|There are a lot of
legends on the market about the encoder solutions. The basic problem is the buyers
wouldn't purchase too expensive solution and in this case the decision is not so easy. You
should buy a safe solution, some expensive turn-key system and we are sure that those can
create excellent quality, but because we are supposing that the reader of this article is
not the member of Oil Millioners Club, the price of choosed encoders is in the $0-$10K
range So we choosed some of cheap encoders and made some tests of them to make to be
cleared the truth. Recently we tested realtime encoders too, although we know that
due to the prices the offline encoders are more popular.
you would like to see here much more encoders let us know the manufacturer's URL!
||Intermezzo, about DivX, to say MPEG-4
Our problem with the MPEG-4 is
- Can't be played on normal TV monitor
- Desktop player hasn't been released
- The quality is not acceptable in some cases
kind of encoders we tested?
- offline, software based
- offline, hardware based
- realtime, hardware based
is "offline encoding"?
If you have an AVI file (or another kind of picture sequence) stored on your harddisk, and
this will be converted into MPEG-2 stream, this procedure called offline encoding. The
advantage of this way is that the conversion is fully digital so no any D/A then A/D
conversion exists which elliminates the quality loss caused by the output and input
circuits, such as PAL coder/decoder, digitizers, etc.. The disadvantage is that sometimes
(depending on the encoder) this way is very time consuming.
They have a big advantage such as the encoding is not so time consuming like offline
encoding. But (as you can see below), some of offline encoders is very fast, and if the
new CPUs will be released on the market those will be even faster than the real-time
solutions. The hardware encoders have a disadvantage. They have fixed encoding algorythm,
while the software doesn't. Yes, the new generation of encoder chips have diownloadable
microcode (Panasonic in Amber, C-CUBE in Apollo, RT-2000, DC1000), but those codes contain
not the whole encoding program. I believe that the future (realtime) hardware encoders
will be just some simple "YUV" based capture board and the encoder engine itself
will be a software. This is more flexibile in relation of the update.
Because we have a lot of experiences about MPEG encoding we know that there are critical
things which can cause bad result Very fast, dynamic movings, a vast amount of small
particulars, unexpected scene changes. We choosed a very complicated 23 seconds long
clip as source AVI file what meets those demands. The original source was recorded by a DV
camcorder which is a typical device nowadays.By the way we discowered an interesting
thing, such as depending on the content the different encoders did accomplish the tasks
with different results, to be more precise one encoder was able to encode the trees in
good quality but the fast movings caused problems, another one created excellent quality
at fast movements but crashed at the swimming pool - and so on. Is not optimal choice...
Quality of the result. We didn't store any information of price, reliability and the
manageability of user-interface.
we made the test?
We prepared a 23 seconds long AVI file including critical scenes.You
can download this file from here:TEST.AVI
(80 Mbyte). To playback this file you need a dv codec, thus download one from the Canopus's
lot of small particulars
edges, small objects
The MPEG encoder parameters
|Profile and level
Mbit avg, VBR if applicable
After the encoding we loaded the
result into Bitrate Viewer (please to www.SOUXIN.com
download) software which tells everything about the basic informations. Of course we
watched the result on a Sony high-end TV monitor also. We gave grades from 1 to 10
depending on the result quality. This was a subjective rating, but we did our best to
still be objective. There is a very important thing of the quantization scale what you can
see on the Bitrate Viewer's graph. The higher number means worse quality, but you need to
know that sometimes is not worth to compare the numbers if the one encoder uses linear
table the other one uses non-linear. This comparison can result mistake, not to mention
the alternate or zig-zag quantization tables. In fact, the best way is downloading the
mpeg clips. If the encoder has had some filtering feature we switched it off. The used
computer is a dual PIII 500 Mhz with NT 4.0 srvpack 5.
course later if we can try-out another encoders, the result will be included here. In case
of you doubt in the test, you may download the clips and watch them by your eyes. As
mentioned earlier you can download the original source AVI file also. If you find so the
downloading is too time consuming, we have a CD with these clips what you can order on our
Click on the encoder's name to look the result created by BV! A
comment for DVD targeted users: the bitrate is not allowed to exceed the 9.8 Mbit. Do not
forget this point of view! The encoders under 7 points creates too much well visible
artifacts, so those are not recommended for hard sources. With very noiseless, detail-poor
and clean sources there are no visible differences between the encoders of 7-9 points.
