MPEG2 DVD quality versus VHS tape

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Henrik Lindberg
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Joined: Dec 24 2003

Having been working with Digital Video for about 6 month now, I am finally able to compare the different standards. Mostly interesting for home users are MPEG2 versus VHS tape. I have also compared MPEG2 with DIVX and WMV with following conclusion:

Before giving my conclusion, I would like to point out that my Digital Video source is taken from a Panasonic NV-GS30 digital camera. When I play-back the raw DV footage on the PC (having a fast PC!), it is very clear and smooth, the problems starts when converting to MPEG2, DIVX or other CODEC’s. To transfer the footage I use Pinnacle Studio 8.

MPEG2 versus VHS tape -> VHS tape wins! Even though the resolution of the tape is worse, it gives a more smooth play back, especially on TV. I can not stand jerky playback (falling to 10 fps in some cases – so it looks).

MPEG2 versus DIVX -> DIVX file is larger at the same visual quality -> MPEG2 wins!

MPEG2 versus WMV -> Both very good, but since WMV is Microsoft I will still keep using MPEG2. Remembering that some day you would like to transfer your footage to DVD.

All in all – VHS tape is better and I am talking standard (not SVHS), which is a shame since we are moving forward in technology the end result is not improving satisfactory. Unfortunately tape only survives for some 10 years before it starts to become unwatchable.

Hope to get some good discussions about this :)

harlequin
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Having been working with Digital Video for about 6 month now, I am finally able to compare the different standards. Mostly interesting for home users are MPEG2 versus VHS tape. I have also compared MPEG2 with DIVX and WMV with following conclusion:

Before giving my conclusion, I would like to point out that my Digital Video source is taken from a Panasonic NV-GS30 digital camera. When I play-back the raw DV footage on the PC (having a fast PC!), it is very clear and smooth, the problems starts when converting to MPEG2, DIVX or other CODEC’s. To transfer the footage I use Pinnacle Studio 8. well studio 8 may be the root of your problems , what compression settings are you using for the mpeg2 file?

MPEG2 versus VHS tape -> VHS tape wins! Even though the resolution of the tape is worse, it gives a more smooth play back, especially on TV. I can not stand jerky playback (falling to 10 fps in some cases – so it looks).
something wrong with your setup , mpeg2 at 6mbp's (1 1/2 hour per single sided single layer dvd with mpeg sound(not ac3) ) is better than vhs by a long way when encoded by my storm2 or panasonic e50 deck
MPEG2 versus DIVX -> DIVX file is larger at the same visual quality -> MPEG2 wins!

what bitrates are you using for both , that will affect the size of the file , since divx is supposed to be a more compact system , i can't see how you end up with a larger file ?

MPEG2 versus WMV -> Both very good, but since WMV is Microsoft I will still keep using MPEG2. Remembering that some day you would like to transfer your footage to DVD.

but you've just said that mpeg2 is worse than vhs , so why keep an mpeg2 , when the wmv would do for just now , and you could copy from original tape to mpeg2 at a later date when you want to save to dvd ?

All in all – VHS tape is better and I am talking standard (not SVHS), which is a shame since we are moving forward in technology the end result is not improving satisfactory. Unfortunately tape only survives for some 10 years before it starts to become unwatchable.

i have tapes that are from 1984 , and still as watchable as they were when recorded , so looking after tapes properly may affect the lifespan of a vhs tape.

Hope to get some good discussions about this :)

Gary MacKenzie

sepulce@hotmail.com ( an account only used for forum messages )

Thinkserver TS140 , 750ti Graphics card  & LG 27" uws led backlight , Edius 8

Humax Foxsat HD Pvr / Humax Fox T2 dvbt

Henrik Lindberg
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Joined: Dec 24 2003

Hi Gary – thanks for your feed-back.

Actually in Pinnacle you do not have setting options, when choosing MPEG2 DVD compatible, but you can see that 6000 Kbit/Sec. is washed out, just like 720 x 576 in Pinnacle. This is how you mentioned it and the file size is about 650Mbyte per 15 min. – just like DVD. We are talking PAL 25 fps. and normal Stereo.

