CodecPage
 video encoding&cleaning


HD (also SD) cutting and transcoding

Tools
Cutting
Encoding method 1
(deprecated)
Encoding method 2 (preferred for advanced filtering)
Encoding method 3 (preferred for convenient multi file encoding)
MKV as target container
BluRay making

Here we explore several ways of filtering and encoding HD video, including means for logo removal. For simpler tasks like bulk video recompression of TV recordings, there is a more convenient way, using Xvid4PSP, described in detail on a separate page.
VirtualDub cannot deal with HD .ts or .mts streams (it may open them but crashes later on). But if you remultiplex them to .mkv format (with a tool named MKVtoolnix), Virtualdub opens them (with fccHandler's plugins, see below), allows all kinds of filtering, even cutting, and can either
save the result to a .avi file - including a re-encoding of the HD video -, or frameserve to other applications for encoding (which is only a tiny bit more complicated and .yields more compatible results, e.g., for BluRay making).
This method not only makes available some excellent filters (e,g., X-logo, temporal smoother), it is also easy to configure, and the fccHandler plugins also parse/index the input files, which avoids crashes due to stream errors often encountered  in DVB recordings.

The tools we need to do all this are:

VirtualDub version 1.10.2 or higher (much better for HD than earlier versions)

fccHandler's plugins for VirtualDub; enabling VD to open many video formats including mpg, mkv.

x264 is the encoder of choice for HD. The Directshow version is command-line only, but there are GUI frontends helping out.

x264vfw (this is the vfw version of x264. It is not further developed  because of some restrictions in vfw; nevertheless this last official version works perfectly, and it allows to do almost everything directly in VirtualDub, if you don't mind possible compatibility issues with the output generated. There is a later, unofficial version, but its user interface is very complicated (for expert use only). 

MeGui Is a frontend for x264 (included). Can generate mkv files directly and has several useful presets. 

x264GUI - a basic GUI for x264, but really sufficient, as all GUIs out there have one or the other issue where you want to modify the command string they generate for x264.

AVIsynth. A video processor that is controlled by script files (.avs). Here we may need it to adapt VitualDub's frameserver to the x264 HD video encoder.

MKVtoolnix can convert .ts and .MTS files to .mkv, which can be opened with VirtualDub if fccHandler's plugin is installed. Also multiplexes streams from one or more sources into an mkv file. Install the portable version to disk and make a link to mmg.exe. 

MKVextractGUI can demultiplex .mkv files. Must be version 2 or later.

TSmuxeR. Among other functions, it also has an option to generate simple Bluray structures.

BeLight (a GUI for BeSweet) provides for easy transcoding between various sound formats.

Haali MKV splitter; enables playing of mkv files. Also provides a tray app that allows selecting audio streams and chapters in Media Player. 

AC3 filter and AC3file. Often necessary to play or decode AC3 sound. Many HD transmissions contain AC3.

Update: installing the Shark advanced codecs pack appears to be a better alternative to the above two. It contains MKV and AC3 componemts as well as many others, and adding system functions such as thumbnails for MKV.

X-logo for HD. This is an HD adaptation of the best de-logo filter available. Can remove distracting station logos from your TV recordings.

Recommended: Windows7; it comes with quite good built-in MPEG2 and h.264 decoders (maybe not the starter version). Especially useful if you want to use the built-in graphics of newer Intel CPUs (including atoms) for video acceleration. Many 'features' of Windows7 are a pain in the ass, but for video it is good, and alas, you have to go for it tho unleash all functions of current hardware anyway. Some hints on Windows7 you'll find here.

Very helpful: Smart Cutter. A bit stiff in price, but for simple TV transmission ad cutting even the test version suffices, as it only inserts very short "Demo" logos at cuts. The main advantages: it preserves all streams, e.g., multi audio, and it cuts frame accurate. Works for HD and also for SD (MPEG2) streams. You need to save all recordngs (even SD) in transport stream format (.ts or .mts) for use with SmartCutter. Best use this for cutting, before further operations with VirtualDub.
Note: with cuts done with versions in the 1.5x range, I got some BSOD crashes when trying to play with Window's HD decoder on an ATI card. 1.39f worked. Solution: update the ATI drivers to Version 12.8.
Recent versions of SmartCutter (currently tested up to 1.93) showed a habit of purging all cuts except of the firstn one, although the status window pretended to write all cuts (and even the time for writing them was used).
--> use version 1.67, it appears to be reliable.


