PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #119 - Oct 7, 2006
SUPER Converter

With new file types and codecs being developed regularly, conversion utilities are needed more and more. And when forum posts over a 6 month period by those you highly respect give accolades to a conversion utility, it's time to take a serious look. I added SUPER it to my radar screen in April when I read a post that said "... The list of file formats this software can convert between is ENORMOUS....".

I downloaded it in July and read many more posts since then from many who are recommending it. This newsletter shares my initial test results with you.
It's easy to download, install and use. Here's an online video showing how....
It installed and opened easily, and it almost worked OK for my initial test, ripping a Chuck Bentley VOB file from his 'An English Mystery' DVD to something that would work in a Movie Maker project. I'd done it before with other software and methods, so I knew it could work. But it didn't make it in one easy step with SUPER.
After a few unsuccessful fumbling attempts before reading any instructions, I was able to get it to produce a Divx encoded file that played well in Movie Maker's timeline.
eRightSoft's website includes a forum with pretty good traffic... but two attempts to register were unsuccessful. It seemed to accept my user name and password, but I didn't get a confirmatory email, and attempts to log in didn't work. 
I submitted a question via their online support process, which said they would respond within 24 hours... nope, not even an automated response about getting to it someday.
The experience is typical of things you run into when trying a new conversion app... especially free ones that claim to the Swiss Army Knife for file conversions. Somewhere between the marketing publicity and our unskilled attempts at usage lies a middle ground of what we can do with such an app. Let's take a look.
... before getting into it further, a couple notes...

2007 MVP Award.. got an email saying I was given the award, this one being my 5th. More and more over time, Movie Maker and Photo Story are my career.  
Vista Corner... just received a Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1) 3 disc set. A 32 bit installation disc, a 64 bit one, and an evaluation and resource disc. 
An external hard drive went out?? maybe... it's a 180 GB drive purchased as an internal drive and mounted it in an external enclosure. It puttered out this week when connecting to a computer... the best I can do with it now is see it in the XP management tools, with a note that it's empty and isn't formatted.
I'll pull it from the case, hoping the case is the problem and not the drive... and try it as a second drive inside a computer.
The post-vacation Europe 301 website is off and running... I folded up my latest attempt at blogging. The blog was going to be my vacation planning and results area, but I'm not good about adding frequent enough posts for it to be of interest. I pointed those checking it to my website Living Projects > Europe 301 page. 
Video captured from the vacation footage showed less than normal audio quality when using WinDV. I recaptured the footage using MM2 and the audio was normal. So I've switched back to Movie Maker for my routine captures, at least for now.
.... back to the main topic...

SUPER Converter
Downloading and Installation...
Here's the download link... while on the site, note the long list of things that can be converted.
One of the supported input file types is VOB, the video file of a DVD. I selected one from Chuck Bentley's "An English Mystery". You need to copy the file from the DVD to the hard drive before using it as an input file in SUPER.
Dragging and dropping it into the list of things to convert was easy and quick.
Working Window

Test 1...
Convert the VOB file to an AVI using the compression codec the website refers to as "Unique Advanced H.264 profile & level selection. Not available in any other software."
Encoding - building file
The encoding went well... in addition to seeing the progress info, I watched the file grow in size in the SUPER\OutPut folder. The snapshot at the right shows it early in the rendering, when the AVI file was just 16 MB in size.

I checked CPU and memory usage as it rendered... and was impressed seeing the computer using only 50% of my dual CPU energy, and a reasonable amount of total memory.
Memory Usage
When the rendering finished, the AVI file was a bit more than 1-1/2 GB, about 50% bigger than the VOB file I started with. For a high quality AVI file, that's a reasonable size. This video file, one of a few on the disc, is about 30 minutes.

The AVI file played fine in Windows Media Player... showing pixel dimensions of 704x480... the same as the input VOB.
Things were looking good as I imported the AVI file into Movie Maker and it previewed fine in the collection, and then on the timeline. I could split the file on the timeline, add transitions... the usual editing.
That's as far as it got, which was impressively far...
Attempts to render a movie from it showed the estimated number of minutes remaining going up about 5 minutes every second I let it continue trying. The rendering itself never kicked into first gear.
MS Testing in GSpot
is one of the key utilities I use to check AVI files...   
The file passed the GSpot test, but the MS Test resulted in a crash with the message at the right...

I then tried opening it in VirtualDub...
... where it also struck out.
That ended my first test.
Opening in Virtual Dub

The website says you can convert
Test 2...
SUPER obviously did well handling the input VOB file, and rendering the AVI file. But from Movie Maker and VirtualDub perspectives, the AVI file wouldn't work because of the codec it was compressed with. A good playable video file isn't necessarily a good usable file for editing.
I changed the output video compression codec to MS-MPEG4-V1 and tried again.
2nd test
2nd test - WMPIt rendered to a file of 392 MB in size, but wouldn't open in WMP or play in VirtualDub. GSpot said it was an MPEG-2 file.
It imported into Movie Maker, but trying to preview it in the collection gave an 'Unspecified Error'.
On to another test.

