Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chunking it all…and coming up roses

One of my side jobs is to help manage video-desk operations at the church-house.

Videos of the main services and special events are captured via several remote-operated Sony EVI type cameras, operated through a Sony RM-BR300 control board and then mixed via a Panasonic  AV-HS400 unit.

From there the the final video output is fed into a standard DVD player/recorder unit using base sound captured by the sound board.

And the generated output is a DVD-R optical master-disk from which copies may be made when requested by attendees/guests.

Not that big a deal…except when a request is made for just a digital portion of the DVD…say a special music performance or a sermon.

Unfortunately, because our rig isn’t (yet) set up for digital video capture to HDD, processing the request takes a few extra steps.

For DVD duplication, the process is pretty easy. I can use any of a number of fine freeware tools to rip an ISO of the master DVD we produced and then burn that ISO file to make copies at will of DVD copies. Works fine.

However, when I have to rip and convert a segment from the DVD, it has been a lot more dramatic.

Time being precious like it is around the Valca home lately, I prefer to take the DVD master disk home with me and then process it on my laptop.

It’s a Dell Studio 15 (1558) with an i7 quad-core processor, 8 GB RAM --maxed out :p --, and a 1024MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5400 Series graphics card driving the HD display. All that to say it is pretty beefy and should be able to handle just about any general video task I toss at it.

However, for the past year or so I’ve been battling choppy/stuttering video playback after I do my video re-encoding work.

DVD’s play fine, YouTube videos play fine, Vimeo plays awesome - particularly in 1080 HD.

But when I play back my own re-encoded rips…FLV/MOV/WMV/MP4/ETC…in anything, including KMPlayer or VLC Player, it is stutter city and very, very frustrating.

Houston, clearly there is a problem.

I don’t have the issue on our video-desk PC system up at the church house. It is a desktop system with less system RAM and  multiple video cards (4 displays baby!) but it does have a i7 quad-core processer as well.

The issue clearly was with my system, but what exactly.

I have more than a lot of video processing/recoding applications.

One thing I prefer is that the application can read the DVD directly and allow me to select a custom start/end segment to capture and convert. It make pulling the specific segment out much more time efficient.

However, it seemed that no matter which application I tried, and which video format/quality I chose, the stutters always occurred. Yuck.  Watching my CPU threads and memory during processing didn’t seem to show that I was pushing the limits of the system at all. And I’ve successfully done some seriously heavy video editing processing in Lightroom with nary a hitch.

I did some research and found a lot of Dell Studio 15 (1558) users also complaining about stuttering playback.

Naturally I first tried to download and install the latest AMD ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5400 driver.  The AMD driver page is a bit kooky. If you follow the drop-down help it takes you to a new 13.11 Beta version available, but I wasn’t sure I was that desperate. However if you want the latest “stable” version, you won’t find it under the drop-downs, instead check the right-sidebar and look for the section with the Radeon HD 5000 series link in your Windows flavor. Currently it looks like the Catalyst Software Suite is at revision 13.9.

I did a full install but that didn’t help me one bit. Still the problem persisted.


I did notice a bunch of options in the default install…do I really need those? Could those be causing an issue with the recoding software? I wonder…

I re-ran the installer again but this time chose the “Custom” option and noticed it actually contained a lot of additional options.  Ghacks has good post breaking them down.

I ended up uninstalling the following packages from my ATI driver package: AMD APP SDK Runtime, custom ATI codex, drag and drop transcoding, and some specialized video type playback support. All those specialized transcoding features that seemed to allow the graphics processor to assist with video decoding/encoding/processing seemed like they could potentially cause some issues with the software packages I was using.

Reboot and reattempt recoding.  Yea! Success!  Smooth video encoding results.

Since I was doing a lot of trial-and-error troubleshooting, I ended up finding that use of HandBrake to do my initial video selection edit rip-from-DVD and convert worked the fastest and best. From there it really didn’t seem to matter which other video-converter I used to change that file into another format, the final output played flawlessly regardless.

So, if you are using a AMD graphics card and using the ATI Catalyst software/drivers, but still experience issues with your video encoding/playback, you might want to try choosing a “Custom” install rather than the “Express” and then dumping (or uninstalling) those extra feature components that you think you really don’t need.

The Catalyst Control Center has a bunch more performance and feature tweaks you can make as well…and I made just a few but those were all for display picture quality rather than performance.

One awesome and unexpected benefit this brought me was being able to do additional tweaking of the display settings of my new’ish  HP Pavilion 22bw 21.5-inch Diagonal IPS LED Backlit Monitor(C4D29AA) display. I got super-frustrated with the HP driver-display management package and the quality (being output from my laptop on the free HDMI port) was pretty disappointingly sucky. Text was very muddy despite the best efforts to improve it, even with ClearType tweaking.  However, the Catalyst Control settings allowed me to adjust the overscan so it filled the frame and after a little playing with other display options the Catalyst Control Center offered me for it, the display now shows text and other content razor sharp! Hurrah!

Finally, here is one last “bonus tip” for you crazy (personal) video DVD rippers and editors and re-encoders out there.

I usually keep the ripped ISO imaged of our service DVD’s around for quite a while that way I don’t have to take the extra time to re-rip them (usually about 10-15 min per disk).  So when I want to make new copies I just burn the ISOs. Much faster.

So what I figured out was that when I am trying to rip a segment of video from of of our service DVDs, it’s a lot faster to mount the ripped DVD ISO as a virtual drive using ImDisk, OSFMount, or Virtual CloneDrive and use that as my source. The encoding software seems to access the data much faster than when reading it directly off the optical drive media.

I hope this helps some frustrated Studio 15 (1558) users out there who otherwise love their spiffy laptop.


--Claus Valca

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