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Super-Compressed DVD's
Over 5 Hours on a Single, Recordable DVD-5  (4.7 GB)

Anyone who has been authoring DVD's for a while, has come across the problem where they run out of space.  Or in some cases they need a hell of a lot of space.  If that description fits you, then you have come to the right place.  Here we show you how to fit over 5 hours of video on a single recordable DVD-5 with 4.7 GB of storage space.  This is not something to use for "The Matrix" or "Star Wars" of course - but for stuff like documentaries, doubling up old movies, home video clips, etc - it is fine..
 

First off - if you don't believe it

Here is a link to a 500 kB (1/2 MB) clip cut out "directly" from my own project DVD source files.  It is one of the 62 source video clips that fit easily onto the DVD with room to spare, and the quality, although nothing to rave about  .  .  .  is fine.  The compression was achieved by using low resolution files at a high data rate.  This way, the loss of detail is shown as soft edges, which are a result of the size being blown up.  NOT as the usual crappy artifacts and jagged edges !!  This DVD is perfectly "watch-able" and no one that has viewed the DVD has felt it is poor quality.

Play 500 kB Sample Clip Full Screen

IMPORTANT
- playing this clip in full-screen will give you a rough approximation of what it will look like on your TV screen.  To get it to play in full-screen mode, in WMplayer, click the play button and then immediately hit Alt-Enter to get to full screen mode.  Then replay the clip to view the quality.

All I can say . . .  is try it - you'll like it !!!

***here is another longer sample clip with an intro from the Host, Shannon Dougherty (2 GB)

Still not convinced?  Burn your own test DVD !!  Here is a 20 second clip (5 MB) from the same video that I used on the DVD.  You can download it and use your own DVD Authoring package to burn a single 20-second video DVD, and then play it on your big screen TV. 

The custom DVD label for my own Test Project DVD
It combined 3 DVD's and 62 video clips into one 4.7 GB DVD with room to spare.

(I used Photoshop for the image and Neato's MediaFace 4.0 to align and print the label - MediaFace is a great label maker)

Now we do the math for the proof : 

 

The Method

High Quality MPEG-1 SIF (352x240) source files that max out the allowable data rate

The Goal in making a super-compressed DVD  - is to identify a video converter utility that will make a super-compressed MPEG files and a DVD Authoring utility that will accept those files - thereby enabling us to fit tons of video, with "acceptable" quality  .  .  .  on a DVD recordable disc.  This also requires that any MPEG files that we create must be accepted by the DVD Authoring program that we select.  In this section we will include the actual converted test video files, so you can see the results for yourself. 

Here we show you how this method was discovered, through tons of testing using various video formats, various encoder packages, and various DVD authoring utilities.  Finally we show you the exact steps used to create one of these I used the following formats with a number of converters for comparison:

Video Formats - a Quick Review

Standard MPEG Resolutions
 

Video Resolution  

used for . . .

NTSC
Resolution
(W x H) 

PAL
Resolution
(W x H) 

Comments

D1  

DVD

720x480  

720x576

DVD player takes the "height" of the video frames, and adds signaling for vertical retrace.  For example, the full vertical NTSC interlaced resolution is 525 lines, so an analog TV:

  1. scans 240 "odd" lines of visible video from top to bottom

  2. scans 22.5 "invisible" lines (beam shuts off) as the scanning position moves back to the top

  3. scans 240 "even" lines of visible video from top to bottom

  4. scans 22.5 "invisible" lines (beam shuts off) as the scanning position moves back to the top

cropped D1

 

704xNN 704xNN

the 8 pixels on either edge of the video frame aren't supposed to contain useful information. Therefore, some programs will prefer the cropped D1 resolution to save bandwidth

2/3 D1  

SVCD

480x480  

480x576

 

1/2 D1
or
HHR (Half
Horizontal
Resolution) 

VCD
or
DVD

352x480  

352x576

Many ask, "why 352 instead of 360, which is exactly 1/2 x 720 ??"  This is because the MPEG structure uses 16x16 "macroblocks", and therefore the horizontal dimension must be divisible by 16.  352 is divisible by 16, and 360 is not.

SIF
aka "Low Level" 

VCD

352x240  

352x288

sometimes inaccurately called "1/4 D1"

1/4 SIF PC video clips 180x120 N/A

used to be common - now rare due to high resolution displays and video cards

NOTE:  some people use the term "D1" with an assumtion that it is NTSC
it can be either so make sure to always indicate NTSC or PAL !!