It is not because the quality is terrible, but the drawback is mainly fast moving video – e.g. when panning from side to side which gives a very jerky MPEG2 playback. This jerky playback is a direct product of the MPEG2 CODEC, since the raw DV plays back just fine. This problem has also been reported by other people, but seams to be relatively accepted in general. Take e.g. a fast moving scene and compare a couple of frames in raw DV and in MPEG2 – BIG difference! My conclusion is that the 6000 KBit/Sec. is not enough in most of fast moving scenes. Then on the other hand – I have seen DVD’s from large companies like Warner which plays back fast moving scenes just fine in DVD!? So what kind of MPEG2 are they using ???

So is there more than one type of DVD MPEG2 ? Like a low cost and a high end version? If not – how can this be explained?

About the VHS tapes – you are right about the quality, but my 10 year old tapes are what they are and I see that they are slowly dying! So this is something I should have thought about then, a little late now. I might also be a little unfair when stating that VHS tapes are better than my DV cam, since I am not comparing like with like, it might just be my relative low cost Panasonic NV-GS30 cam that does not produce all that crystal clear pictures!

Andy Clift
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Joined: Dec 10 2003

When comparing quality its not just about DV against another system or VHS against DVD. The details of the kit used at every stage of production and viewing is just as important, if not more so.

I use a couple of SVHS (anyone remember the term) camcorders, a Panasonic Broadcast DP800 and a Panasonic DP200. I also use a Sony DV camera.

In theory the DV camera should be best but in practice the output from the DP800 is substantially better. As one would expect, in most situations the DV camera is better than the rather basic DP200 but I do a lot of wedding work and have given up using the DV camera in poorly lit churches as it has never produced decent footage. In that environment I find the DP200 results are much better.

I think the main reason the DP800 wins is the very high quality Fujinon lens when compared with the bottle bottoms (in the case of the Sony a VERY small bottle bottom)on the other cameras. We seem to forget in these high tech days that photography, still or video is all about light and unless one can get good quality, well focused light onto the chip the results will never be any good. Other differences also have an impact, chip size, number of chips, quality of camera mechanism, etc. Also I find the SVHS tape format seems much more reliable than the tiny DV tapes.

I know that there are many DV cameras which will produce better results than my DP800 but the point I am making is one cannot just say VHS is better than MPEG or vice versa. The route between camera and final output is a long one - shoot the video, transfer to computer, edit, output to tape/convert to DVD. Lots of hardware and lots of software and they all have an impact on the final result.

The best quality final result I achieve is DP800 camera - DV500 capture card - Premiere - DVD via Encore and there is no doubt the the DVD output is substantially better than output to VHS from the Premiere timeline (using a pro vhs recorder and good quality tape) but others may have different experiences.

I also use a very cheap compact 35mm camera and a substantially more expensive Nikon SLR. They both use the same film, the films get processed at the same lab and in good sunlight at postcard size the cheapy produces good results. In hard conditions, blown up to 16 X 20 the Nikon proves its worth the money.

rkgibbons
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Joined: Apr 30 2003

Henrik,

The "Hollywood" studios are using the same MPEG-standards for their DVD's as you and I are using -- but they have several MAJOR advantages that really improve the quality of their images. The first is storage space. Consumer level DVD burners are only capable of burning to a single layer on the DVD disc, which severely limits the amount of space available. The big boys are able to create discs with dual-layers, allowing them to either cram twice as much video on the disc -- or vastly increase the quality (bit-rate) of the same amount of video.

The higher the bit-rate, the better the video.

Second, the professional studios are not using consumer-level off-the-shelf MPEG converters to transfer their images from film into the MPEG format for DVD. They employ entire companies using custom-built transfer equipment/software -- with professionally-trained experts managing the entire process. They'll spend weeks and sometimes even months ensuring the conversion is as close to perfect as possible. And more importantly, they don't just lump the whole film into a single session and press the "convert to MPEG" button. They'll break up the films into individual scenes (sometimes even frames!) and work on the separate parts -- ensuring that every section of the film is pristine.

As consumers, we'll never really be able to compete with the big boys. But the first step is to get a better MPEG convertor.

Keith.

