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ADS USB Instant DVD for MacsReturn to News Page

Innobits Consultant Comments on Mac Version
of ADS USB Instant DVD Encoder

Posted: 12/17/2002

Pixela CaptyDVD Update: The Feb. 18th, 2003 main site news page had a report on a 1.1.3 software update to Pixela' CaptyDVD software (v1.0 bundled with initial Mac Instant DVD devices readers said). Scroll down the page of CaptvDVD reports on this feedback page for info. Pixela japanse download page is here.

Bob Hudson, a consultant to Innobits (makers of the BitVice MPEG2 encoder for Mac) sent a long mail with positive comments on the ADS Mac USB Instant DVD encoder as well as commenting on the software package. (It's too long for a main news page post and the previous Pixela/ADS reports page is too long already to list it there.)

" I'm the software ergonomics consultant for Innobits, the Swedish company that makes the BitVice MPEG2 Encoder for Mac. We've been very interested in the development of new Mac DVD authoring programs because a lot of iDVD users and non-DVD users want something other than the $999 DVD SP option. Hundreds of DVD SP users have also purchase the BitVice encoder, but we'd love to see an inexpensive Mac authoring option so people could take advantage of the encoding benefits of BitVice without having to sell their car to buy an authoring program.

The people at ADS have been kind enough to send me an evaluation copy and I will be testing it in regards to use of 3rd part MPEG2 files, but also looking at its overall features.

One thing I found before I received the system is that it has what may be a vastly superior hardware encoder compared to the Windows version. As noted by some of your other readers, it will do 6Mbps compared to the 5Mbps max bitrate for the Windows version and it offers VBR as well, although one-pass variable bitrate encoding does not have near the variation of multiple-pass encoders, which normally are software only. The Mac encoder hardware (and presumably its embedded encoding algorithms ) was developed by Cirrus Logic and if anyone is in for some deep reading, they have specs at
http://www.cirrus.com/en/products/pro/detail/P951.html.

While many people are focused on the software in this ADS system, I think this new hardware encoder may be the most exciting part of this whole package. If the encoder is only as good as the QuickTime encoder that comes with iDVD and DVD SP then it should produce superior MPEG2 files from analog video because it allow users to skip the typical conversion from analog to DV before going to MPEG2. Eliminating DV artifacts from the stream makes it much easier on MPEG2 encoders (of course you can always buy an expensive analog card for your NLE and get lots and lots of drive space to avoid the DV step....).

I think this hardware encoder could be the beginning of the end for those hardware encoder boards that cost computer users thousands of dollars. They were produced for a very small market, but now with the explosion of TIVO, DVD recorders and other such devices, hardware MPEG2 encoding has gone mass market with its economies of scale and this ADS encoder is an example of how that has benefited Mac users. I can easily imagine someone taking this same Cirrus Logic technology and putting it in a box with component video inputs or DV inputs. It could still use USB for output to the computer because even USB 1's 12Mbps bandwidth is more than capable of handling a typical DVD MPEG2 stream of under 8Mbps (and with a good encoder you never need to go above 5 or 6 Mbps). Cirrus has said its new MPEG2 encoding/decoding hardware can be put in a box costing under $200.

A word about the software in the ADS bundle. Pixela is a Japanese company that has long produced software bundled with some Sony camcorders and other products, but this is their first Mac software. Pixela's PC software has never had a very good reputation and from what I've read, most people who tried, soon tossed it aside. A couple of years ago Canon came out with a Windows video editing program that seemed to be inspired by iDVD (although it was analog only), but it looked terrible and seems to have disappeared with little notice. I do have to congratulate Pixela though for taking on a Mac software development project, but even with just a quick tour through it, it's clear they did not finish their homework, which is a shame because with some refinement (and a real Mac user interface) this could be a killer standalone program (and Pixela tells me that they do want to sell the software by itself).
As someone who has a studio full of Sony, Canon and Panasonic hardware I would like to see software such as Pixela's reach the same standard of excellence that we see in the hardware. Again, I think Pixela deserves a big hand for producing a brand new Mac OS X DVD product and I hope that they listen to user feedback and improve and refine it. They deserve to succeed with this one, and it's something the Mac community really needs.

Someone had said they could only edit to within one second: the program's MPEG2 Cutter module (which, by the way, only handles MPEG's captured by the ADS hardware - no QuickTime of BitVice m2v files accepted) seems to actually allow cutting closer than one second (even though that's what the User's Guide says it does). It actually appears to allow cutting at each GOP (where there are new I frames -frames that are encoded without reference to another frame) and based on the test mpg file that comes with it, this would appear to be about every 12 frames. This is about as close as you are going to get for a DVD compliant MPEG 2 stream.

One more thought, Formac has finally upgraded its Mac DVD encoding and authoring software (which is only available with its DVD burner). The say it allows you to produce "chapters," but it doesn't: we think of chapters (in the DVD standard formally known as Parts of Title) as points we can jump to withing a movie, but Formac merely allows you to put several movies on one disk, each with its own menu button, same as iDVD does. However, the Formac devideon is finally starting to generate some favorable user reports so it may at last be ready to provide an iDVD alternative.
-- Bob Hudson,
Consultant to Innobits,
makers of the BitVice
MPEG2 encoder for Mac
http://innobits.se/

There's a previous page here of comments/reviews of ADS's Mac USB Instant DVD and Pixela's software.



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