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TyVole
01-12-2004, 12:17 PM
I was wondering if anyone has any insight on how studios achieve such pristine MPEG video for their animation DVDs. If you watch something like Toy Story on DVD, it looks perfect.

However, regardless of the encoder I use, I see significant degredation of my animations (degredation far more noticeable than when I encode live video.) This is somewhat understandable, considering the amount of compression, but still doesn't exlpain how the studios pull it off.

Any ideas?

art
01-12-2004, 12:56 PM
I'd like to see the answer to this question too.
Another thing I noticed on many DVDs, even those professionally (I suppose) encoded, is color banding on gradients. I've seen this happen on so many movies (especially skies or darker regions). Is this a limitation of mpeg encoding?

takkun
01-12-2004, 01:17 PM
I use the Main Concept mpeg2 codec (comes free with a lot of NLEs) and I've never had a problem with severe degradation. What bit rates are you encoding at?

TyVole
01-12-2004, 01:31 PM
I've used the same encoder. I've tried as high as 8MB (which I believe is just about the highest allowable.) I've also set the quality slider to the highest level, and have even tried encoding with i-frames only.

I guess "severe degredation" is a bit subjective, but it's certainly nowhere near the quality of the Pixar DVDs.

DaveW
01-12-2004, 02:13 PM
They use much better hardware encoders and do multiple passes. With the right source material and enough room on the disc, you can get excellent video quality.

takkun
01-12-2004, 02:15 PM
I know what you're talking about. The Finding Nemo DVD's are flawless (except for some of the menus). They probably use high quality mpeg 2 codecs. Maybe you should give Canopus Procoder, Discreet Cleaner, FCP4/DVD Studio Pro on the Mac, I have even heard people getting very good results with TMPEG Plus (http://www.pegasys-inc.com/en/product/tp.html).

Zach
01-12-2004, 02:34 PM
I've been messing with dvd for a while now, but there are some definate issues with what you're talking about. Menus are supper hard to get to look decent when you view them on a computer, but on the tv, it's a different story.

The MainConcept Encoder seems to be pretty nifty! But has the ability to confuse the just get it done hobbyist versus the true dvd geek. I would be the first one in that field.

There are some interesting things that happen when you use Apple's Compressor and burn it in DVDSP. You get strange artifacts appearing in somewhat random spots during playback on the Jaguar DVD player. This doesn't appear on a windows player that I've seen, and not on a set top either, nor Panther. Might want to avoid that combination.

I just finished a dvd project using the built in MainConcept encoder in Premiere Pro, and that worked pretty nicely.

Food for thought when it comes to DVD. Make sure your colors aren't too saturated and your brights aren't too bright!

THis'll get you big time. Also, make sure you don't have really thin lines in the menus or elsewhere in the project. THat'll confuse the interlacing of most television sets.

You'll get smoother animation when you render in fields versus progressive frame. This will make a big difference in the motion of your animations. Also, use motion blur instead of interlace for smother motion too.

When you encode your dvds, you lose a great deal of color. Make sure you get the color correct by rendering it to TV via you DVView in Lightwave(damn helpful!) The color you get on tv is totally different than the ole monitor, so be aware!

that's all i've got right now, probably be back with more. Just dont' use Encore unless you are doing a straight forward dvd(nothing complicated involving scripting or browser launching.)

TyVole
01-12-2004, 03:11 PM
I wonder if there's any service bureaus that will encode uncompressed AVIs (or MOVs) into professional-quality MPEGs?

It might be worth it if you can get Pixar-level quality.

btw, I tried TMPEG Plus and found it slightly worse than MainConcept.

DaveW
01-12-2004, 04:55 PM
TyVole: Any place that does DVD authoring should be able to do that for you. The company I work for does that, but we usually do the whole DVD, not just the compression.

