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Review: Real World Video Compression


May, 2008



Real World Video Compression
By Andy Beach

Review by Steve Douglas

A very new release from Peachpit Press, Video Compression by Andy Beach is well worth reading for literally anyone either new or experienced to compression tools and techniques.

It used to be that editors edited and compressionists compressed; they were almost separate fields of endeavor. Much has changed over the years and now that much of an editors' time is spent delivering material either as a preview to clients for approval either on DVD or a media player, or in final form onto numerous internet sites aiming for the best possible image, compression skills and tools have become as important to the producer as the skills needed to edit and create that material. In addition, with the growth and use of a plethora of HD and HDV codecs and the NLEs and players that incorporate them, the field of compression has greatly increased in its' complexity of standards and choices.

Andy Beach provides a considerably up to date book which brings the reader a good distance towards demystifying the multiple approaches to compression. Its' primary goal is to enable you to understand not only the best approach towards the subject, but to clearing up many of the differences, pluses and minuses of the many compression applications on the market.

The entire book is aimed at achieving clarity for those who need to compress their media in an acceptable and highly viewable format. He does this by first examining all the dialogue and jargon that infuses this field breaking through the barriers of semantics and attempting to clear the confusion. This is primarily encompassed within the first 100 pages and, I admit, while his writing style is clear and no nonsense, there were times when my brain fogged over. I will have to re read a few of those pages.

Following that, Andy Beach explores and illustrates the use of most of the better-known encoders and players and some I've not been aware of. Apple's Compressor, QuickTime Player, Windows Media Player, Adobe Flash, Squeeze, Real Player, Visual Hub are all given their fair space with plenty of graphics and discussion as to their strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages.

While Mr. Beach spends plenty of time explaining the various theories and disparate views surrounding compression, the most valuable asset within Real World Video Compression's pages are his specific guidelines regarding the use of these applications in order to achieve the best possible result for your intended audience. Most of the book is devoted to just these pragmatic uses of the many compression tools accompanied with several color illustrations, suggestions for each and guidelines for their use.

Maybe it was sheer luck and timing but I was especially impressed with Mr. Beach's discussion of the fall of HD and the segment regarding the, for now, current supremacy of Blu Ray. It is both timely and on target.

Interspersed between many of the chapters are interesting interviews with several established compressionists. These interviews are more than just voyeuristic insights into their lives but can be very much an educational tool as we learn from them what apps and tools they prefer for the different types of projects they work on.

For the individual new to compressing video to DVD or to their various media players whether they be iPods, Play stations or mobile phones; for the experienced user still figuring out the best way to deliver media content to a client; for the You Tube user who frets at the loss of resolution when uploading, Andy Beach's Real World Compression will go a long ways towards alleviating much of the insecurity and indecision that often goes hand in hand with field of compression. High marks for this book.

Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 6 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, the History channel's MegaDisaster show, a soon to be broadcast special on National Geographic and other networks. Steve is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition and leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to Indonesia, Alaska, and the Coco Islands, Costa Rica in 2008, Kenyan safari in Africa and the Red Sea for 2009, and Truk Lagoon in Micronesia for 2010. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.

copyright © Steve Douglas 2008

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