : 1 (0x1)
Format                                   : AVC
Format/Info                              : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile                           : High@L4.1
Format settings, CABAC                   : Yes
Format settings, ReFrames                : 3 frames
Codec ID                                 : 27
Duration                                 : 1h 41mn
Bit rate mode                            : Variable
Maximum bit rate                         : 30.0 Mbps
Width                                    : 1 920 pixels
Height                                   : 1 080 pixels
Display aspect ratio                     : 16:9
Frame rate mode                          : Variable
Color space                              : YUV
Chroma subsampling                       : 4:2:0
Bit depth                                : 8 bits
Scan type                                : Progressive

Audio
ID                                       : 4352 (0x1100)
Menu ID                                  : 1 (0x1)
Format                                   : DTS
Format/Info                              : Digital Theater Systems
Format profile                           : MA / Core
Mode                                     : 16
Format settings, Endianness              : Big
Codec ID                                 : 130
Duration                                 : 1h 41mn
Bit rate mode                            : Variable
Bit rate                                 : Unknown / 1 509 Kbps
Channel(s)                               : 8 channels / 6 channels
Channel positions                        : Front: L C R, Side: L R, Back: L R, LFE / Front: L C R, Side: L R, LFE
Sampling rate                            : 48.0 KHz
Bit depth                                : 24 bits
Compression mode                         : Lossless / Lossy

Text
ID                                       : 4608 (0x1200)
Menu ID                                  : 1 (0x1)
Format                                   : PGS
Codec ID                                 : 144




#5

You can see that the program missed the intended target size of 23gb by a fair amount, but in my experience backing up Blu-ray, this is not unusual, nor really a problem. But there are some odd things about the first test.

The first thing that stands out is that MediaInfo is reporting that the output has Variable Frame Rate. I’m not certain that this is true, or just a misread on the part of MediaInfo, but I would use VFR only on rare occasions, and certainly not for the two formats that this program produces. The reason for this is that I don’t believe the Blu-ray or AVCHD specifications allow VFR, plus the fact that it can cause playback problems in some equipment. There is also the fact that once encoded to VFR, the video is extremely hard to work with from that point forward. You cannot cut it or re-encode without issues in audio/visual synchronization.

I have asked about VFR output from ConvertXtoHD twice in our subforum for their programs, and have not received a reply. VFR can be useful on occasion, when your source uses different frame rates at various times in the movie, but main movie Blu-ray sources don’t do this. ConvertXtoHD is consistent about using VFR in all output, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn it off within the program. I suspect that if they do reply, they will say any source that doesn’t vary frame rate will not be affected anyway, but even Handbrake lets the user change this setting at will.

The second odd thing about this first test was the length of time it took to process. I have been using this computer for two years now, and have been compressing Blu-ray quite often using another program. Using fairly high quality settings, sometimes with a one pass CRF encode, and sometimes with 2 passes, I’ve never seen this computer take more than 8hrs to finish. The VSO program took 12 hrs and 21 minutes.

Quality of the encode is quite good, and very difficult to discern differences from the original. If you have the time to spend, the High Quality setting and 2 passes will certainly give excellent results with a BD25 size output.


#6

Here are links to snapshots from the original and the VSO copy of [I]How to Train Your Dragon 2[/I]. I would link them as images, but they are enormously wide.

http://upload.cdfreaks.com/Kerry56/How to Train Your Dragon 2 Original.png

http://upload.cdfreaks.com/Kerry56/How to Train Your Dragon 2 VSO copy.png

I think they are about two frames off, so not identical, but close enough to give a very good idea of the quality using the highest settings in the VSO program.


#7

Moving on to the next test, I found a weakness in the program, and a misstep on my own part. This movie is [I]Edge of Tomorrow[/I], which is released to Blu-ray in H264 AVC and uses DTS HD MA audio. My target this time was a 720p, 7.7gb AVCHD, but after the long encode on the last test, I decided to see how fast the program could go. I de-selected the High quality check mark, and set the program for a 1-pass encode.

The process of encoding finished in one hour and one minute. But the program missed the target size terribly. Output was 10.4gb. This didn’t make much sense until I realized I had not changed the audio setting. The program kept the DTS HD MA audio intact and tacked it onto the video stream that was the correct size. This is a basic flaw in the GUI. AVCHD [B]cannot[/B] have DTS HD MA audio, and the VSO program should warn the user, or refuse to proceed until stereo or 5.1 AC3 is selected.

So I redid the test, this time selecting AC3 stereo sound. While it was processing, there were massive errors reported by ffmpeg regarding the audio, but the result was fine. Output size this time was 7.22gb. Overall, the quality of the video was very notably soft. This would be a perfectly acceptable version for a portable device of some type, but I would not be happy with this copy on a large screen.


