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Some Feedback Wanted

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EDIT:

 

I've updated this post to include a poll to try and gauge what users want better. I'll be leaving this up for a little while.

 

[poll id=3]

 

Well I'm gradually catching up on email and at the moment only have about 100 to reply to. In light of this, I want to get some more feedback from viewers on a couple of different topics. If you're registered on the forums, I prefer you just reply to this there, but if not, emailing me is also an option.

 

 

VIDEO FORMATS:

 

All the videos here have been released in WMV format for one simple reason, at the time, it really was one of the most compatible formats out there where people didn't have to mess with downloading codecs, or finding the right player. By and large, this led to a dead minimum of people asking me how to play the videos, which is quite an accomplishment, considering some of the questions I receive (i.e. "What game do you use for Freeman's Mind?"). Nowadays, I'm more open-minded about what format the videos are in, so I'd like to see what the majority of viewers want. MP4, AVI, MKV, etc. You tell me what format you want. I know some viewers have expressed interest in the videos being in an iphone-compatible format, which is doable. Beyond that, I don't know. Whatever format is decided on, I will NOT be providing technical support for how to play it, so you'll be on your own for that. Also, if you only watch the videos on Youtube, you can ignore all this.

 

 

VIDEO ENCODING GURU:

 

Tying into the first topic, some help would be appreciated by someone who is a video encoding FREAK. Someone familiar with lots of different compression techniques, knows about I-frames, B-frames, quantizers, H.264 compression, different container formats, browses places like doom9.org a lot, etc. If you're someone who is interested in getting the maximum amount of quality in the least amount of space, whatever the format, I might be interested in your help for converting all the episodes to new formats. I have all the Civil Protection episodes backed up in maximum quality Xvid-compression, and the Freeman's Mind episodes in a slightly lower quality version. Go ahead and email me if you're a video encoding veteran of sorts, and are familiar with many formats.

 

 

MICROPHONE RECOMMENDATIONS:

 

Up to date, I've just been using a cheap clip-on microphone from Wal-Mart for all the episodes. This combined with careful recording and sound editing means my voice comes out relatively well in the videos, however the last episode of Freeman's Mind reminded me of its biggest downfall, which is overwhelming the microphone input with my voice. You may not be able to tell from the videos, but I can get very, very loud when recording. So loud it often limits what places I can live for fear of disturbing all neighbors in a large radius around me. With my current microphone, it doesn't matter what recording levels I set the microphone to, it sometimes is just too much for the mic and I get volume clipping, which I hate.

 

One aspect I like a lot about my microphone is it picks up relatively little in the background. When I was working at Machinima.com, they were using a Blue Snowball mic, which generally gets quite good ratings and reviews. I didn't like it however; on every setting, it simply picked up more background noise and echo than my cheap clip-on one, which is a problem for recording. So my standards for not picking up background noise are higher than what that mic provided. If you have recommendations on microphones that can handle a LOT of volume, don't pick up much background noise at all, and are relatively inexpensive, please let me know.

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I'm torn between keeping as is or ask for MP4....

 

However, my vote will be keeping as it is for WMV because it's easier to create and modify playlists for Freeman's Mind and such using Windows Media Player. I'm only guessing you would do MP4 for people who use Macs. I would suppose why bother changing over already you are halfway done of the series HL1. Since there is no mention of you doing HL2, my vote is WMV.

 

Adam C. (lakitusamba2012)

 

Albany, WI

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I would say MKV it has better flexibility in codec and parameters from personal experience I can say it is the best video and audio container format out there that and most multimedia players play it.

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Keep it in WMV at least. You can throw up an MP4 or AVI copy if you want, but there's plenty of good media converting software out there for people who want exotic filetypes.

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Please, *please* encode your videos with the MKV container; it's widely supported these days, and has an incredible amount of flexibility.

 

AVI and WMV are containers that are, quite frankly, outdated these days.

 

I wouldn't be against your using MP4s, but, again, I highly recommend MKVs.

 

Thanks for your time and consideration.

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At this point we should make some things clearer.

The question "what format the videos should be?" is not precise enough. A video format is based on 3 main parts.

 

The first is the container format. The container format is like a box, where you put in the video and the sounds and sometimes the subtitles. It can be *.avi, *.mp4, *.mkv, etc... The *.wmv hoever is a standard, like mp3. It is not a real container format. You can't put anything in it. However you can use any combination in the first three.

 

The second part is the video codec. It is the method the video compressed. It can be again a lot of types like xvid, h264, etc... The wmv file format has its own video codec too.

 

The third is the audio codec. Like the video codec, it is how the audio is compressed. It can be: mp3, aac, ac3, ogg, etc... Again the wmv file format has its own audio codec.

