HDV - Too good to be true? (FCPHD versus Vegas 6 versus Ulead VS9)

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by Smarty, Sep 17, 2005.

  1. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I've recently been comparing the performance of Ulead's HDV codec / plug-in,
    now offered for free, with their VideoStudio 9 editing program to 2 other
    programs I have been previously using. I am simply amazed at how fast the
    Ulead software edits and renders HDV compared to Vegas 6 and Apple's Final
    Cut Pro Studio HD.

    From all accounts, as well as from my own experience, the rendering speed of
    both FCP HD (on a high end dual processor G5) and Vegas 6 (on relatively
    fast single processor 3.4 GB P4 HT) is glacially slow, typically 10 times
    slower than real time. Using Cineform or Apple proxy codecs, these products
    take forever to render.

    Much to my utter amazement, Ulead's $79 program blows them totally out of
    the water in speed, by a speed up of maybe 5X. This is no small
    improvement............and saves many HOURS of rendering time for a typical
    project.

    To my relatively untrained eye, the resulting quality form Ulead looks
    essentially the same as I see from Vegas or FCP. I have not done a lot of
    testing yet, but my early findings here are just amazing.

    Has anybody else done a comparison, or have any opinions about relative
    performance.

    Since the Apple and Vegas products cost many times as much as VideoStudio9,
    and yet render at 1/5th the speed, I guess I consider this all to be "too
    good to be true".......

    Any other opinions?

    Thanks,

    Smarty
     
    Smarty, Sep 17, 2005
    #1
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  2. Smarty

    Frank Guest

    On Sat, 17 Sep 2005 02:23:27 -0400, in 'rec.video.desktop',
    Ulead VS9)>,

    What I think you're experiencing is simply the result of three
    particular things:

    1. Ulead Systems Video Studio 9 was specifically written to take
    advantage of HyperThreaded Intel Pentium 4 processor chips. You
    mentioned that the system you're using has a 3.4 GHz (you wrote "GB"
    but I assume that you meant "GHz") P4 HT chip.

    2. Although the VideoStudio HDV plug-in, which is a free download for
    existing VideoStudio 9 users, treats the HDV MPEG-2 Transport Stream
    as an MPEG-2 Program Stream for editing purposes, this process is
    completely lossless and is, essentially, native HDV editing. No
    intermediate codec is involved, hence no needless transcoding from one
    lossy codec to another lossy codec, even one which claims to be
    visually lossless. Nor is the program converting "long-GOP" MPEG-2 to
    "I-frame-only" MPEG-2 for editing purposes, which itself can be a
    time-consuming process.

    3. Ulead is proud of their "SmartRender" technology wherein only GOPs
    which were changed/altered in some way during the editing process are
    re-encoded. This helps, in a big way, to a) maintain the full visual
    quality of the original footage and b) speed-up the rendering process.
    Of course, SmartRender provides no advantage if you're color
    correcting the entire contents of the timeline, for example.

    A quick question if I may...

    In your VideoStudio tests, are you editing 720p HDV footage or 1080i
    HDV footage? I assume the latter, but wanted to be certain. Also, can
    I assume that your comparisons to Sony Vegas and Apple Final Cut Pro
    all involve the same type (720p versus 1080i) of HDV footage?
     
    Frank, Sep 17, 2005
    #2
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  3. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Thanks for your reply Frank. I have visited your website often and consider
    it a superb and truly authoritative / comprehensive place to get HDV
    information. Yes, I did mean HT (not GB), but am surprised that
    hyperthreading gains much (since the processing doesn't inherently seem
    likely to benefit by parallelism) and also since Cineform / Vegas should
    have presumably exploited the same HT benefits if they do exist.

    Your number 2 point is especially interesting to me. I was unaware that no
    proxy or intermediate was being used in the Ulead codec, and this would
    indeed account for faster renders, particularly for material which is
    unaltered in the edit. The amazing performance, however, seems to take place
    even heavily edited material where the long GOP structure ***MUST BE***
    broken such as titling and transitions and blasts right through it. The
    edited frames are, no doubt, "lumpy" (to borrow the phrase somebody else
    coined to describe MPEG streams which have their P and B frames altered). I
    guess it is conceivable that Ulead has chosen to do I frame only edits,
    effectively taking out hunks as long as one half second, at the edit points,
    but they must redo the GOPs for the smooth and continuous effects they
    achieve with transitions and smoothly scrolling titles. In addition, since
    they do not apparently use a codec which creates a proxy or intermediate,
    you would think their editing and previewing would go very very slowly. To
    the contrary, their timeline seems way way faster to me than Vegas 6. It
    just seems contra-intuitive that they can avoid the conversion to a proxy /
    intermediate, achieve fast timeline / scrubbing / preview effects, AND
    render so damn fast without trading speeds off the way the others do.

