Archive for February 19th, 2008

Creating an HD disc in plain DVDs for free

Oh, the irony: now that the HD-DVD format is dead, now there IS a devised freeware way to burn your own HD video on plain DVD media discs. This method is attributed to um3k, I just put it together in a (hopefully) more comprehensive tutorial so everyone can follow the method easier, while I included a workflow that is more consistent with the way people work and edit their footage. The difficulty of carrying out the tutorial is “intermediate”, but after you are successful once, it should be a piece of cake from that point on. Basically, this method allows you to use a common DVD burner and common DVD disks to burn HD video. But you will still need an HD-DVD *player* to play that video back.

The interesting thing about this method is that it does not use EVO files, but plain VOB files that happen to be HD. This means that you can mix 480p and 720p and 1080p VOB files in it, and thus making it compatible with every DVD player out there (plain DVD and Blu-Ray players will be able to recognize the 480p VOB files and play them back, while HD-DVDs will play back their HD versions of the clips on the same disc).

You don’t need to use this method if you own the latest Pinnacle video editor, or the latest Ulead+Nero utilities as these apps can create 3xDVDs on their own. But if you use a different editor, e.g. Vegas or Premiere, and you are the unlucky owner of one of these 1.3+ million HD-DVD devices sold so far, this is the way to go. The method works with the A3 and A2 Toshiba HD-DVD devices (I tested it), and very possibly with their other HD-DVD models too (not sure about the XBoX360 though, you gotta try it yourself). The created HighDef DVDs also work with VLC and Media Player Classic on the PC. Don’t try these discs on the PS3 if you don’t also offer 480p versions of your videos on the same disc, because it will crash (I had to reboot my PS3). Other Blu-Ray players might, or might not work, let us know of your findings. Here is a similar tutorial for Blu-Ray video on plain DVD discs btw. The funny thing is that 80% of both these methods are identical for both HD architectures: from the moment you have completed step #7 (which takes care of the mutual mpeg2 encoding), creating a Blu-Ray and an HD-DVD disc should take 10 minutes for each from that point on, it’s that fast!

The following method is for Windows. For Linux, use this tutorial.

1. Install the stable 2.5.7 version of the AVISynth application. Follow the default options during installation. Once it’s installed, you can safely delete its downloaded installation file.

2. Download the plain version of Mplayer for Windows and unzip it somewhere that you can find back easily, e.g. c:\video\mplayer\

3. Download the Huffyuv lossless codec. Unzip the .zip file on your desktop, right click on the huffuyv.inf file and select “Install” (note: Vista might not give you that option, in which case manual registration of the codec’s DLL file must happen via the DOS prompt, google it). After about 15 seconds, you can delete these files from your desktop, as the Huffyuv lossless codec is now installed on your system. Open a DOS prompt and navigate to the mplayer folder (e.g. “cd c:\video\mplayer\”, without the quotes). There, run this command: vfw2menc -f huff -d huffyuv.dll -s settings.mcf and on the new dialog that pops up select: “Predict median (best)” from the first drop down menu, and “<-- Convert to YUY2" from the second drop down menu, while leaving unchecked the other options. Then click "ok" to discard the Huffyuv configuration dialog. This action only needs to be done once for your system and it helps us by forcing the Huffyuv codec to create smaller files. You can now delete the c:\video\mplayer\ folder and the Huffyuv files from your desktop. 4. Capture, set up the right Project Properties for your footage, and edit your HD or HDV footage as usual with Premiere or Vegas or other editor. Thorough exporting example under Vegas follows: To export, click "File" and "Render As". Select .avi for the "Save as type", and the "HDV 1080-60i intermediate" template (or 50i if you are on PAL). Then, hit "Custom". On the first tab select "Best" quality. On the video tab leave everything as is except the video format, select there "Huffyuv v2.1.1". Then, hit "Configure" and a new dialog pops up. There, make sure that "Predict median (best)" from the first drop down menu, and "<-- Convert to YUY2" from the second drop down menu are selected (leave unchecked the rest of the options there). Then click "ok" to take that new dialog away. On the Video tab make sure you export as progressive, with the right frame rate as the original footage and 1440x1080 and aspect ratio 1.3333 (if this was HDV footage, that is). Leave unchanged the "Audio" tab, and then hit "ok" in the "custom template" dialog. Then, you must give a name to your .avi file (e.g. "huff.avi") and hit "save" to a predefined folder (e.g. C:\video\huff.avi). The encoding procedure will start. Regarding Premiere/AE, I heard nightmare stories about not being able to export correctly in Huffyuv, so you might want to try a frameserver technique instead.

