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Uncompress Stress

I’m a reporter for my local broadcast station. I’m trying to make a demo reel of my short career to get into a bigger market. All I have is a DVD the production guys made me that has multiple stories I’ve covered over the last year. I need to edit this down to just highlights of my reporting, but I can’t figure out how to edit a DVD on my Mac computer. I’ve tried many things but nothing has worked. Do I need an analog to digital converter? Thanks in advance for the help,

Craig Brewers

Hi Craig. You should be able to avoid the analog to digital converter using a few inexpensive (often times, free) software tools. For some time this process has been impossible for video enthusiasts, mostly because many DVD authoring programs (even consumer programs) will encrypt DVDs with a content-scrambling system (CSS) so the video and audio content can’t be copied to your computer. Then came along DVD-Jon (Jon Lech Johansen), who cracked the encryption and helped author the first DeCSS software in 2001.

Now, this would be your first step in getting to that video footage you want. But, since this is the same process that individuals use to pirate copyrighted DVDs, we’re going to leave you fewer details here. At the end of this process, however, you should have extracted a VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folder to your hard drive. At this moment Videomaker would like to remind you to be responsible video enthusiasts and not make illegal copies of copyrighted material.

Next, you’ll need to use another software application that will “uncompress” the MPEG-2 transport stream in the VIDEO_TS folder to a DV file, which is editable in most applications. We’ve had success with MPEG Streamclip by Squared 5 (www.squared5.com). It’s free and it’s available on Windows XP and Mac OS X. Depending on the length of the content, this could take awhile, as the software is reading the long group of pictures (GOP) common to MPEG-2 compression and recreating new frames. In the end, you’ll have a DV file that you can import into your video editing application and edit frame accurately.

We hope that helps, and good luck with your job hunt.

Compression Depression

Video producer and Videomaker Forum user Sandro Catanariti (User ID: Sandro), of Videohouse Productions in NSW, Australia, posted a forum question regarding encoding preferences in Final Cut Studio. Here’s an excerpt from this forum thread:

Hey all,

I have been using the Final Cut Studio range for a short while and notice that the workflow is fantastic. The only pitfall that I see is with picture quality when it encodes dissolves [Emoticon]. Compressor is a great little program though it really struggles with some dissolves.

When producing an MPEG2 file, I generally use the best settings, 2 pass VBR, max 8.6, average bit rate at about 5 (depending on the length of my job). So I am thinking that I am using the best possible settings. I have simply put it that Compressor does an average job on dissolves. Anyone else experience this sort of bad encoding [Emoticon] and anyone else using an encoder on the Mac that they are happy with. Thanks,

Sandro

In the discussion following this initial response, we found several key points on getting better compression results in Final Cut Pro that also extend into the realm of other professional video editing software. The first, as suggested by Sandro, is using compression markers within the project timeline. These markers help the video editing program identify challenging areas, so that it can optimize its compression engine for these parts of your video. This is ideal for transitions (e.g., dissolves, wipes, etc.) and sequences where the visual information from frame to frame changes dramatically (e.g., fast-paced action scenes).

Identifying these problem areas is key. In the professional world, there are quality control checkers who, through experience and training, can identify and flag these areas prior to the encoding process. For many of us, the best way to prevent our audience from experiencing this tragedy is to make a test DVD. Try it out on several different DVD players, and note any occurrences of compression issues (i.e., skips in frames or blocky images). If you find some rough spots, try using compression markers in the timeline to smooth out these parts of the video. If that doesn’t help, consider using a different compression software if you have it handy, such as one provided by a third-party DVD authoring program. Unfortunately, this can be time consuming.

There are many variables involved in getting your video to DVD. Be prepared to do a lot of trial-and-error tests to find what gives you the best results. For more information or to contribute your suggestions join the Videomaker Forum. It’s free, it’s informative and the door is always open. See you there.

Mark Montgomery is Videomaker’s Technical Editor.

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