Video Compression Options... Revisited
As movie editors, we live in a world filled with different codecs... and codec-related issues.
This newsletter is another step toward becoming more versed in and comfortable with them.
It'll take you through a couple tests, first checking the rendering times and file sizes by using
all the available compressor options on my new HP notebook, and then checking differences in visual
The tests will be done using default compressor settings.
We'll also take a look at the customizable settings for the Divx and Windows Media 9 compressors
and do a special check of enhanced videos using two-pass renderings for each.
... before getting into it, here are a couple notes...
Custom Overlay Projects
is the subject of a new section on the Editing > Text > Custom Overlays
page of the website.
In addition to
the puzzle project made for newsletter #73, I made a couple more.
A Keyboard project
started on Christmas. One of our grands got a keyboard as a present, and I thought it would be neat
to record some music from it with my camcorder. It was playing some samples by itself but the keys
weren't moving, so I took a snapshot from the video and used it for something more interesting.
another overlay project is a
Countdown Clock-like one, with 10 assorted watch faces being removed as the
seconds tick down.
The website page includes instructions about setting up and using the projects, and links to
downloadable packages with everything you need.
Each package has a project MSWMM file, an xml file, a set of transparent png images, and batch
files to install and remove them. It's a good way to explore the use of custom xml files without
having to write or tweak them. Those who enjoy getting into them deeply can go as far as they want.
.... on to the main topic...
some Video Codec testing...
It's been a while since I tested all the codec options on my computer...
and made a table of the results such as the one on the Importing Source Files > Video > Recorded
TV page of the site. I've pointed lots of users to that table since it first rolled it out.
That table was done with MPEG-2 files as inputs. I'll do this issue using AVI files, one a random
AVI from a magazine CD, and the other a DV-AVI made by Movie Maker 2.
Codecs change with time... some go, new ones emerge, some are revised... and your computer changes.
For this round of tests, I'll use my new HP Pavilion zd8000 notebook with its 3.4 GHz CPU...
The computer currently has 20 compression choices in the drop down lists of video editing apps
and utilities. The full list of them is in the table below.
For a user perspective, it's not about all of the codecs on my system per GSpot or other utilities...
it's about which compressors show up in the picklist of choices when I use an app, and how well
they work when I select them.
I'll use VDubMod to do the renderings.
The first source file is a 17+ second AVI file from a CD in a magazine... with
a file name of USSConstellation.avi. Its properties are: 520x376 pixels, 24.988 fps, 17+ seconds,
compressed with the Microsoft Video 1 codec, no audio stream. 27.9 MB file size.
The frame snapshot at the left shows that the video includes black bars at the top/bottom and
the right side... the quality isn't high and the video ends with the last frame offering the longer
higher quality clip for sale. It'll do as an input file to check rendering times and file sizes.
Rendering Times and File Sizes...
Let's keep the same frame size of 520x376 pixels, not crop away the black borders, and use whatever
default settings the compressors have... to see which ones work, how long the renders take, and
how large the new file is.
Here's the tally. The rendering times that were faster than the 17+ second real time duration
are on the left side of the time column. Those whose file sizes were smaller than the original are
on the left size of the file size column.
The ranges of times and sizes are considerable. Some were noticeably fast, and some resulted
in smaller file sizes. The 4 compressors in bold type were the only ones that were both quick and
produced smaller files.
file size (MB)
Cinepak Codec by Radius
DivX Codec 4.12
Indeo video 5.10
Intel 4.2.0 Video V2.50
Intel Indeo(R) Video R3.2
Intel Indeo Video 4.5
Intel IYUV codec
Microsoft H.261 Video Codec
Microsoft H.263 Video Codec
Microsoft MPEG-4 Video Codec V1
Microsoft MPEG-4 Video Codec V2
Microsoft Video 1
Microsoft Windows Media Video 9
Panasonic DV CODEC (resizing to 720x480)
PCLEPIM1 32-bit Compressor
PCLEPIXL 32-bit Compressor
PICVideo MJPEG Codec
Using the Panasonic DV without resizing to standard DV-AVI size of 720x480 gave an error: "Cannot
start video compression: The source image format is not acceptable (error code -2)". I added the
resize filter to get past this test.
The 6 compressors with N/A in the time and size columns didn't. The message was: "error getting
compressor output format size".
I imported the 14 new files into Movie Maker, previewed them in the collection, put them on the
timeline, previewed the project, and rendered a movie... there were no issues.
The test renderings above started with a lower quality video, which set the stage for all of
the files to look similarly poor. To equalize the playing field for the visual comparisons, I used
a different higher quality input file.
- I made a Photo Story from a 6+ megapixel still
picture, saving it at 800x600 pixels. Movie Maker converted the story into a DV-AVI file.
VDubMod made a set of AVI files with the different compressors, and saved frame #390 from
each as a BMP image.
- IrfanView did a batch cropping and resizing to
get larger images for easier comparison, and Paint put them together into a collage.
