Monday, September 26, 2005

Video Compression Blues

Cybercafe - Delhi, India

This is one for the video nerds...

The OC is shooting about 1 1-hour mini DV tape per week. Each tape contains about 13 gigs of data. I am trying (with little success) to come up with a data management strategy that achieves the following goals:
  1. Provides a secure backup of every bit ever shot.
  2. Provides access to a "decent" quality version of all footage while on the road.
  3. Limits the amount of stuff we have to carry around.
  4. Minimizes wear on the camera motors.
  5. Is "fast" and "convenient".
  6. Does not require me to buy expensive (> $50) software.

We have a folder of 100 DVD-Rs (4.7 G per disc) taking up most of the space in my bag. The idea is to use these to store a reduced-quality version of each tape and backup the data by posting the originals back to Fortress USA. I would like to maintain 1 tape / 1 disc parity. At an average rate of 1 tape per week, this should give us plenty of storage for 13 months with plenty to spare for other data sources (photos, completed video projects, blog entires, etc.).

So, the essential problem is:

How do I compress 13 G of video into 4.7 G of "decent" quality video "quickly" using only 2 G4 iBooks?

This question is proving more more difficult to answer than I had hoped.

Experiments show that my iBook does not have the processing power necessary to encode a 1 hour MPEG in an acceptable amount of time. Every attempt so far has taken at least 8 hours, with on-screen estimates of completion time usually hovering around the 24 hour mark. Lame. More simplistic efforts have had unexpectedly frustrating results. For example, using Final Cut Express to create a lower resolution (smaller) version of the raw video using an uncompressed codec results in a file that is the same size or larger than the original. Ugh. Utilities like gzip are out of the question because it takes almost as long to compress a large file as it does to encode an MPEG. Grrrr.

So, if there are any video encoding/compression experts out there, now is the time to pipe up. Please. The stack of tapes in my bag is starting to get out of control. Also, should something happen to said bag, we would lose all video to date.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duuuuuhhhhh..... send the bag of tapes home? Or do them furners not have mail systems yet?

9/26/2005 5:38 PM gmt

Blogger Mik3 said...

Ugh. You didn't read that very closely, now did ya? I need to have the data available to me for two reasons:

1. So I can edit it on the road.

2. So there are 2 copies in case one of 'em gets lost in the mail or stolen or shat upon or something.

I will mail the original tapes back to base >once< I have made a low-res copy of 'em.

9/27/2005 9:54 AM gmt

Blogger jason said...

Don't forget the monkey pirates. They can steal them and shit on them at the same time.

9/27/2005 10:11 AM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...


which software would you buy if you had the money? Shall we start a "mik3 needs better video software" fundraiser?

9/27/2005 3:05 PM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duuuuuuhhh.... why don't you, like, copy them onto your computer or something? Or can you copy them on the internet? I always see lots of movies on the internet.

9/27/2005 5:47 PM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Quicktime 7 Pro? For $29.99 you can buy a key online at Apple which unlocks the video editing capabilities of Quicktime (must have Quicktime 7 loaded first which can be downloaded for free). It seems pretty basic but it has a surprising number of codecs. You could capture as .mov (default) and encode to mp4 later. Final Cut should be able to handle .mov clips right?

From the Apple site:
"And as a powerful application ideal for creating high-quality audio and video content, QuickTime 7 Pro lets you create H.264 video, capture audio and video, create multi-channel audio and export multiple files as you continue to playback or edit video. Powerful and easy to use, it’s also very affordable. You can upgrade to QuickTime 7 Pro for just $29.99 — why, that’s just 8 cents a day for a year"

I like that last's only 8 cents a day! It's worth a try.

9/28/2005 6:33 AM gmt

Blogger Mik3 said...

Dre - No need for a fund. I can always sell off some of Jasn's organs if things get that tight.

Anonymous - I bought Quicktime Pro, but it turns out I already had almost all of the features with Final Cut Express.

All - We have decided to forgo compression altogether and make complete backups of the raw footage on DVDs. At 3 DVDs per mini-DV tape, it should be about 6 months before we run out of optical storage and have to revisit the issue. Let the bit-shepherding commence!

10/07/2005 8:56 AM gmt

Blogger jason said...

We are some hard-hittin', archivin' mofos. Never before have I spent so much time shuffling bits. It's a strange feeling to go from four days in the mountain wilds to one day trapped in front of a computer.

10/07/2005 10:04 AM gmt


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