The standard profile choices
included with Movie Maker don't include any with MPEG.... but choices
in the custom profile Video
codec pick-list include ISO MPEG-4 V1
... that's the option
I'll explore in this newsletter.
I'll start with some
background info from assorted places, and then make a set of test files
for some comparisons.
The standards from ISO (International
Organization for Standards
) are available for detailed study...
but Microsoft info about WMV codecs is proprietary. I'll use Movie
Maker to make a few sample video files with Digital Video
(DV-AVI), Windows Media Video, and MPEG-4 codecs... and note their
post on one of the newsgroups this week got me thinking about that option.
The poster said he was in a corporate
environment and couldn't use anything but MPEG-4 encoded
videos... I did a quick test and, when I found that Movie Maker would
render a movie using the option, I referred him to it.
That triggered a bit more testing, studying, and this week's
newsletter. After rendering a number of test sample files, I put two
of them that used the MPEG-4 codec on neptune. Last Saturday we
went to a local Civil War re-enactment for some pictures and video. I used some
of the footage for these two 30
second samples. They're both from the same project file... one
with the full color from the camcorder footage, and the other with a few effects
applied to bring back the old time movie feelings.
... before getting into
are a few notes...
When I put the two video clips on
neptune I noticed the service now supports multiple videos
in a single album.
The continuing saga of my
Toshiba laptop is getting old, and it's time to close the
books on it. It's back at the CompUSA repair center in Texas, who says it needs
a new mother board. That's enough of another notch to officially classify
it as a lemon. I'll be getting a new replacement unit next
The Persian Poet
Gal continues her quest to get the world of amazing XML
transitions, effects and text overlays into the toolboxes of the average
Movie Maker 2 user. She expanded her Persian
Page a good bit during the week. I'm looking forward to
another newsletter about the topic, using her page when it's far enough along.
The Microsoft MVP Summit is
around the corner, less than two weeks away... I may be skipping two weeks
in a row. I'll let you know next week.
.... on to the main
Some background about MPEG-4...
Here are five assorted references:
(1) Chapter 14 of the 4th edition
of Video Demystified is about MPEG-4... it offers
lower bitrates than MPEG-2 for the same quality, the ability to mix natural and
synthetic objects together (think 'layers' of Photoshop), and support for
interactivity (2 way communication with the video stream).
That's as deeply as I want to go into the underlying
(2) Going back a couple years to an extract
from an April 2003 Microsoft announcement:
We have made available the final release of the Windows Media
Audio and Video Codec Interfaces documentation... The Windows Media Audio
and Video Codec Interfaces also enable access to some legacy codecs, including
Windows Media Video 7 and 8, Windows Media Screen 7, the older Microsoft
MPEG-4 codecs, and the Microsoft ISO MPEG-4 codecs.
Note This documentation does
not cover these legacy codecs; it only covers the Windows Media 9 Series
(3) An extract from Microsoft Knowledge Base
Microsoft has chosen to implement the video compression portion
of the MPEG-4 standard. Microsoft has currently produced the following
MPEG-4-based video codecs:
Microsoft MPEG-4 v1
Microsoft MPEG-4 v2
Microsoft MPEG-4 v3
ISO MPEG-4 v1
MPEG-4 video content can be encoded
and stored in an .asf file container by using Windows Media Tools and Windows
Media Encoder. You can then play these files in Windows Media Player. For more
information about Microsoft and MPEG-4 support, visit the following Microsoft
(4) The almost complete text of a well
written 7/14/05 post on the newsgroup for Movie Maker users, by
someone named James who works at neptune:
...MP4 is essentially an Apple Quicktime format. If you want to
edit .MP4 files (without messy format conversion)... you will need a Mac. Yes
you can play .MP4 videos on other media players... but only Quicktime and
Apple editing programs can fully manipulate those videos.
MPEG-4 is a broad standard with many flavors. It's important to
know that only some MPEG-4 videos use the .MP4 file extension (also described
as container format).
Microsoft has an mpeg-4 codec format (uses .ASF), Real Networks
has one (.RM), DivX uses mpeg-4 with .AVI and .DIVX, so does On2, and
finally... the king of MPEG-4 (Apple) uses .MOV and .MP4 extension for
virtually the same codec.