    Certainly they must be making some extremely good design decisions in the
    algorithms and even better choices in their code / programming since the
    performance is so sweet. On an absolute basis, I will readily admit that
    Ulead's product is very limited in functionality compared to the other two
    products (FCP and Vegas) and does not warrant the high prices of the other
    two, but it sure does make a nice, simple, competent, and ***FAST*** HDV
    solution. Their Media Studio professional product is probably fast also, or
    so I would imagine.

    To answer your question, all of my work is with HDV from a Sony FX-1 at
    1080i. And thus my comparisons are all using the same footage.


    Did I mention that you can arbitrarily mix HDV and normal 720 by 480 MPEG2
    as will as high res stills in the same Video Studio 9 time line and Ulead
    blasts right through them? Try doing that it FCP............it doesn't know
    how to handle it at all as far as I can tell. I have been using Video Studio
    since it came out as well as most of Ulead's other consumer programs, and
    this version is in a whole different league IMHO. The early versions were
    buggy beyond belief, and Ulead's support was awful. Both have changed
    dramatically.

    I would really like to see if anybody else has played with HDV on VS9 to see
    if I am maybe drinking the wrong KoolAid or smokin' something here.....

    Smarty
     
    Smarty, Sep 17, 2005
    #3
  4. Smarty

    Ken Maltby Guest

    Humm... you have peaked my interest, I'll have to take a look at
    this Ulead product. I have the means to display and store HDV,
    but have no source, as of yet. I'm not yet convinced the HD
    material available from such as DirecTv is worth what they are
    asking for it.

    Luck;
    Ken
     
    Ken Maltby, Sep 17, 2005
    #4
  5. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Ken,
    There are some HDV clips of reasonably small size which can be downloaded if
    you would like to experiment. The VS9 software is really very competent,
    particularly handling MPEG2s of both standard and high def formats. It's
    worth a try, and especially worth buying if you have any HDV creation plans
    in mind.

    Smarty
     
    Smarty, Sep 17, 2005
    #5
  6. Smarty

    Frank Guest

    HDV - Too good to be true? (FCPHD versus Vegas 6
    versus Ulead VS9)>,
    You're quite welcome.
    I'm pleased to know that it helps people.
    You meant GHz (giga Hertz, not giga bytes), I think.
    Any given piece of software would have to be purposely designed and
    written in a manner such that it could take advantage of multiple
    execution units whether in the form of HyperThreading, dual cores,
    multiple processors, etc. The trick to achieving parallelism is to
    create multiple worker threads which can be executed in parallel but
    without conflict in the form of logical out-of-order execution,
    deadlock conditions, race conditions, etc. Some types of applications
    tend to lend themselves to being written in a multi-threaded manner
    more than others. Applications which can only be executed in a
    top-to-bottom fashion can't really benefit from running on a system
    capable of parallelism, although it some cases - using a dual
    processor system as an example - one processor could be assigned to
    running the application and the other processor could be assigned to
    executing only operating system functions such as memory management,
    supervising I/O operations, timer operations, screen updates, etc.

    I understand that Vegas itself contains code to take advantage of
    parallelism, but I don't know if this is also true of the Cineform
    codec.
    Yes, it's merely (losslessly) converting the Transport Stream into a
    Program Stream. The raw data is unchanged, hence the lossless nature
    of the conversion from a quality standpoint.
    That's the SmartRender feature in action, or lack of action, actually,
    if you know what I mean.
    I don't know what to say. Maybe someone swapped the innards of your
    single processor Pentium 4 system with a dual processor Xeon system
    when you weren't looking. :) (Wouldn't *that* be nice?!)
    They may also be creating open GOPs. This I don't know, but it could
    be checked by running the output file through an MPEG datastream
    analysis program. In the early days of MPEG, I used to have one or two
    such programs, but no longer. They were commonly used to validate MPEG
    datastreams for compliance to the standard.
    Are you working with short clips, or doing long-form work? This
    difference could have a major impact upon performance/responsiness.
    It would certainly seem that way.
    Based upon your report, it would seem to provide good value for money,
    or to put it another way, a high price/performance ratio, which I
    think makes it a good fit for the low-end consumer market to which
    it's designed to appeal, where most users are complete novices when it
    comes to the technical aspects of video and video editing.

    In the world of Windows HDV editing products, the only other low-cost
    contender that I know of is Vegas Movie Studio+DVD Platinum Edition
    for $129.95.
    Don't quote me on this, but I understand that MediaStudio Pro version
    8 will contain some pleasant surprises.
    Good, that's what I figured.
    You didn't mention that, but I did know that.
    All good news.
    Must be the KoolAid. I know I just *loved* the stuff when I was a kid,
    despite being constantly told that it would rot my teeth.
     