This copy of the collage shows the frame slices at actual sizes, a JPG file at 80% quality...
if you're interested in seeing the 200% sized full quality 9.7 MB BMP file,
here's a link. I recommend downloading it and taking a look.
The only thing added to the frame slices for this collage is the name of the compressors in black
at the lower left; the other script was added to the original image before importing into Photo
If at first glance you think they all look pretty good, I agree with you! Looking closer, it's
easier to select losers such as the Motion JPEG compressor slice at the bottom of the collage...
but it's too hard to pick a winner... and probably not fair to judge the overall video by looking
at a small slice of one frame. After all, it's a movie, not a still picture.
Two of the codecs which made it through the initial rendering test didn't make it to through
this step for visual comparisons. I got error messages when trying to use these two with the DV-AVI
input file. They don't show up on my older list online either.
Intel Indeo(R) Video R3.2
Intel IYUV codec
Enough of them made it through both tests that I didn't stop to study why these two didn't.
The two rounds of tests above were done with default compressor settings. Many of them have adjustable
As the settings are used to balance quality, rendering speed, and file sizes, tweaking them and
doing more testing could make this a full-year project instead of a few hours for a weekly newsletter.
Let's take a general look at two of them.
Divx 4.12 Settings...
Here's the configuration window for the Divx 4.12 codec. You get to it when selecting the codec
from the drop down list and pressing the 'Configure' button. For info about the settings, use the
help file available from that button.
I did a 2-pass rendering to a high 6000 kbps bitrate to see how the saved video differed from
the default in the collage.
The rendering time was much longer and the file size 4-1/2 times that of the rendered file with
the default settings. Here's the same slice of the 390th frame, with the enhanced quality clearly
showing that it's a good reason to go into compressor settings.
Windows Media 9 Settings...
Not to be outdone by the tweaked Divx compressor, here's the slice from a file rendered with
equally tweaked compressor settings, a 2-pass file using the higher 6000 kbps bitrate.
The Compression tab of the Windows Media Video 9 settings window shows the default is a one pass
quality based VBR file with the quality level set to 80.
Pressing the Help button gets you lots to study... for example this
paragraph about the Quality Level setting:
The quality level specifies the quality of the compressed content that the encoder should maintain
when using quality-based VBR. This value ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest quality.
Not all of the values in the range have a unique meaning. The values that represent a step up
in quality from the previous level are: 1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29, 33, 36, 40, 43, 47, 50,
54, 58, 61, 65, 68, 72, 75, 79, 83, 86, 90, 93, 97, and 100.
A few comments about these two test rounds:
The fastest render was with the PICVideo MJPEG Codec, taking
only 4 seconds versus the longest time of 86 seconds, but it's a loser when it comes to visual quality
(it's the bottom slice of the collage).
The smallest file size of 1.5 MB goes to the Windows Media 9
codec, just over 5% the size of the original file. But without tweaking the settings, it doesn't
win the visual quality check either.
The Uncompressed RGB file is almost 10 times the size of the original. It maintains the quality
but can't enhance it.
Of the 4 compressors tagged in the table above for giving both fast results and small file sizes,
the two Microsoft MPEG-4 compressors held in there for the quality rankings... the other two (Divx
and MJPEG) ranked lower on the visual collage.
Conclusions and Closing
Of the hundreds of codecs and filters on my system, some are used to decompress files and not
compress them, some are locked from anything but use with the software they came with, some have
restrictions for input files.... etc, etc. The world of codecs have a lot more complexity than most
users of Movie Maker, including myself, want to get into. We usually just want to know which one
to use and how to use it.
since the similar testing for the importing recorded TV page of the website? For starters, I'm doing
the tests on a different computer. Most of the codecs are the same. 9 compressors made it to the
list the first time I did this testing, and 11 this time... PCLEPIXL and PICVideo MJPEG are new
to the list... they came with Pinnacle Studio 8.
I don't know if I'm being fair to the Divx compressor, as I've used the version
4.12 for years... newer ones might be better but I'm cautious about the spyware, adware, or worse
that can come with Codec packages. The version continues to work for me so I'll continue with it...
and it did great in the extra test, the first time that I tweaked Divx compressor settings.
A true visual quality test would have all compressor settings tweaked for optimal
performance. As utilities such as VDubMod play a secondary role to Movie Maker, there's no reason
to put the effort into doing such testing. The important thing to remember is that if, for whatever
reason, you find yourself using one of these compressors for a conversion... get into the settings
and make the new file the best quality you can. The two extra tests I did with the Divx and Windows
Media 9 compressors give me a better appreciation for the extra quality you can get with minor changes
in settings. I usually prefer extra visual quality at the cost of longer rendering times and larger
The Panasonic DV compressor is still my current favorite all-purpose codec.
Its large file size is expected when working with full quality Digital Video. Its rendering time
is short, and the output is high quality. As with the Microsoft DV codec used by Movie Maker, there
are no compressor settings to tweak... things are simpler with DV codecs.
