DVD Catalyst Newsletter 150 – 04-04-14

Discussion in 'Dvd-Catalyst' started by dvdcatalyst, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. dvdcatalyst
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    dvdcatalyst Guest

    Hi,

    Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 150.

    Wow, what a week. It started out pretty quiet, and I was actually wondering if I was able to get enough to write about for this newsletter, but on Wednesday, it caught up pretty good.

    With its "video service" announcement Amazon introduced something that was rumored for a while, but as usual with Amazon, it was able to outdo the rumors. Also this week Microsoft officially announced big updates for its Windows OS versions.


    Anyway, lets get started:

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    Tech News:

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    Amazon Fire TV:

    The Amazon Fire TV is a tiny box that connects your HDTV to a world of online entertainment. With a huge selection of TV episodes and movies, voice search that actually works, plus exclusive features like ASAP and Amazon FreeTime, it’s the easiest way to enjoy Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, low-cost movie rentals, music, photos, games, and more.


    Product link : Amazon Fire TV – Streaming Media Player – Shop Now



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    Windows Phone 8.1:

    Microsoft announces Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana, coming in April | Ars Technica

    Microsoft announced some updates for its Windows operating systems, including Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft is playing catch-up with Apple and Google, and with this update, they are going to start competing with the "voice assistant" features of both companies. Wisely, Microsoft decided to use Cortana for the name, a name that is tied to one of the most popular video game series of the world, Halo. In the game Cortana is an artificial assistant to the main character of the game, so it is fitting to use that for a phone as well. And of course with the name-recognition, it might draw some of the gaming crowd over to Windows Phone as well.


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    Windows 8.1 Update:


    http://winsupersite.com/windows-8/windows-81-update-1-review

    Microsoft adding Live Tiles to Start Menu in Windows 8.1 update - SlashGear

    While the mobile version if making big strides, with the "desktop" version of Windows, Microsoft is doing more "damage control". Windows 8 is by many heralded as the new Windows Vista, and with this update, Microsoft is trying to work its way back to what it was + new functionality, rather than something completely new and cumbersome.


    One of the biggest things with Windows 8 is that it basically needs a touch-screen in order to make it usable. While you can work with it with keyboard and mouse, it loses its function that way. On my desk, I have a Windows 8 tablet sitting next to me, and have its dock hooked to a screen and keyboard/mouse combo for development work, and for many things, I end up doing stuff on the tablet's screen itself because it takes too many steps otherwise. Working with 2 different application modes is also a nightmare. In desktop mode you can run apps in "windows" next to each other, but many of the stock apps run in "metro" mode, and switch to Windows 8 mode and run full-screen. So for most of my work, I'm still on Windows 7.

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    Tips:

    Conversion quality testing with DVD Catalyst 4 (or HQXT + MultiDevice):
    Note: For many readers, this might look like blah blah blah stuff, but if you convert a lot of your movies, the information below can help you get better results with your conversions. Of course an increase of quality of your video files is a given, but in some cases you might want to sacrifice some quality in trade for convenience or speed. In the information below, I try to keep the wording of things as easy as possible, so it should be easy enough to understand, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'll be happy to answer them for you


    One of the most asked questions people ask me is what settings to use in DVD Catalyst. For many of the device profiles, there are a few different variations, and while they all produce great results, there are some differences between them.

    For full details on the differences, have a look here (link). For this little guide, I'm addressing a different, more important aspect of conversion quality, your own perception of it.


    The profiles in DVD Catalyst (or any other conversion application) are basically just a collection of settings that determine compatibility with a set device (iPad profile for iPad-compatibility, Galaxy S4 profile for compatibility with that device) as well as quality settings for the conversion such as resolution and bitrate. Some conversion tools just use the specifications set by the manufacturer for that device, other tools use settings determines by the developer(s) as to what would work well.

    As of such, the quality settings set in an application are set by someone other than yourself.

    To determine your own personal quality settings for your conversions, you can setup a test-conversion in DVD Catalyst 4 by using its "Multi-Device" feature. During development and tweaking of settings, I use these steps to do that, and it enables me to fine-tune any modifications I might have done.