    Frank, Sep 18, 2005
    #6
  7. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Thanks for your reply Frank.

    I can imagine that there are indeed opportunities for parallel processing in
    the rendering process, perhaps something as simple as one thread working B
    and P frame generation while the other is doing audio processing of some
    sort. My comment was really meant to question why Ulead gets an apparent
    speed benefit of (maybe) 5X over others who also exploit multi-threaded
    techniques like Vegas.

    The SmartRender regions appear to be operating at (essentially) disk I/O
    speed, which is to say that the renderer spits out finished output at a rate
    which is way above real time. This "lack of action" is certainly key to the
    overall speed, since the areas which do not need to be rerendered are output
    extremely quickly. Such is not the case for Vegas or FCP. More impressive to
    me is the speed the rerendered areas seem to be processed at. Even in the
    transitions, titles, etc., the renderer moves very swiftly. I had to check
    my settings and file output to be sure I wasn't rendering normal DV footage.
    Sure enough the output file was of the proper resolution for HDV, has a
    bitrate of about 25 MBits/sec, and looks fabulous.

    My hunch is that the renderer is written with a combination of assembler,
    very strategic use of the P4 SSE / SSE2 instruction set, an optimizing
    compiler (if they did use C++ or some other higher order language
    whatsoever), and hand optimized code for the tightest loops where the real
    work is done. The best aspect of all of this is the very likely prospect
    that HDV NLE software will support pretty robust workflow without the need
    for hardware acceleration. Such was not my impression when working with the
    other (Vegas and FCP) products, whose previews and rendering are far too
    slow for efficient production.

    I too was a KoolAid junkie, and would actually eat the powder before it even
    went into the pitcher. My mom would therefore mix it up before I could get
    my hands on the envelope........and she also discouraged us from drinking
    the stuff. I'm sure some of the amalgam in my mouth owes it origin to all
    this junk.

    The price/performance of this UV9 product is really quite remarkable. I have
    only done relatively short clips to make comparisons between the 3 products,
    but I don't see why they shouldn't scale about linearly for longer jobs. I
    will do more experimenting and see what I find, and I will certainly follow
    other reports here and in other forums to see if my Dell has some magic
    affinity for UV9.
    I feel like the guy who (believes he) is getting 60 miles per gallon in his
    Hummer H2................

    Smarty
     
    Smarty, Sep 18, 2005
    #7
  8. Etc.

    Fascinating discussion. I put a blurb about the apparent attractiveness
    of the Ulead program in a thread in rvp, called "Video Studio 9 Goes
    HD." This is what I was looking for, from someone in the know. Thanks.

    Gary Eickmeier
     
    Gary Eickmeier, Sep 18, 2005
    #8
  9. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Gary,

    I hope my observations are comparable to others who are trying out this new
    software. I am still scratching my head wondering if my experiences are
    typical.

    I am eagerly looking forward to magazine reviews and other independent
    commentary before I consider this conclusion to be legitimate. I subscribe
    to everything I can find on HDV editing, and have not yet seen any other
    reports to compare. I sure hope that somebody generates a published and
    standardized test to directly compare render times, preview capabilities (do
    effects and transitions require a delay to view and if so how long it
    takes), etc.

    Smarty
     
    Smarty, Sep 19, 2005
    #9
  10. What is most interesting is I thought they HAD to transcode the video
    into I frames in order to edit. If what you say is true, perhaps Ulead
    is just smarter than all the rest. I love it!

    Gary Eickmeier
     
    Gary Eickmeier, Sep 19, 2005
    #10
  11. Smarty

    Ken Maltby Guest

    "Smart" rendering/encoding has been around for MPEG a
    long time now, there should be some who follow this NG that
    have read my descriptions of the process. Some of the die
    hard "anti MPEG editing" probably don't want to remember,
    as they are now finding their favorite tools adopting these
    processes to allow them access to HDV editing. I remember
    many a rant, and even some self-righteous "technical" discourse
    on how "You can't edit MPEG, and anyone who claims they
    can are lying."

    "Times, they keep ah change'n"

    Luck;
    Ken
     
    Ken Maltby, Sep 19, 2005
    #11
  12. Smarty

    Frank Guest

    HDV - Too good to be true? (FCPHD versus Vegas 6
    versus Ulead VS9)>,

    LOL. Isn't vindication wonderful, Ken? I'll bet a certain O.J. Simpson
    felt the same way when the decision in his criminal trial was handed
    down. :)

    Of course, I'm willing to bet that not every reader of this newsgroup
    is yet willing to let you off the hook so easily. Some will continue
    to insist that lossy audio and video formats, especially MPEG formats,
    were never intended for editing but rather instead, were designed as
    delivery formats and not as acquisition formats.