Procedures after recording

Note (probably only a frequent issue with old MKVtoolnix verions): 
Encoding, method 1 (simple but not always compatible)

The settings shown are good for almost anything. Some hints:

Encoding, method 2 (safer for later use of the files, more compatible to BluRay making):

Overview: again we use Virtualdub for filtering, de-logo etc.. Then, however, we frameserve from VirtualDub to an external x264 version (here we use one with a GUI: x264GUI; MEgui would even be more comfortable but fails to open the frameserving as set up below).
This works rather similar to the process for SD/mpeg2 encoding. suggested here.

We start with the same initial procedures as with Method1, cutting the ts file with Smart Cutter if necessary, then transmultiplexing the ts to an mkv with MKVtoolnix (or to mpg with PVAstrumento if it is SD/mpeg2), then opening the file with VirtualDub and applying  any filters desired, such as x-logo, resize etc....
Note: on some systems, x264 may not be able to read the signpost avi directly. Here, we may need a small avs script (AVIsynth must be installed):
Videoclip=AVIsource("f:\video\video.avi")
ConvertToYV12 (Videoclip)
Save this text, e.g. as "readsource.avs". This file can now be opened by x264 (you can leave this script on the harddisk and re-use it any time you process a video).


The above is a setting for BluRay compatible encoding.
Most of the settings here have been entered as user settings in the Settings tab. You can save settings to a file and later reload them (currently this works a bit strange - add commands by the custom commands line, save by cutting and pasting them in the window appearing by "file - edit settings", then you can later on very simply invoke them by the "enable profiles" checkbox). To explore possible settings, you may experiment with the several GUIs for x264 and explore the command lines they generate. Comprehensive information is found at the x264 Wiki page.

If you don't want to produce plastic garbage and instead want to record your films to a harddisk, much simpler presets can be used. For example:
The Q (quality) value has to be set manually (in the Settings tab). The default of 20 is way over the top for most purposes. 24...25 for HD and 23...24 for SD are OK already (higher value means less quality, stronger compression)..

The new .264 video file and the original mkv file (audio streams of it) can now be remultiplexed into a new mkv file (described next) and even enhanced with chapter marks or we can, e.g., make a BluRay disk of it.


MKV as target container
Checking MKV

Sometimes the encoding or multiplexing result may be faulty: files may stop to play at some point,, or lose sync, etc. 
Often this is caused by stream errors in antenna or satellite TV recordings. Many of these are related to audio. Audio errors  can be mended by demultiplexing and treating the audio with a repair tool.
Other errors are related to the multiplexing itself. Older MKVtoolnix versions sometimes produced faulty files. I even experienced some seconds of another, formerly deleted (!!) video file inserted into the file multiplexed. Repeating the very same multiplexing very often makes the error disappear. This is absolutely weird and appears to be an problem with elementary file system handling. As MKVtoolnix appears to be developed under Linux, it could have been a bug in an NTFS file system driver. I cannot say which specific program versions had the error, but the latest versions with the new  GUI so far performed flawlessly.

But in any case, it would be nice if we could detect possible errors without playing each file from beginning to end.

A quite safe (though not perfectly 100%) way of checking comes with MKValidator. It is a command line tool, can check many files at once, and delivers a log to a text file. The log  may show many warnings, but only "Err" listings are of interest. Then you can be sure the file has a problem.
You need to run the app from a command line, or you use a simple batch file like this:

echo off
FOR %%f in (*.mkv) DO (
  echo %%f
  echo %%f >> log.txt
 C:\PortableApps\mkvalidator\mkvalidator.exe --quiet "%%f" 2>> log.txt
  echo ----- >> log.txt
)
echo on

It assumes MKValidator to be present in C:\PortableApps\mkvalidator\. Copy the above text into a text editor and save it to your video files folder as. e.g., "mkvalidator.bat". Run this to check the files, and view the result in the file log.txt.

