Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 79.
Another crazy week. After weeks of preparation, this week, we did our Halloween setup outside. Our first "bigger" Halloween. Also this week saw the announcement of some new tech stuff, and of course I spent quite a bit of time playing with the Microsoft Surface RT and MovieGallery development.
Google Nexus 10 was announced. The Nexus 7 is one of the (if not the) most popular Android tablets ever, and it is now getting a bigger brother, the Nexus 10. Specifications have been upped a few notches, with the N10 getting a resolution higher than any other Android tablet out on the market today, and of course an iPad Retina beating screen resolution of 2560-by-1600 (vs 2048-by-1536 for the iPad3 and iPad4). But, specs alone isn't everything, so the N10 will feature a newer JellyBean version which adds some additional features and options.
Google Nexus 4 Smartphone. Similar to the Nexus 10, Google also announced the Nexus 4, the successor of the Galaxy Nexus. This time build by LG (the N10 is build by Samsung), and offered in an unlocked version for only $299, it would even be interesting to use as an iPod Touch/Samsung Galaxy Player replacement.
Apple vs Samsung.
I've given up on keeping track of this endless battle, however, this week, a post on Slashgear did get my attention. In the UK, a judge ruled that Apple had to put up an apology to Samsung on its website, which Apple did last week. However, rather than just the bare minimum, Apple decided to turn it into a something more. Unfortunately, the UK court didn't appreciate these shenanigans, and ordered Apple to modify it a bit:
Apple scolded over Samsung “copy” statement: Gets 48hrs to replace it - SlashGear
Disney buys LucasFilm.
Sort of expected, but still a bit of a shocker to me, but earlier this week, Disney bought LucasFilm. It was to be expected that George Lucas has been thinking about retirement for a while, but I just never thought he would sell to a big corporation such as Disney. Of course there is the money on one side, but giving up his legacy in such a way is something different. But with Indiana Jones 4 giving an idea on his thoughts, it didn't come as a big surprise.
DVD Catalyst News:
Not much DVD Catalyst news. Of course last week a small update to include profiles for the Surface RT and a few other devices.
Still working long hours on the MovieGallery update. It is shaping up quite nicely, but still quite a few things to work on.
Or, more like Surface RT articles. After last week's newsletter, I've been playing with a Microsoft Surface RT. After the weekend, my time was mostly spent on errands, appointments and of course Halloween, but I did manage to write a few articles about my experiences.
Comparison Pics - Surface RT iPad3 Nexus 7 Xoom Kindle Fire HD | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Surface RT Who Needs Root | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
First evening with the Microsoft Surface RT | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Microsoft Surface RT - Second Evening | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter DVD | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Microsoft Surface RT Impressions | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
More about the Surface RT later.
I also posted up (finally) a video guide for the Kindle Fire HD, including an eBook version:
Ultimate Kindle Fire HD Video How To Guide | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Q: Memorycard issues.
A: Actually one of my own this time. For the Surface RT, I ordered a 64GB memorycard from Amazon. There was a special on one last week, so I figured with a new tablet, I'd use a new memorycard.
Unfortunately, I ran into complications with copying video files. The card, eventhough it was a class 10, was quite slow in transfer, and afterwards, trying to play the videos on the Surface RT, I kept running into complications. Files freeze, didn't play etc.
The next day, I checked the original videos, which were fine, and then tried copying them over to the card again, and those didn't play. I formatted the card, copied files over again, and the ones that were fine before were corrupted, and the ones that didn't work before worked fine.
So I grabbed another memorycard, a 32GB Class 4, and transfer was considerably faster, and all the files copied over fine.
So, a bad memorycard. When I ordered, I didn't pay much attention to the seller, I just went to the link of the card and ordered it, but when I looked back, the card was ordered directly from Sandisk.
Q: Convert DVDs to 1080p?
A: Earlier this week, one of my competitors (well, quite a few of them, since they operate under at least 4 different company names) posted up a nice advertising post on a forum about a major speed improvement with their software. Usually I ignore those types of posts, because it is mainly spam, and let's just say we are not friends (which is a bit of an understatement, but I'll leave it at that), but this one caught my attention.
The post contains a few different setting that were used to convert a DVD using the advertised software. That by itself is not uncommon, but the settings used were a big confusing.
All the tests involved converting a DVD to 1080p
I'm not concerned about how the different settings used can speed up things from 7+ hours to something like the playlength of the movie, but the fact that the example scenario is even suggesting that up-converting a movie from 800x480 to 1920x1080 during conversion is normal is beyond me.
I have an article on my website that goes into more detail on this,
DVD Catalyst 4.1 User Guide
but in short, up-converting a DVD to a higher resolution is a waste of time, quality and file-space.
