I had a chance to try out the new DoStudio Encoder and I thought I'd share some of my initial first impressions with you regarding it. I'll start with some general summary and then come back to some more detail including some comparison to other encoders.
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Plain and simple, NetBlender delivered on what they set out to accomplish. They've made a great encoder that's very easy to use, especially if you are familiar with the UI conventions of DSA where most everything is accessed from a right-click contextual menu. On the whole the encoder has met or exceeded any expectations I had for its initial release.
Some people value speed, but for me quality is king. The first build I tried a couple weeks back had some glaring issues, but they've all been worked out, and I am now confident in saying that the quality is great, as good as a I hoped it would be, and the quality is suitable for the needs of everyone using DoStudio and should even be considered an option by those using Scenarist or Bluprint.
I have a fast machine, but it was always depressing with other encoders to see only 2 of my 8 cores being used, or if more than 2 were in use, commonly they were running at only 40%. So i smiled big when I pulled up the system performance tab during an encode and saw all 8 cores chugging along at 80%. So the new encoder is fast, but it's very smart about it as even though it was making better use of my horsepower than the other encoders out there my machine wasn't crippled, I could still surf the web, check email whatever. The complexity of the video is a big factor to speed, but in general on my machine I am seeing 2x or better on my encode tests ( an hour of video takes no more than 2 hours to encode).
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More on Quality:
Getting back to quality as I think that's probably paramount on anyone's mind who's looking to try out the encoder... DoStudio Encoder is currently a single pass encoder, and I have to admit I was initially bummed about that. However, this encoder is shockingly good for single pass. Seriously, it's shockingly good. I ran the same footage through the new Compressor 3.5 as well as Sonic's Cinevision AVC, and tried each of those in single pass and in two pass. In comparison, compressor and cinevision were laughable as single pass, they both had artifacts all over the place. Only with their respective 2nd passes enabled was there anything to compare. So whatever the engineers behind this encoder are doing, it's great stuff as they are producing quality on-par or better than the competition in a single pass. Throw in the time savings of not having to wait for that second pass to happen and DoStudio Encoder is suddenly leaping over the competition in terms of value.
For the purposes of this post I was really evaluating DSE against sonics cinevision AVC and apple's latest Compressor 3.5 and it's apparently now compliant AVC. Of those encoders, everybody takes QuickTime files as the input, so whatever codec you want will work so long as it plays back in QuickTime player. I think the manual has links to Windows versions of many popular codecs, and if it doesn't, I'll start a link list of them here. Functionality wise, both compressor and cinevision do more than DSE does. However the "more" isn't necessarily stuff most of us are concerned with. Compressor supports lots of other formats like cell phones and appletv and other non-relevant things to the topic of blu-ray. Cinevision goes beyond DSE's features by adding stuff targeted towards the "compression artist" like pre-filters and segmented re-encoding. DSE does one-up cinevision though with it's ability to let you start setting up a new project while it is encoding in the background which is really nice and it's also got a nifty ability to email you status reports on your encodes as it works through them.
All that said, regardless of how you get to the end encode, it always comes down to how it looks. When you get to high bitrate stuff, to some degree quality becomes subjective and two people don't always see the same things. From my findings, DSE is equally as good as what I get out of cinevision, perhpas the cost savings makes me biased towards DSE but I think it's encodes might actually look better than cinevision. Compressor? It's good, but it screws up the gamma if you have an RGB based source (like animation) making it flat and lacking contrast. With YUV footage Compressor was close but I like what I saw from DSE better.
How about compared to trusty old MPEG2? I ran a couple differnt MPEG encoders and none of them came close in quailty. All the MPEG2s look really noisy in comparison and it's obvious to choose the AVC.
One really interesting bonus with DSE that I'll look more into is that on every encode, even though I was setting the same bitrate in all 3 apps, the result from DSE was always a smaller file. Anywhere from 4% to 18% smaller, what's impressive still is that I'm picking DSE as the best quality and it's doing it with fewer bits then the other two.
Definitely interested to hear all of your comments, and I really think you'll like what you see when you get a chance to try out DSE