Digital Video Help

This page will contain all the info I have collected on using your 6400/6500 for digital video
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5/12/2000 Info from Vu Tien: Here is some great info from Vu on Digital Video work on 6400's. Thanks Vu!

Hello Tom,

Thanks for your excellent work. Allow me to contribute.

I'd like to say how I managed to continue to do Digital Video Editing on my (almost) stock 6400/200 VEE with an accelerated 6400/200 and Avid Cinema and Premiere 5.1 LE. I hope that it may help your readers too.

I'll first describe directly how I'm proceeding currently. Then I'll explain the differents discoveries about QT and Avid Cinema that lead me to this setup.

First Caveat: ------------- FireWire is of NO USE to transfer direct digital movies from a digital camcorder to a 6400/200. Using QT4 and its DV Enabler extension does allow Premiere to capture from the FireWire bus, but the framerate is 6 frames per second (fps) and a lot of frames are dropped.

My set up: ---------- To capture movies from the digital camera, I use the Apple video card and Avid Cinema. I boot from a volume with a basic MacOS 8.1 and its stock QT (QT2? QT3?) and I disable the Sonnet extension. Connection from the camcorder to the Mac uses a S-Video cable. Capture is performed by AVid Cinema at 25 fps. It compresses video by hardware and stores a QuickTime movie in JPEG-Avid format. The bit rate is low enough and there is no dropped frame. Obviously, I don't need the accelerator in this phase.

A look at the attached file "Avid JPEG.GIF" below (from the Premiere 5.1 LE analyzer) shows that the bit rate is around 400 Kbps and the frame size is around 20 KB.


To edit the movies, I use Premiere 5.1 LE and boot from a volume with MacOS 8.6 and QT3 (*NOT* QT4) and enable the Sonnet extension. I import the movies that were previously captured and export them as uncompressed QT movies (huge). Then I reimport them in a new Premiere "project" and edit them at will. When finished, I export them as QT movies with Cinepak or Sorenson compression.

Inside Premiere, preview sequences are jerky but it works actually perfectly and creates great movies, 5 or 7 times faster than without a L2G3 (well, exporting in 384x288 a 15' movie takes 2 hours instead of a whole night 8-).

Some discoveries: ----------------- Video capture hard facts:

0) Apple Video Player (AVP) does some video capture 1) AVP captures at 10-13 fps at best on an accelerated 6400 and drops frames even with a fast hard disk (charts below "capture rate Maxtor" example of fast disk and "capture rate Quantum" example of slow disk) 2) when the Avid extension loads, it prevents the AVP from doing capture (error -xxxx which means the port is occupied) 3) capturing inside Avid Cinema is done always at 25 fps (PAL in Europe), 384 x 288 and 24 bits (no change in gamma values or size possible) 4) capturing with the FireWire enabler and Premiere 5.1 LE is done at 6 fps at best and drops frames --> unusable.

capture rate Maxtor example of fast disk

capture rate Quantum example of slow disk

QuickTime hard facts:

0) Avid Cinema cannot capture movies longer than some seconds when used with QT4 or with the QT3 delivered in MacOS 8.6 ("error QuickTime, please retry"), with or without L2G3 enabled. 1) Avid Cinema can capture sustained QT movies with MacOS 8.1 and its stock QT, provided that the accelerator is disabled. 2) QT4 is unable to decipher correctly and play the Avid JPEG format of the movies that Avid Cinema captured. It plays some frames and starts to displays colored blocks. Probably a timing issue in decoding the JPEG blocks of each frame? 3) this "colored blocks" syndrome happens in Avid Cinema when rendering its own capture (with any QT and the G3), and in Premiere 5.1 LE when importing Avid-captured movies as well (with QT4 and the G3). I didn't have time nor the curiosity to explore all combinations since it is a loser situation anyhow.

Conclusion: ----------- The same QT movie, compressed in Avid JPEG, plays beautifully on an iMac 400 DV and a Pentium III-400, but is jerky on a 6400/L2G3 with QT3. The 6400 displays colored blocks with QT4. But once edited and rendered with Cinepak compression in Premiere by the 6400/L2G3, they are excellent on any machine.

So don't despair to use your old 6400. Just add an L2G3 accelerator and a huge hard disk, and bear the 256 colors display limitation due to the fixed 1 MB video.

