Saturday, June 23, 2012


Uploaded a compilation of all work produced for the class to YouTube.

Hopefully this upload will finish before the day is over... its set to auto load in here once its finished processing.

you can look at the rest of my fail of a YouTube account too if your interested. will load some stuff form Video Art 2 soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


you know, pressing tab on a webpage can be a rather fun tour of the place. well back to not letting my mind do its thing...

Final Project V1.1
Taking photographs of some of my Beanie Babies and then animating them using the pupating tool in after effects to bring them to violence. Overlaying guns in to their hands and simulating a short battle threw animation of the cuddly models mixing the dangers of war and the fuzziness of fluff balls filled with plastic pellets.

just realized that we needed a screen cap for this post (lol)

No idea if this premise is even going to hold true as time and working with stuffed animals at all is killing me. not to mention the lack of stock on hand. wish i had more time to play with them.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Compression 102

In my previous post I went over how visual disparities are introduced to videos from different codecs and their relative effects on the image quality. However I completely missed discussing what to do when faced with needing to input your own numbers and how these many variables can affect the image quality and file size. In Compression 101 I merely used the Adobe Media Encoders .mov quality slider for setting my compression ratios and as what’s been well proven by this class, for some reason most people prefer Final Cut Pro X which lacks most of the quality controls that was covered previously.

Along with covering a more precise method of compression via custom bitrates I will also cover some special situations in which specific codecs and settings should be used. Part #0 Data Compression for dummies I’m going to give this my best effort to explain common Computer file terminology as it pertains to video and media storage.
-No compression, no formatting, pure data. This isn’t talked about much in amateur Video but is common in professional video.
-Lossless compression is the ideal compression scenario. When Losslessly encoded, the content has been perfectly preserved and can be recalled an infinite number of items identically while still being a smaller file size than its RAW uncompressed form.
-Lossy compression is what you see daily in your digital life. Television stations, Radio, MP3 and YouTube all utilize a lossy compression system. In lossy compression small portions of data are chucked in order to smooth out the bit stream to allow for greater compression.
-A Container is a blanket format that can contain a number of codecs. Container formats will specify what codecs are supported and their manner of encoding and decoding. Typically they will have support for multiple codecs. An example of this would be .mov which is capable of storing around 32 different codecs.
-A Codec is a set of instructions (algorithms) that are used to encode and decode data held within a container. MP3 is a container and a codec, but Apple Quick Time Pro is just a codec and is stored in a .mov container.
Part #1 Video Encoder settings
Progressive VS Interlaced
-this ones the most commonly known by people outside of the technological side of video production, however it’s also the least understood for some oddity. Simply put, the P in 720p stands for progressive frames. This means that each frame is rendered entirely and contains the most data/lines of information per frame. The i in 1080i stands for Interlaced. In this situation the displayed image is still a full 1080 vertical pixels, but all frames are all half the stated resolution because the displayed image is derived from two fields of separate data that are alternately updated. Only half of the image (1 field) is of the new frame, the second displayed field comes from the previous field update.
There are 2 fields displayed at all times in i mode and only 1 field displayed in P mode to display a single image. P gives a cleaner image due to the whole image being derived from the same data set.
Constant Bit Rates
-the simplest of all data sorting methods is called “Constant Bit Rate” and just as it says, it’s a constant bit rate. Under this sequencing method, a still image of white is allocated the same data space as an epic clash of light sabers would be.
Most reliable (not everything supports variable bit rates) Least likely to flood delivery bandwidth (you won’t have spikes of data requests, instead a constant even flow) Guaranteed quality (what you set is what you get)
Oldest Least image quality per byte of data (a blank shot eats the same amount of data as an action shot)
Variable Bit Rates
-as the name implies, “Variable Bit Rate" encoded video has a bit rate that varies. Under this sequencing method, the image is assessed via an extra encode pass to determine its amount of change. From there the encoder will alter the amount of data allocated to the scene according to its amount of change. A shot with a lot of change will be allocated a larger chunk of data space than a shot that is relatively calm and unchanging.
An additional aspect of variable bit rate encoding is the option of 1 pass or 2 pass. This is merely another level of quality control to the encoder. 1 pass will analyze the image once and then begin encoding while 2 pass will check the data twice and average the results before encoding the images. My recommendation is to always use 2 pass encoding, as it won’t increase the file size and can produce better images than 1 pass.
1 pass
-Only a single analysis pass is completed before encoding the video
2 Pass
-Two analysis checks are conducted on the image before encoding the video. File size is the same. Only con is a longer encoding time.
Part #2 Conditional compression
Stop Motion Animation
When compressing stop motion animation directly from a video editor, where a single frame of animation can span more than a single video field (frame), always check “optimize still images” if the codec supports it. This will tell the encoder to check for static imagery that spans more than one field and to then skip updating the subsequent fields it spans over. For example, if a still image has a duration of 2 seconds in a file set to 30 fps, the encoder will generate one 2 second frame instead of 60 frames at 1/30 of a second each. (
That’s it for this entry.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

