To my fellow Sylvester owners who have expressed interest in the art of mimeography:

(begin important information - pay close attention until you reach the section marked as not requiring higher cognitive abilities)

If you're simply looking to dupe something such that it will fit on readily available pieces of shiny plastic and play in readily available shiny plastic spinners, look to something else. You may still need a separate peeler to pull source material. Most material will fit on standard coasters using this method without any rejiggering: you're effectively copying, sans encumberances, only the main material you care about and stashing it on your own coasters. For the occasional very long advertisement that exceeds your target size (4.3GB aka 4.7GB aka dash-five), these programs are capable of dropping unnecessary audio and mucking with the encoded video to further "compress" it. Note the quotes: in some lesser-quality programs, the additional "compression" can involve some not-so-nice things like dropping frames to meet the space requirements. Purists will hate this, and I won't be your friend any more. Still, if you NEED something that plays in players, this might be your only option until 7.9GB (aka 8.5GB aka dash-nine) coasters and electric space heaters are available. Caveat emptor. If you know what that means, you'll probably understand the rest.

If you're looking to do what you've no doubt been sent here to learn how to do, you're looking to take lemons and make lemonade. You'll find lemons sitting on your shelf, or your brother's shelf, or the shelves of an enterprise with yellow text on a blue background. Lemons aren't bad, but it's hot out and you've got a thirst that can only be quenched by MPEG-4 video. Lemonade compresses much better than lemons, and nobody really cares about those rinds anyway. You need a satisfactory workhorse that outputs lemonade, or another suitable animal that outputs similar yellow liquid. You also need a satisfactory juicemaker, which understands lemons, feeds them to said horse, and gives you the lemonade you crave. Finally, you need a peeler (this one is presumably very lonely), which removes the pesky rind from the lemons. This is important, because most juicemakers can't do anything useful with lemons while the rind is still intact.

Doing this the right way is a multi-step process that involves a thinking cap. Doing it the wrong way results in wasting time and an end product that will satisfy nobody. I won't let you do it the wrong way. As such, the methods seem a bit involved, but you'll see that they're really incredibly simple and make a whole lot of sense after you've done it once. For that reason, you don't even need to keep reading from here until you're ready to follow along in a little interactive exercise. If your eyes pass across the paragraphs below without engaging your hand to click-click-click along, you'll find yourself more confused than you need to be. If you don't believe me, keep reading, but I don't want to hear you bitching about how hard it is until you've tried it, and don't say I didn't warn you. Proceed at your own peril.

Following along? Good. Let's go.

(begin step-by-step instructions - feel free to foam at the mouth)

Notes: all of the settings, especially those in the juicemaker and its workhorse, were picked for good reasons. Discuss these reasons with me if you're interested. If you want to play around, I advise you play around with short clips to avoid wasting time encoding things that turn out to look like crap. There's a lot of neat and interesting stuff at work here, and I encourage you to learn, but I can't tell you everything in this "quick" start step-by-step guide.

Gentlemen, start your peeler.

Stick a shiny object into the hole. Pick the proper title from Ti, and leave chapter (Ch) alone with all items checked; also leave angle (An) alone (most titles have a single angle anyway, and for those that don't, you'll only be dealing with one until you know enough to not need this guide). Set format (Fmt) to elementary streams. This means to demultiplex everything and give you separate files for each stream: video, audio, subpictures. The default, program stream, gives you a multiplexed .vob (Video OBject) file, the same as what's found on the source material, only peeled. This is fine for your juicemaker, but you'll be hard-pressed (heh) to get usable audio out of it. Leave segment (Seg) set to title, so that the output is not split into a million little files. Vid, Aud, and Sub let you pick the video, audio, and subpicture tracks to extract. Select only the ones you want. Generally, there's only one video track. For Aud, pick the track corresponding to the language you understand, and pick the format closest to your output. If there's English surround or stereo, use that, if not, use the English 5.1; NEVER use DTS tracks unless you know what to do with them. If you're reading this in a language other than English (which is unlikely since the humor probably won't translate), adjust as appropriate. Turn off the unneeded tracks. If you don't know which one to use, take all possible candidates and feed the output to your new best friend to figure out which audio track is best. Turn off all subpictures (subtitle tracks) because you're not deaf and most features don't force subtitling on; they're impossible to work with in elementary stream format anyway. If at some point you become literate and you want to do something with subtitles, you can learn how then. For now, tell it to begin, tell it where to dump, and grab a cup of coffee.

