Using Video Game Footage - Part 5
Finishing the VideoWell, your video is now done, but not quite finished. First off it should be rather huge, since you did output it in Huffyuv CODEC, right? Also, the resolution should be much too large. If the original resolution was 320x240 it can be tempting to leave the video at 640x480 (the edit size) and encode that, but you have to remember that we faked a lot of the quality, and dropping its resolution one more stage, then allowing whatever hardware to deal with the display will lead to a better quality video.
Basically open up VirtualDub and Change the resolution of the file by 25% or back to its original size. Don’t forget to use “precise bicubic”. You can, if you want, apply some clean up filters before downsizing it for the last time, but be very sparing with them. Actually, use them all you want, it is your video. You now have your finished video in all of its uncompressed glory (or losslessly compressed, which counts)
Archiving, Distribution, and Video Tape
This part is entirely subjective. Right now you more than likely want to do three things with your video: You want to put it on the Internet, output it to tape, and archive it for easy storage. If you had unlimited amounts of space, saving that large AVI file that is your finished video is an option, but for the most of us it is not. If you had a video out method that supported uncompressed video, you could pipe your video out through that card to a tape deck, but most of us don’t have that. If everybody had an OC-48 , you could have everybody download that huge file. None of these will work, so we need to do something else.
That is where MPEG comes into play. I have tried a large host of MPEG compression utilities and programs, even written one of my own. From them all, I have been impressed with the Tsunami MPEG encoder, which handles both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. Originally it was totally free but the MPEG-LA, which is the license holder for MPEG-2, began cracking down on free encoders, demanding a license fee from them. So currently TMPGEnc is time limited to one month of MPEG-2 use but considering that you can simply delete the program, and re-install, or that there is a newer update every month, this is not an issue. When the program is finally “done”, the price is going to be comparable to a Playstation game to cover the license fee.
For Internet distribution I have found that VCD compliant MPEG-1 files are the best. Every modern OS that I know of has an MPEG-1 player, normally for free. The VCD spec MPEG-1 is also very well defined, and does not leave very many confusing options to deal with, such as bitrate, CODEC, and resolution. The quality can be rather good, and the file sizes are reasonable. No other format has all of these features, though many other formats are better at a couple of them. If you use TMPGEnc I suggest loading the NTSC (or PAL) VCD preset, and setting the motion quality to maximum.
For archiving you might want to consider MPEG-2. It is my personal favorite for long term storage, though it is by far not the only one. MPEG-2 has quite a few more options than VCD MPEG-1, but has the capability to hold the most quality at a good file size. Something that has to be watched is interlacing. MPEG-2 supports interlaced video, but not all encoders do. If your video source is interlaced, either you have to encode it interlaced (and match the settings), or deinterlace the video before encoding. MPEG-2 also supports a host of bitrates. My preference is to use a variable-bit-rate(VBR) format with quality set at maximum, with a maximum bitrate set at 8000 Kbit/s. Average and minimum should be set, depending on the encoder, at 4000 and 2000, though theoretically minimum can be set at 0. For audio, MPEG layer II set at the maximum bitrate tends to be good for high quality archiving.
For outputting to tape, you need hardware. If you already have a capture card, more than likely it supports video out as well. If that is the case, simply convert the AVI file to the native CODEC of the card, either using a tool it provides, or using VirtualDub. If you have a video card with TV out, you may simply play the video full screen to output it. My preferred way to output a video to tape is to use the MPEG-2 archive I made, and dedicated MPEG-2 playback hardware. The Hollywood+ card sold by SigmaDesigns is available currently (Early 2001) for less than $50 on http://www.pricewatch.com. Its video out quality is incredible, and it is easy to use.
And that is all of the steps I use to get a video from bad quality footage. It should be a little confusing… but that is because inherently I am insane. It is a good level of insanity, and if you were reading this article, you have more than likely caught that AMV insanity.