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Video Quality


UKJohnM
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Just bought Toast 11 and not happy! I'm trying to do something quite simple: produce a DVD (not BR) containing a mixture of slideshows and movies. The slideshows are albums from Aperture (preview generated at max quality) and the movies are exports at 1080p from iMovie. The resulting quality is poor, particularly noticeable on the photos as they were shot with a Nikon D300 and are razor sharp. The images after encoding are soft and have reduced saturation. I might as well have used a cheap mobile phone camera! Image quality of the movies is also much reduced. I've used the "Best" setting, and also tried fiddling with bit rates on custom setting with only marginal improvement with higher rates. After wasting several DVDs I'm now "burning" to a disk image to check quality! I accept that there may be some reduction in quality because of encoding but this is too much!

I have a support case ongoing with Roxio but so far have not had a straight answer. Anybody have any ideas/suggestions as to what I can tweak to improve quality? If I can't get better quality than at present, then I feel a request for refund coming on!

I'm using a late 24" iMac with Core 2 Duo processor, and all the latest versions of Toast 11, Snow Leopard, iLife and Aperture.

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I'm just checking for more information. Is the resulting DVD in 16:9 format for the slide shows? Are the images the same aspect ratio as the originals so there was no cropping? Are you viewing the DVD at actual size on the computer and not enlarged to full screen?

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Regardless of the platform you're working on (Mac or PC) you need to be aware that DVD quality is 720x480. So, your super-sharp-high-res-megabyte-sized pictures will be reduced to 720x480. That's what you get with a DVD movie. If you want more resolution (say, the 1080i you got from Aperture), you have to go to AVCHD, which is essentially BR quality on a DVD disc, and requires a BR player, or to a BR disc.

 

Also, to get the best quality, you can't put more than about 1 hour onto a single layer DVD disc. More than that, and it has to compress the video more, which will reduce the quality even more.

 

Hope that helps!

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Eugene, Dave, thanks for your prompt replies.

 

Eugene, my video was shot on 16:9 format HD, the photos with a DSLR so that would be around 3:2 aspect ratio. I used the default "Automatic" setting for Aspect Ratio in Toast. Neither the video nor the stills are stretched, squeezed or cropped. I was viewing full screen which, on my 24" iMac, is pretty big, so I guess the quality looks worse that way. Still disappointing at regular size however.

 

Dave, I think you've hit the nail on the head with saying that the quality with DVD movie is 720 x 480 (720 x 576 with 50Hz PAL systems, apparently). I can now understand why the quality is as it is. Pardon my ignorance, but what still puzzles me is why commercially produced DVD movies appear so much sharper than what I have produced with Toast. I have a HD TV and a DVD player that upscales to 1080 but still the quality of my Toast DVD is way below that of a regular movie. How can this be?

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UKJohn, I'm not a Toast user, since I live on the PC side, but video quality is often an issue. You didn't yet say how long in time you're production is. One of the output settings in VideoWave/MyDVD (PC) is Highest Quality. Another setting is "Automatic" which lets you squeeze on more than an hour of video, but significantly impacts quality. So, if Toast has an option for setting the output quality at something akin to "Highest Quality", use that, and make sure you're not going over 1 hour in length.

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Dave, while I'm messing around with quality issues I'm using a production length of around 5 minutes - a short slideshow and a short video clip - to keep encoding time short and to avoid any additional compression issues such as you suggest happen when run time is over an hour.

Toast has quality presets of Good, Better, Best. Naturally I've used the "Best" setting. I've also tried custom settings as I mentioned in my first post and changed the bit rate and even at maximum (9 Mbps) there's not much improvement. The only thing I've not tried in the custom settings - because I really don't understand what they do - are the Field Dominance settings, for which Automatic, Top Field First, Bottom Field First, and Progressive are offered as choices. I've left this set to Automatic so far.

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Eugene, Dave, thanks for your prompt replies.

 

Eugene, my video was shot on 16:9 format HD, the photos with a DSLR so that would be around 3:2 aspect ratio. I used the default "Automatic" setting for Aspect Ratio in Toast. Neither the video nor the stills are stretched, squeezed or cropped. I was viewing full screen which, on my 24" iMac, is pretty big, so I guess the quality looks worse that way. Still disappointing at regular size however.

 

Dave, I think you've hit the nail on the head with saying that the quality with DVD movie is 720 x 480 (720 x 576 with 50Hz PAL systems, apparently). I can now understand why the quality is as it is. Pardon my ignorance, but what still puzzles me is why commercially produced DVD movies appear so much sharper than what I have produced with Toast. I have a HD TV and a DVD player that upscales to 1080 but still the quality of my Toast DVD is way below that of a regular movie. How can this be?

I think that if you play that DVD on a standard-definition TV you'd find the still images to be acceptable quality. However, TV is meant for moving images so there always is a problem with still images. When your HDTV upscales the 480i still image to 1080p it isn't going to look very good. It is better to view at the actual resolution. The upscaling is better suited for video than for stills. As for the overall video quality in Toast it is actually very good for consumer-priced encoding. There are professional encoders such as BitVice and Compressor but they take multiple passes and much longer to encode. They also cost quite a bit. You can improve the quality settings in Toast by going to the custom encoder settings window and raise the bit rate while also turning on Half-Pel. But I don't think that will affect the still image quality. As the others have pointed out, when you have more than one hour of video on a single-layer DVD you lose quality because a lower average bit rate is needed. However, I still think DVD slide show quality won't change much no matter what you do.

 

There are alternatives you should consider. If you have a Blu-ray disc player and have Toast's Blu-ray plugin you can burn a Blu-ray formatted slide show to a standard DVD disc that plays in HD on your TV. You don't need a Blu-ray burner to do this. You also can get an AppleTV, WD TV, a Blu-ray player with network streaming or other similar device to play your photos straight from you Mac's hard drive on your TV.

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Many thanks for the information. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that, disc wise, a photo disc will be the best solution for the stills - at least that way I get the maximum quality. I am currently investigating streaming options. And perhaps using the likes of Dropbox will be as good a medium of distribution as mailing DVDs to family and friends.

 

Like the Healey, btw! :)

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Many thanks for the information. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that, disc wise, a photo disc will be the best solution for the stills - at least that way I get the maximum quality. I am currently investigating streaming options. And perhaps using the likes of Dropbox will be as good a medium of distribution as mailing DVDs to family and friends.

 

Like the Healey, btw! :)

 

Hi

 

how did you export the movie in iMovie? You should via Media Sharing or Export via Quicktime.... In all other ways the quality is poor.

Before you import the movie to Toast check the quality using MPEG Streamclip.

 

Rafal

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