After Effects - The Puppet Tool

Compression part 2: other compressors. Is still being worked on for a later post. (im hoping for less errors and easier understanding)

After effects is an amazing toll to work with and has spectacular integration with Adobe programs which I find to greatly reduce processing time (no need to export layers from a PSD, just import them!) But one thing i want to focus on today that I found handy and fun to play with is the Puppet Tool. It’s similar to rigging a model (ringed models are used in shows like My Little Pony other flash animated things and a few forms of traditional animation), however instead of requiring a model to be produced and then manipulated via layers; it allows you to work from a flat image that contains no layers and thus no rigging. Sounds nice eh? BECAUSE IT IS! It’s a wonderful tool for manipulating still images where you don’t have aces to breaking apart layers in order to generate rigging (say a photograph or a screen shot?).
  1. To get started, import the image you want to manipulate in to After Effects. (i suggest breaking apart anything that you will want to keep absolutely still and masking everything out in Photoshop)
  2. Now add it to the timeline and set it durations (go to the ends of the bar for the clip and drag as needed)
  3. Now bump the button that looks like this
  4. When you move your curser back to the composition you will notice it looks like a pin, this is your golden ticket.
  5. Find the spot where you wish to place a joint (manipulation point) and left click to set it!
  6. Next step is to set all of the other joint points and spots that you may want to change.
  7. So now that you have all of your joints set you can now animate! Simply drag the points about with the pin tool still selected (it will turn in to a movement box symbol when over a point) and watch as After Effects does a crap load of math. (Literally, every line in those displayed image is treated as a polygon when transforming)
Now that you’ve played with it for a bit here’s some more handy things to know about this tool.

  • You can stiffen parts using the Starch Tool found by click holding on the pin tool button. Just start setting a bunch of points where ever you want stiff spot and it won’t change those when you start moving their related points around. 

  • The last trick is the Overlay Tool. This allows you to specify parts of the puppet that will go in front of everything else when overlapping is occurring. 
No Overlays set 
Overlays Set

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Compression, a Visual Experience

Updated as of 6-6-2012 at 1:22am

Start of entry

To begin this very long entry. I feel it is important that i cover some reasons as of to why i'm not simply spitting out arbitrary values for people to use for compressing. while doing that would allow everyone to achieve better numbers and image quality, you would ultimately not understand why that is and be befuddled once something changes.

Why Compression Exists

Compression exists for one of 3 reasons, the storing medium is not large enough to store the uncompressed raw data, its bandwidth isn’t wide enough to deliver it in real time or the file in question is simply not needed in any higher quality.

