Archive for April 30th, 2005

The sorry state of h.264 on the PC – UPDATED

Until QuickTime 7 is released for Windows, expect very poor support for the promising h.264 codec under Windows. I downloaded all available h.264 solutions for Windows today and the problems were severe:

1. The ‘Moonlight-Elecard MPEG Player’ does not have sound support for Apple’s HD trailers (encoded with AAC) and it’s skipping frames a lot on my brand new P4-630 3 GHz PC (1920×700 resolution of the clip) and has no sound support for AAC.

2. The DivX codec/player: Windows Media Player 10 and its third party codec coming from the DivX player is not better performance-wise either. Note that Apple machines can do it almost full speed on the aging memory-bandwidth-wise G4s 1.5 GHz and above (the G5s can do it easier). The Mac Mini 1.42 GHz G4 was skipping a few frames (I tried it yesterday at the Apple Store), but it was still fully usable (no sound skipping), while a 3 GHz PC can’t run the same clip as fast because the current solutions are not optimized-enough (and they don’t even decode sound)!

3. The Fastvdo codec that runs on top of Windows Media Player 10: WMP on XP-SP2 *crashes* every time I try to play an h.264 video! I had to uninstall that third party codec moments after I installed it.

4. VideoLAN and FFmpeg projects are working on a solution as we speak, but it’s still very early, very unoptmized and not fully compatible either. It will take many months before we have good support of h.264 under Linux/Windows through ffmpeg.

In other words, if you really need good h.264 support, buy a G5 Mac, or wait for Quicktime 7 for Windows (and we are not even sure if QT for Windows will be as optimized as its OSX counterpart anyway). In both cases, the solution is Apple.

UPDATE: Here is a screenshot of QT 7 on OSX playing an HD h.264 video (resolution of the video is 1920×1080). Apparently my dual G4 PowerMac 1.25 GHz is as fast as the Mac Mini 1.42 when playing these videos (usable, but a bit choppy). A G5, a 23+” LCD (or a CRT that can go up to 1920 pixels wide at a decent refresh rate) and QuickTime Pro are highly recommended in order to fully experience these high resolution videos.

UPDATE 2: The Moonlight-Elecard guys read about my complaints and JUST sent me a new version of their h.264 codec and now I am able to run the HD videos on my P4 without skipping frames!! YES! There is still no AAC sound support, but this is coming soon as well. I am happy now, these guys are fast. 🙂

UPDATE 3: AAC sound support is now here too! They just sent it to me. They are quick! 😮

Troy, the movie

We watched Troy tonight on DVD, that movie with Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and that untalented chap, Orlando Bloom (he is hot only as Legolas ;). As many might already know, Greeks were pissed off about this movie last year because it did not follow Homer’s Iliad in terms of storyline: Menelaos and Agamemnon were presented as assholes instead of respectable heroes, Achilees lived to see the fall of Troy, trojan war lasted 15 days instead of 10 years etc.

Now, let me tell you this: I don’t personally find the changes in the storyline disturbing. Hollywood NEEDS a movie that WORKS with TODAY’s audience, not with the one 3,000 years ago. Therefore, the good guy and the bad guy had to live until the end of the movie, plus there had to be a bad guy to start with (Iliad is pretty neutral in its storytelling). Besides, who are we to know for sure that the Iliad way was the way things really happened? Iliad has some real story in it, but most of it is a myth in the hands of its artist (Homer). In other words, what Greeks are accusing today the movie of, is what Homer exactly did 2800 years ago when he released his number one hit to the market, Iliad: Change of the real story to suit the needs of his audience (don’t bother telling me that Achilees was indeed half-immortal cause I won’t believe you ;-).

However, where I DO have a fucking problem with the movie, is with the actual FACTS. The movie presented Sparta and Mycynae as *shipyard ports* while none of the two had any ports whatsoever (Sparta was built next to a small river, and Mycynae was in the middle of the Peloponnisos on top of a mountain, far away from sea/rivers). Additionally, Troy’s architecture is phony: statues and people’s clothes is a mix up from Messopotamia, later Greece and Egypt and have nothing to do with the real Troy. Even worse, Odysseus’ armor is the exact same as the one Romans had, 1200 years after his time! NOTHING in this movie is authentic-looking. This movie FAILS miserably to capture the world of 1200 BC. People are more familiar with how things looked in 500 BC in Greece or in 100 AD in Rome, and they don’t bother researching the Mycynae civilization and its surroundings (which had nothing to do with the later Greece of the Socrates time that most people are familiar with).

Something that not many non-greeks know is that the “Greeks” of 1200 BC (and the trojan war) are NOT the same “race” as the ones lived in 500 BC (which was the high-point of the greek civilization that most people are familiar about). A race called Ahaioi came to Greece from the north about 1000 BC, killed off the current greek residents (called Dorieis in reality) and conquered the land and had their own civilization developed. That’s why the world of 1200 BC DOES NOT LOOK the same as the one the movie conveniently tries to show as “generally greek” (‘gourouni sto saki’ as we say in Greece).

To recap: It’s fine to change the storyline over the original, because making a successful movie that works with modern audiences is what counts ultimately (people payed millions to create this movie, they should see some revenue back). But changing stuff that *wouldn’t hurt* to leave unchanged, is where that art director and producer needs pissing on.

In this fight, both the Greeks and the producers are wrong: Greeks for getting pissed off for the wrong reasons (with their known chauvinistic approach over things) and the producers for not doing proper historical research on the subject to try to authentically recreate the world of 1200 BC.