A while ago I published several articles on moving video from FCP to the web using H.264, one article was based on QuickTime and the other Compressor. These processes do work well, but there are a number of steps that you must go through and a number of settings that need to be adjusted. Could there be an easier way to create H.264 movies for the web?
DVcreators.net has release an application
that does most of the work for us and also has some additional
cool features. It's called DV Kitchen but don't let the name
fool you, it works with all video formats, including HD.
DV Kitchen is a stand-alone application
that combines many different functions into one professional
program. Integrated batch encoding and uploading (via FTP) for
publishing high quality video, images and audio. SampleLab for
testing different encoding settings. TimeFreezer for exporting
stills from video clips. Bitrate Budget Calculator for estimating
the right bitrate settings for your clips. Media Publishing that
automatically generates your HTML code for you and makes publishing
your webpage a one-click process. When you launch DV Kitchen
the 'Main Console' window opens, at the top right are tabs used
to access other functionalities of DV Kitchen.
We will start with 'SampleLab'. In the Main Console, import or
drag the movie that you want to encode into the window. Click
on the movie name to open the preview and information section
of the Main Console, bottom of the window.
Double click on the video in the Media List to open it up in
'SampleLab', where you can test out different encode settings
and then save the best settings as a preset. SampleLab is very
automated and does all the work for you by using simple drop-down
menus. SampleLab is shown below. I have greatly reduced the window
size for this article but you will want to have the window enlarged
when you work so that the Preview window shows your video at
The Preview window will show your
movie (clip), you can scrub or play through the clip. I would
suggest that you set In and Out points around a small section
of your movie for testing, a section that would be hard to encode
well, like rapid motion or transitions. The beauty of SampleLab
is that you can create a number of different test samples at
different sizes, and bitrates with just a click or two and then
preview the quality of each test right in the SampleLab window.
As shown below, I have selected
'QuickSpecs' (x.264) as my codec. The X.264 codec is the Open
Source version of Apple's H.264 codec and is at least as good
as Apple's version. From the Frame size drop down I have selected
640 x 360 and have set my first sample bitrate at 800 kbps. The
bitrate setting is very important as it sets the amount (or rate)
of data that can flow down the pipe to your audience. Dial-up
connections can handle only low bitrates, DSL can handle more
information and high speed internet connections, like cable,
can flow a greater amount of data. The higher the bit rate, the
higher the quality of your movie. So selecting a bitrate is a
compromise between download speed and quality. DV Kitchen provides
a Bitrate Budget Calculator that assists you in picking a bitrate,
shown later in this article.
After you have made your selections, click on the 'Cook Samples'
button. You will get a Progress bar, when done, click on the
number 1 on your keyboard (because this is sample number 1),
and the encoded test will now show up in the window with the
encode settings shown above the clip. You can play through the
encoded clip to view the quality of the results.
Now here is where SampleLab is really efficient. You can make
as many different test samples as you want, each with a different
bitrate setting, by clicking on the 'Add Sample', (shown below).
I have created two more samples at different bitrates and can
test them in the SampleLab Viewer. You can bounce from one sample
to another by entering the sample number on the numeric section
of your keyboard. At the top of the Preview window, the sample
number and specs are displayed. It gets even better. Scrub through
a sample until you find a particularly difficult frame of video
and park your playhead there. Now, using the numeric keys, you
can cycle through all of the samples, you will be able to see
the exact same frame in each of the samples and you will then
be able to make the best judgement as to which sample is the
best for your needs. You can continue to add more samples if
needed. Click on the trash can next to any sample to remove it
from the list.
Once you have previewed your test clips and have decided on your
choice, you can now save the settings. Click on the Lightening
bolt, (shown below in red box), for your chosen settings and
give it a name.
After you have saved your settings move back to the Main Console
and in the Encode panel, click on the 'Choose' drop-down menu.
You will see the setting that you just saved. You will see that
DV Kitchen also provides additional codecs; Flash FLV, WMV, iPOd,iPhone
If needed, you can further edit this setting by clicking on the
With the settings in place, you will see that the 'encode status'
column now shows ready. Click the GO button to begin encoding
your clip and you will be asked about the export destination
of the encoded clip. In the DV Kitchen Preferences, I have set
the destination to my Desktop. If, for any reason, you want to
make a change after you have encoded, you can click on the 'Reset'
button and you will be returned to the pre-encode status where
you can make changes to your encode settings.
DV Kitchen has a built in Watermark feature. You can create your
Watermark (bug) in FCP or in Photoshop. When you check the Watermark
box, the Watermark window opens up. From here you can import,
scale and position your Watermark.
From time to time we've all needed to grab still frames from
our video. In FCP, with the playhead placed on the frame you
want, from the Modify menu > Make Freeze Frame. You can also
Export using QuickTime with Conversion > Format > Still
image. As we have all done this we know that there can be quality
issues with the stills. Interlaced video can be problematic,
showing combing artifacting. Go back to the timeline and drop
the de-interlace filter onto the clip and make a new still. Artifacting
is better, but the overall quality of the image is now less than
before because we have thrown away half of the visual information.
Not only that but as we often need to export a number of stills,
the process is anything but efficient. Simply put, it's a bit
of a pain.