Last thought... do you know about Neptune.com for online video
I work for Neptune, and the Mediashare service accepts .MP4
files. You might want to go to Neptune.com, sign up for a free trial, then use
the Easy Upload feature to upload .MP4 videos into Quicktime albums. Windows
Media and Quicktime play equally well on Neptune... we get tons of MP4 files
from the new Apple iMovie software.
(5) Hack #77 in the Digital Video
Hacks book says "... Three codecs gaining the most momentum are DivX,
Xvid, and 3ivx... All three codecs provide excellent quality video for the
bandwidth they require, and all are variations of the MPEG-4
With that background, let's get into a sample
project and a set of test files.
9 widescreen clips together from the Civil War
re-enactment last Saturday, limiting the project to a 30
second duration. To give it an old time flavor, I added the
Film Age, Older and the Sepia Tone effects.
I rendered some movies, all from the same
project file. My first look at the simulated old videos showed that I
could use another batch with color and sharpness...
Here's the list of files:
- the Movie Maker 2 project file -
- two DV-AVI files
- two sets of DVD quality MPEG-2 files (video=m2v and
audio=wav) rendered by TMPGEnc from the DV-AVI files. As usual, they are
about 1/3 the size of the DV-AVI files. The
video bitrate for these is 8000 kbps
- two MPEG-4 files of 360x240 at a bitrate of 750
kbps, the bitrate I usually use for online viewing.
- two MPEG-4 files of 720x480 at a bitrate of 1000 kbps...
these are the two currently on
neptune... smooth playback depends on your internet connection
and computer capabilities. They are pushing the quality level for
some viewers... download first if you have problems with smooth
- two MPEG-4 files of 720x480 at a bitrate of 6000
kbps... comparable to DVDs.
- two MPEG-4 files of 720x480 at a bitrate of 750 kbps... again
my usual bitrate for online viewing, but at higher pixel dimensions...
the ones at 1000 Kbps looked much better than these so I departed
from my rule of thumb by not putting these on neptune.
- two WMV files of 720x480 at a bitrate of 6000 kbps... using a
VBR custom profile comparable to DVD quality.
The MPEG-4 option in the profile only works with the CBR
option... probably why the rendering time is only about 1/4 of that needed to
render the comparable VBR file with a Windows Media Video
Playing the Sample
They all looked good. To start studying file
differences, I opened them with GSpot and checked the proposed
A DV-AVI file is decoded by the DV
Video Decoder... qdv.dll, found in the c:\Windows\System32
A WMV file encoded with the Windows
Media Video codec is decoded by the WMVideo Advanced
Decoder... qasf.dll in conjunction
A WMV file encoded with the MPEG-4
codec is decoded by the Mpeg4s Decoder...
qasf.dll with mp4sdmod.dll...
An MPEG-2 file doesn't have a decoding solution (per
GSpot - I'm doing this on my old Dell laptop - which has no DVD
TMPGEnc is installed on the old Dell and
had no problems making and then previewing the MPEG-2 files...
that's what I used to make the files and get the snapshots.
The quality of the viewing experience depends partly
on the quality of the file, the decoding software, and the
GSpot confirmed the files were different under the hood...
Each sample played and looked pretty good... and not
surprisingly, the larger higher bitrate files looked better...
I took a snapshot of the same frame
of each sample.. using Movie Maker for all but the MPEG-2 file. For
that I used TMPGEnc. From the full frame snapshots, I cropped a small
segment that had visuals to help see the differences.
I put the cropped segments into a collage. Except for #7, they
are full-sized, figuring you could enlarge them at your end if you
want to look closer. #7 was a different resolution, so I enlarged it to align
with the others in size for this collage.
I sequenced them from the highest
expected quality at the left to the lowest at the right... they met my
Higher quality usually aligns with larger file sizes.
It was easier to see the differences in the
playing movies, especially the transition areas and faster action
scenes... more so than from the slow movements around this
1 - DV-AVI
2 - MPEG-2
3 - WMV - 6000 kbps
4 - MPEG-4 WMV - 6000
5 - MPEG-4 WMV - 1000
6 - MPEG-4 WMV - 750
7 - MPEG-4 WMV (360x240 pixels) - 750
kbps (picture magnified to align with the others)
While putting this collage together, I noted the JPG
snapshots of Movie Maker 2 produce files on a par with the JPG
quality setting of 95 in IrfanView. I always wondered what the JPEG quality
level was... not lossless but pretty good.