23 Replies Latest reply on Jun 26, 2009 9:54 AM by tomsub09

    fuzzy mpeg2 encodes


      I'm getting slightly soft mpeg2 encodes -- does anyone have a good workaround for this?


      I'm on Vista64, quad core, 12 gigs ram, working in SD interelaced NTSC, with a Matrox RTX2 card, raid 0 arrays, etc.


      Seems like the original capture is sharp, an avi export of an edited timeline is sharp ... but an mpeg encode is soft.


      This happens whether the RTX card is used or not. RTX has a workaround that involved importing a matrox sequence into a regular adobe sequence and using a 1 pixel offset before encoding. And this improves things slightly -- but not enough.


      I've run tests bypassing the RTX card, going with adobe capture & exports -- but the results are the same. That makes me think it's the AME.


      During the mpeg2 encoding, I've selected all the maximum quality things I can find.


      I've run a bunch of A/B tests, and bottom line seems to be that the same footage, captured from the same camera, using the same basic editing/sequence presets ends up looking sharp on my older XP Pro machine with Premier Pro 1.5 ... but ends up slightly soft on the newer machine with CS4 and AME.


      Thanks in advance for any ideas ...

        • 1. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
          Harm Millaard Level 7

          What external monitor do you use to judge the fuzziness and how is it connected and calibrated?

          • 2. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
            billmatthiesen Level 1

            Hi Harm ... I'm feeding it to a Sony PVM1354 crt monitor ... it's fed

            from the breakout box of the RTX2 (SVHS connector) ... it recalibrates

            when powered it.



            • 3. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
              Jim_Simon Level 9

              That's certainly a nice enough monitor.

              • 4. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                Harm Millaard Level 7

                Could it be (I don't assume you have overlooked this, since you are obviously experienced with the Matrox) a field reversal issue? UFF versus LFF?

                If that is not the case, can you export to AVI and try with different encoders to see if it is an AME encoder problem?

                • 5. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                  billmatthiesen Level 1

                  Thanks, Harm. Yeah, I've been racking my brain for all the possible

                  variables -- and I did try upper and lower fields, but it didn't make

                  any difference.


                  And there are so darned many settings, that it very easy to overlook

                  something. But I've been running the tests over and over again, looking

                  for the workaround, so I'm getting pretty familiar with the correct



                  On the resolution issue, I also started putting in a few seconds of a

                  test pattern -- just to remind myself that it was not totally

                  subjective. And with the test pattern it's a very clearly visible

                  difference. Actually, it is to my naked eye, too ... but you start to

                  think maybe you're being too fussy ...


                  I have my older XP Pro computer with the RTX150 card -- and when I copy

                  the avi files over to that machine and do the encode to mpeg2, it comes

                  out "looking" identical to the original avi. So I guess that's my

                  current fall-back position. The files are perfect when they're encoded

                  on that older system.


                  But with this nice fast new computer, 12 gig of ram and quad core, etc.,

                  it'd be nice to just zip through the task on the same machine ...



                  • 6. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes

                    I have the AJA Xena 2k card and I have this same issue. I think it lies somewhere in the size conversion of D1 NTSC (720x486) to DV NTSC (720x480). I, too, have been racking my brain and checking settings and AME 4.0 just wont pump out an MPEG2 from D1 that's not softened. The only workaround I have found is to create a DV sequence in my Premiere project and place my D1 sequence on the DV timeline, move the "clip" up or down 1 pixel to accomodate the field difference and then export the DV sequence to MPEG 2. This works flawlessly for me. In AME in Premiere CS2, I was able to do a crop of 2 pixels top and 4 pixels bottom, scale the crop to fit to get the same result but in CS4, this creates a fuzzed image. Perhaps Adobe will see this and come up with a fix.

                    • 7. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                      billmatthiesen Level 1

                      Thanks for the feedback ... yeah, I think the pixel offset trick works

                      for previous versions of premier -- but evidently not for cs4 (yet).


                      I'm doing some tests with another encoding program, to see whether it'll

                      turn out a sharper mpeg. I'll post results if it works positively.



                      • 8. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                        proanim8r Level 1

                        In CS4, the process that I use -- place D1 sequence on DV sequence timeline and shift up or down 1 pixel then export to MPEG2 -- has worked for me every time. It's the only solution that I have found within the CS4 confines. If you haven't already, give that a try and see if you get the same results.