Zach
01-12-2004, 07:31 PM
do you have a sample of the animation?

hairy_llama
01-12-2004, 08:49 PM
One thing about professional DVDs is that they are dual layered so they hold like 9 gigs of video verses about 4gigs on dvd-r. A 9 gig video file is going to be much higher quality than a 4 gig file.

Mylenium
01-12-2004, 11:35 PM
Nope, hairyllama, higher bitrates do not necessarily mean better quality. Most commercial DVDs only use about 5 to 6 gig of the possible 8.something (due to block size and formatting it never really is 9 GB) of which a lot can co into the sound if it's dts or PCM which efficiently gives the picture data some limits. the average data rate used on such DVDs is about 5-6 MBit/sec. Like some of you already said, the difference is in the encoders and using multipass VBR. The best (and most expensive) is still CinemaCraft with MainConcept coming in on second place for quality. However, even though the MainConcept codec comes with many programs, it looses a lot of its potential due to poor implementation. What you also should keep in mind is that a lot of other hardware and software is used to prepare the video data before encoding it. This means for most DVDs there is an extra color correction/ adjustment process to avoid too hard contrast areas and hot colors (this will not change the perceived color but more the signal levels). And yes, everything is so much easier if you are working in YUV the whole time.

Mylenium

Beamtracer
01-13-2004, 12:02 AM
The movies you get from the movie shop are not made with DVD burners. They are made by stamping glass plates into the DVD surface.

I'll call these disks "DVD-Video". They are dual layered, which means they are almost like two disks sandwiched together. The laser can see through one layer to the next by changing its focal point. So when the laser is reading the lower layer, the upper layer is out of focus, and doesn't affect it.

The home formats, DVD-R and DVD+R are single layer formats, which is why they have only half the capacity. Because of this limitation, some encoders use a lower bit-rate codec, resulting in lower quality.

The specifications exist for dual layered versions of these, but the Japanese manufacturers have decided to stagger it's release. Wait 'till single layer becomes popular, then introduce dual layer. When dual layer becomes popular, then introduce blue laser, which will double capacity again.

You'll always have to upgrade!

Many regard DVD Studio Pro as being the best DVD authoring application available. There is no specification in the DVD book that DVD Studio Pro can't utilize.

Zach, you got better results from the Panther DVD player than the Jaguar DVD player. This is because Panther is a faster OS, even on older machines. It is like putting a faster processor in, so that's why you got better playback.

TyVole
01-13-2004, 04:05 AM
I found a place that uses a Sony Vizaro MPEG-2 Video Encoder, which they state is what the Hollywood studios use.

Can anyone attest to its quality?

Tesselator
01-13-2004, 04:36 AM
Originally posted by TyVole
I found a place that uses a Sony Vizaro MPEG-2 Video Encoder, which they state is what the Hollywood studios use.

Can anyone attest to its quality?

I've moved on to MP4 myself and never do DVDs so the process
isn't fresh in mind but I believe (?) that the codec I used was from
MicroSoft and I could get DVD quality results just by playing with
the settings. I used 5555 as the data rate and a Key frame interval
of less than 10 and I remember doing something to the VBR I think
just selecting number of passes. Of all the possible settings I found
the Key Frame Rate to make the biggest difference. So like:

DataRate= 2000, KF Every 3 Frames
looks way more beautiful than
DataRate= 6000, KF Every 60 Frames.

The VBR seemed like a noise filter to me <shrug> If I remember
right. Anyway just by playing around with the settings you should
be able to get the same kind of results as the best DVDs. Also adding
very light film grain to your clips actually helps although you would
think just the opposite to be true.

TyVole
01-13-2004, 07:41 AM
Tesselator,

Are you sure you're not talking about an MPEG-4 encoder? I don't think Microsoft makes an MPEG-2 encoder.

Also, it's my understanding that MPEG-2 doesn't use standard keyframes, but instead uses a GOP structures consisting of i-frames, b-frames, and p-frames, where i-frames I guess is the equivalent of a keyframe. If so, when I encoded with an i-frame only structure, I should have gotten a keyframe on every frame. This certainly improved the quality, but only somewhat.