#8

For the 3rd test encode, I chose [I]Blade Runner The Final Cut[/I]. This is a moody, dark movie that poses some difficulty for the encoding engine. X264 has some inherent problems with dark areas, and it is easy to find artifacts in dark backgrounds. Also, Blade Runner was released in Blu-ray using the VC-1 video codec and Dolby True HD audio, so I thought it would be interesting to see if ConvertXtoHD could handle those.

I chose to make a 7.7gb, 720p AVCHD copy, this time using the High Quality and 2 pass options. Since I didn’t want the HD audio in a small AVCHD, I selected AC3 5.1.

Conversion went smoothly and came very close to the intended output size, but took 7 hrs and 7 minutes to complete. The resulting AVCHD is again, very soft, even though I chose the highest possible quality from the program.

Here are links to screenshots from the original and the VSO copy:

[http://upload.cdfreaks.com/Kerry56/Blade Runner Original copy.png](http://upload.cdfreaks.com/Kerry56/Blade Runner Original copy.png)
http://upload.cdfreaks.com/Kerry56/Blade Runner VSO copy.png


#9

In the 4th test, I selected the movie [I]Super 8[/I], since I know that it has caused issues in conversion with other programs. ConvertXtoHD handled this movie with no problems when going to AVCHD, 7.7gb and 720p resolution. In an experiment to see which of the two main encoding options caused the most slowdown, I selected the High Quality setting, but only one pass. The 7 hour process was not significantly faster than the previous test, so it seems the High Quality setting is the major factor in slowing this program. Re-encoding the same movie without the High Quality setting would confirm this.

Again, I’m not very satisfied with the 720p encodes to 7.7gb size, at least not compared to the original on a large screen. A second attempt using High Quality and one pass was much better when making a 1080p version, and output to BD25. This is expected when making a copy that is so much closer to the original size. But it took ConvertXtoHD 18 hours to process the movie.


#10

In the last test, I tried to make a disc with a TV series, using eight MP4 files as input. I selected a menu template that would allow eight episodes. Total size of the input files was only about 2.9gb, and I thought that by selecting a BD25 output size, the program would have plenty of leeway to make the resulting compilation in the most efficient manner. This was a mistake on my part, as the program proceeded to use as much bitrate as necessary to fit the target. The result was 22.1gb, which took 1hr and 48 minutes to process using one pass and no High Quality setting. Even with the bloated bitrate, the visual quality was mediocre at best. To be fair, the visual quality of the MP4 files was not outstanding to begin with, and you cannot magically improve them by throwing a higher bitrate at the problem.

Trying the same project with the High Quality enabled, and two passes, the program showed that it would take 28 hours to complete, so I cancelled that attempt.

The TV series compilation would not play in Arcsoft TMT5 or TMT6. It crashed both programs. It did play correctly in PowerDVD 13.


#11

And so we come to the conclusions. ConvertXtoHD can produce high quality output if you are careful in setting up the program, and if you are willing to let the encoder run a long time. The controls over encoding are nowhere near fine grained enough for me however, and I’d prefer to know exactly what I’m doing when I change settings.

ConvertXtoHD does have some obvious weaknesses. It will not retain original menus (this is a big omission), and though the fast speed setting is definitely quick, the visual quality produced by the fast setting is not what I’m looking for in Blu-ray backups.

If you are interested in the program, VSO allows anyone with an internet connection to download and use it for seven days with no limitations. After that trial period, a watermark will be placed in your encodes until you purchase the program. You can find ConvertXtoHD here: http://www.vso-software.fr/products/convert-x-to-hd/


#12

Awesome review Kerry, I am going to see if I can replicate what you did .:wink:


#13

That was a great review Kerry, :iagree:can you do a compare test with the full “avs video converter 9” ?

http://www.avs4you.com/AVS-Video-Converter.aspx


#14

As an addendum to this review, I tried to play my copy of [I]Edge of Tomorrow[/I] on my computer tonight. The last time I looked at it, or tried to work with it was in this review. Somehow, all that is left of my copy on the hard drive is a 1.08gb mess that only plays the menu.

I don’t know for certain that the VSO program did this, but it is the only program I have used with that copy, and nothing else has been done to that hard drive.

I can re-rip so not a huge loss, but damaging the original file should never happen. In any case, take this with a grain or two of salt, since I cannot definitively state that ConvertXtoHD wiped out my original file. There doesn’t seem to be another explanation however.


#15

:cool: An update is now available for “VSO CONVERTXTOHD”

http://forums.vso-software.fr/convertxtohd-f53.html

It is beta version .


#16

update
An update is now available for “VSO CONVERTXTOHD” 1.1.0.11 date 6/12/15

Just install over existing.

http://www.vso-software.fr/products/convert-x-to-hd