Misc: ----- Very good tutorial in doing digital video:

some sound advices and some tricks to get good quality

8/12/2000 DV can export on the 6500 but not import?: Steve wrote to let me know he can export DV over firewire with no trouble but gets many dropped frames on import. This has been stated before on my site and Steve was wondering if perhaps a PCI IDE card with a faster 7200rpm IDE drive might help? Please email me if you have been able to import over firewire and not lost any frames. Thanks.

8/26/2000 Director's Cut DV to Analog converter: I found this web site that not only has the mentioned converter but a slue of other video stuff. Even some of the video out cards for the 6400/6500 families! I suggest if your interested in video that you check these guys out.

11/3/2000 Some DV info and an update on TAM HD size limits: I had posted some info I found awhile ago on TAMs (20th Anniversary Macs) not being able to use HD partitions larger the 4G. Harry wrote to let me know he was using an 18G HD and it worked fine. He later wrote to say it was formatted with FWB so maybe Apples drivers have trouble on TAM's? Or like I posted last week, it could be just a myth :)

FPS with DV capture is tricky sometimes. Two methods I have used: (1) EditDV in a two pass approach - capture video only then capture audio only, (2) Use iMovie to capture audio and video but only on a clean partition. These two methods result in no dropped frames (most of the time). I drop frames with FCP. I can not capture DV A+V simultaneously with EditDV. The limiting factor on the TAM for DV is the 50 MHz bus which is just barely enough for DV capture to work.

Export DV using EditDV or iMovie works fine.

The bad news about this is that if a TAM, which has a faster system bus, can barely keep up then our 6400's may have no hope?

Firewire DV Guide: Firewire Direct has posted an online guide to DV. Its all in QT and is probably useful for beginners.

1/13/2001 Apple TIL on improving video capture with a Beige G3 AV system: I found this TIL the other day and although its for a Beige G3, I thought it might help you guys get better capture results :)

I found a couple interesting notes, one of which says 320x240 30fps is not possible with OS 8.1 and audio also being captured? Second they note to move the capture window to the lower right corner as much as possible? Something about better capture down there then in the upper left corner? Strange??? I hope this helps anyone.

5/5/2001 Video compression time tests: Marc sent me a lot of info on his tests using different means of compressing video on his 6500/300. Thanks Marc. Click here to read his letter.

8/4/2001 Another tip for better results with video capture and audio and video in general: Ralph writes that he had horrible capture on his Mac until he one day booted to a System installed on a SCSI drive in the upper bay? It didn't matter which drive captured the footage, as long as he booted to a SCSI drive it worked smoothly. Using an upgraded drive on the IDE bus kept causing audio issues and video issues like skipping and out of sync problems. But once he booted to the SCSI drive it was fine?

This is weird since the SCSI bus on the 6400/6500 is much slower then the IDE bus. Also it didn't matter if he captured to the SCSI or IDE drive just as long as he booted to the SCSI drive. I asked him to try switching the VirtualMemory file from drive to drive to see if maybe booting to the SCSI drive causes the VM file to be placed on the SCSI drive which may have improved performance. He said changing the VM file to the IDE drive made no difference. If he booted to the IDE drive with the VM file on either drive, he had issues. If he booted to the SCSI drive with the VM file on either drive, things where fine. Below is his system setup

System tested:
PM6500 with Sonnet 400Mhz G3 L2 1 meg cache and ATI
xclaim 128 VR graphics card (rage) 16 megs of VRAM
using ATI TV tuner for import via SVHS port and
Apple video/audio board for sound, 96 megs of RAM
running MacOS9.1 with latest ATI extensions.

I wonder why booting to the SCSI drive makes a difference like this? Can anyone else confirm this? Thanks Ralph. I also noticed that he has the Rage128 card and a Sonnet G3 which are notorious for causing timing issues. Could booting to a SCSI drive fix this?

7/20/2003 Guide from Roxio on how to make nice VCD's: Ralph sent me a link to Roxio's web site where they have a guide on making good quality VCD's. Thanks Ralph!

[Hi Tom, hope you and your family are well. I noticed this article from Roxio about vcd production. Pass it on. R.]

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This page last updated 8/12/2003