 

And before everybody gets confused or starts to make endless combinations, there are standards on how to combine these, so if we use these standards, you should not have nearly any problem playing the videos. Now days on pc-s all the main video players can play these without any problem.

 

The standards are:

Container: avi, video codec: xvid, audio codec: mp3.

Container: mp4, video codec: h264, audio codec: aac. (this is an iphone frendly standard)

Container: wmv, video codec: wmv, audio codec: wma.

 

The first one is the most popular.

The second one is less popular, but since it is oficially supported by many mp4 players and phones, it gets stronger. And this format gives the best quality on the least space.

And the third one is made by Microsoft. In quality this is on the same level like the first one.

 

So my vote is the second one. Which is mp4/h264/aac.

 

I hope I managed to clear things up. If not, tell me, an I'll try explain it some more. Or ask questions, and I'll answer.

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Please, *please* encode your videos with the MKV container; it's widely supported these days, and has an incredible amount of flexibility.

 

AVI and WMV are containers that are, quite frankly, outdated these days.

 

I wouldn't be against your using MP4s, but, again, I highly recommend MKVs.

 

Thanks for your time and consideration.

 

I think mkv is not necessary. Ross doesn't use custom fonts in his subtitles, and mp4 would be more compatible with portable devices, so it would favor more people.

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h264 MP4 is the dominant format at the moment. MKV is technically a decent container, however it isn't widely supported in players, including the PS3 and Xbox. Currently, when there's a new video, I save the MP4 from Youtube.

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VIDEO FORMATS

 

Personally, I dislike WMV because it's a proprietary, closed format. There's ideological reasons not to use it, and there are fewer software which support WMV because of that. Especially when you're not using Windows. By distributing WMVs you're supporting a format which made a lot of developers pointlessly waste huge amount of time reverse engineering it, whereas that time/money could have been put to better use. So I'm happy you're considering alternatives. Especially considering that the "it's easy to play" argument doesn't hold much weight because inexperienced people will just go to Youtube anyway.

 

As for the replacement: MKV or MP4. They're both open formats. I personally recommend MKV because it's strongly open source and has a rich open source software ecosystem. MKV is also more flexible than MP4, especially on video/audio formats. On the other hand, MKV is harder to play on Apple devices which directly support MP4.

 

VIDEO ENCODING GURU

 

I know my way around audio/video formats and containers, but I wouldn't consider myself a "guru" in video encoding. I have some suggestions to make, though.

 

First of all, I think we can differentiate between two different kinds of people who watch your videos (or any other video for that matter):

  • People who don't give a shit about quality and will happily watch it on Youtube at 360p.
  • Experienced people who want the best possible quality, and are ready to pay the price in terms of file size.

 

For the people falling in the second category, I suggest high-bitrate 1080p H.264 video (between 8 and 12 Mbps, depending on visual comparison) and high-quality AAC sound (256-320 kbps). This would put a 8-minute episode between 450 and 700 MB. Besides distributing the resulting file, you could also use it as a master for 1080p Youtube.

 

Also, there is one important issue when producing videos from games: video levels. Simply put, black and white levels are not the same for video from TV, DVD, Blu-ray etc. (16-235) than for other applications like games (0-255). Nowadays, well-configured video players expect standard (16-235) video levels, because that's what's written in the format specifications and that's how 99% of videos are encoded. Problem is, if you're not paying attention, you'll be encoding the game frames (which are in 0-255) without converting to video levels, which means the result will be incorrect in 99% of video players (PCs, HTPCs, Apple devices, TVs, set-top boxes, etc.). That's what's currently happening with your WMVs releases. The result is crushed blacks and burned whites. That's not nitpicking: it actually makes a BIG difference in color and detail, even with the current low-quality WMV files.

 

The "encoding guru" you'll choose should be made aware of the issue (if he isn't already), and should carefully check video levels when converting from RGB to YUV before encoding so that it follows the specifications.

 

MICROPHONE RECOMMENDATIONS

 

One aspect I like a lot about my microphone is it picks up relatively little in the background. When I was working at Machinima.com, they were using a Blue Snowball mic, which generally gets quite good ratings and reviews. I didn't like it however; on every setting, it simply picked up more background noise and echo than my cheap clip-on one, which is a problem for recording. So my standards for not picking up background noise are higher than what that mic provided. If you have recommendations on microphones that can handle a LOT of volume, don't pick up much background noise at all, and are relatively inexpensive, please let me know.

 

You just mentioned the two main problems with sound recording: background noise and room reflections (which results in echo). The best solution to fix both would be to record in a real studio, but that's probably not an option. The second best solution is to use a cardioid (directional) microphone, which is designed to maximize sound input coming from the front on the microphone, attenuating the effects of room reflections and exterior noise.