NTSC D1  vs  PAL D1

They both transmit the same data rate !!  We show this in the table below:
 

D1 Type Resolution and FrameRate Pixels in one Frame = width x height Data Rate in Pixels per sec =pixels per frame x frames per sec
NTSC D1

720x480 pixels at 30 frames per sec  

345,600

10,368,000

PAL D1

720x576 pixels at 25 frame per sec  

414,720

10,368,000

Video Formats used for testing

This has been a long project, consisting of over a hundred hours of testing, along with the purchase of tons of DVD utilities.

MPEG-1 SIF  -  352 x 240, 1150 kbps CBR, Audio data rate 224 kbps, Audio sampling 48 kHz*  (had to go well above 1150 kbps as you will see)
MPEG-2 SIF  -  352 x 240, 2000 kbps CBR, Audio data rate 224 kbps, Audio sampling 48 kHz
MPEG-2 1/2 D1 (HHR - Half Horiz Res) -  352 x 480, 2000 kbps CBR, Audio data rate 224 kbps, Audio sampling 48 kHz

* even though 44.1 kHz is more common for MPEG-1 SIF, some DVD authoring packages, such as DVD-Lab will not accept MPEG-1 at 44.1 kHz


Video Converters Tested:

Womble MPEG Video Wizard,  CucuSoft, Ultra Video Splitter, IMtoo MPEG Converter, WinAVI Video Converter.  Each has their own problems, except TMPGenc Express, which seems to be trouble-free..

Play these test files yourself - there is a huge world of difference going from DVD-compliant MPEG-2 files at 352x240  vs  352x480 when using Womble (which sucks for MPEG-1 conversions)  -  but TMPGenc Express created 352x240 SIF files that look just as good as the 352x480 1/2 D1 files !!  That was quite a surprise.  Still, if you go with 1/2 D1 MPEG-2 instead, you will still be able to squeeze a LOT of video onto one disc, because even though there are twice as many lines, for some reason the file sizes are only about 15% larger than the SIF files - another surprise :

Womble Converted Files

Play Womble sample conversion - MPEG-2, 352x240 clip 
NOTE:  the edge jaggies are from the "Womble MPEG Converter" - which is why I no longer use it

Play Womble sample conversion - MPEG-2, 352x480 clip
using this size got rid of the jagged edges - but they should not be there in the MPEG-1, and
it is unacceptable to have to go to this size just to have something watch-able

 

TMPGenc Express 3.0 Converted File

Play TMPGenc Express 3.0 sample conversion - MPEG-1, 352x240 clip
NOTE: no jagged edges - excellent quality. 
Play full-screen for an idea of what it will look like if use for a DVD.
My favorite out of all the converters I have tried !!

Why Compress DVD's down so Much ??

There are a few cases where you might want to compress the hell out of your video and store it in the DVD structure on your PC - or burn it onto a DVD-recordable disc:

There are also VCD groups on UseNet, but although VCD's give you highly compressed MPEG1 on a CD, that does not give you much play time and not nearly enough for a movie.

What DVD Authoring Utilities will accept as Input

Here are the allowable standards for MPEG-2 video as shown by TMPGenc DVD Author, and as you can see, there are several acceptable resolutions.  The framerate is also called "Hz" (Hertz):

NOTE:  the acceptable input source file resolution can vary from utility to utility

Both 720x480 and 704x480 are from the NTSC's CCIR 601 standard
352x240 is for both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, and is also called SIF (Source Input Format), also known as Low Level (LL)
352x480 is for non-interlaced, which is called "progressive" scanning - used at 24 fps

 

The Compression Method Explained (the key to this entire technique)

There is no magic here.  You do lose quality, as you always will when compressing.  However, this method chooses the type of quality that it lost - edge sharpness and resolution.  Much of the higher data rate bits in digital images and in video are used for sharp edges.  Soften the edges and you don't need the bits.  video The only degradation is that the video gets a bit "soft" around the edges.  It does not have the artifacts that we are so used to seeing with MPEG-1 clips.  This is why you should use the maximum legal data rate.  This is not great quality - of course not, since it get's doubled in size - but it is perfectly "watch-able" and not bad at all.

Take the following image.

Original Image - resolution 400x533 - File Size is 45 k

 

Here we will compare two ways of compressing - this is a still image, but since video is nothing more than images stuffed into frames . . . the same theory applies:

  1. leave it at full-size, and just compress down the quality to make it very "lossy"
     

  2. take the same image, keep it sharp and clear but shrink it down in resolution to half the display size.  And let the viewer blow it up to twice its size, making it the same display size as the original image.