    By the way, Ulead has used the term SmartRender for many years--long
    before HDV came on the scene--to refer to the ability of their video
    editing products to not needlessly recompress frames of DV video which
    were unaltered during the editing process. Even DV, which is
    intraframe-encoded, suffers a very minor degradation when decoded and
    then re-encoded with a DV codec.

    P.S. If I hum the line from the Dylan tune that you've posted, or even
    include it as quoted text in my reply, do I have to pay a royalty to
    the RIAA? After all, in a former life, I used to own the LP. :)

    Regards,
     
    Frank, Sep 19, 2005
    #12
  13. Smarty

    Ken Maltby Guest

    "O.J. Simpson"? Let me "off the hook"? I find it strange that
    someone with such a reality based HDV page would take such
    a position. Your page provides much to support my position,
    your lamenting the "lossy" mature of MPEG aside.

    Speaking of your page, there is another way to handle HDV.
    www.buffalotech.com has a "High-Definition Wireless Media
    Player with Progressive Scan DVD" that can play HDV files
    off a data DVD, a USB device or a network source. I use
    their "TeraStation" NAS, with mine.

    Luck;
    Ken

    P.S. I guess those of us old enough to have bought the album
    when it first came out, are entitled.
     
    Ken Maltby, Sep 19, 2005
    #13
  14. Smarty

    Frank Guest

    HDV - Too good to be true? (FCPHD versus Vegas 6
    versus Ulead VS9)>,
    I was KIDDING! Didn't you see the smiley? Really, I was kidding. I
    would *never* in my wildest dreams equate a capital offense such as
    murder with the minor blasphemy of suggesting that MPEG video is
    editable. :) <-- Please note smiley.
    Yes, I need to check that out, as I've been asked about it and need to
    be able to provide answers.
    Thanks, I needed that! :) <-- Please note smiley. See, I can take a
    joke.
     
    Frank, Sep 20, 2005
    #14
  15. Smarty

    Ken Maltby Guest

    They have the usual PDF downloads for their products, if you find
    something you want me to try with it, send me an E-mail. If you have
    any urgent questions, fire away, here.

    Luck;
    Ken
     
    Ken Maltby, Sep 20, 2005
    #15
  16. Smarty

    Frank Guest

    HDV - Too good to be true? (FCPHD versus Vegas 6
    versus Ulead VS9)>,
    Thank you, sir. I will keep your kind offer in mind. It looks like
    I'll be spending the rest of the day setting up an isolation booth for
    a client so that she can do a decent sounding podcast in what is
    otherwise a fairly noisy environment. I also need to decide whether to
    use a Shure KSM32/SL mic or a Shure SM58 mic.

    Regards,
     
    Frank, Sep 20, 2005
    #16
  17. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Hi Guys,

    At risk of taking this thread a bit in the direction from which it
    originally came, I wanted to report a very interesting email exchange I have
    had with Jan Ozer,a very competent author who has been publishing a 4 part
    comparison of NLE HDV editing softwares in eventDV magazine. Jan is a
    Ziff-Davis and freelance author with many books, magazine articles, and
    other publications to his credit, and has a very exceptional combination of
    technical insight and writing prowess.

    I contacted him specifically to ask him if he had evaluated Ulead's HDV
    performance, and he replied with essentially 2 interesting comments. The
    first was that VS9 from Ulead is, after all, a consumer (versus pro)
    product, and therefore really not fair to compare to the others for a lot of
    reasons (I agree!). The second, most noteworthy, comment was a reference to
    an excellent review he had written in 2003 of Ulead's more deluxe product,
    MediaStudioPro (MSP), which I will reference in the link below. In this link
    he clearly indicates that Ulead has a substantial speed advantage for MPEG2
    rendering (by virtue of their SmartRender approach) even then, so the more
    recent HDV speed difference is neither a new discovery or surprising to him.

    http://www.eventdv.net/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=5139&PageNum=1


    Therefore, my essential conclusion is..........that this Ulead VideoStudio 9
    product at $79 really is a speed demon and will be a superb HDV solution
    (IMHO) if you can live without the embellishments of the other high-priced
    NLEs.


    Smarty
     
    Smarty, Sep 20, 2005
    #17
  18. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I failed to mention.......I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan......since he first
    started recording (especially his early stuff).

    Smarty


     
    Smarty, Sep 20, 2005
    #18
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