AMD 4400+ Dual Core (2.2Ghz x 2), 2GB Ram, MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum MB, Nvidia 7800GTX video card, Pinnacle DC2000 component capture card, Dell Ultrasharp 2405FPW 24" flat panel display, Sony SR1 AVCHD HD Camcorder, Pinnacle Liquid 6 Pro

rogerc
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Joined: Feb 28 2003

I use a Sony DCR-PC120 DV camera. Edite on a Vaio PCG-Fr215H laptop. Convert to MPEG2 using Sony DVgate Assemble at the 8mbs setting. Burn with Sont click to DVD. The resultant DVD's knock VHS tapes into a cocked hat

vdavis
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Joined: Feb 1 2004

It seems that you know what you are talking about when you posted this. I am having trouble with getting my sony camcorder conected by USB port and my AMD computer to be compatible when using the Sony program that was supplied with the digital camcorder. Exactly which program are you using to convert from camera to DVD? Sorry I am new to this format.

quote:Originally posted by rogerc:
I use a Sony DCR-PC120 DV camera. Edite on a Vaio PCG-Fr215H laptop. Convert to MPEG2 using Sony DVgate Assemble at the 8mbs setting. Burn with Sont click to DVD. The resultant DVD's knock VHS tapes into a cocked hat

harlequin
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you cannot hope to transfer dv quality footage from a camcorder via usb in realtime.

if you look at the manual i am 99% sure that you will see that usb is for streaming/still picture transfer only.

you need to use firewire (ieee1394/ilink) to transfer dv footage.

Gary MacKenzie

sepulce@hotmail.com ( an account only used for forum messages )

Thinkserver TS140 , 750ti Graphics card  & LG 27" uws led backlight , Edius 8

Humax Foxsat HD Pvr / Humax Fox T2 dvbt

heretic
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Hi all,
I must say I am deeply unsatisfied with DVD quality! There are very visible ugly blocks on larger unicolored areas (mainly black ones) and the film is often jerky, as was mentioned by Henrik. Where is that "studio quality" promoted everywhere???

harlequin
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Quote:
Originally posted by HeReTiC:
Hi all,
I must say I am deeply unsatisfied with DVD quality! There are very visible ugly blocks on larger unicolored areas (mainly black ones) and the film is often jerky, as was mentioned by Henrik. Where is that "studio quality" promoted everywhere???

depends upon what quality it is recorded at and the ammount of time spent fixing problem areas in a dvd.

also depends on the quality of the decoder software turning the dvd data back into a picture to see.

there are as many bad dvd's out there as there are bad vhs tapes , not always down to the format , but down to the user.

Gary MacKenzie

sepulce@hotmail.com ( an account only used for forum messages )

Thinkserver TS140 , 750ti Graphics card  & LG 27" uws led backlight , Edius 8

Humax Foxsat HD Pvr / Humax Fox T2 dvbt

heretic
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Quote:
Originally posted by harlequin:

quote:Originally posted by HeReTiC:
[b] Hi all,
I must say I am deeply unsatisfied with DVD quality! There are very visible ugly blocks on larger unicolored areas (mainly black ones) and the film is often jerky, as was mentioned by Henrik. Where is that "studio quality" promoted everywhere???

depends upon what quality it is recorded at and the ammount of time spent fixing problem areas in a dvd.

also depends on the quality of the decoder software turning the dvd data back into a picture to see.

there are as many bad dvd's out there as there are bad vhs tapes , not always down to the format , but down to the user. [/b]

Yeah, but why do they compress the original so much that the blocks are SO visible?? :confused: Don't you know about some websites reviewing picture quality of individual DVDs? Or, don't you know about some software DVD players capable of "deblocking" or "denoising" DVD picture?

harlequin
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be specific and state what dvd's are bad.

if you don't compress the files you can't play them due to bandwidth limitations.

i don't have this problem with any of the commercial dvd's i own.

what do you suggest people watch if you don't want any block's , since blocks are part of the dvd encoding process ?

Gary MacKenzie

sepulce@hotmail.com ( an account only used for forum messages )

Thinkserver TS140 , 750ti Graphics card  & LG 27" uws led backlight , Edius 8

Humax Foxsat HD Pvr / Humax Fox T2 dvbt

heretic
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Quote:
Originally posted by harlequin:
be specific and state what dvd's are bad.

if you don't compress the files you can't play them due to bandwidth limitations.

i don't have this problem with any of the commercial dvd's i own.

what do you suggest people watch if you don't want any block's , since blocks are part of the dvd encoding process ?