 

Image 1 - Original Image - 45 k Image 1a - Original Image saved at high compression - 18.4k  artifacts are everywhere !!

 

Image 1 - Original Image - 45 k Image 1b - Original image resized by 50% (200x267)
18.4k - same file size as 1a, but Clear.  But it is small


         Image 1b - this is the same 200x267 18.4k small pic, but it is being blown up by the display here.
Right-click to download it and open it in another image viewer to see - it is a small, postage-stamp size pic !!
The HTML code lists the pic size as 400x533, forcing the browser to resize it
But the file is still the same, and is only 18.4 k
Slightly "soft" edges, but still very clear !!!   So much better than the full-size compressed image - NO Artifacts !!  THIS IS THE SECRET TO THIS METHOD !!!  Compression by using a small display resolution and letting the DVD player blow it back up - not by quality reduction !!

       

Round-Up of the Utilities

The following is the results of about 3 months of testing  .  .  .  for in-depth statistics I used GSPOT to get data rates, video and audio parameters such as aspect ration, CBR vs VBR, sampling rate, etc.  I used the "MPEG-2 Validator" to give a count of I, B, and P frames in any MPEG-2.

VOB and MPEG-2 Players

When testing, and even when creating DVD's you often need to play a VOB file separately, or play an MPEG-2 file.  Sounds simple - but it is not.   VOB files contain video that is streaming at very high data rates . . . about 6000 to 9000 kbps. A lot of players, even if they accept VOB format, can't keep up.

*** Number 1 *** MPC - Microsoft's Media Player Classic v6.4.9.0 - works well, and you should definitely get this freebie.  It is the old "Active Movie" player.  Someone dug it of the archives because people like us needed to be able to play many different video formats, and WMplayer just was not engineered correctly and has never been able to decode the more complex formats such as MPEG-2 and MP4.  Mplayer Classic does a good job of playing most VOB, MPEG-2, and even MP4 files (get the 3ivx codec to play these).  In addition, if it can't keep up with the VOB data rate, there is a "Decrease Speed" button on the console.

WMP - Microsoft's WMplayer - whether you have v9, 10, or 11 - you will not be able to play MPEG-2 files properly with WMplayer.  Forget about it.

VLC Media Player - this has been dubbed the "it will play anything you throw at it" player.  For files it does not have a codec for - it uses "Fake codec" as a workaround. 

VOB to MPEG-2 Converters

The Mixed Menu VOB File ( VTS_01_0.VOB )  is the biggest challenge for conversion.  It is often called a "mixed VOB" and it is normally the first VTS_01_0.VOB file.  The problem with conversion is that it can contain still menus, motion menus, menu transition clips, etc.  Only Womble, which is not even a "player" per se  .  .  .  successfully converted those files.   In fact, only Womble played them properly.  I was able to play them with MPC, but had to slow down the speed quite a bit.

Nothing worked on Menu Vob's except Womble !!  Video Redo, TMPEexpress, and TMPGenc Plus all failed.  With Video Redo Plus I was able to convert the menu VOB to MPEG-2 but it converted only the first 5 seconds of the 15-sec VOB, and the rest was lopped off for some reason.  I opened that MPEG-2 in TMPGenc Express and it could only see the first frame !!  It played through the clip and audio was fine, but only the first frame showed.  Then I tried opening the converted MPEG-2 with TMPGenc Plus - and it also showed only one frame - but that frame was the "last frame" of the MPEG-2.

*** Number 1 for Menu VOB's *** Womble MPEG Video Wizard - this was the only converter that converter the Menu VOB file perfectly.  The only diff was that the converted file's duration (13:26) was a couple of seconds less than the original VOB (15:08).  This is due to the first 4 "still menu" frames.  In the VOB, as I single-stepped through the I-frames starting at the beginning:

  1. the 4 menus were shown as still images - the timing for those first 4 stills was spaced apart by 1/2 sec (00:00, 00:15, 1:00, 1:15) - not sure why
  2. then the first video clip played starting at 2:00 - which is the first menu-to-menu transition video - the I-frame steps at that point were sequentially timed at 30 fps (2:00, 2:01, 2:02, etc)
  3. after that, the other menus transitions played, one after the other until done
When I used Womble to convert this VOB to MPEG-2, the converted file had the first 4 menu stills as successive I-frames timed at 0:00, 0:01, 0:02, 0:03, and then the first video began running at 0:04 and ran normally at 30 fps.  This is why the final converted file is 2 seconds shorter than the VOB !!

