Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

General questions or discussion about HandBrake, Video and/or audio transcoding, trends etc.
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mkelley
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Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by mkelley » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:55 pm

In a recent thread it was noted by a user here (and a developer seemed to confirm) that the "Strict" anamorphic setting was actually better than the Loose one (seemingly a "new" development). Did I understand that correctly? Because I've been using the High Profile for all my blu-ray encodes, and the setting there is Loose. Should I edit that and change it to Strict for the best quality?

My device shouldn't have any problem with either setting (it's the WDLive, and it will play almost any HD source encoded properly).

creamyhorror
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by creamyhorror » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:41 am

mkelley wrote:In a recent thread it was noted by a user here (and a developer seemed to confirm) that the "Strict" anamorphic setting was actually better than the Loose one (seemingly a "new" development). Did I understand that correctly? Because I've been using the High Profile for all my blu-ray encodes, and the setting there is Loose. Should I edit that and change it to Strict for the best quality?
In the past the devs probably didn't consider Strict's advantages to outweigh Loose's, but after the x264 devs clarified maybe a year ago that non-mod16 resolutions were not the devil for compression efficiency, Loose had less of a leg to stand on. When I came here half a year ago, I argued that Strict was the best alternative in terms of quality, but people weren't too convinced iirc. Nowadays the regulars acknowledge Strict to be the better choice.

The AnamorphicGuide ought to be updated, though. It still implies compression efficiency under Strict suffers while not mentioning quality loss from resizing. Resizing does result in some small but measurable degradation - I'll dig up a link when I'm home.

i69
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by i69 » Sat May 08, 2010 3:44 am

Thanks for this. I've been using "Loose" all this time thinking it was the "preferred" method.

rachel
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by rachel » Sun May 23, 2010 2:41 pm

I came at this from the opposite direction I guess; for a long time I've been struggling with what to do with my off-air recordings from BBC HD (1080i h.264), which since they changed their encoder last summer have such crushing optimisation settings that a lot of players have problems playing them. This included the .mp4 "Native no-reencoding" export from EyeTV, which *nothing* could play. (QuickTime at a low framerate; VLC and XBMC lost sound, crashed HandBrake, for instance.)

For a long time I encoded them down to AppleTV (first using EyeTV's export, then HandBrake) accepting the huge drop in quality for playability through my AppleTV. But I kept the ones I cared most about around on a hard drive just in case I could do something more useful with them later. Now, with the most recent svn version, XBMC has resolved the various playback issues I was having (obvious interlacing-related combing artifacts, bad sound sync to name two) and is now my preferred player. It also, now, plays those raw recordings, with options like selecting the right (non audio-descriptive narration) audio track, disabling subtitles and so forth, but still has a few outstanding issues; a juddering start to playback, and problems with skipping forward or back. And the files are fairly large; reckon on about 6GB/hour. Nevertheless, just keeping and playing the raw eyetv program stream (or transport stream? i get confused) .mpg file is a workable option I'm still considering. Not having a slow encoding process to go through before being able to watch anything appeals.

So anyway after trying for a while to remux the original recordings into something that'll play better, I decided to reencode them all using HandBrake but to the same resolution. AppleTV won't play it, but XBMC will play happily, so will VLC, QuickTime/iTunes, Totem, actually even the PS3 which I could never get streaming from my vault before. And playback starts smoothly every time, and skipping back and forth works well. I decided to accept *some* quality reduction in exchange for compatibility; files that everything with enough oomph can actually play without problems. (I don't expect this to include the first-generation iPad when I get mine ;-) ) But of course I want to minimise the compromise on quality I have to make.

I used the Normal preset for this, just (manually for every file, grr) adding the AC3 Passthru track. The results look good, and if I'm sitting there trying hard to compare between them it's very difficult to find anything wrong; and oddly it's when I'm *not* trying so hard that I just find myself sometimes thinking, I can't put my finger on it but something about the image isn't quite *popping* my eyeballs as much as the originals. Subjective, unscientific, can't back it up, probably psychological (i know i'm watching the encoded-down version so I'm insisting there has to be something wrong with it).