Video is nothing more than a collection of images (and audio) played in sequence. I'm sure that most people here played with photo editting software before, and have likely experienced pixelation of pictures when they were trying to make a picture (or a portion thereof) bigger. Zooming in on a picture will result in each individual dot being made bigger. a Zoom of 2x on a picture results in each dot being turned into 4 dots. 2x wider and 2x higher. Going from DVD resolution to HD 1080 resolution each pixel is increased by a factor of about 2.5.
For convenience sake, let's take the 2x zoom in this scenario.
Each individual pixel in an image (or video) needs some space to store its color information. If each individual pixel is turned into 4 pixels, that means that by just making the video 2x larger, there are 4x as many pixels. Since each of these need space for its color, that means 4x as much space is needed to get the same visual quality, meaning, the created video file (or picture) takes up 4x as much space as the original.
If you have a device/screen that has HD resolution, it seems logical to make the video larger this way so that you can watch the video full-screen, but the actual video player itself has this zoom functionality build-in, so there is absolutely no need to do it during conversion time. In fact, by simply leaving it at its original resolution and increasing the quality setting a bit, you can get a better video quality at a smaller filesize. Even if you double the quality setting, your files are still only half the size as if you up-scale the video to 1080.
And since the player scales the video automatically, a lower resolution high quality video file will look a lot better than a higher resolution low-quality video file.
So, by converting a DVD to 1080p, there is no visual quality difference than if you would leave it at its original resolution, and you end up with files 4x smaller in size.
On top of that, more pixels means slower conversions.
In the article, some setting changes are suggested, and even some advanced features like CUDA acceleration, all intended to speed up the conversion time, going from 7+ hours to 1 1/2 hours for the same movie. Impressive as it may sound, if you leave the DVD at its original resolution, the same movie, on a similar system, (but with DVD Catalyst 4 instead) will convert in less than half the time it takes to play the movie, 40 minutes or so, and that is without any fancy tricks.
So, by not converting a DVD to 1080p and leaving it at its original resolution, not only do you end up with a smaller file-size, better visual quality, the actual conversion process is considerably faster as well.
Q: Best Settings?
A: I get this question quite a bit, and it is always a bit tricky to answer.
The big thing here is of course what device(s) you are using to play the videos. This particular question usually involves one or more different phones/tablets, and a network storage solution with the intention of streaming the videos from NAs to TV in some way.
For portable devices, the most supported format is the MP4 format. Just about everything that runs Android, iOS, QNX etc can play properly formatted MP4 files without the need of installing additional software. For computers and laptops, its a bit of a mixed bag as to what operating system you are running, but thankfully something like VLC (VideoLAN - VLC: Official site - Free multimedia solutions for all OS!) is available on a variety of different platforms, and since it plays almost anything, the format itself doesn't matter too much.
Then there are the actual storage drives to use that come into play. Especially with devices like the iPad and the Kindle Fire, many people use something like a Seagate GoFlex Satellite drive. A small, battery-operated box packing 500GB of space accessible through WiFi. It frees up your device storage from movies, leaving the non-expandable storage free for things like games and apps. Unfortunately, these drives are a bit limited (unless you mod them, Seagate GoFlex Satellite WiFi Samba Modification | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4) in connection options, offering only access through an app or the web browser.
For my own networking setup, I use settings that will let me play my videos on the majority of my devices. I have a fair amount of different gadgets, and usually I use whatever tablet has a charge large enough to sustain watching a movie or a few TV episodes.
The settings I use are generally similar to one of the HQXT profiles in DVD Catalyst 4.
The actual profile (aside from HQXT) doesn't matter too much, so you can use an iPad HQXT, iPhone 5 HQXT or a Blackberry Playbook HQXT profile, but I do make a few changes.
First enable the "Power User" checkmark, and then tap on "Modify".
This brings up the profile settings, along with some of the advanced options.
In there, I adjust the resolution to something that I need, or something higher than what I am actually converting. As mentioned in the previous question's answer, DVD Catalyst 4 doesn't upscale the video in order to produce better quality video files, so setting it to 1920x1080 will not result in superlarge video files while they still end up looking great.
Aside from the resolution, I also adjust the CRF setting. It really depends on what I am watching. If I just want something quick that looks good, I use the default 24. If it is a movie I really like, I adjust it to 20.
And that is basically it.
There are some things to keep in mind though. Some devices have a resolution limit. The NOOK color doesn't like files larger than 854x480, the iPod Touch/iPhone 3 and lower models don't like anything larger than 720x480, the iPad1 and 2 don't like anything higher than 1280x720 and so on.