5. On Vegas, export again, but this time the audio alone: click “File” and “Render As” and from there select the “AC3” filetype. Name the audio file “audio.ac3” (or something like that) and export it on the C:\video\ folder again. If you can’t see an AC3 option on Vegas it’s either because you are using a pirated version of it, or because you forgot to install DVD Architect, the companion Vegas application. If you are not using Vegas, or if your video editor does not support exporting in AC3, you can use a freeware called BeLight to do the job. Try exporting the AC3 audio with a bitrate of 128 kbps, or 160 kbps and 192 kbps depending how much space you want to waste on audio versus quality.

6. Open notepad.exe or other text editor and add this line in it:
Save the text file as “avisynth.avs” on the same folder: c:\video\
If you get error messages, or you are using a frameserver, use this two-line code instead:
AviSource("C:\video\huff.avi", false)

Alternatively, you can also try this (in other words, use whatever works for you):
AviSource("C:\video\huff.avi", false).ColorYUV(levels="PC->TV")

7. Download and install the HCEnc utility. Load the HCEgui.exe and make it look like this. Leave the rest of the tabs of this app as is. If you are using a 24p Huffyuv AVI file instead of PAL 25p or NTSC 30p, use an “autogop” of 12 instead of the suggested 15 and also check the “3:2 pulldown” option too. When everything looks like the above screenshots, select “encode” and wait for the encoding to complete. Just a note, you might want to use more bitrate for the video than the 12000/15000 kbps suggested, maybe at around 15000 kbps average, 18000 kbps maximum. Don’t use more than that though, as the video will stutter during playback. Besides, the less bitrate you use, the more HD footage you can fit on a plain DVD disc, so find a golden balance between bitrate and video duration.

8. Download Avidemux2 and install it somewhere. After installation, load its avidemux2_gtk.exe executable. Load in it the output1.m2v file that HCEnc created on the previous step on the C:\video\ folder. When it asks you to index it, say “yes”. From the Audio menu option on the top menu bar select “main track”. Select “audio source” to be “external ac3”, and then using the “external file” browsing option tell it to load the “audio.ac3” file you created on step #5. Click “Ok”. On the sidebar on the left select “copy” and “copy” for both audio and video, but from the “Format” option select the “MPEG-PS (A+V)” option. Then from the main menu, select “File”, “Save”, and “Save Video”. Give it the name “output2.mpg” and export it on the C:\video\ folder again.

Note: If you want your 3xDVD to have separate videos clips instead of a single video, you must follow steps #4 to #8 for each of your clips.

9. Download and install the DVDAuthorGUI utility, and then load the application. Select NTSC or PAL from the right side of its window, depending what your footage is. Select “add title” from the toolbar and change the “files of type:” to “mpeg with NAV packets”. Then load the “output2.mpg” file you exported in the previous step. If you have exported more than one clip above, you will have to load the rest of these .mpg files the same way, one by one. Now you can continue authoring the DVD the way you want to, with menus and other beautifications, or go straight to the meat and select “Author DVD” from the toolbar. Select “folder” as the “Save as type”, navigate to c:\video\ and give it the file name “dvd”. DVDAuthorGUI will create a folder called “dvd” inside the c:\video\ folder, and inside that “dvd” folder it will create the HD DVD files and folders as required by the DVD spec.

10. Download and install ImgBurn. Go to “Build” mode, select the C:\video\dvd\ folder from the “Browse for a folder” icon on the vertical toolbar. On the “Destination” option select c:\video\hddvd.iso as filename. In the “options” tab on the right side select the ISO9660+UDF filesystem. Then click the big button that “builds” the DVD ISO file. When this is done, change to “Write” mode. From the “source” select the “browse for a file” and seleect the “hddvd.mds” file found on the c:\video\ folder. Then put an empty DVD-R or DVD-RW disc on your burner (warning: avoid dual-layer discs, not very compatible). When you do this, the big button will be enabled, and then you can start burning the disc! Enjoy!

If you would like to test this method but you have no HD footage of your own yet, feel free to download my favorite HD clips found on (if you have a Vimeo account and you visit their respective pages, you can download the original uploaded HD video file):

Fried guts

I know I am not pregnant, but while I was browsing the net tonight my tongue suddenly filled, out of the blue, with a familiar food taste: fried goat or sheep organs and intestines. Oh, God, I missed (true) Greek food so much. There is no way I can find such animal parts here in the US to cook something like this (I am afraid that I might even get jailed for asking a butcher where to find such animal parts). The vast majority of people don’t even eat goat meat here, let alone its guts.

