New Music Video Standard

26 November 2007

Yes, I’ve changed again. I follow Apple’s lead. They believe in H.264, so I do too.

The main reason I was using MPEG4 instead of H.264 was an incorrect assumption that 720 x 400 (16:9) was only iPod compatible if the file was MPEG4. I believe I would have tested this resolution with H.264 in the past–I always test–and would have found it incompatible, so I went with MPEG4 instead. Well, I’ve just done another test with four videos and lo and behold, it worked. This means that they upgraded the standard or that my earlier testing was poor. Either possibility is reasonable.

So what does this boil down to? Music videos are now specified as follows:

  • H.264 @ 1500kbps, 640 x 480 (4:3), 720 x 400 (16:9)
  • AAC @ 128kbps

If the source is a video file from an enhanced CD or the web, I don’t get fancy: I open in QuickTime Player and export to iPod. If it’s letterboxed (bane of the video collector’s life), I use MPEG Streamclip to achieve the same result, only I also crop the margins off (QuickTime Player can’t easily do this).

If the source is DVD, Handbrake is of course employed. I start with the iPod High Rez setting, then add 2-pass and greyscale (if appropriate). For audio, you can actually convert 5.1 to Dolby ProLogic II and the iPod will support it. Of course, you’ll only hear the stereo on an iPod, but this is good for using on both iPod and Apple TV, which might be connected to equipment that can support it. It does make a difference and is quite nice to listen to.

Handbrake 0.9.1’s new enhanced chaptering facility, where you can now name the chapters, is a great excuse to rerip video, and I especially like to rip long-form video such as concerts, Enigma’s A Posteriori DVD, Lemon Jelly’s ’64-’95 DVD, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture, etc. with the proper chapter markers. Strangely, the Touch, where I play music video the most, does not display the chapter names. If you tap the screen while a video is playing, it will say Chapter X of X, but doesn’t display the name. Apple has been notified.

Don’t muck with the advanced settings. They’re very good for tweaking video intended for the Apple TV or computer, as these devices are tolerant, but I’ve found that changing the slightest setting will prevent the video from transferring to an iPod (see my earlier post on this matter). You have to stick with stock-standard iPod settings to guarantee compatibility.

So I’m going to start ripping my music video again. The amount of work this entails is made palatable by remembering that I’ve got a number that don’t work with the new iPods and of course, my favourite, the chaptering excuse!

TV Shows: Air Date or Production Sequence?

6 November 2007

The downside to TV shows is having to make the decision between tagging in air-date sequence or production sequence. I’ve found it common that episodes produced in a particular sequence are not aired in that sequence. There are probably many reasons why the show creators did this, but you must make a decision so that you can enjoy the episodes in a way that makes sense, if any continuity is to be maintained. Here are some examples:

The Venture Bros, Season 1. The DVDs presented the episodes in production sequence. Bad move. Three episodes from the end of the sequence, an event profoundly changes the show so that the final two episodes no longer make sense. I won’t spoil this for those who haven’t seen it, but I suggest you look up the air-date sequence on Wikipedia and watch it that way. I was pissed when this happened to me, but I didn’t know ahead of time. In this case, definitely tag them so that they appear in air-date sequence.

SpongeBob SquarePants, Season 2: The episodes appear on the DVDs in production sequence, but they were aired in a different sequence. There seems to be no good reason for this, particularly since the first season’s episodes’ production sequence is the same as they one in which they aired. In this case, I chose air-date sequence, but you could go either way. As each episode is an isolated story, you won’t ruin any continuity.

Blackadder, Series 2: Air-date sequence has episodes 1 & 2 reversed. It also violates continuity as a result, so I tagged them in production sequence.

The Weird Al Show: Production sequence was thrown out the window. When I listened to the commentary, it was clear that the air-date sequence was out of his control, and that’s the way viewers saw the episodes, so I chose the air-date sequence.

Family Guy: This is the worst organised set of TV seasons I’ve seen on DVD. In Australia, we’ve just had “Season 6” released, but in the US, it was season 5. Also, three episodes are missing from the end of the season. This pattern started early on with these DVDs with the result that each DVD since season 3 actually represents the season earlier than it’s labelled. It’s a mess. The only clear choice was to put them in US air-date sequence and ignore the labelling.

My primary source of both air dates and production numbers is Wikipedia. I have found this to be relatively trustworthy. I also confirm when possible on the TV shows’ official sites.