When you convert DVDs, you will likely not run into a lot of these limitations, however, it is something to keep in mind.
Q: What is the big deal about CRF. In most of your write-ups, you mention CRF as being some holy grail thing, but what does it do, and why should I use it?
A: CRF is one of the best things that ever happened for video conversion tools, but it is somewhat strange that most similar tools don't have it as an option.
CRF prevents so-called "overkill" conversions.
The standard way of converting videos is by using a video bitrate. You set it in the program, and it will use that for the conversion. The bitrate is the amount of data that a conversion tool can use for each second of video (and audio). This, along with the playlength of your video, determines the resulting filesize of your video. The higher the bitrate, the larger the file. The screen resolution doesn't have any effect on this.
Video conversion works by storing the differences between individual frames of your video, and the bitrate determines how much of this data can be stored.
This is where the bitrate comes into play. Selecting a "fixed" bitrate will tell the conversion tool to use that amount of data per second. No more, No less. Regardless of if there are only minor differences between frames, maybe a powerpoint presentation with slide-changes at every 5 seconds, or if there are a lot of changes (a car race), it will always use the same. If your slide-show is 1 hour long, and you convert a car race of an hour long using the same settings, with a fixed bitrate, both files will end up with the same file-size.
But, if you actually end up watching both videos, you will notice a visual quality difference. The slideshow will look just perfect, but the car-race, because there are a lot more differences between each frame, will not look as good.
This is where CRF comes in. CRF doesn't blindly use a fixed bitrate, but instead, it uses a fixed "visual quality" setting. You tell it you want it to look good, and it will automatically, during conversion, adjust the bitrate for the conversion higher or lower to make sure that the resulting video has the visual quality you desire. If more is needed, for the car race for example, it will use more. For the slide-show, since it stays on the same frame for 5 seconds or so, will only need to store some data when the slide changes, and then for 4 1/2 seconds there is no change, so no need to store much at all.
After your conversion, the slide-show only takes up a fraction of the filesize it did before, and the car race might be a little larger in size, but both look great all the way through.
The cool thing about CRF is that if the content is mixed, maybe a football game with a 5 minute strategy display onscreen, or in a car race portions of a discussion or something like that, it automatically adjusts the bitrate lower because it doesn't need as much.
With movies, it is the same. A good example is the Marvel flip animation on popular movies like The Avengers. The speed of the comic flip is so fast that if you convert it with a standard conversion method, it converts into a blocky mess. There are so many differences between the individual frames that there is not enough data (bitrate) available to store it all. When you get to the actual movie part, this blocky mess is a lot less (or gone) because the differences are not so much, but when you get to action scenes, it will come back again.
You can compensate for this by using a really high fixed bitrate, maybe something like twice as what you would use for a slower romance/comedy movie, but your video file will end up considerably larger as well.
With CRF, it does have enough room to store these differences. It will just use more for the flip animation at the beginning, then lower itself during the slower scenes and pick back up again during action scenes. No blocky mess, because the visual quality throughout the entire movie is the same.
With The Avengers as an example, here are some numbers.
To get the Marvel flip animation to look good, you will need to convert The Avengers (from DVD) at a bitrate of about 3000Kbps, making it 3.2GB in size.
If you use CRF and set it to a quality of 20, which is basically identical to that of the original video (better looking than the 3000Kbps file above) you end up with a video file of around 2GB in size.
For many people, the default CRF setting of 24 provides great quality as well, and with that, the movie ends up under 1GB in size, and looks nearly identical to the 3x larger fixed-quality version.
So you end up with considerably better visual quality throughout the entire movie and a smaller filesize to boot, which is enough for me to use it, but there is more.
I skipped over the screen resolution earlier. The resolution of your videos is not responsible for the file-size directly, however, of course it comes into play.
The resolution results in more pixels that need to store their data. A higher resolution video needs more data to have a certain visual quality.
For a DVD resolution movie, you might have enough with a fixed quality of 1500, but if you are converting a Bluray version of the same movie, with about 3x as many pixels, you will need a fixed bitrate that is 3x higher as well, and thus end up with a 3x larger file size.
If you switch between different sized content often, maybe DVDs one day, and HD MKV's another day, you will have to change your settings accordingly, if you forget to change it and end up using the same 1500 for HD, it becomes a blocky mess.
With CRF you don't have to worry about that. Because it uses a fixed visual quality for its conversion, it will automatically adjust itself to whatever resolution your videos are. No need to change settings between different content, it will do it by itself. Of course your files will end up a bit larger if you convert HD, but it will still look the same.