Situation 1 is rare these days as physical disks are now capable of storing upwards of 50GB's per disk (25GB's per layer on Blue-Ray disks) and hard drives are easy to acquire with capacity’s over 1TB. This reason for compression was more prevalent when hard drives were measured in Mega Bytes and Floppy disks were the norm for portable media.
Situation 2 is currently the most common situation. The internet is the primary delivery method of digital media in our current society and as such the medium will be constrained to the maximum possible sustainable data rate of the connection to the distribution server. Now that’s a whole lot of mumbo jumbo to most so simply, your connection to the internet. the average American internet speed in a developed part of the country lies between 8Mb/s and 16Mb/s. (networking is measuring in bits instead of bytes. 1 byte = 8 bits) as such sites like YouTube and other services optimize their view transfer services for working with in these constraints. typical bit rates of these videos are less than 1MB/s. (a 720p .mp4 I’ve archived from YouTube has a total bit rate of just 810Kb/s, 658Kb/s of which is video and 151Kb/s is audio). another deliver method that is bandwidth limited is in fact your hard drive and Blu-ray disk, the average consumer hard drive from 2008 can only reach a maximum sustained threw put in the range of 40 to 60MB/s and 1x Blue Ray Drives (what’s found on blue ray players) are in the rang of a mere 48Mb/s (4.8MB/s) for their Video and audio combined. As such its becoming more apparent that you truly don’t need a 50MB/s video file if your still working at the 1080p video resolutions. (Unless this is for archiving in which case I would suggest a lossless format which could run you in the gigabytes per second)
Situation 3 is what all of us will run in to once we have finished this class. Because honestly, it isn’t necessary to store all of our raw data left over from producing our animations, however deleting it all would be a shame as it could prove useful later. This is where finding the right balance of quality to file size is the most important and also the most problematic. As the more space you will recover by compressing further you will also lose more detail.

Why its important to understand

Compression is important to be familiar with why it exists and how it functions between algorithms in order to be capable of fine tuning your storage of media and for your presentation situations (as covered above). one of the most important things to remember when working with compressed media is to not over compensate for its compression.

Over compensation is what happens when you store a 128Kb/s .MP3 in a lossless .wav container and the same holds true for video. There is no point in storing a 56000Kb/s video stream if the original was compressed to run at 512Kb/s. All that is achieved by this is wasting storage space and bandwidth on the same amount of quality. think of it like how a digital image shouldn't be resized to a larger resolution due to its loss of clarity and increase in data footprint. Only in this case you’re not losing clarity, just space.

However a small quirk of working with non lossless files comes when re encoding them. due to the way that decoders and encoders work, you will all ways loos some amount of data regardless of what you have done to the file. This is because lossy encoding schemes tend to toss out extra data when re-compressing even if there has been no change to the data itself. (This is why you want to use .png and lossless .tiff’s when working with still images and not .jpg). In order to help counter acted this guaranteed desegregation of data, lossy files always requires more data when re-encoded to store the same clarity of data.
for example, If you were to decode a 128Kb/s MP3 and then store it as a freshly compressed .mp3, you should set the bit rate to at least 196Kb/s in order to not throw out what quality the audio had in the original 128Kb/s .MP3.

Now that your probably starting to gone in agony at the thought of your precious work being slowly destroyed by the terrors of lossy digital storage. Don’t run out to find the nearest lossless video codec and container to store your precious videos in, there’s no point to it as they will fill your storage system faster than Han Solo shot Greedo in Star Wars. I have worked with them from time to time and the ratio of clarity to file size just isn't worth it for long term storage. 30 seconds of footage at 1080p will eat up around of 2GB's instead of a paltry 256MB's of a well encoded lossy file while looking nearly identical.

Codec Comparisons

so now that I’ve filled this entry with more text than most people will with 3 blog entry's, we're finally on to the part where we get visual!

I have covered some codecs I’m familiar with along with pixel by pixel comparisons of how each one handles compressing to identical quality settings along with file sizes. this demonstration gives a visual quality comparisons at low medium and high bit rates on a high jitter video file that is losslessly compressed.