Mylenium
01-13-2004, 08:37 AM
Hi Tesselator,

While it may be of some importance for future HD DVDs/ BlueRay discs, everything you say is of no importance for normal DVDs. DVD (Video) uses a GOP of 12 frames (IBPPIBPPIBPP) and that cannot be changed if you a) want to maintain compatibility with standalone players b) want to use the DVD trademark logo. Everything else is just experimental stuff not certified by the DVD forum. Now on to you, TyVole.

An I-Frame is not necessarily a keyframe, it's just a frame that has only Intra frame compression very similar to a JPEG image. In practice this simply means you can get bad quality even if you use I-frame only. The B and P frames are build upon that information. B-frames contain the difference blocks to the I-frame, P-frames are only vectors that move the blocks from the B-frame around to maintain the illusion of smooth movement. This basic approach has not changed even with MPEG-4 (but alongside this you may use other algorithms in combination making the process more effective).

Mylenium

TyVole
01-13-2004, 09:22 AM
Mylenium,

Does that mean if you use an i-frame only GOP structure that it is not compatible with standalone players?

Mylenium
01-13-2004, 12:56 PM
Yes, Ty, exactly. Standalone players (as much as they have evolved over the years) only have a minimum OS and the chips they use rely on a certain predefined structure of the stream, so anything not conforming to their "stupid" logic may crash or even destroy them. Another thing to consider is the fact, that your data rate might be too high, anyways. The I-frame compression is the least efficient part, it's really the B- and P-frames that make the thing work.

Mylenium

Aegis
01-13-2004, 01:36 PM
TyVole: have you read Eugene Kosarovich's article "Toasting DVDs"? It's a pretty thorough guide to using TMPGEnc (which I have gotten stellar results out of) - It's biased towards 'Toaster/DVD Workshop users but it might be of interest

I can't find the site but here's a link to the Word document: http://www.lashedup.co.uk/DVD.doc

This article is pretty good too: http://dvd-hq.info/Compression.html (you might want to look at the "Quantize Matrix" section).

TyVole
01-13-2004, 02:32 PM
Thanks, everyone, for all your help!

art
01-13-2004, 02:50 PM
Yes, I would also like to thank you all, as I was reading this thread too. I bought a DVD writer not long ago and these issues have been bugging me.

jro2a
01-20-2004, 02:55 PM
I want to use LightWave on a high end laptop to create 3-D
animations direct to DVD. Video quality is MOST IMPORTANT!!!

Whats the Best app. for converting a series of pre-rendered
image files from LW into a high quality mpeg2 video file for DVD.

I need the ability to edit, cut, join add sound ect....

I'm talking "Laptop" now so I assume I will not be able to edit or
maybe even pre-view at the full frame rate. (Which is OK, as
long as I can see whats going on). I also don't need to get more
than 30 mins to an hour on a disc. (Thats still a lot of animation).
What is important though is that when I am through editing,
compositing ect.... and I render, compress and burn it all to a DVD
it looks great (on the DVD). No droped frames, spot on frame
rate and exellent DVD picture quality.

Has anyone tried Adobe "Premiere Pro" or "Encore" for DVD
authoring? How about Pinncle Liquid Edition?

If it takes 15 mins to compress 2 mins of LW image sequences
into a high quality mpeg2 dvd file thats fine as long as it looks
great.

By high end laptop I mean a P4 3gig HT cpu, 1024 megs ram,
64 meg grafix card 80 gig internal HD and a zippy 80 gig external
dedicated HD.

Jim Robinson

PS. My Par Card on my Amiga Toaster ruled!!!! It's video
output was/ is fantastic. The compression was as good as some
of todays very best DVDs. I'm supprised, that was old tyme
(1991) you would think it would be easier today.

