Maximizing quality/sharpness with SD

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    • #51828

      We've recently switched over from using FCP (v5 or 6 I think) to CS6.  We've also bought some decent prosumer HD video cameras (Canon XA-10). We are more familiar with audio projects, and are intimate with our audio software, but video has always taken a back seat.  We need to up our output quality for video since we have the equipment to do it. It was never really very good with FCP, and we didn't have the expertise or time to really do much about it.

      Most of our source material is classical concerts, recorded in a concert hall.  The lighting is seldom ideal, and we need to be fairly transparent, so can't normally pick and choose a nice location to shoot from.  It's usually from the back of the hall (it's only 300 seats, so we're talking 50-60ft from the action), with two cameras, using one as a fixed wide shot, and the other to zoom/follow the action. 

      Even though we're shooting HD, our usual output is currently regular SD DVD format.  I suspect we'll abandon physical discs soon enough and output HD to YouTube (or other online resource) since it seems Bluray isn't really doing much, and physical media seems to be dying. 

      I have some basic (stills) camera experience, and know that downsampling is a good way to maximize optical quality.  I'm having trouble doing the same with video.  It isn't as sharp as I would expect, but when I add sharpening or unsharp mask, it just adds jaggies and doesn't really do a whole lot for optical quality. 

      Is there another way to do this?  What is the normal way to downsample HD content for an SD DVD and maximize the sharpness of what should be more than ample resolution for SD.

      In audio, we keep maximum quality/highest file size until the last possible stage.  I do the same for images.  Does it make sense to do the same for video, and export my edit as HD and let Encore do the downsizing, or will this produce worse quality than starting with an SD project and downsizing my HD content at the initial stage?  I've tried leaving it HD to the last minute, but aren't seeing the quality I would expect.  I realize that SD is not very high resolution, but I'd still expect much better than I'm seeing when I view the result on a TV.  I see much higher quality from commercial SD DVD's. 

    • #204730

      1. Down-converting your HD footage doesn't really "maximize" your optical quality. It's more hiding some of the softness in your image, but your expectations need to be resonable as well. Your camera utilizes one 1/3" sensor and compresses the hell out of your image with AVCHD compression. If you're shooting in less-than-ideal lighing conditions, your camera is going to have a hard time producing a clean image.


      2. Stretching the contrast of the image with a 3-Way Color Corrector will increase the percieved sharpness. So you'll want to crush your blacks, brighten your highlights (but not so bright that they're blooming), and then adjust your mid-tones to taste.


      3. You really need to monitor your image properly. That requires an I/O card (look at AJA or Blackmagic Design) and at least an SD broadcast monitor (correctly calibrated, of course) since you're going out to SD DVD. 

    • #204742



      If you're shooting in HD then edit in the same settings. If your footage was nice and crisp in HD then it should be even crisper in SD, esentially you're cramming more pixels into a smaller space. When rendering chose the H.264 on Vimeo HD settings (in Prem Pro CS6). If that looks good then you need to look at you're settings to DVD. If you are using Prem Pro then import the .prproj. directly in Encore and let it automatically downscale and render it to disk. That should look a lot crisper.


      Charles Meadows

      DOP Incubate Productions

    • #204763

      Yesterday I completed a feature, which was, essentially, a one-day walk over the rugged terrain along our Province's coastline, (we don't do 'states' in New Zealand). Problem was, it was in 1920 x 1080 'Cineform Intermediate', colour-graded and complete, all 30 minutes of it. It had, as with most Hi Def. originated in the m2ts format. The second problem, is that only one of the six people it was to initially be sent to for their comment, had a Blu-Ray player. I tried various ways around the problem. The one which bore most fruit, and which I finally used, consisted of reduction to mp4. The absolute crispness of the detail was 'gone', but the 720 x 576 (PAL) image which remained in-its-place was tolerable. With SD, there is another solution which works as well as any could be expected to, an item of software from a Russian gentleman, called 'Video Enhancer' which makes the best job of upscaling/downscaling that I have ever seen. It, however needs a SSE2 CPU instruction, and for years, my computer didn't have one. 'Video Enhancer' optimises sharpness, by referring to several adjacent 'frames', in a search for a better image, if it finds one which is a bummer. For anyone who uses 'Virtualdub' it also makes an excellent platform which will handle a wide range of format codecs, in fact, any video codec, installed in your computer, for whatever purpose, is able to be called upon when rendering. In my experience it is the only software which allows SD to be successfully married to HD, by the use of an intermediate screen-raster of 1280 x 720, for both. As a bonus, all the 'Virtualdub' arsenal of video-tools becomes available as well, so de-interlacing (via 'Muksun') and other functions become a breeze. Additionally, it runs quite quickly in a modern computer, ie i7, four-core, eight thread. It has been my experience, that up/down-scaling don't work all that badly on a modern computer, but text, titles, animations etc, tend to be treated harshly, in that the edges of even the best pixel-fonts, become over-pixellated. Ian Smith Dunedin, New Zealand