 

The Blue Snowball mic you're mentioning doesn't sound like good hardware, judging from their web page. When they're touting iOS compatibility on the front page instead of writing about the sound characteristics, and calling something that only outputs 44.1kHz/16bit a "professional" microphone, something's definitely up.

 

I don't have much experience in recording, but I've heard that the industry standard for voice recording is the Shure SM58. According to most, its performance/price ratio is the best around, and it's used by plenty of real professional sound engineers throughout the world. You probably can't go wrong if you buy this one, and for $100, it won't cost you your car. It has a XLR connector, so you should probably buy an external professional sound card to connect it, for example the M-Audio FastTrack which is quite good (there are probably cheaper alternatives, but I don't know about their quality).

 

If you can't afford the SM58 + external sound card combo, I don't know the low-end segment well enough to help you with cheaper alternatives. Maybe you could find something acceptable, maybe not.

 

As a final advice, make sure you're recording in the maximum sampling rate and bit depth available before editing. When encoding, convert the audio to 16bit/48kHz (not 44.1) which is the industry standard.

Edited by Guest (see edit history)

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The second part is the video codec. It is the method the video compressed. It can be again a lot of types like xvid, h264, etc... The wmv file format has its own video codec too.

 

The third is the audio codec. Like the video codec, it is how the audio is compressed. It can be: mp3, aac, ac3, ogg, etc... Again the wmv file format has its own audio codec.

 

You're right about containers; however, you're confusing "codec" with "format". We're debating audio/video formats here, not codecs. For example, Xvid is a codec; the corresponding format is MPEG-4 ASF. The other "codecs" you mention are not codecs, they're formats.

 

Although the audio format is debatable (I personally suggest AAC), I think we'll all agree that H.264 should be used as the video format, since it beats the crap out of every other alternative in terms of quality, popularity and software/hardware support. I think we'll also all agree that x264 is the encoder that should be used for pretty much the same reason.

 

The standards are:

Container: avi, video codec: xvid, audio codec: mp3.

Container: mp4, video codec: h264, audio codec: aac. (this is an iphone frendly standard)

Container: wmv, video codec: wmv, audio codec: wma.

 

You're forgetting Matroska (MKV), which is used with H.264 and various audio formats, usually MP3, AC3, DTS, AAC or in rare cases Vorbis or FLAC. You can't really ignore a very widely used container just because most pirated content uses it.

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You're forgetting Matroska (MKV), which is used with H.264 and various audio formats, usually MP3, AC3, DTS, AAC or in rare cases Vorbis or FLAC. You can't really ignore a very widely used container just because most pirated content uses it.

 

I'm not forgetting it, but it is not that well supported. On pc-s it is well supported, but on portables, well you can forget it.

But personally I prefer it too. But I'm just a pc user, so for the greater good, It should be mp4.

Edited by Guest (see edit history)

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For the microphone, if you really want something not to expensive you should try some logitech headphones, they cost around 30 dollars and have a great quality. However if you want something that really removes background noise I recommend this mic:

 

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=Azden+SMX-10+Stereo+Microphone&N=0&InitialSearch=yes

 

This is the microphone I use for video recordings and it has worked very well on volume and on reducing noise, it also works with every PC or Camera. However I don't know if you are up to pay 65+ dollars for a microphone.

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Despite that WMV is closed formatted or whatever for ideological reasons is hardly a reason for not keeping it as WMV. Simplicity is the game and a lot of us don't have computing power or time for that matter just to personally customize it to whatever you want it to convert it as. Time and convenience is why I say keep it as WMV.

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I would like to see the videos in either .avi or .mp4 due to the fact that I enjoy having Freeman's Mind on my Playstation Portable, but I am content with the current format as well. The main thing is finding something that Mr. Scott likes best.

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Despite that WMV is closed formatted or whatever for ideological reasons is hardly a reason for not keeping it as WMV. Simplicity is the game and a lot of us don't have computing power or time for that matter just to personally customize it to whatever you want it to convert it as. Time and convenience is why I say keep it as WMV.

 

There's Youtube for that. And besides, it's only "convenient" on a PC running Windows, and difficult to read on everything else.

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Personally, I dislike WMV because it's a proprietary, closed format. There's ideological reasons not to use it, and there are fewer software which support WMV because of that. Especially when you're not using Windows. By distributing WMVs you're supporting a format which made a lot of developers pointlessly waste huge amount of time reverse engineering it, whereas that time/money could have been put to better use. So I'm happy you're considering alternatives. Especially considering that the "it's easy to play" argument doesn't hold much weight because inexperienced people will just go to Youtube anyway.
Well one, when I was originally creating the videos, I wanted to remove as many roadblocks as possible to watching them. Also at the time, this was the ONLY format Machinima.com was accepting (nowadays it's MOV, go figure). I became proficient at Xvid encoding since at the time (early 00s) it was THE format for maximum quality for the space. That's changed however and I'm kind of lost as to what's the best way to distribute now.