Mylenium
01-20-2004, 11:49 PM
Well, I would stay away from Encore for DVD-Authoring. If you browse through respective forums, you will find a lot of complaints. It seems to be buggy as hell. The only PC based tool that I could recommend (in the sense of real authoring, not just exporting from the editing app) is ReelDVD from Sonic.

As for the editing part - most apps will do, as long as you have the chance to work uncompressed or with a suitable compression such as MPEG I-Frame only or DVCPro. However, I wouldn't rely on their export functions for MPEG II due to the simple fact that you have rather limited control and may end up with unnecessarily "fat" streams. If you buy for instance Pinnacle Studio (which has an integrated MainConcept MPEG II CoDec), I would take advantage of the upgrade offer and buy the standalone version of the MainConcept Encoder. This will give you even more conrtrol and allow batch processing multiple files at once.

Mylenium

Tesselator
01-21-2004, 01:04 AM
Are you sure you're not talking about an MPEG-4 encoder?...
...everything you say is of no importance for normal DVDs... Ya know... you guys maybe right... I may be thinking about
some of the earlier MP4 codecs. Whoops! Sorry 'bout that!

:D

js33
01-21-2004, 04:51 AM
Well here's what I have done. I recently have started putting my final product on DVDs. I render tgas out of Lightwave and then import them into AE to edit, add titles, sound, etc... Then I output using the Matrox Mpeg2 I frame as an intermediate file. This is a high quality codec and makes big files but not near as big as uncompressed. You can download and use the Matrox codecs at their website. The reason I use these is my brother, who is an editor, owns a Matrox digisuite (well 2 of them actually) and I use the Matrox codecs to output files to use on the Digisuite. But I found that I can use them as a high quality output format that I can load into TMPG. Then I use TMPG encoder to output the final Mpeg 2 file. It's only $30 bucks or so and has alot of options for tweaking or you can use the premade templates. Well worth the cost. Now for DVD authoring I tried Encore DVD and while it did work it was a pain in the *** to work with. Since I also own an iMac I bought DVDSP 2 and I use that to author all my DVDs now even though I do most of the production on the PC. I can take my TMPG encoded files and load them right into DVDSP with no problem. DVDSP is by far the best low cost ($500) authoring program. Not an option if you don't have a Mac though.
I'm sure Adobe Encore will improve but I so disliked it that I went out and got DVDSP2.

Cheers,
JS

MiniFireDragon
01-21-2004, 06:54 AM
I also have experience the problems you are all talking about with clarity and the like, and I may have a solutions to your problems. How I do my work is 1 of 2 ways, one put it out in frame by frame TGA format and use an APP like Aura to assemble and then compress it out. I get rather clear imagery. Then there is those who simple send it out as an AVI. I found that no compressor codec that renders from lightwave produces a good color. So I went to the uncompressed format followed by a recompressor (Tmpeg). The ONLY format I found to yeild the best quality image is to output it as an Uncompressed RGB format then Compress with Tmpeg. Using ANY compressors before you run the MPEG format will result in loss of even more picture.

Hope this helps, will see if I can find a file to post. I am an accident reconstructionist and some of the work I do can't be released until after the case has settle, if at all.

MiniFireDragon
01-21-2004, 08:59 AM
Is this the clarity that you were looking for?? It is a simple file, starting with Lines then into 3d. And never mind that the line work doesn't match the 3d work. It did at one time then they changed the way the 3d moved and therefore I lost my matching.

The line work was done with a program called Mchenry Software, all the vehicle movments, up to the point of riding up the wall were created by the program too.

The MPEG File, 30mbs (http://www.govatosconsulting.com/images/1460.m2v)

This is a quicktime file, 70mbs (http://www.govatosconsulting.com/images/1460.mov)

There were made using BMP and TGA sequences then saved as RGB Uncompressed.

jro2a
01-21-2004, 02:45 PM
Mylenium,
You recomend "CinemaCraft" as the best mpeg2 encoder.
Is CinemaCraft a stand alone app? This might be a rather dumb
question but can a CinemaCraft mpeg encoded file be imported into an app. like (buggy) "Encore" or Pinncle Liquid Edition for
burning and menu creation?