*** I am not sure why the menu stills are placed 1/2 sec apart in the VOB.  Perhaps that is a DVD structure standard so that the player can identify them as Menus, and NOT videos.

*** Number 1 for Movie VOB's *** Video ReDo Plus - converts the VOB files from a DVD to MPEG-2 without having to re-encode.  So it does it extremely fast. 

Conclusion - you just can't convert a "menu VOB" to MPEG-2 100% correctly.  There is no 1-to-1 relationship because of the way Menu stills are placed every 1/2 sec in the VOB, and that spacing is lost when converted to MPEG-2.  And you certainly can't edit a converted menu VOB in  MPEG-2 format, convert back to VOB, and expect it to work.

 

Video Conversion Utilities that do not Re-Encode

*** Number 1 *** Video ReDo Plus - converts the VOB files from a DVD to MPEG-2 without having to re-encode.  So it does it extremely fast.  Nothing is as fast as Video Redo . . . nothing. We're talking a few minutes for a 1 GB VOB file to MPEG2 conversion. It is a bit expensive for a 1-trick pony ($50), but it is a must for any DVD video buff.

Problem - it does not work properly on VOB files with menu transitions - in a test sample I used several Root menu to sub-menu transitions in both directions.  DVD-Lab placed the still menu images and the video transition clips all into the same VOB (VTS_01_0.VOB). 

***  BUT it works fine for all other VOB's (the video VOB's) - and those are the VOB's you will be using it for anyway - not the Menu VOB !!!

Boilsoft Splitter & Boilsoft Joiner - this combo allows you to rework the MPEG clips for a DVD movie where you just want to cut out and keep portions - FAST.  You can actually join "n" clips in DOS using "copy /b file1.mpg+file2.mpg+  .  .  .  .+filen.mpg  fileout.mpg" - but you cannot split them.  The Boilsoft joiner makes it much easier and faster than using DOS.

MPEG-2 vs VOB

Some people think that a VOB is an MPEG-2 and all you have to do is change the extension.  WRONG !! This is a myth.  They're very similar, but a VOB has extra data and different headers.  The truth is that a VOB is an MPEG-2 wrapped in VOB headers, which is why it is possible to convert a VOB to an MPEG-2 quickly, if you use a converter that DOES NOT RE-ENCODE.  VOB stands for "Video Object" as defined in DVD specifications. Although a vob file is also an MPEG file, it has additional data that a standard MPEG decoder will not understand, e.g., the private data, which only a DVD decoder will understand. Those data include information about the file offsets and time duration of all chapters included in the VOB file.

Video Conversion Utilities that Re-Encode (i.e. "transcode")

*** Number 1 ***  TMPGenc Express 3.0 (they now have 4.0 released) - this is the hands-down winner and the undisputed king  of video converters.  The other ALL have multitudes of problems, and there are so many problems that it is truly unbelievable.  But not Express 3.0 - it is almost perfect, and as far as the converted files - when it says "standard" it means it !!  You can count on these conversions - you can rely on them.  They work and they look great.  And most importantly - the DVD Authoring Utilities will accept these files !!!

Nero Recode 2 - trumpeted as the "holy grail" of compression, it is not what it seems and I have not figured out a use for it yet. It is two utilities - an MP4 (proprietary codec) converter, and a recoder. Like DVD Shrink, you can use this to throw out certain parts of a DVD and recook it. But you can't use its MP4 compression for DVD's - at least not that can play on anyone player. This utility makes MP4 files in a proprietary format, that can only be played on WinXP with the Nero codec - or with the 3ivx codec installed and using WMplayer v6.4. To me, the compression is not better than DivX or Xvid - sure you can compress way, way down - but the video becomes blurry and unusable if you do that. The fact that Nero Recode MP4 files require users to have installed a special codec, makes it pretty useless for the masses. Great potential though, if Microsoft releases an upgrade that has the codec, so everyone can play the files.