The Base Line

The input file is a 8 seconds and 15 frames long recording from the game Crysis running CCC level 6 mod, 8x MSAA, 16x AF, recorded at 1/3 game speed and 1080p. The RAW file can be had  as a split 7zip archive at the following links. Part 1 Part 2
Here I present a still from the RAW .AVI file at exactly 3 seconds in. All subsequent images are at the same time code however from their respective encoded videos.
This will be our base image and is considered the absolute highest quality video (as it pretty much is)
Here is the file information for it. 
Size: 381 MBs
Codec: FPS1
Container: AVI
Decode Format: Planar 4:2:0 YUV Full Scale
Length: 00:00:08:15
Frame Size: 1920x1080
Data Rate: 746496Kbps
Total Bitrate: 746496Kbps
Frame Rate: 30 FPS

Compression Comparisons

So now, on to the actual compression now that we have our baseline and the generality’s covered.
First I will cover some differences between H264, Motion JPG A, Photo JPG, and MPEG4 video compression algorithms. All of them are Lossy systems in which some data is guaranteed to be lost when encoding to them, however some are more efficient at different levels of compression and some are just plainly worse at reaching lossless compression looks.
To start off here are what all of the files look like after being encoded with 100% quality settings and all quality optimizations turned on in Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5.
Motion JPG A
Photo JPG

Minus the Gama value discrepancy of the Motion JPG A codec they all look the exact same right? Well they should seeing as these files are all around or larger than the original file. However even at this level of compression there are discrepancies, minor but some.

Minor Discrepancy’s

(section to be added)

Visualization of Compression

following are stills form the processed videos. the images have been processed in photoshop to exaggerate the visual noise that each respective codec induces to videos when encoding to it. All images were processed using the exact same settings and as such the amount of noise and the type of it visible in the images is to be considered indicative of the differences of the codecs when running. All images have been re-toned for that a value of 51 out of 255 is the maximum brightness level in order to make the compression marks more visible. the closer the image is to pure black then the less noise the compression codec induced and as such the higher the fidelity of the resulting image.

100% Quality Compression

for this comparison, i have processed stills form exactly 3 seconds in to each respective video against one taken form the uncompressed AVI file.
Motion JPG A
Large discrepancy’s here due to Gama shift
Photo JPG
As you can clearly see from these comparisons, some codecs are innately better for working with when storing as lossless of an image as possible. The MPEG4 image has clearly despite being set to 100% quality thrown out the most data of all the codecs and shows the sharpest variance from our Lossless file. Meanwhile H264 and Photo JPG prove to be the most true to the original image with Photo JPG showing the least amount of noise. Sadly I cannot use Motion JPG A in this comparison due to Gama problems, however that alone should disqualify it from this round up. However I'm still including it for I feel it may just be a encoder setting that i missed.
For a bit of fun, here’s what YouTube did to this file. (6.02MBs, 1080p .mp4)
ugly isn't it?

This image is a direct averaging of the whole images from above in order to give a direct sense and applicable values to each codecs variance from absolute 0 (no compression). My ratings primarily go by its V value in the HSV sRGB color interpretation system. Once more the closer the color is to my 0 Point then the better the codec is.
All demo images from here on down will be processed against their respective codecs 100% Quality Compression encoded videos. this is to eliminate the possibility of Gama shifts throwing off the noise values as so aptly demonstrated in the 100% Quality Compression. all comparisons are done from the same frame 3 seconds in on their respective compressed video.

90% Quality Compression
This low level compression section lacks any true us fullness as it typically results in files larger than desired and is compressed further than i would recommend for archival purposes as the compression marks are noticeable to a trained eye in stills.

if you compare the file size of the 100% and 90% H264 files you will notice that there is hardly any differences but this image demonstrates a noticeable amount of noise.
Motion JPG A
Photo JPG
direct average

50% Quality Compression

I have found that the resulting files form this compression level are generally optimal for general usage in demos and class presentations. When in motion the compression artifacts are not noticeable and the file size is right in what i consider the sweet spot of less than 200MB's.
Motion JPG A
Photo JPG

direct average

10% Quality Compression

This compression level is primarily touched on simply for demonstration of the noise levels of highly compressed video files. i have noticed that in class people generally have been spitting out gigabytes worth of video or something small enough to fit on a hand full of floppies. All of these videos in motion are rather ugly and really should never be used for an art presentation. (perhaps Email but even then you can just link them to a download of a much higher quality file)
Motion JPG A
Photo JPG

direct average

150MB File Quality Comparison

For a simpler to rationalize comparison of size to noise ratios i have provided a comparison of the 4 codecs when encoded to as closely meat 150MB's as possible.
Motion JPG A
Photo JPG
(refused to go to 150MBs so the nearest value was selected at 165MBs)