|Cinemacraft Encoder SP
sharp and almost perfect picture. Too expensive. But for pro user this is the "final
solution". That is our dream. Btw. in one pass VBR encoding the time taken was around
0:30, but we found so the three pass encoding results better quality.
|Tsunami Encoder Beta
we said earlier:very promising encoder. This is a
freeware software and our opinion is that the encoder manufacturers now have very good
reason to vorry on the sales quantities.The tested version is Beta 12, btw. We would like
to give 10 points to this encoder To do this now some small developments needed:
1. A bit better vertical motion estimation
2. Some small quality improvement
3. Faster functioning
Anyway, we badly suggest this encoder as the best choice. We opened an individual page for this encoder.
is not implemented. Very expensive product.
picture is a little smoothed. The VBR is not a true VBR, but a "Not Constant
Bitrate" CBR. Interesting...Terribile slow.
|LSX Encoder 3.0
picture is a bit smoothed, and flickers because of the lack of field DTC. This means it is
unusable for field rendered AVI and to watch the result on TV monitors. Maybe the Premiere
plug-in version implements the field DCT.
true middle class encoder.Each part of test clip created in the same quality. Nothing
most fastest encoder, and even very cheap, too. VBR is not supported. This version
supports just the 4 ,6 and 8 Mbit.
we expected more about this encoder. You may see that the VBR concept is not too perfect.
We suppose that the Matrox RT2000 and the Pinnacle DC1000 could create similar quality
because they have the same C-CUBE chipset. Btw. if we switched on the filters we got
better result, but the picture been more smoothed.
|AMBER DV2MPEG converter
picture is very sharp, the color fidelity is excellent, a typical Canopus quality in this
relation. Very fast encoder, uses the Amber board as encoding engine.This encoder
could get 10 points in reliablity and usability. With very clean sources this encoder
creates professional quality, btw.
could give one point as maximum to this encoder in realtion of installation. We made
heroic struggle while installation. It was not easy. The documentation and
the settings panel have a lot of bad informations, not to mention that it is crazy to set
the PAL format. It seems the Sigma Designs's developer team does not know the used
Visiontech's KFIR chip which implements just the 704 as horizontal resolution, the user
can choose the 720 which will be not true. The realtime preview is great anyway.
is a cheaper MPEG-2 realtime encoder. Uses a Visiontech chipset called MVCast which is an
older chipset, and maybe this is why it does not support the VBR. The picture is very
smoothed and the color of the mpeg is not the same as the original source, a litlle
greener. This board has YUV input too, and using that the picture would be significally
sharper, but it is impossibile to set the right color ballance, so unfortunatelly that
input is unusable.
|Vitec MPEG2 tools
not recommended for DVD, although is there a switch on the settings window referring to
DVD, but choosing that the software switches to CBR mode. We know well why does it. The
reason is the VBR method of this encoder. Completelly the same way as the BBMpeg's. See
DVXpress chipset, just like on the Apollo. Hmmm, so we really don't know how could tell
our opinion to don't get the Pinnacle to be offended. When you watch this stream on a TV
do not think your TV is damaged. We were not able to create better q. stream. To most
important problem is the flickering. Is there some problem with the field order what we
couldn't solve even we tried everything. Not to mention these guys don't know that the VBR
needs two parameters (at least!!!), the average bitrate and the peak.They are asking just
for only one and the result will be 5000 as average and peak. We wouldn't buy this board
just because of the MPEG encoding capabilities. The used chipset itself would be able to
create better quality, by the way.
& Free! Bravo! Can't create good VBR, btw. This software creates Constant
Quality stream in the VBR mode and this results huge file. Is not worth to
use this setting. Anyway, we suppose, the lot of settings at the advanced window could
help the better quality creation. We haven't had time to try those settings.
is very slow and creates terribile bad quality. VBR not implemented. This is a joke.
Darim is expert in MPEG technology. It seems this is not the favorite product of them. VBR
is not implemented. We suppose they will improve the abilities of this encoder. It would
visitors are asking from us?
Much more information about the encoders
- Apropriate targets, such as VCD, SVCD, DVD, detailed description of features
Realtime hardware MPEG-2 encoder tests. Thus, we will test
- Canopus Amber
- DV-Studio Apollo
- Darim MPEGator 2
- Optibase Fusion
Under negotiation: Matrox RT2000, Pinnacle DC1000, Zapex
MPEG-1 encoder tests
- Ligos, Xing, DVMPEG, PWI and others
So, now we have task for the next ten years...