    • #204776

      I'm very confused. SD on DVD is limited by pixel size in true definition terms. Various different tools can give an impression of sharpness by looking at edge transitions, but cameras can do this too, and the best results always seem to me to be to turn these edge enhancment features off.


      I have lots of archive SD material, but now shoot in 1080, and for the moment are getting the best results editing in 720p, upscaling the SD, and downscaling the 1080 in Premiere, simply letting it adjust the frame sizing. The pictures sent to encore are as good as I have seen, and the few software fixes claimed to improve the quality, just seem to enhance the edges, which to me degrades the image, not improving it. 


      Going to vimeo – which is how the clients view the product during editing, the results are very good, and DVD is well, DVD. 


      I see lots of claims about different workflows producing better DVDs, but I've not yet seen any that look better than my DVDs. In fact, the only negative side to my DVD production is that the upscale to HD, then back to SD for the DVD does have a small impact on the DV material I incorporate, but oddly, the downscale to 720, then a further one doesn't seem visible? It should – but seems to survive quite well. Downscaling 1080 to 576, and then editing with the DV material is the best for an SD end product, but I lose the HD capability of vimeo as a format. Most clients end up with a DVD, so it probably doesn't matter in the long run.

    • #205354

      'Paulears': I spent a lot of time I would rather have spent producing video, experimenting with an 'in-between' format in endeavours to accommodate both SD and HD (1080p) material. I used 'Virtualdub' with material straight from DV-AVI to a size of 1280 x 720. That was fairly successful.


      Similarly, a down-scaling from 1920 x 1080 to 1280 x 720 also worked well, on the surface, but it struck me as wasteful of resources, especially when my eight-year-old computer patently couldn't look near real-time review from the editor's timeline. Ultimately it became so much trouble, that I simply worked in '1080p' altogether (NZ$2250 spent on a new i7 based computer with multiple threading and all the 'go-fasts' helped, but my computer had been due for replacement, anyway).


       Here's what I do now. I have reduced my dependence upon SD quite a bit, by only using such 'archive' material in that format, as is necessary. I've also flagged-away upscaling of SD to a great extent. Instead, I have made up a 'graphic' consisting of a digital shot of the casing of the Garmin 'Oregon 450' GPS I usually have to carry with me. I removed the screen area, any capable graphics programme (yes, I'm fully aware that 'programme' is the English spelling), will allow for that. In its place, I have put a blue-screen area, which may be made invisible using 'chroma' based techniques. That could be either blue, or green. I have also surrounded the graphic with a reasonable expanse of 'blue', to increase its versatility and scope of operation.


       The image of the GPS unit, was processed into its present form, to minimise pixellated effects on its margins. I used 3840×2160 px, for that. I have also made some smaller graphics along the same lines, suitably located on a 1920 x 1080 raster. Those are usually placed in the lower left-hand corners of shots, and having the complete 'screen', with a 'chroma-blue' surrounding area, means that I can simply bang-in the whole graphic, and it always appears in the same place.


       All this must sound as if it is taking 'the cowards' way-out', but the size of the 'window' makes for SD being able to be shown, which has roughly the same apparent sharpness as the High Definition images occupying the background in the rest of the frame. It is only necessary using my video editor (Magix Video Pro-X 4) to ensure that the 'surround' appears at least one timeline track 'lower' than the material to be accommodated within the frame. You plonk in the 'surround' graphic, on its track, and in any track 'above' and in 'register' put the SD material re-sized by way of the 'effects' settings. From there, nature simply takes it's course. Simple, effective (well, for my purposes anyway), and so easy to do, that I have more-or-less standardised upon it as a 'procedure'. The SD content may remain 720 x 576, and need not be modified in any way. The whole package, (the HD by that stage being in 4.2.2 'Cineform') is rendered to AVCHD. Piece of cake!


      Ian Smith

      Dunedin, New Zealand.

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