Also, you say the "MainConcepts" encoder is good too
(comes with PremirePro/Encore) but that it looses a lot of
potential due to poor implementation of it's many programs.
In what way do you mean poor implementation? Final out-put
quality or ease of use or both.

I'm an old timer at 3-D. I started out using "VideoScape 3-D" on the Amiga. (Hasting's program before LW) Moved on to beta testing Amiga toaster/LW in 1989.
To make a long story short I have been away from 3D for quite
some time. DVD authoring, encoding and burning is new to me.

Which software do you guys consider the best as far as
editing packages go "Pinncle Liquid Edition" or "Premiere Pro" ?
(Features are not quite as important as BUGS)
All of you are a big help and I'm catching up a lot quicker than I would have had I not been on this site.

Thanks Jim R.

Chingis
01-21-2004, 03:32 PM
Does anyone have any experience (heard anything)
about VEGAS. The editing app, and/or its DVD Authoring?
Just curious how it holds up to Premiere/Pinnacle etc...

Mylenium
01-21-2004, 11:52 PM
Well, both MainConcept and CinemaCraft will output standard DVD-compliant MPEG II files. You may choose to output them as native M2V or an AVI container (that may hold some extra information useful for authoring). Both apps can also link to an assortment of programs via plugins, but that way has the big disadvantage that it will slow things terribly down due to the overhead. That's one of the reasons why you also loose some control - the editing app takes precedence at a certain point and will not allow certain settings to be changed. Also in the case of the MC CoDec there are a lot of options missing such as settings for quantization matrices etc. when you get it as a combo. Granted, these are only important for extreme cases of tweaking, so it's a minor loss. Waht would bother me most is the inability to work on your system if you do an export from within an editing app. You can only export one clip at a time and editing app have a tendency to eat up every resource of your machine. Standalone apps are much better there and you may run them overnight unattended.

As for editing apps I would go for Pinnacle studio or anything from AVID if you're on a PC. They just have a better workflow and feel in general much faster. Premiere Pro is a large improvement over past versions, but if you ask me, I tzhink ADobe should stay awy from that market. As an software only they just don't have the right way to do it.

Mylenium

Psyhke
01-22-2004, 09:40 AM
Interesting reading. Some good info here.

But I have a question now. Are all mpeg2 files ultimately encoded to a single standard, despite all the talk of the various encoding tools? In other words, are mpeg2 files like .avi files where any number of codecs might be required to PLAY them back on a PC? Or are they always them same, meaning you would need just "THE" mpeg2 codec on a PC to view them?

I guess I'm just wondering what codec or requirements you need to play back mpeg2 files on a PC, and how you go about checking to see if you have this capability (i.e. looking in your list of installed codecs, etc.).

Mylenium
01-22-2004, 11:10 AM
Well, in strict technical terms an DVD-compliant MPEG II stream is always the same once it is encoded - the internal structure is standardized an thus any tool you use will give you more or less the same results with only minor variations (the quality issues discussed here all happen before the stream is created, it's more important to properly analyze the input footage and make the best of it). However, there are only few tools that can handle MPEG II streams/ files outside an DVD environment and display it properly let alone allow to manipulate/ edit it further. Even if they are inside an AVI "container", MPlayer may not be able to use them. This is of special note once you added all that authoring info for audio streams, subtitles etc. and the stream has been multiplexed to a VOB - those files really only can be played back with a DVD player software.