    Here is how to do it.


    1. Start with DVD Catalyst 4 and select the first profile you want to use (I'm using the Amazon > Kindle Fire HD7 profile) and insert a DVD or add a video file of one of your favorite movies. Of course you can use any movie for this, but picking a favorite makes it easier to skim through the movie for comparison.

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    2. We are now going to set up additional profiles (Multi-Device) to include for the test-conversion.

    Enable the Power User checkmark, and tap on Modify.

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    3. In the "Modify" section, along with the video settings, you will see an "add device" button. Tap on this, and a duplicate of your current settings will be created as a second device entry.

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    4. Make your desired settings-changes, or select a different device profile to use (or both). In the screenshot below, I selected the HQXT variant of the Kindle Fire HD7 profile for the second device.

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    5. Tap the Add Device button again to create another entry from the currently selected settings, and make the changes you desire. In the screenshot I keep the same profile, but change the CRF setting from 23 to 20 (best quality setting).

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    6. Repeat this for as many settings you want to test. When done, tap Go to start the conversion.

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    The same movie (or movies/video files) will be converted using each of the settings you selected. In my example, the movie will be converted 3 times, One using the default Kindle Fire HD7 profile, one using the default HQXT settings for it, and lastly using modified HQXT settings.

    7. After the conversion is completed, DVD Catalyst will have organized the videos into folders named after each device profile you selected, and in each of the folders you will find the video files created using the settings you selected. If you used the same profile more than once, it will have (1) or something similar behind the video name.

    For comparison, I renamed the files to the settings I used in the shot below.

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    The file-size differences differ per movie. With the default settings, different movies of similar playlength will be similar in size, but with the HQXT settings, it actually looks at what is needed for the conversion and automatically adjusts itself during conversion for that, so you will see a difference in file-size between different movies. A romance movie will be considerably smaller in size than an action movie, even though the visual quality will be the same.


    In this example, the standard profile and the hqxt profile are pretty much the same in size. The modified HQXT profile, 20 instead of 23, is almost twice as large in file-size. The big question is, is it worth the difference?


    To tell the difference in quality between the different video files, just open your video player and look at the video. The biggest quality points to look for are scenes with a lot of things going on or fast movement. Explosions, the waves of an ocean, car chases etc.

    Video compression works by storing the differences between video frames, and the more differences, the more data is needed to store them. Using the "standard" settings in a conversion tool, the bitrate "locks" the amount of data that can be stored to a fixed setting. This amount is used for slow as well as fast scenes, and if there is not enough available to store the differences, less data than needed is stored, and the visual quality at that point of the movie will have blemishes such as blocks and missing detail. With the HQXT profiles in DVD Catalyst, it automatically adjusts the amount of data that it can use, so it will always have enough. And, unlike with a fixed setting where it will just waste data, it also lowers itself when less is needed, so it only stores whatever is needed, no more, no less.

    In the screenshot below, I skimmed through the created videos to the busiest action scene of the movie.

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    The red section is the part where I was able to notice some differences in quality, so I took that from the 3 different videos. The differences are minimal, but if you look very close, you can see a slight blur with the default settings. With the default HQXT settings, there is still a slight blur at the top, but the center looks more defined. The HQXT 20 setting is even more detailed.

    Keep in mind that the above screenshots were taken during a fast action scene in the movie. The screenshot is from a single frame that is only visible for a fraction of a second. When you are watching the movie, its nearly impossible to spot the difference.


    Here are the results of a completely different movie:

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    A 3 hour movie (compared to 1 1/2 hours for the previous one), so larger files in general.

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    Again, minimal differences, but still visible if you know where to look. Moving water is a perfect part of a movie to use for quality comparisons. Even with normal waves, the amount of changes per frame are murder for most conversion tools. On screen a wave moves just a little between different frames, but with 100's of waves moving only slightly, almost the entire frame is different from the previous one, so to reproduce those changes a lot of data is needed.


    With the screenshot above, you can see a similar blur on the smaller files.


