A breakthrough – A media player that nearly gets it right!
The executable file contains the video player, the video stream (s) and the index, all in one. The system obviously allows for self generated file-names which can cause some difficulty if named inappropriately! Upon launching, the interface loads up really quickly. This is the sign of a good, well written interface. There are some that take an absolute age to load in and then launch the video.
The Help Menu item doesn’t actually offer any help but it does bring up an ‘about’ dialogue box with a Manufacturer name and version number of the player.
It will only take a few minutes to navigate around before you have seen everything the software has to offer as it is very light on options. The ability to change the font colour on the index (found under Options) is pretty handy.
I couldn’t find any details on the video until I right clicked in the video window…
That’s more like it!! Under Channel properties the above box appears. This is the first one I have ever seen that displays the important information this way but it could still do with a few more bits to make it great. If they added….
Frame Rate, GOP Structure and the ability to export all the information as a .txt file – that would be pretty good!!
Anyway, we now know that we are looking at a 1280 x 960 H264 Stream. This is where having a higher than HD Monitor comes in handy. There are now quite a few 2560 x 1440 Monitors available and when dealing with HD Video, these really come in handy.
If you click the button to ‘show full screen’ under options, remember the F11 shortcut key to get you back to windowed mode. There is no button within the interface to do this and if you didn’t see the F11 shortcut when you go ‘fullscreen’, your only option is a Ctrl Alt Del to get you back!
Playback is a little strange.
When playing, the video plays back at 1 frame per second. When paused and then moving through frame by frame you see between 11-13 Frames per second. Even by using all of the options for playback, none of them allowed for all frames to display during playback.
This playback issue is very important for those people still screen capturing or screen recording. You now not only have to screen record at at very high resolution to get the correct, undistorted pixel matrix but may only get 1 Frame per second, and completely miss all the others! In my opinion, this is definitely not the file format to screen capture or screen record!
Under File > SaveAs, we get the option to save the video out as something else!
This is also very quick. The .avi and the .mov are re-wrappers for the h264 stream. The streams matched when checked with HXD, both produce matching frame counts and GOP Structure. They both play with no issues….. but there is a slight problem. The durations change.
The Variable Frame Rate of the original recording produces an average of 12.488 FPS. In the .avi and the .mov this is rounded up to 13FPS. This change is something to be aware of. Obviously, if the purpose is image analysis, the speed may not be important but, for movement analysis and timing, this is going to be highly relevant.
The last one is the native recording export, out of the .exe wrapper. It outputs a raw .ps file (the h264 stream), and then the index file and an xml file. The .ps file is the important one.
I found that the easiest way to deal with the video was to save as the .ps file and then wrap this using ffmpeg.
-f h264 -i inputfile.ps -vcodec copy -vsync 0 output.avi
The -sync 0 is the important bit here as it tells the software to passthrough each frame with its original timestamp.
For me, this produced a correctly timed, (in total duration), video file and it dropped into my Edius timeline with no problems, scrubbing perfectly. WITH NO RENDERING OR TRANSCODING.
Within Edius I ran it through with a number of project presets.
1. Custom – 1280 x 960
2. Standard PAL DVD
3. HD – 1440 x 1080
The Custom would be good to edit together clips and then output at the native size for PC Playback. The downscaling within Edius was pretty good for PAL DVD, with minimal loss in image quality. For the highest quality, I preferred the HD 1440 x 1080 project with the 4:3 video sitting within the 16:9 Window.
For those people who just need to transcode all or part of the file to perhaps a Video DVD compliant Mpeg2 or a WMV, then thorough testing will be necessary to to avoid ‘frame blending’. A number of automatic transcoders do not deal with the low frame rate to a higher frame rate very well. The result is that there is a blur between the frames. A quick test with FVC, which uses AVCONV as its encoder, produced a very good quality Video DVD compliant file with no frame blending as it duplicates the frames in order to meet the 25FPS required for the Video DVD standard.
In conclusion then, this is a pretty nice file type to deal with. Verification is made easier due to the proprietary software actually giving us an idea of what we are presented with. Image analysis is made easy as we can export the native h264 and deal with that. Video presentations can also be quickly put together, once you are aware of the timing issues!