                        • 9. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                          billmatthiesen Level 1

                          I'm working with SD, and have tried that with various offsets (1 pixel,

                          2 pixels, sideways offsets, up & down offsets) ... in my case, this does

                          give a slight improvement, but not as sharp as the same footage with an

                          mpeg2 encode on my older system (XP Pro, Matrox RTX 100 card, Premier

                          Pro 1.5).


                          So it's puzzling and frustrating ....


                          I'm gonna try some more tests with other stand-alone encoders.


                          I'm viewing all this on a pretty sharp Sony CRT monitor, where I have

                          A/B switches -- so I can really compare two versions of the same footage.


                          Thanks for your feedback on this ...



                          • 10. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                            billmatthiesen Level 1

                            OK, I've run a few more tests on this.


                            Here's my routine: I start with a jpeg still of a TV test chart ... drop that into a timeline ... do an avi export (which is what I'd typically do after editing a more involved sequence, with layers, titles, filters, etc.) ... then I try various experiments in encoding to mpeg2 for DVD. I actually burn a DVD and check the final image on my monitor -- a Sony PVM 1354Q, which is a reasonably sharp CRT monitor. I use the same avi export source file for the various tests, so only the mpeg encoding is different.


                            The best I can do (to date) is to just use a different stand-alone encoding program -- WinFF. This is a freebie, but it's very fast and makes a sharper encode than AME CS4. It's about the same sharpness as the old MainConcept mpeg codec that came with Premier 1.5, at least in my side-by-side tests.


                            I've tried placing my avi export in a new standard DV NTSC sequence, and then offsetting the image by a pixel. And I've also tried expanding the image by 1% before encoding. But neither trick actually makes a very sharp image. This might work if you're not in SD, as there are a zillion possible combinations with all these video formats. Some folks have emailed me to say that this offset pixel thing works for them -- but I haven't heard from anyone doing this in SD NTSC yet.


                            One thing I've noticed is that CS4 seems to create images that are actually 720 x 486, where the mpeg encode ends up 720 x 480. I suspect this difference in the vertical size of the image may be where the fuzziness is happening. Maybe the codec is distorting the image as it scales it down. But I can't figure out how to really crop the image to 480 prior to mpeg encoding. You can apply a crop filter, but the image is still 486, I think. In any event, it doesn't make the resulting mpeg look any better.


                            Also, I don't see a way to make the AME do a 2-pass VBR encode for mpeg2 DVD. I can set it for "use maximum render quality" and set the quality level to the maximum of 5 and select NTSC high quality as the preset. But I'm not seeing a way to really up the ante in terms of quality. Are there additional presets available?


                            The surprising thing is that the MainConcept codec that came several years ago with Premier 1.5 actually creates a sharper image than the same company's version in CS4.I can see this by running the same source file through the two encoders and burning a DVD from the resulting mpegs.


                            I'd love to hear from someone who's found an even sharper encoder .... or maybe someone will tell me what kind of basic mistake I'm making in the process ... or maybe a little note in my mailbox saying there's an upgrade to AME that solves the problem ... that'd be wonderful.


                            In the meantime, at least you won't feel that you're crazy if you get something similar on your machine. And maybe these notes will help the next person take this to the next level. (I'm attaching the jpg test pattern pix that I use, in case someone wants to try something that's a little less subjective than a video clip).

                            • 11. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes

                              Hi Bill,

                              I think we may have a similiar problem.  I'm trying get sharp still frames exported from the Timeline in Premeire CS4, but every combination I've tried turns up a fuzzy image.  I recently posted a message asking for help on that.  I'm not too technically oriented as I had an Adobe/Matrox specialist visit me recently to fix my "soft video output".  My problem was the I.T. tech here at my facility had the Matrox RTx2 card in the wrong slot, plus it wasn't configured correctly to begin with.  Anyway, if you have a suggestion about why my exported still images are fuzzy, I'd appreciate any suggestions.

                              • 12. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                billmatthiesen Level 1

                                Hi Tom ... I continue to be confused about this issue. A couple months ago I did many hours of tests, with many different setting combinations within the RTX2 and AME. At the end of the day, the best I could do was to export my project to an avi file, copy it over to an older computer that has Premier Pro 1.5 and an RTX100 board on it, and do the mpeg encoding on that older system. That gives me the best quality, though it is time-consuming and a lot of extra steps.


                                A few weeks later, I was working on a rush job where I was turning out a lot of time-code window-burn DVDs for a client -- basically, a bunch of 30-60 minute interviews with a timecode overlay. I just didn't want to spend the extra time to put 20 of these interviews through this convoluted encoding process. So I started doing the mpegs on my Vista 64 system with the RTX2 board. I figured I'd just accept some softness in exchange for being able to work more quickly. And for some reason, some of these subjectively appeared to be sharper.