If you take the same movie as mentioned before, The Avengers, and convert the Bluray version (make sure you read the Bluray guide first if you want to use DVD Catalyst with Blurays, http://www.tools4movies.com/2011/08/dvd-catalyst-4-1-bluray-guide/), to get the Marvel Flip animation look good, you will need to use something along the lines of a fixed bitrate of about 6000Kbps, which in turn results in a file of over 6GB. If you convert the same movie using CRF, you end up with a size less than half of that, and it still looks considerably better.
The reason why I recommend CRF is because of the following:
1: Quality. It automatically adjusts conversion settings to what is needed to get a certain visual quality.
2. File-size. Because it uses less when not much is needed, and more when it is needed, the filesize is usually considerably less than that of a movie with the same visual quality converted using conventional settings.
3. Screensize independent. It automatically adjusts itself, regardless of the resolution of your original video. DVD or HD, the visual quality of your video files will be great, without the need of adjusting anything.
With CRF, you don't experience "overkill" conversions. There is no need to use a super-high quality setting in order to get certain parts of the video to look perfect.
Microsoft Surface RT.
Well, it is finally here. Microsoft's solution on the onslaught of Android and iPad tablets.
A completely different approach. With Apple and Google putting most of their focus on a phone-OS, Microsoft used its desktop OS as a base for the Surface RT.
Apple did use it's OS X desktop operating system as the core for iOS, however, it seems that the last couple of years, it has been working the other way around, implementing more of its mobile ideas into the desktop, making it a bit"different".
Google started Android as a phone-operating system, and has been working ever since in building it more towards tablets and even "chrome book" laptop-type devices, but at its core it still has the phone part at its core.
Microsoft started similar as Apple with its desktop OS, but rather than stripping it down completely, it retained the majority of functionality.
The Surface RT runs Windows RT, a version of Windows visually identical to that of its new Windows 8 desktop OS. Of course for mobility it has opted for a mobile chipset, requiring new versions of applications to be build, but its core functionality remains.
As a result, everything feels tightly integrated. Keyboards, either the Surface-specific keyboards, but also common ones or wireless ones like the cordless desktops, are properly implemented. Keyboard shortcuts you are likely used to, copy & paste, task-switching, all work the same as it would on a "normal" computer/laptop, where with Apple and Android, they seem more like an afterthought.
Multi-tasking is now a reality. Of course there are now devices that offer split-screen functionality, but only a handful of apps work with this. While the app-count of Surface RT isn't stellar, it does let you do something as simple as opening 2 instances of a web browser next to eachother, or run Excel next to Word.
Don't get me wrong, the Surface RT isn't perfect. As a brand-new device, there are not that many apps available. Count alone isn't that big of a deal, but functionality is also somewhat limited, but out of all the devices I have, it is the only one that could classify as a laptop-replacement.
Having used it for a week in the evening hours, of course I encountered a few glitches here and there, and transfering files to it is still something I'm trying to find a solution for, other than using a USB stick or taking a memorycard out, but I've gotten somewhat used to the touch cover keyboard, and with a mouse plugged in, it just rocks, and it will get better, I'm sure.
For a couple of weeks, we've been working on our Halloween decorations, and of course this week, it all came together. Unfortunately, timing was a bit limited. In my town, they ran it from 530pm to 8pm, and only the last half hour or so, it was dark enough to come to its right. My costume choice (thanks to a ClubNook forum member) was excellent. It fit perfectly, and it looked amazing, and I got quite a few good scares out of it
The costume ("Reaper") made me looked like a yard prop (in a good way), so when people showed up, I pretended to be one, and when they were close enough, I moved.
Anyway, I posted up some pictures here:
Halloween Pics | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Unfortunately, that is it for this week.
As I mentioned in a few previous newsletters, time is always a bit of an issue, and while it only takes a short time to read a newsletter, the writing part is a bit different.
This week was crazy busy for me, I had a few unexpected, time-consuming things (appointments, b'day party for family etc) going on, so I have to cut the newsletter a bit short.
For previous newsletters, have a look here:
Newsletter | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Or to sign up to receive the newsletter by email (no spam I promise):
Newsletter | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
About DVD Catalyst:
DVD Catalyst 4 converts your movie and TV show collection (DVD, AVI, MKV, ISO etc) to great quality video files that are perfectly optimized to play on portable devices.
It includes pre-configured profiles profiles for 1000s of devices, including the latest ones such as the Apple iPhone 5, iPad Mini, Amazon Kindle Fire HD, the Barnes & Noble NOOK HD/HD+, Surface RT and much more.
Regular price $19.95, for a limited time only $9.95
Purchase Now and save over 50%