But it meant having done the whole collection I was still wondering if I couldn't do it a better way. I kept wondering if I should be using High Profile rather than dowdy old Normal. :-) I'd gone with Normal because I just thought instinctively that the scaling inherent in High Profile (specifically in using Loose Anamorphic) *must* be reducing image quality. So I'd avoided it. But it always nagged at me that maybe I was missing something, in avoiding the setting that was so enticingly named "High Profile" and presumably for a reason. :-)

I did some test encodes. comparing with the Normal encodes I'd already done - and to be honest I couldn't really see a difference. And I tried. I know, logically, there *must* be some loss through the High Profile scaling but it wasn't really perceptible compared to Normal, so the scaling algorithms must be very good. :-) I thought, well, maybe the way h.264 works, you don't really avoid the same sort of loss even if you keep the dimensions exactly the same; that perhaps the decode and re-encode together mean you still get the same sort of loss, so you might as well accept the scaling for the greater encoding efficiency of scaling for loose anamorphic, and the other high profile goodies. After all, the resulting file *is* slightly smaller.

I was about to post a new topic querying about this when I saw this thread, which seems to show the devs have come around logically to what I had been guessing instinctively at the start (avoid rescaling).

So it looks like sticking with Normal was the right thing to do. I think?

Some other observations... the original recordings are 1080i; ie: interlaced. Normal doesn't deinterlace in any way; no filters. High Profile decombs and detelecines. What do I see?

Playing back the Normal files; in QuickTime/VLC et al on my Mac (24", no scaling on playback) with my eyes inches away I can clearly see the 'combing' effect when the action on screen shows it up. But playback is perfect on the TV; the interlacing is just doing its thing there and everything is peachy. With High Profile, there's no 'combing' visible on the Mac, but on both the Mac and the TV, there's a barely perceptible loss of smoothness when things move. I have a test video, a studio-shot election programme, which includes a smooth camera pan across some dark vertical lines against a bright background. On High Profile, on TV and on the computer, this movement looks a bit staccato. With Normal, with interlacing allowed to do its business, it's smooth, but on the computer the combing is very evident.

So in sticking with Normal I'm making a decision to prefer best playback on the TV rather than the computer.

Finally I thought I'd try a 100% quality encode. Don't laugh. I know already. :-) I thought there's a chance this might be one of those rare times when it would be appropriate - as a way to essentially sanitise those original recordings, which are problematic for a lot of players, into ones which have no loss of quality but which play easily anywhere. The larger filesize, I thought, could be acceptable; eg: if it ended up making them comparable in size to the BBC HD recordings from before they changed to their current encoder last year.

Well, that didn't work out. :-) A ten-minute test recording produced a file nearly 7GB long, and neither Quicktime or XBMC could do anything with it. Unplayable. So that was the end of that. Worth a go so now I know. :-)

mkelley
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by mkelley » Sun May 23, 2010 4:35 pm

The High Profile preset isn't all about strict versus loose -- there are some good and compelling reasons for using it otherwise (and I can definitely see a difference). But it's always in the eye of the beholder.

You are, however, mistaking 100% for 100% quality -- that's a common misconception. The percentage (which has been removed ever since that release came out) is not a quality percentage, but a compression one. For all practical purposes "100% quality" is RF 18 (~65%). That's the main reason they have now removed that percentage scale and advised folks to learn how to read and use RF values.