I remember how my mother prepares them very well. My uncle (or occasionally my father) would slaughter and skin the free-range goat from his own herd (he’s got over 200 goats), my aunt who doesn’t like cooking this involving recipe much would bring the guts to my mother (who doesn’t mind it) within the hour, and then we would share the final outcome.

My mother would find a 40cm length, 1 cm width, stick/branch from a tree, clean it up to make it straight and then she would pull the branch into the intestines to turn them inside-out. The branch is a very good trick to turn intestines inside-out, because it’s imperative they are cleaned well with lots of cold water on the inside, because it’s their inside part that’s mostly dirty (as this is where food goes to become poo in the animal). I can’t explain it how the branch turns the small intestine inside-out, but it does, you have to try it to see it for yourself. You also clean up well with lots of cold water the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and spleen. Remove any parts that are not directly part of the organs. If you see discoloration or weird spots on some of the organs, you throw away either the entire organ, or you clean it up very well by removing these cancerous parts (yes, sometimes goats and sheep have cancer).

Then, you put them all to boil in a big pan, uncovered. In the first few minutes that they will start to boil, floating blood will come out of them (it will look gray, not red), and you need to use a spoon to remove the blood from the boiling pan. After a while, no blood comes out anymore. You remove the water, you put new, clean water in the pan, and you boil again. Boil for 30 mins, and then you throw that water away too. You change the water yet once more if the animal is old (older animals are more smelly than young ones). For the final water change, you add new cold water, you boil again, but this time you cover. You let the guts cook for over 1.5 hours (much less if you have a pressure cooker). Then, you remove the water again, and you let the guts get cold so you don’t burn your fingers while carrying out the next step.

You take a knife and you cut all the guts in small pieces, about 1″ in size (2-3cm). You put lots of olive oil in a big frying pan, you add your guts in there (you probably will need to fry twice, as a full goat’s guts won’t fit in a single frying session), you add lots of oregano, some salt & pepper, and you fry until they become dark in color and rigid. You add 1/5 cup of lemon juice on each of the frying sessions and you fry for 2-3 more minutes.

Then, they are ready to eat, usually with home-made French fries (also with oregano and salt on them). It’s a lot of work to properly clean and prepare this recipe, but it’s yummy, yummy, yummy. Another way to cook the intestines instead of boiling/frying them is to rotisserie them on a horizontal stick, just like this (press enter on the URL to view image). This is called “Kokoretsi” and you can ask for this dish on most grill houses in Greece.

As for the stomach of the goat, we keep that aside, along with some of the intestines, to make a soup called “patsas“. Another favorite of mine. My mother makes one of the best patsas ever in an avgolemono-like recipe (as in my recipe on the link, but with no rice or chicken, but with lots of garlic and the rest of the technique as described there).

Regardless, they are lovely animals too, not just tasty. Sheep are my favorite animals, but goats are really smart.

1.3 million HD-DVD devices sold

Now that the HD war is officially over with Toshiba’s press release a few hours ago, the question is: what to do with 1.3 million HD-DVD devices sold so far. One solution is simply to continue using them for your already purchased HD-DVD discs, or to use them as a plain DVD player.

However, the ideal solution for these devices would be to have a special media-based Linux distro on it. There’s over 128 MB of internal storage on every one of these 6 HD-DVD models that Toshiba released, and each one has an Ethernet port too. What makes sense to me, is for Toshiba to fully publicize their hardware specs of all their 6 models, and write a Linux HD-DVD application to playback HD/DVD discs via Linux (and sell the app for like, $20 or so). At the same time, let the Linux community write and port applications and codecs and libraries, and make the HD-DVD devices powerful media streaming and web browsing devices (that can also playback A/V from discs too). From Theora and OGG to WMV and DivX and h.264. The only unknown is the amount of RAM these devices have.

I personally believe that this would be a pretty nice project given the fact that there are 1.3 million devices sold out there, and these babies can playback HD content without sweating. Who needs the AppleTV and its 720/24p and codec limits?

The genius of “Lost”

I know, I know. This blog is a lot like “Lost”‘s fan blog, but what can I do? It’s my favorite piece of art and brain cell massaging entertainment device.

This poll’s results show how genius the writers are, and how non-traditional they are in the way they tell their story. Think about it, Ben is supposed to be the “bad” guy in the series. And yet, unlike all other cowboys and indians-style shows, “Lost” achieves a perfect balance in creating interesting characters that are not single-dimensional while entertains at the same time in an ultimate level (at least it gives me what I want from a series: transport me away from my daily reality to the island). The poll shows viewers who can’t decide if the bad guy is actually bad!

Best. Show. Ever.