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  • AVI to VCD with TMPGEnc

    No doubt about it! If you want the best quality SVCD or VCD then TMPGEnc is the way to go and what's more, its free baby! The bad news is only the older versions gave us full support of SVCD and VCD. This is a very important point, only use TMPGEnc upto version 12a don't download version 12b or any later versions unless you want to buy the product of course! And you will need the English patched version too or it will be unreadable.

    If you intend on converting a DVD into a VCD with TMPGEnc then you probably should frameserve it with Flask Mpeg. If you intend on just using the Ligos and WinDVD filters as explained breifly in my DVD to VCD guide, then you may need to extract the audio first with Graphedit and add it to the movie seperately or audio may not appear.

    This guide basically assumes that you are converting an AVI file but all the same settings will apply to any file you can open in TMPGEnc or frameserve to it.

    Before I start you will need:
    TMPGEnc 12a

    Load TMPGEnc. As usual any new utility looks hard to use at first but is actually not too bad. Take a look at the picture below.

    First we will choose the AVI file we wish to make into a VCD. Do this by hitting the 'video source' Browse button (A); (If you are frameserving you will choose the *.avs file instead of the *.avi). The audio source (B) is not needed unless you have a seperate audio track that needs multiplexing to the video file. This is sometimes the case if you needed to normalize or edit the audio for any reason but keep in mind that TMPGEnc can also normalise audio for us. Finally we can choose where we wish to save our final VCD Mpeg file (C).

    TMPGEnc is great because it can do everything we need. You can use it to convert just audio alone to Mp2 by not selecting any video. You can use it to convert just video to Mpg by saying 'Video only'. You can even use it to cut and join Mpeg files in any way you like. The selection boxes (E) allow us to choose what TMPGEnc will give us. Always choose: System (Video+Audio) if you want an Mpg with video and audio.

    The Load and Save buttons of the 'output sytream type' just let you save all the settings you used to create your movies. This can be very useful if you need to set custom settings for your movies, but we will not need any in this guide. If you download anyone elses settings you can load them using these buttons too. Anyway, lets configure TMPGEnc to make our VCD. Press the configure button (D), and this box appears:

    The Video tab are the most important ones, so here is what the options are all about.

    (A) Obviously since we are making a VCD we must select Mpeg-1.
    (B) Then we must choose a Video CD standard size. No other sizes will work except: 352 x 240 for NTSC movies and 352 x 288 for PAL movies. Even if you are not making a perfect whitebook standard VCD then its a good idea to choose one of these settings anyway because its a nice standardized format :).
    (C) Aspect ratio should be set to 4:3 PAL for PAL VCDs or 4:3 NTSC for NTSC VCDs.
    (D) The framreate must be set to 25fps for PAL VCDs or 29.97fps for NTSC VCDs.
    (E) You must use Constant bitrate (CBR) for VCDs able to play on standalones.
    (F) You must always use a bitrate of 1150 kbit/sec.

    The rest of the options are greyed out because they do not apply.

    (G) For motion search accuracy I suggest you either use Normal or High Quality. It doesn't matter which one you choose apart from one obviously looking slightly better. If you are a quality freak you can set the thing on highest quality instead. Obviously the higher the quality the longer it will take to compress. There is not a huge difference between the normal and higher quality modes so experiment to see what you think is best before you do a full movie.

    That should be all you need to set! Press OK to get out of the Configire section and press the large Encode button - Bingo!



    For a VCD you can usually keep all other setting default and everything should be fine. But these extra filters are absolutely wonderful and no other mpeg encoder I've seen has come close to the options offered with TMPGEnc! This includes the big names such as the Panasonic Mpeg Encoder, Xing and Ligos - they are total rubbish by comparison! Unfortunately to explain how to use everything would take many articles and a lot of time. So instead I will give a breif overview and let you play about with them yourselves.

    Lets go back to Configuration and click on the next tab, the 'Advnced' settings:

    (A) Non-interlaced or interlaced, this option is only used to make the resolution larger or smaller. Just use non-interlaced.
    (B) Field order. With an interlaced video the picture is made up in two parts one of all odd lines and the other of all even lines, see my interlace article Here for more details on this subject. Basically it shouldn't make any difference to your video, it will either do it in A field order starting with the top field first (i.e. AB AB AB), or B order first starting with the bottom field (i.e. BABA).
    (C) This lets you change the Aspect ratio of the video to make it either widescreen or normal screen. You will always use 4:3 for VCD's. An aspect ratio of 1:1 means no change at all and 16:9 is usual for widescreen.
    (D) The center option helps to centralize your video if it is has been resized or cropped previously.

    (E) Here is where things get really interesting. There are a whole bunch of filter that can be applied to the video before the encoder transforms it into Mpeg. Many of these can be done to the AVI in VirtualDub, but isn't it nice of the programmer of TMPGEnc to include so many options :). To select them just tick beside the boxes, but to configure them you must double-click on the selection you picked or the options box wont appear. Again there are too many settings to explain in detail so I will just highlight a few of the most useful ones:

    Crop Video: This is the one you will probably use most of all. It crops the sides of your AVI to the size you want it, its very easy to use. Double-click on it and up will pop a preview of your video. Then increase the numbers in the Top, Bottom, Left and Right boxes to cut the video to the sizes you need. It also gives you the option of keeping the size but just blacking out the edges like a letterboxed video.