Output file choicesTest 3...
For an AVI output, you have the choices of codecs shown at the left (for either the ffmpeg or mencoder choices).
The ffmpeg2theora and producer choices are for ogg output containers, not AVI or WMV.
WMV ChoicesThe WMV output type didn't work for me... it says 'still experimental' and doesn't include WMV9 choices... after trying WMV7 and 8 choices, there was no output file and it would say 'ERROR'.
I picked the Divx codec from the list, even though I knew I'd want to convert it again to something else before using in a project. I still don't trust Divx encoded files in Movie Maker.
Again the rendering went fine, and this time the AVI file looked and sounded great in WMP.
The Divx encoded file imported into Movie Maker, went to the timeline, and rendered to a WMV file for further use in MM2 projects... a good point to stop and think about what was happening.

Time to Read the Manual... and other info

What was I missing? What are the instructions that came with it? I assume that, somewhere between the marketing material and my first unsuccessful attempts lies some reasonable explanations.
Here's an assortment of quotes from documentation with SUPER and the eRightSoft website/forum, when forum answers were from moderators...
As SUPER is a simple GUI, the quality of the rendered files or the played files DOES NOT depend on SUPER.   The speed, rendered quality or the variety of the codec selection are the result of the great work achieved by the respective authors of ffmpeg , mencoder , mplayer , x264 , ffmpeg2theora , MusePack (mpc) , libavcodec library & the theora/vorbis RealProducer's plugIn.
Any file type that you can play with WindowsMediaPlayer is supported by DirectShow.
Any file supported by DirectShow can be encoded with SUPER(C) with the "Use DirectShow" option.
therefore, if you can play this ".dvr-ms" file with WMP, chances are very high to be
able to encode it with SUPER(C) (into any format of your choice)
As for the DirectShow, using it leads to a faster encoding, if it doesn't work, simply un-check it.
Directshow depends on your PC installed filters, thus it differs a lot from one PC to another
Q - Why is it that when I convert any file to the AVI format, the movie plays very quickly. Is it because of the frames per second or the bitrate configuration? My input file is alright, because I can play it at a normal speed.
A - You are playing the AVI with your WMP which is using a DirectShow driver installed
on your PC unable to correctly synchronize the video frame with the audio sampling rate.
The same file would play normally with SUPER(C). Select 44100 Hz as Audio sampling rate (instead of 22050 Hz) this makes your WMP happy.
SUPER c (Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer) is nothing more than a trivial graphic user interface to the famous line command encoders:
ffmpeg,  mencoder,  mplayer,  x264,  ffmpeg2theora,  the libavcodec library and the theora/vorbis RealProducer plugIn.
Some additional .dll files may be required in your system directory in order to play or convert all the noted files
MicroSoftWindowsMovieMaker is NOT supported to be rendered by SUPER. However, now that you installed SUPER, and AviSynth is enabled,
Copy and paste the above 4 lines in a txt file, name it script.avs
as you could tell, it is an AVS script, rename the file Vts_01_1.vob in the script to match the real name of the VOB file(s) you need to edit.

Direct Show OptionOpen it with virtualdub and edit your VOB file without any conversion/encoding and without anu quality loss!

The Direct Show Option
SUPER has an option to use Direct Show. The tool-tip reads kind of interesting.
Turning it on, opting for a WMV file with WMV8 compression... results in the same error as without the option.
As it says, the WMV option is experimental.
WMV8 Error
Toggling the DirectShow option on and off doesn't change the list of compression options.

VDubMod Choices
Conclusions and Closing
Output file choicesSUPER provides the compression codec choices shown at the left when rendering an AVI file, ones generally not compatible with Movie Maker 2 running on my Windows XP laptop.
My other utilities offer different choices. For example, the list at the right shows those currently available to VirtualDubMod. Many of them are files that work in Movie Maker.
My usual choices are absent in SUPER... including the WMV9 and Panasonic DV codec ones that I use so often... and others such as Cinepak that I sometimes select.
For my needs, SUPER might be the first part of a 2 step conversion process, as I used it here to successfully rip a DVD VOB file into Movie Maker 2, or for conversions not related to getting files into a project. 

English MysteryP.S.
The DVD test file was from Chuck Bentley's "An English Mystery", which starts with a great opening title sequence. I selected it to be able to publish something inspirational to forum uses
Viewers are giving it rave reviews. Here's a link to the forum thread with the link to the opening, and comments to date. 
Or click the picture to see the 2 minute intro directly... there's about 10 seconds of playing before it starts, so be patient.

Have a great week...