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Some of my thoughts:
we can capture the source media at 6mpbs rather than 17mpbs, would the lower bitrate speed up encoding?
No. All it would do is lower your final output quality because you started with lower quality. You always want your source to be as good as you can get it.
Is 2 pass worth it if it doubles the time? Should I use b frames?
Batching up lots of timelines in media encoder is giving us problems too, after 5 or 6 successful jobs it fails with encode errors
The AME creates a temporary project in your User temp folder for each timeline. Make sure you have enough free space on the drive that has that folder. Use an app like CCleaner to clean out old stuff that builds up in there.
Thanks for the quick suggestions Jeff, the higher capture bitrate confirms what we thought. We'll stick with b-frames and do some more testing on the 2 pass method. And a quick check shows only 3Gb free (yes this is scary) on our 30gb ssd OS drive with pagefiles and restore points taking up around 10gb. Will clean and test, thanks again.
Good deal. Let us know how it works out.
Besides that SSD, what is the rest of your I/O sub-system like, i..e. your HDD's, their size, speed, controller type(s) and how they are allocated?