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The Best Codec

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  • Michael MARZIO
    Hi All - I m a new member with an important question. Happy 2006. Nearly two years ago, I did a lot of experimentation with the different codecs for the big 3
    Message 1 of 7 , Jan 1, 2006
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      Hi All - I'm a new member with an important question. Happy 2006.

      Nearly two years ago, I did a lot of experimentation with the different codecs for the big 3 players (rm, mov, wmv), trying to figure out which was the best codec for  the audience. I define "best" as the smallest file size for the same subjective quality for all 3 codecs, all 3 players.

      Things were simpler then. We chose one audience, for example all users capable of streaming at 256 Kbps as our target audience. Now we have these elastic codecs. As a "member of the the audience", MP4, MOV, and WMV files, originally  encoded at 320 x 240 size will transform themselves to as much as 640 x 480 in my experience, when my DSL connection is really feeling its oats.

      I don't want my videos to get bigger than 320 x 240. They are usually embedded in a web page where a size change is theoretically impossible anyway.

      My question: what is **the best codec for single rate clips at 320 x 240** size?
      I spent a long time, I mean like a good 3 weeks, trying to answer the question on my own, simply by trying out all the settings possible in every format, always using the same raw avi clip as the starting point. My conclusion is that RM files are absolutely the best hands down, and I just don't understand why Real Networks or Real Media or whatever they're called, haven't won the codec war already.

      Big disclaimer: I have no interest in this company, and I hate their pop-ups, and I even hate them more for trying to steal all the multimedia file associations on my computers, but they sure as hell have got the most efficient codec. Whether I use the old free real producer 8, or the newer Real Producer 10 plus which cost me $, the results are the same: for the same visual quality, admittedly a subjective affair, MOV and WMV files are at least TWICE AS LARGE  AS THE CORRESPONDING RMs.

      Recently, after visiting a lot of vlogs, I see so many people using MOVs and WMVs, and like everybody else, I'm using Quicktime Pro 7 to make MP4s for Google Beta Video, so I redid my experiments and came up with the same conclusions. Despite this, RM is the ONLY FORMAT that some free vlog sites do NOT accept!

      I'm sure others are interested in keeping file sizes down and quality up. Why do I seem to be the only one who has reached this conclusion in favor of RM?

      Mike Marzio
      http://www.real-english.com
      http://www.realenglish.tm.fr/

    • Andreas Haugstrup
      On Sun, 01 Jan 2006 12:03:05 +0100, Michael MARZIO ... [SNIP] ... In case you haven t noticed it the Real Player sucks. It s impossible to find the free player
      Message 2 of 7 , Jan 1, 2006
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        On Sun, 01 Jan 2006 12:03:05 +0100, Michael MARZIO
        <marzio-school@...> wrote:

        > My conclusion is that RM files are absolutely the best hands down, and I
        > just don't understand why Real Networks or Real Media or whatever
        > they're called, haven't won the codec war already.

        [SNIP]

        > I'm sure others are interested in keeping file sizes down and quality
        > up. Why do I seem to be the only one who has reached this conclusion in
        > favor of RM?

        In case you haven't noticed it the Real Player sucks. It's impossible to
        find the free player on their website, it's a real drag on slower
        computers, it installs all kinds of crap and hijacks half the file types
        on the computer. Even when you think you've uninstalled the player you get
        these pop-ups above the system tray notifying you of "great offers" and
        the likes.

        They can have the best codec in the world, but until they make a player
        that works *with* the users instead of against the users no one is going
        to watch those videos.

        - Andreas
        --
        <URL: http://www.solitude.dk/ >
        Commentary on media, communication, culture and technology.
      • Michael MARZIO
        Andreas, Happy New Year to you, I know that the real PLAYER sucks - I said as much myself in the part of my message you snipped out. But if you embed your real
        Message 3 of 7 , Jan 1, 2006
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          Andreas, Happy New Year to you,

          I know that the real PLAYER sucks - I said as much myself in the part of my message you snipped out. But if you embed your real media on your web pages, then you don't get any of the crap, and you also get the most efficient codec. Pop-up blockers limit the damage if you use their player as a stand-alone. I am not defending these guys, they really do suck, but I much prefer uploading a small RM file of good quality than a mov file taking up much more disk space, of the same video with same quality. And WMV - well, there is a war going on, and I still prefer alternatives to Windows monopolyware. Also, Apple is not an innocent by-stander. They do their best to steal the file associations too, and also insist that their player remains ON TOP when playing, one thing that the sucky real player people do NOT do.