Mylenium

jro2a
01-22-2004, 02:52 PM
I think "Pinnicle Studio 8-9" might use a different encoder than "Pinnicle Liquid Edition". Edition is a better editor with more
features ect... But in the review (which compared Premiere Pro
with Edition) it said that "Premiere's" standard encoder can do 2 pass variable bitrate encoding and that "Edition" has a single pass. Also, unlike Premiere, could only uses it's default encoder.
If Premiere and Pinnicle Studio 8 use the "MainConcepts" encoder then I assume the higher end Liquid Edition uses a different one.
As far as Editors go.... I'm leaning towards Pinnicle. I like
Pinnicle Liquid but am concerned about the encoder. Also, I am having a hard time finding out all the different formats I can input
to edit. Is it easy to import a series of images into these apps?
Do you have to select each image (pic) and input one at a time(bad) or can you just select a group at once or have it go through
a series of pics?

Jim R.

Mylenium
01-22-2004, 11:40 PM
Well, the encoder that comes with Premiere Pro is not bad (can't remember which one exactly) but it's limited to doing 30 encodings and then ceases functioning. You have to buy the full version and this is rather expensive. They only tell you this after you open the box and on the demo I visited this fact alone made everyone laugh and groan. So much for Adobe's "superior" programs. No, thanks. As for Pinnacle I do not have that much insight as to to tell you the differences between their progs (we use AVID here and that's likely to never change ;o) ).

Mylenium

TyVole
01-23-2004, 04:17 AM
Originally posted by Mylenium
Well, the encoder that comes with Premiere Pro is not bad (can't remember which one exactly) but it's limited to doing 30 encodings and then ceases functioning. You have to buy the full version and this is rather expensive. They only tell you this after you open the box and on the demo I visited this fact alone made everyone laugh and groan.

Is this specific to the latest version? Because I have 6.5 and I've never seen anything about a limit of 30 encodings.

By the way, I downloaded the demo of CinemaCraft, and it looks really good. The basic version costs $58.

jro2a
01-23-2004, 02:37 PM
What a GREAT idea!!!!! Shutting down program features after 30 days. While they were on a roll, why didn't they just
start shutting down "Premiere's" editing functions after 30 days
too? Maybe the next version.... one can only hope....

Jim R.

Psyhke
01-24-2004, 08:56 AM
Originally posted by Mylenium
Well, in strict technical terms an DVD-compliant MPEG II stream is always the same once it is encoded - the internal structure is standardized an thus any tool you use will give you more or less the same results with only minor variations (the quality issues discussed here all happen before the stream is created, it's more important to properly analyze the input footage and make the best of it). However, there are only few tools that can handle MPEG II streams/ files outside an DVD environment and display it properly let alone allow to manipulate/ edit it further. Even if they are inside an AVI "container", MPlayer may not be able to use them. This is of special note once you added all that authoring info for audio streams, subtitles etc. and the stream has been multiplexed to a VOB - those files really only can be played back with a DVD player software.

Mylenium


Okay...thanks for the info, Mylenium.
Do you know if there is a MPEG2 "codec" that is can be installed (or checked to see if it is installed) that allows a PC to play back MPEG2 video (only) files? I'm still trying to understand that part of things...

Mylenium
01-24-2004, 11:58 AM
Nope, there is no such generic CoDec. If you use specific hardware/ editing programs normally the CoDec that is tied to that combo will take care of it. In theory you should be able to play M2V files via MPlayer (v8 and up), but in practice it's useless since it won't use any MPEG II that has a "copyrighted" flag. All software DVD players (WinDVD, PowerDVD, RealOnePlayer etc.) will play VOB files, but only from their "region". So if it is set to USA (Region 1) it won't play files from other parts of the world. The only reliable way is using dedicated tolls such as MPEGEdit or MPEG VCR.

Mylenium

Psyhke
01-27-2004, 05:12 PM
Originally posted by Mylenium
Nope, there is no such generic CoDec. If you use specific hardware/ editing programs normally the CoDec that is tied to that combo will take care of it. In theory you should be able to play M2V files via MPlayer (v8 and up), but in practice it's useless since it won't use any MPEG II that has a "copyrighted" flag. All software DVD players (WinDVD, PowerDVD, RealOnePlayer etc.) will play VOB files, but only from their "region". So if it is set to USA (Region 1) it won't play files from other parts of the world. The only reliable way is using dedicated tolls such as MPEGEdit or MPEG VCR.

