ProPresenter Foreground Video Playback Codec Smackdown: The Challenge

Here’s a project I want to tackle in the next few week. I’m going to take a look at the quality of different codecs vs. DVD playback. My goal is to find the solution that has the best quality and easiest to use for my operators.

Current Setup and Reasoning:
Currently we play DVDs back through a pro DVD player. I say it’s pro because it does not spin down, put up a screen saver and you can disable the on screen menu. I don’t like playing DVDs through ProPresenter because the disk will spin down and there is a lag between firing the cue and video playing because of the disk spinning down.

Over 3.5 years since we moved to DVD playback we’ve had only 1 error and that was me playing the wrong track. Before that we had a track record with Easy Worship giving us a problem about 30% of the time (mostly video that stuttered or paused).

I’ve tried playing a DV-NTSC video out of ProPresenter. While it played flawlessly, the image was less than desirable. There seemed to be some banding in gradients, a slight blur in motion and too much contrast. I’m guessing this has to do with the scaling of the video to have it match the output resolution of the second monitor. It’s easy and 90% of the people won’t notice the quality hit, but I do. And it may just be because I know what it’s supposed to look like. It’s really not bad looking, I just know it can look better.

I’ve also tried playing the same DV-NTSC video out the firewire port to a Sony media converter. The image quality was better than the previous method and comparable to the DVD quality. But the down side is all foreground media is output through the firewire port. I create our sermon slides in Photoshop and import then as a foreground element. I would have to create our slides at DV resolution (720×480) because at the current size they overload something and all you get is a pure white slide through the firewire port. Because of the extra switching I don’t feel like this gives us any advantage over our current setup.

Here’s the test setup:
Intel iMac, G5 PowerMac, MacBook Pro and Denon DN-V300 Pro DVD Player. All devices will be run into a Kramer VP-724xl switcher. This gives me 2 RGB inputs, 1 DVI input and 1 Component input for the DVD. I will also compare video output from the computer output vs. firewire output to a Sony firewire box that outputs S-Video. This way I can fire the same video from 4 sources and compare them at the same time by switching from one to the other. I do realize that there are some differences in the quality of the connection, but that’ll be part of the decision.

Codecs to be tested are: DV-NTSC, MPEG4, MPEG 2, Photo JPEG all at different quality settings.

Anyone have any suggestions for test videos? Any other codecs to test? I’d like to have some pictures to show you guys but I don’t know if a camera picture will do this justice. But I’ll try.

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February 12, 2008. Tech Stuff, Video.

15 Comments

  1. Brent Homer replied:

    lol…I will say this, after you figure it all out you better post up your settings!!!!

    I am dealing with the dvd lag with propresenter. I hate it, but switching sources just makes the grandmothers I work with freak out. If I get the source early enough I usually just rip it over to NTSC DV/DVPRO quicktime codec. The dvd playback is for emergencies only.

    Hopefully renewed gets around to fixing the DVD playback ASAP. The other thing I hate about Propresent dvd control is I can’t figure out how to select the entire track. I either have to watch it in realtime or click FF and watch it in double time. …. what a pain. Do you have any tips for that?

  2. greg dolezal replied:

    just to let you guys know, the next version of Pro (coming next week at the latest) will prevent the DVD from spinning down.

  3. Dave replied:

    Brent,
    Have you checked out Renewed Vision’s forums? I haven’t messed around with the DVD playback much. When I did mess with it, it was buggy but that problem ended up being Mac OS 10.4.11. I haven’t had time to mess with it since we updated to 10.5.1

  4. Dave replied:

    Greg,
    Is my assumption that the video quality hit on a DV NTSC clip is due to the software scaling the clip up compared to my presentation switcher doing the scaling in hardware? I would then assume this would be a shortcoming of QuickTime or my graphics card.

  5. greg dolezal replied:

    perhaps. either way, dvd quality should not be better

    what are you scaling up to? what kind of machine are you using? have you tried firewire out? have you tried component out via a blackmagic card?

    have you tried sending out at the native rez and letting your switcher do the scaling?

    oh the fun of troubleshooting…never a shortage of variables 🙂

  6. Dave replied:

    Greg,
    I’m using the base, but current iMac for ProPresenter (2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB Ram, ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB memory). I’m scaling the second output to 1400×1050 which is our native resolution of the projectors.

    Being an iMac that excludes a blackmagic card.

    I have used the firewire output through a Sony DVMC-DA1. The quality is as good as DVD.

    But we use ProPresenter to show our sermon slides (they are created in Photoshop and exported as JPEGs). But these slides are also shown through the firewire but because of their size it’s just pure white. If I scale them down and let the switcher doing the upscaling the image looks a little soft. I’d rather take a hit on my video quality than on my text quality. We show a lot more sermon slides than videos. I know I could use PowerPoint or Keynote but I don’t want to switch apps.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m very happy with our current setup but I wanted to see if there was better way.

  7. greg dolezal replied:

    do your switcher take a 1400×1050 signal?

  8. greg dolezal replied:

    “do your” nice grammar….I meant, does your.

    The all white thing is due to the resolution limitation–see the FAQs on our site.

  9. Dave replied:

    Gregg,
    Didn’t mean to turn this into a support discussion (haha). We have a Kramer 724xl switcher. It will take computer resolutions up to 1600×1200. I wanted to keep my graphics at the highest quality possible.

    When we were using EasyWorship I had to create PowerPoint files for the sermon slides. My workflow was to create each slide in Photoshop. I would then import them into Keynote. Keynote would convert them to TIFF files and put each image on it’s own slide. I would then export the Keynote presentation to PPT. I don’t know why but I found creating my images at 1600×1200 worked best. Other resolutions caused some goofy aspect ratio problems.

    So I’m still creating my graphics at 1600×1200. But in order for me to use the firewire output I’m guessing I have to scale those images down to 720×480. That’s throwing out too much detail for me. It’s like running my computer through a scan convertor only to upscale it back up. Plus I’d have to switch inputs from lyrics to my video input for sermon notes.

    Here’s a feature request that I’ll submit in the Renewed Vision forums: Let me play videos through the firewire or a blackmagic card but foreground images through the computer output.

  10. greg dolezal replied:

    are you running DVI into the Kramer?

  11. Dave replied:

    Actually I think I’m running VGA into it. It’s one of those situations that we just threw the macs in where the EasyWorship PCs used to be. But I should switch it over to DVI and see if it makes a difference. I’m betting it will.

    Good idea!

  12. greg dolezal replied:

    digital is a good thing 🙂

  13. greg dolezal replied:

    new version is up on our forum:

    Live Video
    Alpha over Live Video
    Prevent DVD Spindown
    Hot Keys
    Print
    Export Text

  14. Dave replied:

    I’ve had a couple of crazy weeks the last few weeks. Some family issues we had to take care of. Everyone and everything is fine, just took up a lot of time. But I’ve had some other ideas I’m going to throw into the shootout:

    -switching the ProPresenter output to DVI
    -Using ProVideoPlayer to play clips out of the G5 that drives our plasmas

  15. ProPresenter Codec Smackdown: Round 1 « creative|ideas replied:

    […] Round 1 Posted on March 10, 2008 by Dave I’ve been able to make some progress on my challenge: -Switching from RGB to DVI made a huge improvement. -I can notice quite a bit of banding on […]

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