                                I thought I was going crazy -- but I was cranking out a lot of work, so I just went with it, and figured I'd do some more tests when my work slowed down.


                                Then the other day I tried another mpeg encode on that Vista 64 system -- and this time, the result was too soft to actually be acceptable. So I went back to the old work-around, doing it on the old RTX100 board under XP Pro.


                                So now I'm totally confused about what's going on.


                                It could be that the sharper encodes were done during that brief interval when many of us had uploaded the latest CS4 update from Adobe. After a few days, many of us had to pull it off our systems, because it was basically killing the RTX2 card's ability to do its work. And we've been waiting for new update from Matrox, so we can reinstall that Adobe update. So maybe that was the fix, and it just lasted while we had that update installed and disappeared when we took it off.


                                So in the short term, I recommend trying another encoder. The Adobe Media Encoder is just not working properly with the RTX2 for these DVD encodes. It actually does seem to work really well for some other formats, like flash flv. But I also found still frame exports to be soft. So who knows? They say they're working on it, so I'm hoping for a fix in the near future ...


                                Like most folks, I'm just trying to get work done. So I'm not documenting every click of the mouse -- though I am generally trying to keep track of my program settings. It's possible that there's some combination of settings that results in a good mpeg2 encode -- but I've been too busy to try all the various combinations. If you find it accidently, please let me know ... and if I find it accidently, I'll post it here.



                                • 13. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                  Harm Millaard Level 7

                                  What you are describing is possibly the reason that many here got extremely wary of anything Matrox. It may be time to dump the RTX2 and wait for the RTX3, which may be out with the release of CS5.

                                  • 14. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                    billmatthiesen Level 1

                                    Yeah, could be good advice for those who haven't already made the purchase. Other folks have said "wait on CS4" and continue to use the RTX2 on their CS3 systems. Also good advice, I guess -- except it's hard to go back, once you've experienced the benefits of the extra memory you get with Vista64.


                                    It's really hard to know whether it's just a less sharp encoder in AME (which is my theory), or whether it's some interaction between the RTX2 and Adobe CS4. The RTX2 works really well for some things -- dramatically speeds up rendering and encoding. With some formats it's spectacular. Unfortunately, this mpeg2 glitch is pretty serious for most of my clients. Almost everything is going to the web, but people still want DVDs of everything. So a fuzzy encode just doesn't cut it.


                                    However, I'm still not ready to point the finger at one company or the other. My previous tests seemed to implicate the CS4 AME -- but now I am really confused ... need to revisit this thing again, I guess, and do more tests.


                                    Also, both companies have really dedicated tech support folks who are extremely helpful and willing to go the extra mile to help us. The programs are sophisticated and have lots of wonderful features.So I'd really like to see them both succeed.


                                    It's the "two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back" little dance that it so maddening. A new version comes out with great stuff -- but then it's missing wonderful features from the previous version -- and also has new problems that are quite serious for some users, depending on what types of work we're doing for our clients (ie, where we're making our living). So this is really tough.And I'm sure a fair number of customers just give up and migrate to another product.


                                    Maybe the new updates will be out soon for the Matrox, and it'll become a non-issue.


                                    Having seen a whole bunch of video editing software/hardware companies come and go over the past 20 years, I still think Adobe is on the right track with this large suite of (somewhat) integrated programs. And it's a large and successful enough company to be able to weather the storms that come and go through this field -- which is really important with such complex products. You really want to go with a company which will continue to invest in upgrading their products, rather than just throwing in the towel.


                                    As a customer, if I was going to offer them advice, I'd recommend consolidating what they're developed up to this point. Really bring it up to speed and make all the features work. As opposed to continuing to add new bells and whistles while some of the basic stuff still has problems. It makes for less sexy sales literature, but making the program really solid would do a lot more to increase sales and cement customer loyalty than continuing to add more and more features, many of which have so many problems. At least that's my recommendation as someone who's using this stuff every day in a commercial environment.

                                    • 15. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                      Dan Isaacs Level 2

                                      One question: Is the material you are editing normal SD DV captures or are you outputting SD DVD from HD source?


                                      Also: How about exporting as an AVI (say, the Matrox I-frame MPEG format @ 50Mbps) and then crunching that to MPEG2 in AME? Same fuzziness?