Quite obviously from these demonstrations, MPEG4 should never be used due to its constant higher level of noise at all compression levels. i would only ever advice its usage in situations where any of the other three codecs will have problems (sensitive play back devices and real time sycrinisation) however this compression discrepancy can be partly excused because it consistently produced the smallest files.
H624 and Photo JPG were neck and neck throught much of the compression comparisons with minor differences all the way up till the 10% test where H264 started distorting the overall color tone of the images. At near lossless compression settings (100%), Photo JPG produced the cleanest image results however it was also one of the largest files at twice the size of H262.

At the higher compression levels of 50% the two codecs are nearly identical in file size with normally less than 5 MBs of difference however now is when the differences in their method of compressing starts coming in to play on the types of digital noise they leave behind. in this department 50% H264 wins hands down in the noise department producing very noticeably less noise than all of its competitors however there is a noticeable blue tone to the noise.
At 10% the differences between each codecs noise level is getting far harder to determine. As Photo JPG is only marginally better than Motion JPG A. H264 proves to have finally met its match and breaks down quite a bit producing an image that is only marginally better than Photo JPG. However at this high of compression the artifacts are becoming more noticeable in what information they leave out. H264 has gained a interesting color shift when compared to Photo JPG. The whole image is tinted slightly yellow along with large patches of blue. another interesting turn of events at this compression level is that Motion JPG A is actually on par with Photo JPG if not better due to less color noise and slightly dimmer noise.

As a simple conclusion, the video codecs stack like this for the different compression ranges
Photo JPG (lost due to file size)
Motion JPG A (lost due to Gama shifts)
Photo JPG
Motion JPG A

Photo JPG
Motion JPG A
Photo JPG (i like the noise this produces more than the rest)
Motion JPG A

Feel free to evaluate the images provided and give comments/critiques on my methodology and practice. i am looking in to how to further refine these comparisons as the averaging technique i implemented is not particularly the best as Photo JPG along with Motion JPG are more even in their noise patterns while H264 and MPEG4 are more clustered in where their information is removed. (think of it like smoothing out the image for those two)

Additional Things Not Covered

  • Conditional compression (when it is better to use some codecs than others)
  • Noise levels and production in different video movement. (I've only covered a primarily static image that contains a large number of minor movements)
  • Encoder options (Optimize stills, single VS duel pass, variable VS constant)

Now, I am so far out of time and space to continue. Just prepping everything for this compression article has taken me 10 hours to complete. (a few mistakes are easily compounded when working with 20+ videos that all look the same)
I will make a simple graph when I get some time for simplifying the data. I’m hoping I can come up with a mathematical method of representing the amount of noise and its color value for this graph. also planning on covering how some algorithms smooth images slightly (such as h264). Now I just need to code this in to the blog (another pain in my rump) before I give an attempt at adding sound to my video...(btw, those sound files we got in class were worthless)

  • further limitations of this compression test/guide have been identified that leave this only viable for Quick Time compression.
  • added some clarification per requests on what the second half of the article is for. 
  • Additional things section has been added
  • Minor Discrepancy’s section still missing
  • moved the Update log to the bottom
  • had a rough night with my family, sorry for the delay. couldn't bring my self to do anything. 
  • entry is nearly complete! just missing the minor discrepancy's section which would cover the smoothing effect some codecs have on sharp images.
  • further revision to posts texts and formatting
  • general revision to texts and alignment data (incomplete)
  • noticed an issue in the manner in which blogger handles large PNG files that saddens me... guess i will have to host them off site. (cant fix this till after 5)
  • added AVI download link
  • my file hosting service will only permit 200MB or smaller files so the uncompressed AVI will be in a 7zip split container.
  • noticed a processing error on the MPEG4 test images that would explain for why they all look like shit. will fix this later. (i am not looking forward to dealing with blogger again)
  • Blogger sucks, end of story.  its messing up every step of the way...