Womble MPEG Video Wizard - the fastest, smoothest MPEG2 NLE (timeline) editor. You can scrub through an MPEG-2 clip smoothly on the timeline - amazing because no other editor I know of can do that. This is GREAT - GREAT !!! It lets you set up In and Out points, split, join, etc - then create a batch process to output all the clips to MPEG1 or MPEG2. I loved this program, until I saw the resulting video clips !!  Creates 352x240 MPEG-1 files with horrible "jaggies" on the edges.  Even higher resolution MPEG's have slight jagggies.  This was such a wonderful app too !!  It is the only MPEG-2 editor that allows you to smoothly scrub through and preview a huge VOB file.  Oh well, too bad.

WinAVI Video Converter - the fastest VOB <--> MPEG2 converter that re-encodes (Video ReDo does not re-encode). Su, unlike Video ReDo you can change display size, framerate, etc. Also works with RM and WMV and AVI. This is the fastest converter I have tried and I have a ton of them. However it has incredible errors in the program itself:

I emailed their "support" 3 times and they replay with "non-answers" such as "the clipping function does not work with clipping because that would slow the program down" - STUPID answer !! BUT for doing what it does - convert fast - it works very well.

IMtoo MPEG Converter - this "was" my favorite - but not any more !! It still is the simplest, smallest, and most powerful interface. and it does convert virtually any format to any format, including iPOD mp4 (both 30GB and 60 GB iPod - and it has a profile for each.   Also, it can can quickly and easily create custom conversion profiles, and can stack up videos in a list and even apply different conversions to each file, and then let it run as you go watch TV.

CuCusoft converter - works with mutiple formats but I had flashing white artifacts in my MPEG-2 converted files that had light, flowing grey backgrounds (cannot handle slightly varying shades apparently).

Total Video Converter - has many many formats, but I do not like the interface. You have to go to a separate window to select the format and then come back to the main window.

Ultra Video Splitter - converts and splits VOB files to MPEG1/2, AVI, WMV. It has major drawbacks !!! Here they are:

File Type    Bitrate    MPG Size    Burned VOB Size
MPEG1      352x240      1522 kB          1401 kB
MPEG1      352x480      1510 kB          1387 kB
MPEG2      352x240      1381 kB          1502 kB
MPEG2      352x480      1397 kB          1518 kB
MPEG2      720x480      1503 kB          1635 kB

I used Gspot to verify the resolution of the files and they were all correct. BUT The resolution of 352x48- is twice that of 352x240 yet the file sizes and bit-rates are basically identical. And even the full 720x480 file is not much larger than the 352x240 !!!

These are the smallest size 720x480 MPEG-2 files I have ever seen - if only they were "real".   But as stated this is done by faking it.  The 720x480 is actually large blocks (4x4, 8x8 or maybe 16x16 - not sure) of identical pixels.  DO NOT USE THIS UTILITY !!!

 

DVD Authoring Utilities

*** Number 1 ***    MediaChance DLD Lab Pro - I finally figured out how to use DVD-Lab Pro, and it was well worth the time to figure it out. It has so much more power than DVD Author that there really is no comparison. I now realize, is that I was wrong about the elemental streams taking forever. I had been using TMPGenc Plus to demux, and it does take a long time - but somehow DVD-Lab does it in a fraction of the time. It demuxes a 5-minute video clip in about 30 seconds. It does require twice as much drive space because it keeps the original mpg file and create one mpv and one mpa file. But with today's monster drives, even that is not a problem. Plus when finished - after testing the DVD you can delete the files.

The DVD-Lab "connections" page is extremely helpful to understand and see what is going on. It shows the complete DVD layout, along with lines and arrows that show how everything is connected. And you can change the structure byt simply drawing in your own lines. Awesome. I can link to any menu from any menu and then back again. I can play single clips and return to the menu even in "sub menus" (which DVD Author cannot do). And you can also create "Playlists", which allows the user to play any single clip and return, or click "Play All". 

Click Here to see an actual DVD Connections page
 of a very complex DVD, with 1 main menu, 3 sub-menus, and 54 video clips

I am sure there are many other high-end DVD Authoring programs that can also do these things, but DVD-Lab is very cheap, considering all that it can do.

SONIC Reel DVD - very difficult to learn and use.  Like DVD Lab Pro, it also only works with elemental streams. At least it does automatically convert program streams. BUT it took every single "DVD Compliant" MPEG-2 that I threw at it and complained about problems (except for Womble exported MPEG-2 files). The most common error was "GOP length" errors but there were a few others. Even TMPGenc converted "DVD-cinmpliant" MPEG-2 files resulted in import errors. Very confusing program too.