1) For example, I consider bad enough Queen Greatest Video Hits #1 (2 DVDs) and #2 (2 DVDs). I've seen them on VHS and it was clearly better.

2) I know there must be some blocks by nature, but not so big. I ask for less contents with better quality.

In the meantime, I did some research and found that my complains are recognized problems, but unfortunately not very much discussed around Internet. However, video card vendors (NVIDIA, ATI) already incorporated correction mechanisms into their latest products. In the ATI camp, the magic words are VIDEOSHADER (adaptive de-interlacing) and FULLSTREAM (de-blocking) - see ATI's site.

VIDEOSHADER should take care of the tearing ("feathering"). Has anyone some experience with these methods of reconstructing video quality?

rkgibbons
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Joined: Apr 30 2003

Again, it all boils down to the efforts the video production company took to:

A. Obtain a high-quality source (gargbage in, garbage out)

B. Digitize the source footage.

C. Convert the source footage to MPEG2.

These are not simple steps -- and many companies overlook (or ignore) the importance of each in their efforts to get a product to market as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

Look at "The Fellowship of the Ring" on DVD. It's visually flawless -- and a perfect example of the DVD format displayed to its potential.

Of course, the bad quality may also result from the equipment you're using to play and view these DVD's. I had a buddy who complained about the newest release of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (a movie which is visually stunning when played back on my DVD player and large-screen tv). It turns out he was watching the video on an old computer with a dated DVD drive. His jaw dropped when he watched the movie at my place.

As for your "research" -- if the problems you're having are not widely discussed around the Internet, then they're not widely experienced by the general public -- because if one law holds true it's that people will complain about anything -- and they'll do it on the internet.

AMD 4400+ Dual Core (2.2Ghz x 2), 2GB Ram, MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum MB, Nvidia 7800GTX video card, Pinnacle DC2000 component capture card, Dell Ultrasharp 2405FPW 24" flat panel display, Sony SR1 AVCHD HD Camcorder, Pinnacle Liquid 6 Pro

heretic
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I agree that quality of Lord of the Rings 1 and 2 is very good. To sum it all up: one must carefully select, which DVDs to copy and which not, and consider not only the contents, but also visual quality of the contents.

BTW, I have Athlon XP 2600+, 256 MB DDR and GeForce4 Ti 4200 (128 MB RAM), which I don't consider to be a particularly weak computer. However, I don't think that computer strength influence size of blocks or noise appearing in the picture. It can affect smoothness of playback, but that's all.

harlequin
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Quote:
Originally posted by HeReTiC:
I agree that quality of Lord of the Rings 1 and 2 is very good. To sum it all up: one must carefully select, which DVDs to copy and which not, and consider not only the contents, but also visual quality of the contents.

BTW, I have Athlon XP 2600+, 256 MB DDR and GeForce4 Ti 4200 (128 MB RAM), which I don't consider to be a particularly weak computer. However, I don't think that computer strength influence size of blocks or noise appearing in the picture. It can affect smoothness of playback, but that's all.

if you playback the same dvd using
1. mediaplayer
2. windvd
3. powerdvd
4. nvidia dvd player

you will see different quality of replay dependent on the quality of the codec decoding the dvd info.

therefore.

computer strength =
processor + dvd drive + software = can dictate quality of playback.

your statement about which dvd's to copy makes me think you are having problems after ripping a dvd.

if this is so , then yes you will have problems as you will have undone all the hardwork the creator did by ripping at a rate different from the original.

Gary MacKenzie

sepulce@hotmail.com ( an account only used for forum messages )

Thinkserver TS140 , 750ti Graphics card  & LG 27" uws led backlight , Edius 8

Humax Foxsat HD Pvr / Humax Fox T2 dvbt

rkgibbons
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Wait a sec...are we talking about quality problems when copying store-bought DVD's or are we talking about quality problems when producing our own MPEG based DVD's?

I thought you were complaining about the quality of MPEG DVD's in general, not about the quality of your copies.