          Also, if you're using Windows, there are great free tools to get the real player completely out of the registry in seconds.
          All my users get a tinyurl shortcut directly to the final step for download page of the sucky free real player. Makes it very easy to find.

          There are no ideal solutions, are there?

          I just went to your site and see that you embed MOVs. Well, if you EMBED RMs, the result is exactly the same. All the crap you bring up in your reply only occurs when you use the real player as a standalone.

          Mike Marzio
          www.real-english.com


           Date: Sun, 01 Jan 2006 14:34:34 +0100
            From: "Andreas Haugstrup" <solitude@...>
          Subject: Re: The Best Codec

          On Sun, 01 Jan 2006 12:03:05 +0100, Michael MARZIO 
          <marzio-school@...> wrote:

          > My conclusion is that RM files are absolutely the best hands down, and I 
          > just don't understand why Real Networks or Real Media or whatever 
          > they're called, haven't won the codec war already.

          [SNIP]

          > I'm sure others are interested in keeping file sizes down and quality 
          > up. Why do I seem to be the only one who has reached this conclusion in 
          > favor of RM?

          In case you haven't noticed it the Real Player sucks. It's impossible to 
          find the free player on their website, it's a real drag on slower 
          computers, it installs all kinds of crap and hijacks half the file types 
          on the computer. Even when you think you've uninstalled the player you get 
          these pop-ups above the system tray notifying you of "great offers" and 
          the likes.

          They can have the best codec in the world, but until they make a player 
          that works *with* the users instead of against the users no one is going 
          to watch those videos.

          - Andreas
          --
          <URL: http://www.solitude.dk/ >
          Commentary on media, communication, culture and technology.

        • Harold Johnson
          Happy New Year, Michael, Just in regards to this one point you made: I don t believe it helps most users that there are free tools to get Realplayer out of the
          Message 4 of 7 , Jan 1, 2006
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            Happy New Year, Michael,

            Just in regards to this one point you made: I don't believe it helps most users that there are free tools to get Realplayer out of the registry; most folks aren't going to want to hassle with that stuff.  I used to be a big proponet of Realmedia myself, and it'd be great to see them succeed again; the more competition the better, in my opinion.  They've got to make it easy as possible for the consumers (and participants) of content to use, though.

            Harold J. Johnson
            Something That Happened:
            I Woke Up on Day 1 Without a Headache
            http://SomethingThatHappened.com

            On 1/1/06, Michael MARZIO <marzio-school@...> wrote:

            Also, if you're using Windows, there are great free tools to get the real player completely out of the registry in seconds.

          • Steve Watkins
            YOu expressed surprise as to why the Real format hadnt won the format war, I see the comments from people about the negative sides of real as being the reasons
            Message 5 of 7 , Jan 1, 2006
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              YOu expressed surprise as to why the Real format hadnt won the format
              war, I see the comments from people about the negative sides of real
              as being the reasons why it shouldnt be surprising.

              Factors that influence videoblogging codec choices include:

              Image quality/filesize
              Encoding time
              Cost/availability of encoder & its integration into existing (& free)
              video editing apps
              Advice in various videoblogging guides
              What percentage of net users have the required player software &
              whether it sucks
              Compatibility with hardware eg ipod

              Additional reasons why Real is very far behind, indeed a minority
              format for videoblogging, include:

              The already mentioned evils of the player, really puts people off
              People associate it with its roots, streaming & protected content on
              large media sites
              Lack of support for loading/editing/converting real files in quite a
              few apps
              Generally an unpopular container format, avi on windows and mov on mac
              remain prevalent due to historical use, with a movement towards wmv
              (also quite unpopular container) and mp4.

              I dont really undersatnd why you'd be a fan of real if you are againt
              monopolyware. Real is jsut as bad. Why not embrace a format like .mp4
              container with mpeg4 video, as it isnt controlled by any one company.
              Choice of encoder, choice of player. Just because Aple is doing a lot
              of the visible stuff with promoting .mp4, doesnt mean they control it,
              eg realplayer can play mpeg4 too if you tell it too.

              I guess its probably really the filesize/quality issue that has won
              you over? Thats fair enough, just cant avoid the fact that other
              people may balance factors differently and so thats why real isnt used
              much, it scores poorly on other fronts.