For blu-ray sources RF 20 is about all anyone needs.

rachel
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by rachel » Sun May 23, 2010 8:23 pm

Well that's good. I'd written a nice long reply and was just previewing it for the last time when the forum software threw a wobbly and lost it all. Back-button on browser wouldn't work either. Oh well, I'll be more concise this time. :-}
mkelley wrote:The High Profile preset isn't all about strict versus loose -- there are some good and compelling reasons for using it otherwise (and I can definitely see a difference). But it's always in the eye of the beholder.
Sure. To try this I did an encode of last night's Doctor Who episode using the svn handbrake with High Profile but with the Range parameter set to 8 rather than the default 16. As 1080 divides by 8, no scaling was performed. Now I don't doubt it is doing different things, but comparing it to a Normal encode of the same program the quality is indistinguishable to my eyes. Even to the freeze-frame, where mpeg artifacts are visible on both but only to about the same extent. And the resulting High Profile file is only about 5MB smaller (where the whole file is about 2GB in each case). Presumably the difference would have been even smaller, if not completely absent, if I hadn't added an AC3 Passthru audio track to the otherwise Normal encode. Basically there seems to be almost nothing in it.

Even when I compare to the original EyeTV recording there's no appreciable loss of detail. In fact I wonder that we might actually be up against the limits of the film stock used on location (do they even use film these days?), and I may retry this experiment with something studio-bound. (interlacing/combing issues will become a factor then though)

But one thing I have noticed is that, compared to the original, the HandBrake encodes seem to have very slightly washed-out colours. It's *subtle*, and I'm being *picky*, but I wonder if that's what's behind my vague sense that the HB-encodes don't quite *pop* as much as the originals. Check out this screenshot: http://strangenoises.org/~rachel/hbcompare.png which has the eyetv original and the hb high profile range=8 side-by-side on a given frame. Look at Amy's face and hair. Everything's *slightly* paler in HandBrake land.

(You might need a good monitor to see it: The screenshot is lossless but the cheap LG monitor on the Linux box I'm using to write this post makes it almost look like a jpeg. Probably doesn't really have millions of colours...)
You are, however, mistaking 100% for 100% quality -- that's a common misconception. The percentage (which has been removed ever since that release came out) is not a quality percentage, but a compression one. For all practical purposes "100% quality" is RF 18 (~65%). That's the main reason they have now removed that percentage scale and advised folks to learn how to read and use RF values.

For blu-ray sources RF 20 is about all anyone needs.
Well, I'd shoved the slider all the way over to RF 0. Yes I know. I was only playing. :-) In any case the resulting file didn't even work, and was too big to be useful even if it had.

mkelley
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by mkelley » Sun May 23, 2010 8:46 pm

I'm no expert when it comes to Handbrake (but the experts here will tell you if you make a separate post) but I don't think Handbrake changes colorspace any, or does anything else that could result in colors looking even slightly washed out. But post as a separate question (so they can see it) along with your encode settings and I'm sure someone will chime in.

Totally aside from Handbrake, how in the heck do you get the newest Dr. Who downloaded already? I see it as part of BBC America (but not in HD because my cable company doesn't offer it, nor does DirecTV) but I'd love to see it in HD rather than wait for the blu-ray discs to come out (as they will).

Edit: Nevermind, I see that you're most likely a UK person who has access that I don't have (sigh).

rachel
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by rachel » Mon May 24, 2010 8:22 am

mkelley wrote:I'm no expert when it comes to Handbrake (but the experts here will tell you if you make a separate post) but I don't think Handbrake changes colorspace any, or does anything else that could result in colors looking even slightly washed out. But post as a separate question (so they can see it) along with your encode settings and I'm sure someone will chime in.
Well in any case, I'm not convinced now. On the perfectly-shot studio programme, viewing both the original and the handbrake rip using VLC, there's no colour difference I can see. I now suspect it might be a difference in *Quicktime's* decoder/renderer; a playback issue with a given player.
Totally aside from Handbrake, how in the heck do you get the newest Dr. Who downloaded already? I see it as part of BBC America (but not in HD because my cable company doesn't offer it, nor does DirecTV) but I'd love to see it in HD rather than wait for the blu-ray discs to come out (as they will).

