Re: [Frameworks] combining SD and HD

From: David Tetzlaff <>
Date: Sat, 4 Jun 2011 09:23:10 -0400

I've continued to hunt for that FCS to BluRay hack, with no luck, to the point where I'm wondering if I hallucinated the whole thing... or at least whether I'm remembering it correctly...

i DID create a BluRay playable disc via this method, and it was much better than anything I could get out of Toast... (This was with FCS 2 and Toast 9 or 10). However it was not a fully authored disc with multiple titles and a menu. It had one film on it, and it was pop and play.

What I do remember distinctly, for sure, is that I tried to create this entirely in Toast first, using the Toast encoder, and the results were not good. The source had a challenging range of video material (some bright, some dark, different cutting patterns) and the Toast encoder was OK on some of it, and generated nasty artifacts on other parts. I messed with the settings, but the choices were limited. (Perhaps the newer Toast has a more capable encoder?)

I am also positive, though, that Toast was the burn engine for the better disc, which was obviously NOT encoded in Toast, but Compressor. However, DVDSP may not have been involved, even though that;s how I remember it. Now, this was before Compressor had 'BluRay' settings, and the issue may have been that Toast could not read the HD compressor files unless the headers were hacked. In any event it was a fairly simple text edit once you got under the hood. If so, the new version of Compressor has probably made all this moot.

As such, the one lesson I can draw from the experience is: keep the process of encoding conceptually separate from the process os authoring. You will probably have several options for turning your working video output file into a distribution format (MPEG2, AVCHD whatever) and some of these tools will be better than others - or at least you will be able to get better results from some within your own limits of fully comprehending how to tweak the setting. The encoding tool may not be capable of muxing the compressed file and putting it into a valid disc structure. In which case, you need to get it into another tool that will do those functions WITHOUT RE-ENCODING the damn thing.

This is the main problem with Toast, IMHO. It's set up for a kind of For Dummies 'we'll do all the work for you' and it's a bit of a trick to find the settings that turn all it's data manipulations OFF, and just use the data you've prepared, as is. There's a 're-encode never' option tucked into a drop-down in one of the settings tab somewhere as I recall.

This is what the mainstream pros on the Mac side are doing for BR: editing in FCP, encoding in Compressor, authoring in Toast or Encore. They're not letting Roxio or Adobe rework the AV data, just put the disc together...

I repeat, emphatically, for Apple people, my observation about the utility of an HD-DVD player. (I checked, and DL DVDs do work for this...) DVDSP will author a disc, with menus, mixed formats whatever, and you can burn it to a DL-DVD, and it will play back swimmingly on the HD-DVD player... which you can tote around with you and makes for more congenial hook-ups to an HD display that connecting a laptop. The limit, of course, is you can't put more than 8.4GB on the disc (and once you've burned it, it WON'T play back on a conventional DVD unit, like your burner). But, I presume none of us are creating features. And besides, H264 can look really good with the right encoder and settings. (x264 via MPEG Streamclip may yield better results, or the same results with less hassle, than going through Compressor.)

And if you can find an HD-DVD player for cheap at a pawn shop, on Craig's list or wherever, it has the benefit of being the best player for Standard-Def DVDs you'll ever see. For some reason, the upconverting algortihms and/or hardware were visibly better than the ones in BluRay players from either Sony or Samsung -- I did A/B tests with the same source discs and projector comparing different players a few years ago.

Anyway, I may have been quite wrong about being able to get a 'full featured' BluRay disc out of DVDSP somehow. That said, there are things you can do in/to Toast to get around the default cheeziness of the menu templates to at least some degree.

Aaron F. Ross is correct in observing that the workflow from edited video masters to BluRay disc is much more well developed and has more options in the Windows environment. (Though few Mac users are 'stuck' in OSX, since we have Bootcamp.) PLAYING commercial BluRays from a computer (legally) requires an HDCP equipped video card though - which you'll find on many Windows desktop PCs, but not on a MacBook Pro (or most PC laptops either).

So here's how we made an actual HD piece that got screened, which I offer as as a starting point for describing a successful workflow for HD projects (if not necessarily 'best-practices'), developed via trial and error.

Our example, a 30min 'arthouse' narrative short, was shot on 5 different cameras: 1) JVC pro 720P HDV, 2) Panasonic HVX 200 DVDC ProHD, 3) Canon XG-AI 1080F HDV, 4) Canon HDV 30 'cinema mode' 1080P, 5) a low end DV camcorder. Each of the HD cameras had a diffferent native resolution, and you can toss in a couple different frame rates there as well. The DV footage was used only to illustrate memories, so it didn't have to match the other stuff, but all the different HD footage was supposed to represent the same more-or-less realistic diegesis.

All this footage got bumped up to 1080P24 ProRes 422 before editing in FCP. I wouldn't say this made any of the footage look notably 'better', but it certainly didn't look any worse. This made editing easier, since cuts, renders etc didn't involved mixing codecs, resolutions etc. And FCP got to do it's manipulations without piling on colorspace compressions. Also, it generated head-room for the editing process, as all transitions and effects got rendered in very high quality. After the film sequence was cut, there was lot of (primary) color correction applied to get the footage from the different cameras into some resemblence of matching.

The DV got blown-up to fill the 16:9 frame, meaning we actually tossed out a chunk of the original vertical resolution information. I was afraid it would look awful: fuzz city. But this was footage of a local tribal ritual shot in rural Burkina Faso, so it was what we had and that was that. As it illiustrated memory in this context, I ramped up the chroma, tossed in some a few appropriate and not too obvious motion effects... And in the end it looked beautiful and striking... with no visibly annoying artifacting whatsoever. (I can't imagine that this would have worked satisfactorily with certain other sorts of SD footage: with different lighting, different motion, longer takes, different purpose, different aesthetic. This is why I say you can't make categorical statements about the perceived quality of up-rezed footage. It depends on a host of technical and aesthetic factors.)

So the edited piece goes out to a 1080P master. From this, I make all the different distribution versions required by the various venues (who are generally out to sea, technologically). So that 1080P ProRes gets dropped back to 720P, SD-NTSC, SD-PAL and sent out on SD-DVD, HD-DVD, BluRay, HDV tape, Quicktime files in different codecs...

In all of this, with few minor exceptions for the more compressed distribution versions, the only limitations in the image any viewers could perceive were those attendant to the original capture of the image - video noise and contrast problems from the lighting that couldn't be tweaked out. No visible artifacting, despite the fact every frame had probably been re-sampled 5 times somewhere along route. We showed it from my HD-DVD player on a fairly large screen at one of the smaller houses in the megaplex at Universal City in Hollywood, and once off my laptop in the main house at the Gene Siskel Center in Chicago. In both cases, the limit factor was the quality of the video projector, and the audiences perceived the screening as 'professional' quality for a non-commercial indie context and not a single complaint about the image was heard... (except from the filmmakers, as WE wished variably that we had had better lighting for the guerrilla shoot segments, or better quality ca
 meras, or that the projector at Universal had been a little better [it was the pre-show machine under normal use, with the features still being shown in 35mm].)

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Received on Sat Jun 04 2011 - 06:23:24 CDT