              What bitrate etc are you using to achieve the quality/filesize that
              you are happy with in real? I would like to compare it to a few
              things, as I am also very much influenced by quality factors.

              Cheers

              Steve of Elbows

              --- In videoblogging@yahoogroups.com, Michael MARZIO
              <marzio-school@w...> wrote:
              >
              > Andreas, Happy New Year to you,
              > I know that the real PLAYER sucks - I said as much myself in the
              part of my message you snipped out. But if you embed your real media
              on your web pages, then you don't get any of the crap, and you also
              get the most efficient codec. Pop-up blockers limit the damage if you
              use their player as a stand-alone. I am not defending these guys, they
              really do suck, but I much prefer uploading a small RM file of good
              quality than a mov file taking up much more disk space, of the same
              video with same quality. And WMV - well, there is a war going on, and
              I still prefer alternatives to Windows monopolyware. Also, Apple is
              not an innocent by-stander. They do their best to steal the file
              associations too, and also insist that their player remains ON TOP
              when playing, one thing that the sucky real player people do NOT do.
              >
              > Also, if you're using Windows, there are great free tools to get the
              real player completely out of the registry in seconds.
              > All my users get a tinyurl shortcut directly to the final step for
              download page of the sucky free real player. Makes it very easy to find.
              >
              > There are no ideal solutions, are there?
              > I just went to your site and see that you embed MOVs. Well, if you
              EMBED RMs, the result is exactly the same. All the crap you bring up
              in your reply only occurs when you use the real player as a standalone.
              >
              > Mike Marzio
              > www.real-english.com
              >
              >
              >
              > Date: Sun, 01 Jan 2006 14:34:34 +0100
              > From: "Andreas Haugstrup" <solitude@s...>
              > Subject: Re: The Best Codec
              > On Sun, 01 Jan 2006 12:03:05 +0100, Michael MARZIO
              > <marzio-school@w...> wrote:
              > > My conclusion is that RM files are absolutely the best hands down,
              and I
              > > just don't understand why Real Networks or Real Media or whatever
              > > they're called, haven't won the codec war already.
              > [SNIP]
              > > I'm sure others are interested in keeping file sizes down and
              quality
              > > up. Why do I seem to be the only one who has reached this
              conclusion in
              > > favor of RM?
              > In case you haven't noticed it the Real Player sucks. It's
              impossible to
              > find the free player on their website, it's a real drag on slower
              > computers, it installs all kinds of crap and hijacks half the file
              types
              > on the computer. Even when you think you've uninstalled the player
              you get
              > these pop-ups above the system tray notifying you of "great offers"
              and
              > the likes.
              > They can have the best codec in the world, but until they make a
              player
              > that works *with* the users instead of against the users no one is
              going
              > to watch those videos.
              > - Andreas
              > --
              > <URL: http://www.solitude.dk/ >
              > Commentary on media, communication, culture and technology.
              >
            • Michael Marzio
              Hi Steve of Elbows, ... I recently got the $30 QuickTime Pro 7 player/encoder for converting my raw clips to MP4. I bought it only with the idea of comparing
              Message 6 of 7 , Jan 2, 2006
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                Hi Steve of Elbows,

                Your reply was really useful. Thanks for taking the time. I'd like to reply/ask about 3 issues:

                > Why not embrace a format like .mp4
                > container with
                mpeg4 video, as it isnt controlled by any one company.
                > Choice of
                encoder, choice of player. Just because Aple is doing a lot
                > of the
                visible stuff with promoting .mp4, doesnt mean they control it,
                > eg
                realplayer can play mpeg4 too if you tell it too.

                I recently got the $30 QuickTime Pro 7 player/encoder for converting my raw clips to MP4. I bought it only with the idea of comparing file size/quality to the results of the other codecs. BTW, I joined this group just a few days ago, and I think I understand the way you're all using the term "container".
                So, ***are you saying that Windows XP & Mac users can read MP4 files in the player of their choice without having to make special efforts in  downloading a player codec for MP4?***  If this is the case, I'm going to start re-encoding my raw library of video into mp4, because the results look really good, even if the the filesize/quality issue is inferior to the real codec.

                > I guess its
                probably really the filesize/quality issue that has won
                > you over?
                Yes, absolutely. I want good quality streaming faster than you can say "real".