                                      • 16. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                        billmatthiesen Level 1

                                        Hi ... it's a NTSC standard definition capture ... Matrox AVI capture, since I'm using the RTX2 card -- you don't get to see the image on your CRT output monitor unless you bring it into CS4 as a "matrox" avi, and into a matrox sequence. This is Sony DVCAM SD original material -- so nothing fancy.


                                        My typical process is to export the edited program, again as a Matrox AVI export ... and then use that file as the basis for an mpeg2 to create a DVD.


                                        I've tried it a number of ways ... for example, tried exporting the edited timeline directly (eliminating that intermediate avi export) ... tried exporting to microsoft avi ... there are a lot of options, so it's hard to try them all. But hey -- I'll try anything -- I'd love to get this to work easily and quickly on my nice Vista 64 machine with 12 gigs of memory and raid 0 drive arrays. Seems like it should be a piece of cake ... unfortunately, it's video rather than bakery.


                                        I'll have to try your suggestion of trying a higher res export ... So far, I've just been trying to make everything as simple and basic as possible.

                                        • 17. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                          Edit 1 Media

                                          I actually beta test for the Matrox RTx2 team. The export to Mpeg2 is a very frustrating problem and I have come to the conclusion that even a Native captured M2T HDV file exported in a native premiere cs4 project and burned in Encore gives softer results with jagged lines. Adding Matrox to the mix seems to soften it even a bit more.


                                          Here is my work around that gives me Super Clean DVD encodes from a Matrox HD AVI.


                                          1. Export a Matrox HD AVI file of your completed project.

                                          2. Import your AVI file int After Effects. Highlight the AVI file and press Ctrl-F. Under the Interpret footage dialog box, make sure you check the box that says best quality.

                                          3. Create a new composition that has a NTSC DV widescreen setting and change the comp length to match the length of your clip.

                                          4. Add your clip to the composition and press Ctrl-S to scale the clip. Unlink the constrain proportion icon and enter the following values: 45.0/44.4

                                          5 From the comp menu, select add to render cue.

                                          6 Change the export format to Mpeg2 DVD and set the bitrate.

                                          7. Render out your Mpeg2 file

                                          8. Bring into Encore and burn.


                                          Matrox is working on updating the drivers that work with Adobe CS4.1 Hopefully we will see cleaner encodes within AME and Premiere for Matrox HD projects.

                                          • 18. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                            Dan Isaacs Level 2
                                            Here is my work around that gives me Super Clean DVD encodes from a Matrox HD AVI


                                            This not really relevant to the original post, however, which was talking about normal SD -> DVD encodes. However:


                                            Adobe's HD->SD (especially with 1080i sources) is horrible and slow; with or without Matrox, with or without After Effects. Even the "best quality" settings in AE and AME's render options do little more than slow the process down to a crawl in many cases.


                                            Bad deinterlacing + soft scaling = lousy DVDs from HD sources. No way around it.

                                            • 19. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                              billmatthiesen Level 1

                                              Thanks, Chris ... I can certainly give this a try.


                                              Maybe this is a dumb question, but I'm starting with SD -- are the steps

                                              below still what I should try?



                                              • 20. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                                tomsub09 Level 1

                                                Hi Bill,

                                                Don't know if this will help you or not, but my Adobe/Matrox vendor had me install the new Matrox Mx.tools 4.1 beta release.  This appears to have solved my "fuzzy" exported still images.  Both my video footage and exported still frames from the Timeline look good now.  Hopefully, everything will finally function properly.  The link for the 4.1 release is http://forum.matrox.com/rtx2/viewtopic.php?t=6353.  Good luck.


                                                • 21. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                                  billmatthiesen Level 1

                                                  Thanks, Tom ... I assume this is a brand new release? The one we all

                                                  installed a couple weeks ago caused all kinds of problems, so we had to

                                                  uninstall it as well as the associated Adobe upgrade, and go back to the

                                                  previous versions of both.


                                                  So you're talking about a new one, correct? This would be fabulous news.



                                                  • 22. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                                    tomsub09 Level 1

                                                    I'm not sure, Bill.  I'm just going by what my Adobe/Matrox vendor told me to do.  The date on when the Matrox message was posted is June 25.

                                                    • 23. Re: fuzzy mpeg2 encodes
                                                      Edit 1 Media Level 1

                                                      Yes, this is a new release. It fixes many problems with CS4 (4.1) so anyone running a Matrox RTx2 card should download the latest update from Matrox. Make sure that you update Premiere to 4.1 before installing the Matrox drivers.