Your lemon is now peeled. You have an .m2v video file containing raw MPEG-2 video and an .ac3 audio file containing raw Dolby AC-3 audio. Video first.

Start the juicemaker. Give it the .m2v file as source, and give it some place (a new .mov file) to dump output. I'm going to tell you the settings I use, and you're going to shut up and use them, keeping the notes above about how these settings were picked in mind. Find the "automatic 2-pass" checkbox and turn it ON. In Video Compression, set the codec to the obvious choice of your horse, frames per second to best, limit data rate on, and specify a data rate, 128kB/s. (I used to recommend 112kB/s, but someone was occasionally dissatisfied and found 128kB/s made a more palatable juice; after review, this is what I now recommend too. Adjust upwards if your lemons are animated, I hear 160kB/s works well.) Hit options. Hit "Default," IGNORE the Basic Options tab (really) and turn on adaptive quantization and pure MP4 in the Advanced tab; leave the other defaults in place. Go back to the main DiVA interface and, once again, make sure you turned ON automatic 2-pass. Hit "Images and Credits". Turn on "Keep Rectangular Pixels." If your source came from television, turn on deinterlace, if it came from film, turn it off. That's not a hard and fast rule, but it's close. You may not be fully satisfied by the deinterlacing algorithm: it rarely ruins video, but it may not be aggressive enough. Deal with it. Set the crop settings to trim out all black borders, using the slider at the bottom to scrub through the clip and make sure that the blue bars are in position. Make sure that the width and height are multiples of 8 (crop inwards a bit if you need.) Don't specify credits. Apply.

Click start and go to sleep. (You, not the computer.) When you wake up, you'll have an output .mov file of MPEG-4 video. Depending on your settings and the size of your material, this will take a long time. It makes two passes through the clip, and each pass will run anywhere between real-time and half-speed, or sometimes slower, especially if you're doing other things during the process. If you haven't heard your fans yet, you will now. Congratulations to you if your Sylvester is faster than mine, or if you own a new Blanche.

For audio, start another handy program. A lemonade maker for the ears, if you will. Set format to MOV, hit QT Options, set Compressor to MPEG-4 Audio, rate to 44.1kHz, size to 16-bit, and use stereo. Hit options; set compressor to low-complexity AAC, bit rate to 128kb/s, output rate to 44.1kHz (again), and encoder quality to Better (Best only makes a difference for 24-bit audio, which you aren't using. You also don't need to use 48kHz, even though you might know that the source is 48kHz, because your equipment won't handle it.) OK? OK. Preferences, turn on dynamic range compression and dolby downmixing. OK. Now, drag your .ac3 file to the window and hit start. Before long, you'll have an output .mov of AAC audio. (AAC is the native MPEG-4 audio format. We use it because MP3 is actually really awful with timing, and even once you think you've solved MP3 timing issues, you really haven't. Timing is important because you need to keep your eyes synchronized with your ears. AAC compresses as well as, or better than, MP3, it doesn't have timing issues, and because it's part of MPEG-4 and our video is MPEG-4, it ought to work anywhere our video does.)

Now, you've got separately encoded video and audio, and you need to make them both play at the same time. We'll invoke the magic of a fast clock. You didn't think that the fast clock's Player was an editor, right? Watch this:

Pretend it's the last Sunday in April. Open the audio .mov in the fast clock player. Select all and copy, from the Edit menu, or if you're good on your shortcuts, do your thing. Close the audio file and open the video .mov. Make sure you're at the beginning (0:0:0); then do Edit:Add. Your audio is now pasted into the video. Finally, File:Save As (not Save), opt to make the movie self-contained (do not save normally), and save it. You've now got a .mov file that will play in the fast clock player or your new best friend, and perhaps even in Windows Media Virus if the moons have aligned properly. You can delete the .m2v, .ac3, and two intermediate .mov files you had been dealing with; everything should be stored in the .mov you just made.

If you want to include clock chapter stops for the fast clock, here's a tip for you, but you'll probably have to play with the second hand.

Refrigerate before consuming. Makes only 1 serving, and that serving is only for you. No substitutions, returns, exchanges, or refunds.


Pick a different trade.

2004 April 17
2004 November 24