If you're just ripping store-bought DVD's, then of course the quality is going to suffer. You're attempting to cram 9.4 gigs worth of information down into roughly 4.7 gigs. No matter how well you compress that information, you'll never be able to match the professionals.

I thought we were talking about something entirely different...

AMD 4400+ Dual Core (2.2Ghz x 2), 2GB Ram, MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum MB, Nvidia 7800GTX video card, Pinnacle DC2000 component capture card, Dell Ultrasharp 2405FPW 24" flat panel display, Sony SR1 AVCHD HD Camcorder, Pinnacle Liquid 6 Pro

heretic
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To Gary:
Software has nothing to do with any definition of computer strength. And, do you think that MPEG2 decoding quality od Mediaplayer, WinDVD a PowerDVD in their latest version differ noticeably?

To Gary and rkgibbons:
I'm not sure what Gary means by "ripping at a rate different from the original" - I just use DVD Decrypter to get rid of the protections and then I burn the contents UNCHANGED. Of course, I must use 2 DVD-R disks to get contents of 1 DVD-ROM... So I have the same quality as original.
And when I was complaining, it was about ORIGINALS, not my copies. Anyway, as I explained above, they are of the same quality.

harlequin
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Quote:
Originally posted by HeReTiC:
To Gary:
Software has nothing to do with any definition of computer strength. And, do you think that MPEG2 decoding quality od Mediaplayer, WinDVD a PowerDVD in their latest version differ noticeably?

To Gary and rkgibbons:
I'm not sure what Gary means by "ripping at a rate different from the original" - I just use DVD Decrypter to get rid of the protections and then I burn the contents UNCHANGED. Of course, I must use 2 DVD-R disks to get contents of 1 DVD-ROM... So I have the same quality as original.
And when I was complaining, it was about ORIGINALS, not my copies. Anyway, as I explained above, they are of the same quality.

1a. so you say that different codecs don't alter speed / quality of mpeg encoding ?

1b. yes i do , that's why i typed it.
but you obviously know more about dvd's & decoders etc. than i do.
in my limited experience even two different hardware players will show different output from the same dvd.

2. so why bother pirating bad quality discs ?

maybe you should consider the quality of the original footage they had to make the dvd's from.

Gary MacKenzie

sepulce@hotmail.com ( an account only used for forum messages )

Thinkserver TS140 , 750ti Graphics card  & LG 27" uws led backlight , Edius 8

Humax Foxsat HD Pvr / Humax Fox T2 dvbt

heretic
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Joined: Apr 20 2004
Quote:
Originally posted by harlequin:

quote:Originally posted by HeReTiC:
[b] To Gary:
Software has nothing to do with any definition of computer strength. And, do you think that MPEG2 decoding quality od Mediaplayer, WinDVD a PowerDVD in their latest version differ noticeably?

To Gary and rkgibbons:
I'm not sure what Gary means by "ripping at a rate different from the original" - I just use DVD Decrypter to get rid of the protections and then I burn the contents UNCHANGED. Of course, I must use 2 DVD-R disks to get contents of 1 DVD-ROM... So I have the same quality as original.
And when I was complaining, it was about ORIGINALS, not my copies. Anyway, as I explained above, they are of the same quality.

1a. so you say that different codecs don't alter speed / quality of mpeg encoding ?

1b. yes i do , that's why i typed it.
but you obviously know more about dvd's & decoders etc. than i do.
in my limited experience even two different hardware players will show different output from the same dvd.

2. so why bother pirating bad quality discs ?

maybe you should consider the quality of the original footage they had to make the dvd's from. [/b]

Ad 1a) Did I say something like that?

Ad 1b) Of course they are different. I wanted to know your opinion whether they differ NOTICEABLY. Thanks for your kind reply, big DVD guru.

Ad 2) I won't bother, I just complained about bad quality of some DVDs, because I've always seen the DVD term connected with words about superior quality! Is it clear now?

hunterfamily
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Joined: Jul 30 2004

Hi. My daughter was married on the weekend and my brother videotaped the wedding. The sound quit working at the reception and the picture was kind of funny too. Does anyone know of a place in Edmonton, AB that I could take the tape to that might restore it? It isn't digital (8 mm. Thanks for any help you might be able to give me.

Shelley