Monday, January 23, 2012

Hell, I'll just throw money at the problem and maybe it'll fix it ...

So I've been searching for some kind of "cheap" fix to speed up production. Lead me to a couple of products but I couldn't get myself to pull the trigger. I mean, I was planning on purchasing FCPX eventually so whatever solution I was planning on using would become useless at that time. Till I stumbled upon on this:

The Elgato turbo.264HD.

Interesting device. It works with a program to speed up the encoding process. The output is pretty limited in that it's all h.264 based and I can't speed up conversions to AIC but after reading about it on Engadget, I had to try it out. And, yes, it does work as advertised.

I did a benchmark of how long it took for my PC, which was encoding streams, to reencode it via Handbrake to something that iMovie will read and let me edit (slowly but surely ...). I did the same on my Mac with the same file and Handbrake. Lastly, the turbo.264.

PC (Q6600 overclocked to 3GHz) - 7:26 (minutes:seconds)
Mac (i5 2.4 GHz 2010 MBP) - 12:02
Mac (turbo.264) - Low 7 minute mark (couldn't find a "log" where it recording exactly how long it took)

Right there is an improvement but not a huge one. I could always opt to just let the PC do the Handbrake encode and save some money. But there was more to the turbo.264 from my testing. It seemed that the h.264 mp4s that the turbo.264 created taxed iMovie less than the mp4s from Handbrake. I can't confirm this but just how the application felt was different enough for me. That and the fact that the turbo.264 also sped up the final encode/projects within iMovie too (supposedly will also work with FCPX). File size was a tad bigger than through Handbrake but I think there was only a 10% difference at most so it wasn't a deal breaker.

So this was a worthwhile purchase for me. Just a heads up to everyone that was considering one of these dongles. It really is a cool device. And ignore the negative Amazon reviews. I think those were posted when the turbo.264 first came out and the software caused issues. The latest software outputs more than acceptable quality h.264 mp4s.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why can't this be easier?

So here is my basic workflow. What I would ideally prefer is the red line but right now, I need to process all the captured streams from my HD PVR through Handbrake before I can edit it in iMovie.

Now, I'm using a PC to capture the HD PVR stream because I had a PC lying around with a lot of storage space and it was technically free. If I opted to purchase an additional application for my Mac, it would have driven up start up cost. Plus, the application I tried didn't work quite as advertised which I will explain in a little more detail.

As you can see, I am processing the captured streams in Handbrake so that iMovie can work with the captured content. It seems that the h.264 default encode option for .mp4 ("Xbox" option) in the Arcsoft program doesn't play nicely with iMovie. My guess is that it's because it's encoding in 60fps instead of an iMovie friendly 24/30fps. It's the same with the capture program available for the Mac. Forgot the exact name of it but it exhibits the same stuttering during playback in iMovie and almost all players for whatever reason when it's converted from .m2ts to .mp4. Puzzling to say the least and I will look into this in more detail when I have more time but right now, I'm opting to output the HD PVR stream to a .TS h.264 format and then convert that .TS file to a 29.97fps MP4 h.264 file.

Now, I've learned the hard way that h.264 doesn't actually play all that nice with iMovie. Something about it being a compressed playing format instead of an editing friendly format. iMovie needs to decode on the fly while I'm editing these h.264 clips and it really makes the program feel ... laggy. I am going to try to just convert the clips that I'm going to use in the project to see if that will help but I think it's going to just do what I'm trying to avoid - use AIC and it's HUGE file sizes. After going through capturing, encoding to only reencode again to application friendly format is making me go nuts.

I believe I can skip the whole Handbrake part but that requires additional investment in my part - Final Cut Pro X. I believe it can edit .ts/.m2ts files directly and rendering those h.264 files might be a bit faster in FCPX than iMovie but I have no proof of this. That and well ... it'll cost me money. Ugh. But yeah ... right now, this is where I am now and it's driving me nuts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blogging? Perhaps.

I decided to start this blog to chronicle my attempts at creating YouTube video and content. It's definitely a learning experience - from workflow for video editing which is a mess in itself to having substance to my uploads.

I'm sure most of the posts will be workflow related so that someone might find the information useful and make their lives easier. Been learning a lot about iMovie and codecs in general because that alone is my greatest headache right now. From converting, rendering and confirming that the output is good before uploading.

Anyway, I'll post something a little more useful by this weekend. I hope. Maybe.