DV Kitchen has 'TimeFreezer', a
much better way to make still images from video. Click on the
TimeFreezer tab at the top the DV Kitchen Main Console window.
This will open Time-Freezer. Click on the 'Choose Movie' button
and navigate to the clip you want to work with.
This will load the clip into the TimeFreezer preview window.
You can scrub through the window to find the frame that you want.
There are three format export options available; Jpeg, PNG and
Pict. As shown below, Jpeg has been chosen. You can set a specific
width dimension or choose original size. There is also a quality
Not being a big fan of Jpeg, I have chosen 'Pict' as my format
(if you are saving for the web then you'll have to use Jpeg).
When Pict or PNG is selected, the Quality slider disappears,
because unlike Jpeg, Pict and PNG do not use compression. With
a frame selected, click on the 'export this frame' button. The
exported still will show up in two places. As I have sent my
export destination in DV Kitchen Prefs to my Desktop, the still
will show up there. But the still is also placed in the TimeFreezer
window on the right, shown below.
If you double click on the still image on the right hand side
it will open in it's own window at full size for you to consider.
I have gone through the clip and created several more still images.
Remember that by clicking on any of the stills on the right,
they will open up for you to compare your still images.
Obviously, if you are working with Progressive footage, then
interlacing is not a problem, but many are shooting 1080i and
TimeFreezer has two additional options what really help with
interlacing issues. These two options work with Jpeg, PNG and
Pict. If the frame that you need has rapid motion and heavy combing
artifacting, selecting the 'blend deinterlace' option will add
some motion blur to the image which helps mitigate the combing
The second option is 'perfect deinterlace', which deinterlaces
the image but also then reduces the image size to half, returning
the resolution to the image. This really does work well. When
you choose 'perfect deinterlace' you'll notice that the size
and format options are gone from the window, images will be exported
in the PNG format.
When you have the still images
that you want, they will be ready for you on the Desktop, but
you can also move the stills back to the Main Console by clicking
on the 'add still to list' button. Once your selected stills
are in the Media List, you can upload them to your FTP server
and then use the Publish function to embed your images into an
HTML page or generate forums tags for easy posting. The Main
Console with the still images added is shown below. In the Main
Console you can encode your stills further, for example to JPEG
format for the web or simply select a remote destination and
DV Kitchen will automatically upload (via FTP) your stills to
your server for you.
Bitrate Budget Calculator
The Bitrate Budget Calculator is use to calculate the encode
settings to produce the highest quality video at the lowest possible
bitrate. There are five sections with setting sliders into which
you enter information about your situation. A recommended bitrate
will be shown at the bottom of the window. This bitrate will
be a starting point for you to use in 'SampleLab'.
To use the Publish section of DV Kitchen, you need to first upload
your clips from the Main Console window. Under the "Upload"
area of the Main Console, you can easily setup, save and edit
your frequently-used FTP destinations.
Just select a destination from
the upload popup menu to apply it to your clips. Then, just hit
the "GO" button, and DV Kitchen will upload your clips,
making them ready for you to publish to the web.
Once you've setup your FTP remote
folder destinations with your server information, transferring
your encoded files to your server is just a one click affair.
Built-in FTP makes the uploading process easy and quick and right
from the Main Console of DV Kitchen. Publish will create all
of your .html tags for you, which will embed your movies or stills
into web pages or blogs. It can even generate a complete web
page for your movies or stills with a title and caption. DV Kitchen
will even create the html code need to display 'Shadow Boxing'
of your video for your viewers.
In the lower right had corner of the DV Kitchen window is a 'question
mark' button. Click on this and a new window opens up. From in
here you can access the PDF manual, go to the DV Kitchen discussion
page for assistance and a 'check for updates' button. This is
very convenient as it seems that new features are added to DV
Kitchen on a regular basis and getting these update is very easy
Josh Mellicker of DVcreators.net has created a number of tutorial
movies that teach you how to use DV Kitchen, the process is very
simple and the movies will teach you most of what you need to
know. At the very bottom of the DV
Kitchen web page is DV Kitchen Theatre which lists all of
the movie tutorials. If you watch any of the movies you will
see that each movie opens with the 'Shadow Box' effect. I point
this out because you can have DV Kitchen add the 'Shadow Box'
effect to movies that you create. It does this with one click
and writes the html code for you automatically, sweet. There
is also a manual and a 'free trial' version of DV Kitchen that
you can download and play with.
Additionally if you need to upload
your movies to your server but have not used or don't like FTP
(File Transfer Protocol) software, DV Kitchen will do your uploading
for you and allow you to manage your server account. TimeFreezer
is a very efficient way to make good stills from video, for some
of us, this can be a real blessing.
If you find yourself making a number
of movies for the web, or often need a lot of good quality stills
from your footage, then you should take a look at DV Kitchen.
DV Kitchen is a finely crafted application, very easy to use
and stable. With it, you have the ability to drop a video into
SampleLab, pick different frame sizes, bitrates and even codecs.
You can 'Cook' the video and playback the tests right there in
the Preview window and cycle through the different test samples.
This is simply the best way I have ever seen to visually check
the quality of your encoded video.
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