                > Thats fair enough, just cant avoid the fact that
                other
                > people may balance factors differently and so thats why real isnt
                used
                > much, it scores poorly on other fronts.

                Can't agree more. And what a waste! The Real Media company seems to have absolute geniuses in charge of technical codec issues, & the worst people in the video world in charge of distribution and marketing.

                > What bitrate etc are you using
                to achieve the quality/filesize that
                > you are happy with in real? I would
                like to compare it to a few
                > things, as I am also very much influenced by
                quality factors.

                These are my typical encoding specs below, although I change them now and then to see if any users tell me that the quality and "speed of stream start" isn't as good as my standard one:
                First of all, I only do single audience encoding (which helps explain why my video file sizes are so small), despite the fact that the Real Producer 10 Plus can encode for a couple dozen audiences at the same time. I figure there's simply no reason to encode for 56K modem users anymore, and why bother to encode for those with extremely fast DSL or T1 or T2? They are rare, lucky people, who will see good results anyway with these lowish DSL rates (Next year this might change drastically, which is why I keep my raw video files on a couple 400GB hard disks with DVD data backups so as to re-encode in the future for future average rates).
                **Source: half of the video in the clip below was shot in 1994 with a single chip Hi-8, and half was shot very recently with a new cheap 3-chip Panasonic
                **Encoding after capture and editing in Raw Intel Indeo:
                Total Video+Audio Bit Rate: 225 Kbps
                Size: 320x240
                Frame Rate: 25 fps (I live in France and shoot in PAL when I'm in the States)
                Video Bit Rate only: 193 Kbps
                Audio Bit Rate only: 32 Kbps, mono, at 22 Mhz
                 
                Example: I am not trying to promote my site here, honest (and you don't have to learn English as a Second Language anyway!), it's just really easy to see the subjective result by going to www.real-english.com and click on "Sample Video" which should begin streaming in 2 seconds at the most in average conditions of general traffic, for low to average DSL/cable users. This "What have you got" clip was encoded exactly as described above. This one is 9 minutes long and takes up less than 15 megs on my hard disk!
                Thanks again for your input,
                Mike Marzio


                 
              • WWWhatsup
                I ve actually used pretty much the same spec of real for the last 5 years on punkcast, for much the same reasons that you mention. I give the link for the BBC
                Message 7 of 7 , Jan 2, 2006
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                  I've actually used pretty much the same spec of real for
                  the last 5 years on punkcast, for much the same reasons that
                  you mention. I give the link for the BBC download page, which
                  gives a pretty junk-free free install.
                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/audiohelp_install.shtml

                  I'm not interested in embedded video, however, I'm looking for the
                  lean-back experience, for streaming or download.

                  Particularly, for non qt-pro owning i-mac users, real was the
                  most practical free way of giving them full screen video bar M$,
                  I have experienced problems over the years playing back QT on
                  weaker PC's. - stuttering etc,

                  The increasing use of broadband and introduction of the VLC player
                  has changed things in recent times, making mpg or DIVX delivered via
                  bittorrent a high-quality alternative.

                  The advent of the video iPod, and the podcasting method, has created
                  a new standard, which is mp4 running around 600kbps, downloaded for
                  later play. Which codec to use is a matter of choice. I've seen very good
                  results using Xvid but I use h.264@480kps w/AAC at 128kbps audio.

                  Your question of 'Best Codec' really should be qualified with a purpose,
                  - if you've been following the discussion here on google video, you'll
                  see that the general consensus is that for embedded streaming it's
                  very possibly flv in flash, but that's not much good for offline play.

                  I'd suggest you do, as I do, for continuity and backwards compatibility,
                  continue to offer real on your site, and offer a podcast of higher quality mp4
                  for those that are up to speed.

                  A feedburner page offers an easy link to such content, see
                  http://feeds.feedburner.com/punkcastpodcast

                  joly





                  >**Encoding after capture and editing in Raw Intel Indeo:
                  >Total Video+Audio Bit Rate: 225 Kbps
                  >Size: 320x240
                  >Frame Rate: 25 fps (I live in France and shoot in PAL when I'm in the States)
                  >Video Bit Rate only: 193 Kbps
                  >Audio Bit Rate only: 32 Kbps, mono, at 22 Mhz
                  >
                  >Mike Marzio



                  >
                  >----------

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                  http://pinstand.com - http://punkcast.com
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