Mylenium

Okay...

Here's a specific example of why I was asking. I was trying to help a client figure out why one of his PCs would play an MPEG2 video within Powerpoint (or MediaPlayer), while another one would not. Normally I would look at what type of file it is (.mov, .avi, etc), figure out what codec it's using and check to make sure the codec is installed on the computer. Well, in the case of the MPEG2 video, I was at a loss to know what to check for. Before I looked into it, they said that neither had a current version of MS MediaPlayer, and it would not play them. Then after updating both PCs to the MediaPlayer 9, one worked and the other didn't. I checked to see what codecs were installed and they looked exactly the same as I remember.

It's just somewhat of a mystery to me as to what is responsible for a typical PC to playback MPEG2 video (apart from a PC that has editing softare installed, etc.) :confused:

Mylenium
01-27-2004, 11:51 PM
Well, that's not so much of an mystery. Quite likely some DLLs were different. You see, MPlayer itself should be able to play DVDs - in theory. The bitchy thing is, it needs some DLL from a third party supplier (= a DVD player software), so it doesn't work in about 90% of the cases. This is alittle trick from MS to avoid paying licensing fees (and add another billion to Mr. Gates' account). The bad thing is, you never really know if your system is equipped properly, since those DLLs do not appear as codecs/ multimedia components and otherwise only register themselves like any other DLL. Maybe that made the difference. If those conditions are met, PowerPoint may be able to use MPlayer's Dirext X overlay to render MPEG II. This, however, also depends on the version of PP (I think it only works in Office XP) and the processing power of your machine (2 GHz upwards).

Mylenium

Psyhke
01-30-2004, 04:08 PM
Ahh... I didn't think about the fact that the ability to play MPEG2 video would probably be tied to having installed a dedicated DVD player such as WinDVD or PowerDVD (and thus some necessary DLLs). I think the client that I was talking about does have some PCs with such a program installed and others without. I'll have to check that out, that may be the key that I was looking for... Thanks Mylenium.

Roux
08-31-2004, 07:15 AM
I'm no expert in terms of codecs / compression or DVD authoring although I have created quite a few high quality DVDs over the last year.
I use Vegas 5 and DVD Architect. With a little practice, I find no degredation in the quality as long as its in the right format to start with. By that, I mean that the pixel aspect and size is right for the job.
Vegas is also quite simple for editing although I like the advanced functions of DFX+ (Thanks NT!).
DVD Architect seems quite limited at first glance but again, with practice you can do pretty much anything you want including animated menus.
Where possible I also go for a progressive scan format (original and encoded footage) rather than frames based. Its limited by what you view it on but it looks A1 on a big screen plasma or rear projector.

Hervé
09-10-2004, 02:06 AM
there is an upgrade to Sonic that looks good, should I upgrade... see new spec...

Disc authoring
Fit-to-DVD™ automatic quality setting
Create DVD+VR discs for DVD recorders
Creates true anamorphic 16:9 movies
Double-layer DVD+R disc authoring
Import DVDs created with non-Sonic applications
Video and photo editing
All new styles for individual menus
999 photos per slideshow (99 in previous releases)
Save movies as MPEG-2 files
Playlists, looping and fading for background audio
Burning and export
Reduces MPEG-2 bitstreams without re-encoding
"Burn" projects to disc images
Faster finishing support for DVD-RW Dual Layer
Support Data CD/DVD Burning
Unlimted MP3 Ripping
Labeling
Data protection
Safeguard data with Autoprotect feature
System restoration with Disaster Recovery Wizards
Integrated and automated backup scheduling
One-button backup or restore for quick protection
Latest tape and optical devices supported

it sounds good and not too expensive, about $99