Edit: Nevermind, I see that you're most likely a UK person who has access that I don't have (sigh).
Heh, yeah, am in the UK; this is all about what best to do about off-air BBC HD recordings as captured by EyeTV using an EyeTV Sat, as mentioned above. :-) The BBC seem to be coming out with a nice stream of very pretty HD nature and science and other documentaries in the last few years in an apparent drive to produce a critical mass of content for the channel; and these days quite a lot of drama too... So I've become used to buying ever more and larger hard drives... :-} I don't fileshare them I'm afraid; upstream bandwidth is totally inadequate anyway; it's just a private collection except for a few things I burn one-off DVDs of for my mum. iDVD can master beautifully to DVD PAL resolution starting with a HD source.

DVD ripping is a solved problem for me these days; I even hit that 99 bogus titles issue a few months back and solved it myself (in my case using VLC), but didn't think to post the solution here and reap the glory. :-) But I don't tend to buy DVDs any more; rather blu-rays though I haven't got a ripping solution for that yet so I actually have to play the damn things. :-)

mkelley
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by mkelley » Mon May 24, 2010 3:56 pm

rachel wrote: But I don't tend to buy DVDs any more; rather blu-rays though I haven't got a ripping solution for that yet so I actually have to play the damn things. :-)
Ah, go ahead and take the plunge. I was skeptical at first, but now ripping blu-rays (and encoding with Handbrake) has become my favorite thing of all time (so much easier to just play them with my WD Live rather than have to find a movie, insert the movie, play the movie...)

creamyhorror
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by creamyhorror » Mon May 24, 2010 4:08 pm

rachel wrote: Well in any case, I'm not convinced now. On the perfectly-shot studio programme, viewing both the original and the handbrake rip using VLC, there's no colour difference I can see. I now suspect it might be a difference in *Quicktime's* decoder/renderer; a playback issue with a given player.
Yeah...that's Quicktime for you. Or it could be the fact that you're playing two videos at once, which can apparently change things; I'm not sure about the details. There should never be any colorspace change in a proper encoding job, else you know you have a decoder problem (either the decoder used during the encoding process or the decoder used to play the encode).

Tangentially, the best Mac player is MPlayer OSX Extended. Multithreaded (and probably hardware accelerated) decoding capable, unlike VLC.

rachel
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by rachel » Mon May 24, 2010 4:52 pm

mkelley wrote:
rachel wrote: But I don't tend to buy DVDs any more; rather blu-rays though I haven't got a ripping solution for that yet so I actually have to play the damn things. :-)
Ah, go ahead and take the plunge. I was skeptical at first, but now ripping blu-rays (and encoding with Handbrake) has become my favorite thing of all time (so much easier to just play them with my WD Live rather than have to find a movie, insert the movie, play the movie...)
The brake on me trying so far is the cost of a bluray drive; and not being sure which one to get and if it'll work. The price is ok if I can be fairly sure I won't have wasted my money.

With that in mind, what bluray drive and initial rip software are you using? MakeMKV for the latter?

mkelley
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Re: Do I use Strict or Loose Anamorphic?

Post by mkelley » Mon May 24, 2010 8:12 pm

I'm using AnyDVD HD, the gold standard of rippers. Never had it fail (it took about three days before they had a patch up to do the blu-ray of Avatar, but that was exceptional). Lifetime updates free.

I just bought a cheap blu-ray drive for my PC -- here it is, in fact:

http://www.amazon.com/LITE-Blu-ray-Inte ... 767&sr=8-1

Not sure about the exchange rate, but it's less than $70 American dollars. It's worked a treat for well over a year now.

At first I was skeptical about the whole blu-ray thing, but it's actually no harder than encoding a regular DVD (there are just one or two "gotchas" that you can easily learn. Given how tech savvy you seem, I doubt whether you'll find any problems at all. And the quality of the files is amazing (people can't tell the different doing an A/B test between the Handbraked file and the original blu-ray disc, even on my 9' HD projection screen).

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