 

I would suppose why bother changing over already you are halfway done of the series HL1. Since there is no mention of you doing HL2, my vote is WMV.
Everything is going to get re-released at higher quality at some point and at the original resolution, what's been distributed so far is irrelevant.

 

I think releasing all CP episodes in 1080p would be awesome though.
This isn't going to happen unless breakthroughs are made on the Source engine for reasons that are a bit complicated to explain here.

 

AVI and WMV are containers that are, quite frankly, outdated these days.
WMV is an awful format to work in, I agree. As for AVI, I would need software that can replace the functionality of Virtualdub + AVIsynth before I could move to another format completely. All my backups of the videos in AVI and will probably remain that way for a while.

 

For the people falling in the second category, I suggest high-bitrate 1080p H.264 video (between 8 and 12 Mbps, depending on visual comparison) and high-quality AAC sound (256-320 kbps). This would put a 8-minute episode between 450 and 700 MB. Besides distributing the resulting file, you could also use it as a master for 1080p Youtube.
Well I am looking for someone that is prepared to handle the differences in content. For example, "Civil Protection: Friday" compresses at a fantastic rate. Lots of still shots and not much motion. The "Diary of a Zombie" video compresses HORRENDOUSLY due to all the fast motion, pronounced details, no motion blur, constantly changing view, etc. For that reason I am interested in quality-based encoding unless someone wants to manually tweak the numbers for each video rather than a standard size limit.

 

It has a XLR connector, so you should probably buy an external professional sound card to connect it, for example the M-Audio FastTrack which is quite good (there are probably cheaper alternatives, but I don't know about their quality).
I was planning on getting a different soundcard (probably an Asus Xonar) since Creative has pissed me off too much with their driver support and possibly an accompanying headphone amp, I'm wondering how much quality loss there would be for conversion to a regular headphone jack. I'm not aiming for ultra-professional, just halfway decent.

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I would prefer MKV files, but wouldn't even mumble to myself if it remained WMV. What I want, and am willing to pay real money for, is higher quality copies of Freeman's Mind with the same aspect ratio for all of the videos. I would offer my Rapidshare account to host copies. I would pay for the time it might take you to release higher quality encodes of previous episodes.

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VIDEO FORMATS:

 

I'd say, stick with WMV.

 

I agree that it's bad format for many (already mentioned) reasons, but all that considered it is still good enough, widely supported and above all easy to use.

 

Like mentioned, the two alternative mainstream options are:

 

x264 + AAC (nero codec only, otherwise stick with lame mp3's) in either MKV (scene/o.s. choice) or MP4 (commercial choice) containers has the best compression vs quality, but can be a headache to create and support. Many of the settings in the x264 alone can on the one hand make the real difference in it's quality, but on the other break the video for many (usually portable) players. x264 at full power is great for constant motion recordings like FPS games though.

 

XviD + MP3 in AVI is the middle ground. Also widely supported, but the quality is definitely much better than WMV and not that far behind x264 + ACC. I believe it's not quite as well supported on portables as WMV is, but I'm not even that sure. In any case, it's a close call. I doubt you'll get many complaints from switching to it. Actually, I would call it the best/safest choice I guess, but it's still a bigger pain to create than WMV.

 

My point is basically, don't make it hard for yourself unless there's a real need for it, you seem swamped as it is.

 

MICROPHONE RECOMMENDATIONS:

 

Honestly, your mic sounds really good. I rarely hear such quality from microphones. My mic (a sennheiser f.c.o.l) doesn't sound any better and I'm often asked about it, because of it's clear sound.

 

So, my 2 cent conclusion: stick with what you have/are doing.

Edit: right, as usual, I've been glancing over text rather than reading it, so scratch my comment. That mic problem you have is really a dynamic range problem. You need good equipment to be able to record high dynamic range without noise or distortion/clipping, definitely more than just a new microphone. I think e-t's option is probably the only way to go, and might not even cut it. Adding a microphone pre-amp is probably also no luxury.

 

This looks somewhat stupid, but if you;re interested in a quick and cheap solution to lessen some of the environment noise and echo, why the hell not:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nsiVi1Urbo It still beats plastering your whole room with studio foam, and MacGyver would be proud.
Edited by Guest (see edit history)

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I'm voting for the MKV format... Better flexibility in what it can do.

 

As for a mic, this is the best budget one I can find: Logitech 980186-0403 Silver USB Desktop Microphone

 

I am most certainly not a guru of conversions, but I have done a few experimentals for use with portable devices, lower-end computers, and regular DVD players... Only thing I can really say as a piece of advice: Don't limit yourself to H.264 compression, there is a surprising number of devices (portable and not) that will fry themselves when presented with having to decode it.

Don't insult me. I have trained professionals to do that.

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