TMPGenc DVD Author v1.6- stay away from v2.0 (v2.1 is OK though).  The most user-friendly DVD Authoring package of all. But it has major menu limitations. Only the Main menu can contain "tracks". All sub-menus can ONLY contain "Chapters". In otherwords, each sub-menu is a single Track, and that single Track contains multiple "Chapters". You cannot create a sub-menu that has buttons that link to other sub-menus. You cannot play a "Chapter" on a sub-menu and have it return to the sub-menu when completed - it will always play ALL subsequent chapters. For example, if you click on Chapter 3 and there are 11 Chapters in that sub-menu, then it will play Chapters 3 through 11 before returning.  You cannot create a custom menu EXCEPT for those based on the Templates. When you click "Edit Menu Theme" you are shown a series of "Templates" to choose from, and you cannot add objects to them.

ULEAD DVD Workshop 2.0 - the best "all around" DVD Authoring program - great interface, very user friendly, and somewhat powerful (though not nearly as powerful as DVD-Lab).  You can have any menu link to any other menu. Great player within lets you view every clip. But for my own case - both v1.3 and 2.0 have no sound with certain PC's, including my Dell Dimensions. I spent 2 years emailing ULEAD about this and working with them to get it fixed. Never happened - so on both of my Dell machines, it has no sound in the final DVD output (works fine in the DVDWS player). It does have sound on my other machines but they are slow. It could be the Powerleap upgrade CPU and not the Dell, because both my Dell's have a Powerleap processor installed. But I doubt it.

 

***  Finally  -  How to Create Super-Compressed DVD's ***

The Goal - create a DVD that can store either 2 to 3 movies combined, or tons of video clips all on one disc.  For short video clips I wanted them to return to the menu upon completion and NOT continue to the next clip, which is why I had to use DVD Lab and NOT USE DVD Author.  I also wanted the user to have the "option" to play all clips sequentially.  The following meets all of these goals.

The Method - use High-Quality MPEG-1 files as inputs to DVD-Lab, with the following settings:

MPEG-1, 352x240,  Video Data Rate 1602 kbps CBR, Audio data rate 224 kbps, Audio Sampling Rate 48 kHz, Frame Rate 29.97 fps

The Software Packages - there is only one VOB-toMPEG-2 converter on the market that does it at high-speed, without re-encoding, and that utility is . . .

Video ReDo Plus !!

After months of testing, I have found that virtually ALL video converters except one, have major flows and mistakes in them.  And I mean major !!  The only one that is accurate, fully featured, reliable, and powerful, is . . . .

TMPGenc Express 3.0 !!

The same can be said for "affordable" DVD Authoring programs.  They are all lacking in some major way, or they have some major limitation . . . all except one . . .

Mediachance DVD-Lab Pro !!

The Results

Using the maximum legal data rate for MPEG-1 (i.e. the highest quality possible), you will get over 5 hours of video (about 5.1 hours) on one, 4.7 GB, recordable DVD !!! 

Using "average quality MPEG-1 files, you could get up to 8 hours on a single DVD !!

 

Introduction to this Technique

After studying and testing for months . . . I ended up with a preference for high quality MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 SIF files at 352x240.  I have no preference between MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 at this video size, since visually you cannot tell the difference.  So I use MPEG-1 because MPEG-2 did not give me any apparent quality difference and the utilities convert MPEG-2 more slowly.  It all gets converted in the end to "MPEG-2 like" files (VOB) anyway, by the DVD Authoring program.

The Key - convert the Video to small Display size, 352x240 MPEG-1's while maxing the data rate - letting the DVD Player Expand them to Full Screen.

The purists will frown upon this technique, and they are right as far as authoring excellent "showpiece" DVD's.  But that's not what this is about - so let them frown while you kick back with a bunch of snacks and beer and watch over 5 hours on one disc !!  This method works and it works very well.  You have to see it to believe it. 

The trick is to convert your video to the highest quality 352x240 MPEG-1 files as you can !!!  Keep in mind that we will be using very small videos, and your player will be doubling their size  .  .  .  so in order to have decent results, you will need very high quality clips.

To do that, you max out the DVD standards.  You create 352x240 clips with the highest allowable data rate.   DVD Author is a great yardstick as far as testing the DVD compliancy of files - if it will accept the file, you can bet it is DVD compliant !!!  BUT realize that other programs such as DVD-Lab are much more forgiving of things like data rates, so you may wish to go that route instead. 

