transcoding cartoons

I’ve been very cautious about posting any progress reports about my transcoding adventures, because the arguments I use keep changing while I test things. In fact, I deleted the last two posts about transcode because I later proved myself to be completely wrong.

I have, however, found some settings when it comes to cartoons that has worked well on everything I’ve thrown at it so far, minus one. The only exception was Roger Ramjet, where I do a two-pass on it because it looks better.

Cartoon DVDs are the worst culprits of trying to encode video though. All the DVDs are variable framerate or 23.97 fps or detected incorrectly, and with some being so old, it’s easy to get visual artifacts if you’re not careful. Here’s what I’ve been using though:

transcode -x vob,vob –hard_fps -M 2 -R 3 -w 2 -B 3,9,16 -y xvid -A -N 0x2000 -a 0 -b 128,0,0 –write_pid -f 0,4 –export_frc 1 -J ivtc -J decimate -J 32detect=force_mode=5:chromathres=2:chromadi=9 -i $1 -o cartoon.avi

Ninety percent of that is from the framerate.txt doc that comes with the transcode page. The only thing that I added myself was to copy over the Dolby Digital audio tracks instead of encoding them to MP3, and then I added --write-pid which obviously isn’t going to affect anything.

If you look at the man page (which is very nicely laid out, btw) and lookup each argument I’m using, you’ll see what I’m doing here. If you don’t feel like it, I’ll cover it briefly.

Basically I’m forcing transcode to read it at 29.97 frames per second, but forcing it to export it to 23.97 instead. It sounds strange to specifically set those, I know, but doing just that won’t save your skin. It’s the filters I’m using as well that fix the framerate and deinterlace the video that fix it up as well and make it all clean and pretty. And even better, the audio and video are in sync — which, by the way, is really hard to look for on a cartoon.

Everytime I tried to do two passes on any cartoon, it really made it look nasty. The lines would be blurry, and it just looked low quality overall. Using this one pass makes them all look pretty darn nice.

One other magic trick that I do is I tell XviD to encode it as a cartoon. From what I’ve read, and seen, doing this increases the quality a little bit. To do that, just install xvid4conf, and save a vanilla file to ~/.transcode/xvid4.cfg. Then, just copy that to the directory where your ripped DVD’s VOB files are at, and edit it so that cartoon = 1. If you’re feeling lazy, here’s how to do it with sed: sed --in-place -e s/cartoon\ =\ 0/cartoon\ =\ 1/ xvid4.cfg

Once you’re ready, go ahead and encode it with transcode. I must say, I like the results that I’ve gotten every time. And for me not to complain … well, you know that’s a step in the right direction, since I’m super picky.

Encoding live action shows is a completely different beast altogether. Essentially, there is no magic bullet, but I’ll cover that in a later post. I’m cautiously optimistic about these settings though, at least for cartoons, and would tenatively recommend them for now.

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