Yet, this is still not perfectly safe. Any of the processing steps could do something wrong. You should therefore always also play any single file for a check of the beginning, middle and end, if the audio is there and synchronous.

Cutting MKV
Sometimes you may want to cut an MKV file, e.g. also after compressing. There is no really working free app for this (one perhaps, named MKVcutter, but it did not yet work for me).
If you don't mind cutting at key frames only, you may use AVIdemux: set all formats to copy, output to MKV, use the cut controls, and save your file.

Chapters
MKV files also support chapters (although hardly any player supports them). The chapter format however is complicated. If you want to just add chapters every some minutes for navigation, you can do this: Alternatively, MKVchapterizer add chapters to an MKV at specified intervals. Be aware however that it insists on making a temp file of th whole video in your temp folder (which usually resides on C and should not be moved for several reasons). So you need lots of spare space on your system drive. Also note that it may be necessary to replace both dll files in the package with the newer ones from mkvtoolnix.

Jobs (batch multiplexing)
If you chose "Add to job queue" instead of "Start muxing", you can setup more multiplexing jobs and have them executed later (or overnight). After creating the jobs, select "Muxing - manage jobs" from the command bar and take care to delete old jobs if necessary (they are all kept even after execution, so you have to do the housecleaning yourself).


BluRay (basic)

The result from method 2 with the above settings can be compiled to a simple Bluray.

We need the .264 video stream and an audio stream. The separate audio file we we get by extracting it from the mkv, with MKVextractGUI. If the source is a DVB recording, it may be necessary to fix the audio file before further use. Bluray doesn't accept mp2 sound. AC3 works both for BluRay and DVD. If your video has no AC3, you may want to re-encode the soundtrack using BeLight.

Especially convenient here is the automatic chapter insertion.

BluRay menus

Freeware for Bluray menus is rare. If you just want to combine titles on a physical BluRay disk, you can do this:

Make a simple BluRay structure from each single video, using one of the two above programs.
multiAVCHDcan generate a single BluRay from them. It auto creates quite fancy menu structure fully automatic. The main problem here is to verify what you get, before burning: there is no free software player supporting BluRay menus, and the commercial ones usually won't play files from a harddisk. Another problem: in my tests, most of the menu icons generated from the video content contained some garbled color patterns instead of images.

Do NOT use the button "AVCHD/BDMV/DVD folders"; It will start reading all of your harddisk.
Instead, just drop your BluRay folders into the media area. Always a prompt will appear if you want to switch to authoring mode. Say NO.

You can add several Bluray folders. In the Author tab, you may want to check "create top menu". When done, press "Start".

multiAVCHD will now create the combined BluRay structure. Be aware that creating the menus, which occurs at last, may take more time than the actual multiplexing. Wait until the program really says "ready" (it may appear to do nothing in the menu creation phase but it's still active).

Playing BluRay

Programs able to open a folder with a Bluray structure in it (no menus) are, e.g., VLC Media Player (you may probably want to use the portable version), and DVBviewer. Both are ignoring the chapters. MPC-HC latest version opens folders and even supports the chapters.
DVDfab Media Playeris payware but plays menus and comes with a thirty day test period for the menu functions, so you can test thoroughly if it meets your expectations (very new software may have some bugs). Unlike other payware, it plays BluRay files from folders. Even if you don't buy it after the test period, a rudimentary menu fuction remains that lets you select titles and have a look at the (then non-functional) menu screens. 

For players not supporting folder playback, an ISO file can be generated with Folder2ISO and mounted with VirtualCloneDrive. With this, they (hopefully) should appear to any software as a regular Bluray drive.

Conclusion

If you want to keep your recordings on harddisks, MKV may be better than BluRay.  Nevertheless even then, encoding video and audio in a BluRay-compatible way may be a wise choice.

Compiling a BluRay structure is only necessary if you want to burn your own disks. In this case you may also consider some payware solutions. But beware, these programs do not always justify their price (some cannot cope with raw h.264 streams, many insist in re-encoding the video, and some try to be easy but instead are just confusing).


 



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