This means exceeding the usual standard MPEG-1 video bit rate of 1150 kbps, yet still staying within the upper limit .  DVD Author will complain if you create an MPEG-1 with too high a data rate, and will refuse the file.  It will even refuse an MPE-1 at 2000 kbps, which is fairly common.  The message it gives is:

1856 kbps is the max MPEG-1 data rate allowed
(as a side note - for MPEG-2, it says the max is 9800 kbps)

Calculating the max Data Rate

It is very important to realize that 1856 kbps is the TOTAL Data Rate not just the video data rate. 

Total Data Rate = Video + Audio + Control bits

Most video conversion utilities allow you adjust the video and audio streaming data rates separately.  Then when the mpeg is playes, the streams combine into one total data rate.  If you use TMPGenc Express 3.0 and set it to 1856 kbps, you will be setting the Video data rate.  Then the total bit rate (you can use GSPOT to view that) comes out to 2110 kbps (1856 video  + 224 audio + 30 control) !!!  So for Express 3.0, the rule of thumb, if using 224 kbps for audio, is to subtract that audio + control bits (which is 254 since 224+30=254) from the max data rate to get your video data rate.  So the max video data rate you should use for MPEG-1 is:

1602 kbps CBR !!!

(1602 kbps CBR video data rate = 1856 total - 224 audio - 30 control)

NOTE:  using 1602 places you right at the upper limit - so if DVD Author still complains, then simply shave a bit more off the video data rate in the Express 3.0 converter, and use something like 1580 kbps

Using HHR (Half-Height Resolution, also called 1/2 D1) MPEG-2 Clips
 
You can use 352x480 MPEG-2, so that you get twice the vertical resolution.  But surprisingly, this does not get you much.  Going to 352x480 MPEG-2 instead of 352x240 MPEG-1 essentially doubles the vertical resolution, and it also allows you to use high data rates, since the max for MPEG-2 is 9800 kbps !!!   And surprisingly, 352x480 files are not much larger than 352x240 files, if using the same bit rate setting !! 

But of course - as with MPEG-1 SIF, you will want to increase the bit rate for HHR files, while at the same time not going anywhere near as high as a standard full D1 MPEG-2 file of 6000 to 8000 kbps.  I recommend 2500 to 3000 kbps.  I must say, this trick does not really get you much in the way of added quality unless you dramatically increase the data rate, which ruins the whole point of doing this !!

The Steps to create a 5 Hour DVD

Here are the steps and the software I use:

1) if you are taking your source video from existing DVD's - decrypt and save the DVD VOB's to hard drive and go to Step 2

     if you are using your own footage -
capture the Mini DV footage as AVI files to
     your hard drive (or MPEG files of your capture card supports it) and skip to Step 3

2) use Video Redo to combine all VOB's and save them to a single, Huge MPEG-2 file - (the audio will stay in synch, and the conversion will be done extremely fast since Video ReDo does NOT re-encode)

3) use TMPGenc Express 3.0 to make the cuts and convert the files - this utility is preferred because it allows CBR, which is the standard for DVD MPEG-1 at 352x240 - whereas IMtoo does not allow CBR) to put in all your clip cuts and convert the huge MPEG2 file to numerous MPEG-1 files at 352x240.  Make sure to use the following settings:

MPEG-1, 352x240,  Video Data Rate 1602 kbps CBR, Audio data rate 224 kbps, Audio Sampling Rate 48 kHz, Frame Rate 29.97 fps

*** if using TMPGenc Express 3.0 make sure to set the VBV buffer size less than 40 kB  (I use 32 kB)

4) use a reputable DVD Authoring package to Author the DVD  (I prefer DVD-Lab Pro):

If you are lucky enough to have DVD Lab Pro ($199, don't even bother with the regular DVD Lab for $99) - then here are some tips.  It is the best DVD package for the money and man is it ever powerful !!  The sky's the limit on what you can do.

*** scroll down for details on DVD Lab Pro, Elemenral Streams, and file type Conversions ***

 

My own Project DVD's Final Results

As to the super-compressed DVD's, it is amazing how good the videos actually look on my big-screen TV, considering they are MPEG-1 files. Try making a short sample and see for yourself !! Again - the trick is using very high quality MPEG-1 at much higher data rates than most MPEG-1 files.

Here I have used I used high quality source video and used the highest "legal" MPEG-1 data rate for the target video - which according to TMPGenc is 1856 kbps. I set the video to 1602 kbps, the audio to 224 kbps, and that leaves enough room for the 30 kbps mpeg-1 control bits. The data rate is about 1/4th that if a standard DVD, but about 3 times that of a standard desktop video clip. So this is a "happy medium" between compression and quality.