Have a great New Year's Eve and New Year!!!
we'll be seeing Movie Maker for Vista in 2006
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters
on the forums at:
Windows Movie Makers.net
Have a great week...
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org
Photo Story 2 - www.photostory.papajohn.org
Products and Services
I'm involved in many things that support users of Movie Maker and Photo Story, and adding more
regularly. Some are free and others reasonably priced.
Radio and Podcasting
is the only weekly Podcast having more useful information about desktop video editing and production
than anywhere else on the Web. Digital video editing, nonlinear editing, streaming media, software
releases, tutorials, business tips, technical help, download of the day and news on the latest products
to make everything easier. It's where professional and consumer desktop video users go to stay on
the cutting edge.
Call the phone mail machine to get your technical question answered on the air... call (206)-203-3516
The radio broadcast is from Boston, and the website has downloadable podcast files. The June
19th 2005 podcast was the first 'bi-weekly' show with a segment about Movie Maker 2.
Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on
www.papajohn.org), published by Microsoft
Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the publisher's forum -
Friends of Ed
MaximumPC's winter 2005 quarterly special... had a 7 page tutorial 'Make a Killer Home Movie
with Maker 2'. The special edition of the video made for it is now
on my website as
a file download.
The November 2005 edition of Maximum PC had a well done reworked 6 page reprint of the same article,
starting on page 42 after the Happy 20th Birthday article for Windows.
Learning VirtualDub -
Publishing, is the first book about VirtualDub software. I wrote the first chapter about downloading
and setting up the software: VirtualDub, VDubMod and AVISynth.
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org
- the site's 3 goals are: an online companion to the Do Amazing Things book, a detailed tutorial
for PhotoStory 3, and helping you solve Movie Maker 2 problems.
PhotoStory 2 - www.papajohn.org/photostory2/PS2.html
- a detailed tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site.
Online Support - Forums and Newsgroups
I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the key ones being:
Forums are open to
all for viewing, but require registration of those who want to post. Moderators actively participate
to ensure the forum discussions move forward and stay on track.
Movie Maker and Photo Story forums at Windows
Movie Maker 2 forum at SimplyDV.com
Newsgroups are wide
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Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup -
Photo Story 2 newsgroup -
Photo Story 3 newsgroup -
Movie Maker 2/Photo Story newsletter. The annual subscription is $20 and the link to subscribe
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Topics for upcoming
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#86 - January 14 - open
#87 - January 21 - open
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Drop an email to suggest a newsletter topic... I can use more requests rather than fewer.
Add-On Transitions and Effects
Transition Maker 2
(TM2) is a utility for the ultimate in making your own
personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2. It's a joint product from Patrick Leabo, the
programmer, and myself. Version 2 was released a week ago and I'm still working on updating the
beta tested some of the Pixelan packages
and think very highly of their people and products.
ProDAD's Adorage package for Movie Maker 2 provides an additional source of
professionally developed transitions and effects.
your personal information is more of a challenge as hard drives get bigger and the internet more
My personal database has been an ongoing project over many years, and is now available to others.
A tutorial about using it is on the Managing > Personal Database page of my site, and more info
is in the database package itself.
It's free for the asking to regular newsletter subscribers... send an email request and I'll
return it with the zipped file, which is less than 1 MB.
To others it's $10. To order, use the button on the top of the Managing > Personal Database page.
An online gallery that fully aligns with the main priority of the website is the
'PapaJohn Expert Zone' at neptune.
Check it at Neptune and the Distributing
> Neptune page of the website, where there's a developing tutorial about how to use the service.
in conjunction with the Portage, Michigan library, we offer two free training
sessions about Movie Maker and Photo Story, an intro session and a workshop. Scheduled sessions
Monday - January 30
- 7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story
Monday - February 13
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Monday - March 13 -
7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story
Monday - April 10
- 7-8:30 pm - Workshop
Monday - May 8 -
7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story
Other fee-based services
you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail a copy
and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects, and provide detailed instructions about how to
render the parts and assemble them into your final movie. $49.95 (no cost if it's not the right
solution or doesn't work) - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie
page of www.papajohn.org
Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services start at $50 per hour
- send an email - PapaJohn@CharterMi.net
and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.
Wedding combo website/video packages
- check the bottom branch of the Movie Maker 2 website for a sample of what you can expect for the
online portion of the package.
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About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn
online. An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and
a regular supporter of the community of Movie Maker users, John
received a 2003 MVP award from Microsoft for that support. In March
2003, he started a comprehensive website about Movie Maker 2 at
He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and
provides support services - all for the community of Movie Maker
2 users. An engineer by formal education, John is a computer database
and multimedia expert by business and personal experience. He co-authored
the first book about Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a
second one. You can find his advice in the
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the
Windows Movie Makers Forums.
newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler.
Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information
may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides
this information "AS IS" with no warranties.
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