    Audio Effects: The main point of this is to make video that has low sound volume louder. It does this by normalizing the wave file before it converts it to MP2. Normalizing, as I'm sure you've read in my guides before, is a way of amplifying audio to go as loud as possible without 'clipping' off the scale and causing corrupted parts. I'd say always use a normalization of 90-100%; I always use 100. They've also thrown in the option to fade in and out at the start and end of the movie which is more useful for small video clips that tend to end suddenly.

    Edge Enhancement: Another beautiful feature that allows you to control the general sharpness of the picture without significantly effecting the soft tones. If used correctly this can be set to produce some very nice mpeg videos that are both sharp and clear.

    Basic Color Correction: This is useful if the original AVI has a green or reddish tinge to it. You can change the brightness and contrast too. The option to adjust the Gamma is usually for better PC viewing and may make the picture look too light on a Normal TV; you must try and play a clip on TV or whatever you intend to view it with before you decide on the best colour corrections to do. The gamma is different from the brightness and contrast in that it changes the midtones rather than how bright the colours start and stop. I will write more about colour correction in other guides and you can learn a bit about colour in my 'More Filter Tricks' section Here if you want.

    Custom color correction: This is harder to use but gives better control over image colour values. To start you have to press the 'Add' button to add an adjustment layer over the image or you cannot mess about with the settings.

    Ghost reduction: This helps to prevent flicker and ghosting effects. You can either set it yourself or let it automatically guess the best one for your video clip.

    Noise Reduction: Another excelent filter although hard to get good settings with so if unsure try the default settings. It has the option for temporal filtering or spatial filtering (if I'm using the term correctly). Just mess with the settings for a good result. Be very careful with this because it can actually cause ghosting effects. For details on how noise reduction works it may be useful to check out my guides on the VirtualDub filters Here.

    Deinterlace: If you find that your video file looks like this picture below, especially in scenes with lots of action then you will probably need to use the deinterlace option. Usually Blend (adaptive) is the way to go. The theory is that you shouldn't get this problem with PAL video but you almost always do with video capture cards. With DVD's you will only sometimes get this problem with the extras and not the main movie.

    Inverse Telecine: Inverse Telecine is a method that changes an interlaced 29.97 frames per second movie back into its original framerate of 23.976 frames per second. This is no use for VCDs or even SVCD's because the framerate must be either 29.97fps or 25fps. If you have problems with interlace artifacts you will be better off using the deinterlace filter. Its also the hardest possible thing to get right and a simple solution is beyond me!


    GOP Structure

    GOP is short for 'Group Of Pictures'. It sounds realy complicated but the idea is simple enough: I-frames are whole 'keyframes' in other words whole picture is like a photo. B-Frames represent just bits of the picture that are different from the previous frames (i.e. when there is a motion change). For an explanation of Keyframes and Delta check out my appendix on it Here. The I, P and B frames are arranged into GOPs that produce a good balance between good compression highest quality motion reproduction.

    In short I think these settings should be left default for VCD's to avoid any problems. A lot of research has gone into the best settings by the Mpeg orgainazation and the default settings are great for just about anything.

    I frames only: Using this option turns the MPEG into a sort of MJPEG movie without any half frames, only full frames. This eliminates motion macroblocks almost completely but will either increase the filesize or, in the case of VCDs because its a constant bitrate, may actually make much worse quality! The main reason people use I-Frame only is because they can cut and edit the video in VirtualDub or another video editing application frame by frame like they can with MJPEG.

    I and P frames only: This is only really useful for custom very low birate movies. By skipping B frames you are able to produce video that is much smaller than normal MPEG files. The bad news is this will result in slighly jerky video that is not well suited for any kind of quality VCD and probably wouldn't be playable on a standalone VCD player.


    Quantizer Matrixes

    I'm not sure exactly what settings are best for Quantizer Matrices. They are designed as filters to prepare certain types of video for compressing. Generally I'd say stay with the defaults because they are tried and tested settings. Apart from being able to change the patten of each mpeg macroblock by setting different numbers in the table, there are a bunch of pre-defined settings that you can choose from the drop-down menu. You may, for example, find that the CG gives better results on animated images and MPEG on real life movies or vice versa.

    Looking a little lower we have the 'Special settings' section. These again are for either special video types or for just increased or just different 'looks' for the final movie by encoding in a certain way.

    Use Floating Point DCT: This option will spend more time making sure that the mpeg video remains true to the original image. You must remember that these settings will servely slow down encoding and you may not notice much difference in quality - if you are a quality freak just use it.

    Soften Block Noise: Since the Mpeg format compresses blurry images better than it does sharp images, it has a prefilter designed to soften the image without loosing too much sharpness. Again this is a matter of taste; take a look and see the results. If you think the bluriness is not too much you will get less noticable macroblocks. If sharpness is more important then keep it as normal. To increase the blur just increase the block noise numbers, 35 is a good setting anyway though. Intra blocks and non-intra blocks are basically the same as saying 'keyframes' (i.e. intra) or 'non-keyframes'. You may find that more softening on non-intra blocks produces better results in action scenes or vice-versa - experiment!

    Do not perform half-pel motion in still scenes: This option helps to get rid of slight macrolock-noise in non-action scenes where there is very little movement. This works quite well but can give the apperance of slightly unnaturel motion at certain points. Again I suggest you do some tests and see what you prefer, some notice it while others do not.

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