3 DVD's into 1  -  for my own test project I compressed all 3 DVD's from the 1st Season of "Scare Tactics", which is 53 video clips, plus 8 clips from the 2nd Season onto one DVD.   I ended up with a whopping 61 video clips a total playtime of 3.13 hours, with 3.9 GB of space taken up - leaving a ton of space leftover if I decide to add more later (800 MB leftover space). 

The menu selection allow the user to watch any single clip and return to the menu - or he can click the "Play All Clips" button at the upper right of each screen to play all the clips on that screen sequentially.  Since I had so much leftover space I added 8 clips from Season 2 and created the 4th Menu.

The final DVD - file structure
3.9 GB required - disc capacity is 4.7 GB


 

the 4 DVD menus

 

System Stream <-----> Elemental Streams

    "Conversion"

To convert from system to elemental streams - you de-multiplex the single file containing the single system stream (video and audio streams that are interlaced together into a single stream) into two separate streams in two files (one video and one audio).

To convert elemental streams to a system stream - you multiplex two elemental streams together to form one stream of interlaced video and audio data.

The Elemental Stream File Types

Common Video Elemental Stream files - mpv (MPEG-1 Video) or m2v (MPEG-2 Video)

Common Audio Elemental Stream files - AC3, mp2, mpa, wav, and LPCM (pcm or raw)

NOTE:  surprisingly, the most popular audio file . . . MP3's . . . are not used by most DVD Authoring packages 

MP2 (MPEG-1 audio Layer 2)    vs    MPA (MPEG Audio - Layer I, II, or III) 

These are very similar files.  But are different formats, and utilities always seem to support one or the other - not both.  DVD Lab will import either and can use either as the audio stream for any movie on the DVD.  

NOTE:  quite a few utilities will actually allow you to change the extension mp2 to mpa and will work fine that way !!  In general there should be no need to do this - but I include it here because it has been mentioned so many times in other discussions.

MP2 (MPEG-1 Layer 2 Audio)     vs     MP3 (MPEG-1 Layer 3 Audio)

MP2 is usually 196 or 224 kbps at 48 kHz sampling.  MP3 is usually 128 to 256 kbps at 44.1 kHz sampling.  MP3 has better compression and allows for "joint stereo".

How to get your Audio into Elemental Stream Formats:

There are many conversion utilities - so use whatever works for you.  Here I have listed the utilities that I use, personally, and can vouch for:

AC3, MP2, WAV - use IMtoo to open these files and convert to other formats - or use IMtoo to export any other audio file to these formats  

MPA - creating MPA files is not easy because very few utilities support conversion to mpa.  The only utility I am aware of is DVD Lab, which creates mpa files on the fly as soon as you import an mpg file (it automatically demuxes mpg to two elemental stream files . . . mpv and mpa).  You can use Adobe Premiere to import mpa but not export to mpa (the Main Concept MPEG encoder can only create system streams, "mpg" only). Even the old workhorse, TMPGenc Plus, cannot save to mpa format.  It does have a built-in utility called "MPEG Tools" that can mux an mpa together with a video stream into an mpg system stream . . . but it cannot creat mpa files.

But don't worry - you will probably never need to create an mpa file.  And if you do need one (for a DVD Lab project, for example) the utilities that require mpa files come with their own demux routines or a transcode routine to create the mpa file for you.

MP2 - use IMtoo or TMPGenc.  Both utilities can open mp2 files and they can export to mp2.

 

Conversions

MPG to MPA  -  use DVD Lab to import mpg and it will demux the file into mpv and mpa elemental streams

MPA to MP2 - open the mpa in Premiere, export to wav, open wav in IMtoo, and export to mp2

MP2 to MPA - open MP2 in IMtoo, export to wav   OR  in DVD Lab, goto Tools/Transcode Audio . . . . click Input and select the MP2, and then click "Transcode" and the MPA will be created in the same folder

LPCM - unlike many other DVD authoring utilities, DVD Lab will not accept LPCM (*.pcm  or  *.raw).  Go to the LPCM conversion tool (Tools / LPCM>wav), open the pcm/raw file and transcode it to wav   OR  just use the main DVD Lab Tools/Transcode to convert LPCM--->WAV  or  WAV --> LPCM

 

Now author the DVD - see DVD Lab Pro Details

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