    The differences aren't that big, especially when you watch the movie rather than looking at a still image, and for me, double the size of hqxt 20 vs hqxt 22 isn't worth the difference to me.



    So, what did you just read?


    1. Video quality is personal. All conversion tools, including but not limited to DVD Catalyst, use settings either based on specifications of a device or on the developers own preferences/ideas. It is up to you how to make use of them. You can use the settings provided, or experiment a bit and come up with your own "Ultimate" settings.


    2. For experimentation with settings you can use DVD Catalyst 4's "Multi-Device" feature to setup a conversion of the same movie using a variety of different settings.


    3. The information above also highlights what to look for if you are experimenting with settings and are comparing the different results.



    And what is it that you can do with this?

    With the information above you can come up with your own preferred settings.


    Maybe you rather have a small file-size so you can fit more movies on a single memory-card, eliminating the need for buying more.


    Or maybe, because the difference is hardly noticeable, you tweak your settings to the best quality you can notice, rather than just maxing out everything and ending up with extremely large video file-sizes.




    For my own conversions I tend to use the default HQXT settings. Not the fastest settings, not the best quality settings, but everything looks great. I don't need pixel-perfect accuracy when I'm watching a movie, in fact in some cases, I find that a slightly less than perfect video quality makes the movie look better, less "fake".


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    Thoughts:

    Netflix:

    Not connected to the Fire TV announcement, I ended up (Tuesday evening) canceling my Netflix subscription. I had it for many, many years and recommended it to a large number of people around me as well as on the web, but lately it just hasn't been working for me, so it forced me into making more use of my Amazon Prime subscription.

    I don't have much "personal" time, so I don't watch much "live" TV, and with my wife and I not sharing much in terms of movie taste, I usually watch my content on a tablet of some sort in the form of either movies I converted using my own software (DVD Catalyst obviously), or from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.


    Due to my work, I have access to a large amount of tablets in different sizes, but I do have my favorites. For the last half-year or so, I've been mostly using a Surface RT for video playback. My own videos on a memorycard, and Netflix for if I'm just bored and looking for something to watch. But since the beginning of this year, Netflix has been acting up on the darn thing. I've done all the updates, but it just keeps losing network connection while streaming, even though other apps can still access the web just fine.


    Since the issues started, I've been trying different devices, and the only device I was able to use it somewhat reliable on is the Galaxy Note 3.

    And while the Note 3 does have a large screen, it is tiny compared to that of a Surface RT, especially for watching a movie or a TV show.

    So, with a constant struggle to be able to watch Netflix on any one of my devices, I was basically forced to look on Amazon Prime. For that, I use a Kindle Fire HD. Netflix is available on that as well, but again the same issues, and switching to the same video on Amazon Prime works just fine without having to do anything special.


    I already use Amazon Prime for its 2-day free shipping part, so the "free" videos is just an added bonus for me. Content-wise there are some differences between the 2 services, but nothing that makes me stick with one or the other, so Netflix got canceled.


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    Closings:

    Well, that is it for DVD Catalyst Newsletter 150.

    Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments, ideas, suggestions or any questions, feel free to let me know, a simple reply to this thread will get my attention :)

    Have a great weekend, and until next week.

    Sincerely,
    Mitch

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    Perfect, full-screen, video playback without stutter, freezing, audio-sync or other issues.


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    DVD Catalyst 4 converts your movies and TV shows to small, great-looking video files that are perfectly optimized to play on the latest devices.


    The app includes profiles for 1000's of tablets and smartphones, including Amazon Kindle Fire HD/Kindle Fire HDX, Apple iPad Air and iPhone 5s/5c, Barnes & Noble NOOK HD/NOOK HD+, Fuhu Nabi, Vtech InnoTab and of course the latest Galaxy S4/Galaxy S5, Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note devices from Samsung.



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  2. Jeffrey
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    Jeffrey DF Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

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    Lots of neat stuff coming down the pike. I think SmartWatches will be big.

    Thanks for the update. Great info as always.
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  4. Jeffrey
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    Jeffrey DF Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

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    The one I would like is the Moto 360. Very pricey at $499.
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