Quantcast Automatically generated DVD Thumbnail-based Menus? - digitalFAQ Forum
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05-23-2011, 09:04 PM
Joekster Joekster is offline
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Hello All,

As a Wise Man said in the antepenultimate sentence of this post Are menus with or without thumbnails better?

"...no client has ever wanted to pay for the time needed to do a quality thumbnail menu".

For me that means text menus are "better" than thumbnail menus. The definition of "better" in that sentence is that it makes me more money, ha ha ha. That was a joke, son, that was a joke! A joke, yet true.


Every authoring package I've come across has the automatic-increment-of-time chapter method. That's what I use for my Regular package, chapter every 3 minutes.


BUT...
IF I wanted to be able to provide a "Premium" service and provide some sort of chapter menus based on the content
(i.e. Scene changes or major section changes)
AND...
IF I didn't have any way to decide on textual descriptions because I didn't know the subjects
(e.g. These are Pictures of Uncle Mort, This is Billy's Birthday Party and I don't know Mort or Billy
THEN
wouldn't a photo thumbnail be an acceptable compromise?


Although I may not know whose birthday party it is, I could extract a thumbnail of the party and let that be the menu item.


^^^
That part of the post is about whether Thumbnail Menus are ever acceptable.
---
This part of the post is about whether they can be cost-effective.
vvv


I looked around for fairly automated methods for extracting thumbnails based on Scene Changes, with nothing substantive found so far.

Yes, VirtualDub has "Scan to Scene Change" buttons now, but I was hoping for something a lot less manual.

So folks'll know that I've done some due diligence here's some DigitalFaq researching I've done:

Searched for "thumbnails" and read each link on the 3 pages of search results.

Searched for "scene change" and read the guide and the 2 forum posts

I looked at description for each of the VirtualDub filters hosted by Donald Graft http://neuron2.net/ .

Didn't find an automated solution.


Should I have to write something, I will. I'm thinking in terms of a VDub filter that will make a logfile of timestamps of major scene changes, which would then be used by some other program to capture the preceeding IFrame.

But I'll not spend hours and days writing the filter and the program if wiser heads here tell me it's a waste and the resulting Thumbnail Menus will just be a waste.



So: Thumbnail Menus - ever useable? any automated methods?



Joekster

VDub for capture and filters
For NLEing, I generally use Adobe CS3 & Elements.
Have considered TDA (TAW), but haven't felt like I needed it's zillion and one options YET (haha).
For easy-peasy projects, VS12 for NLE as well as authoring.
Just got DVDWS2 but other than bringing myself up to speed on it, haven't integrated it into my workflow, yet.
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05-23-2011, 10:21 PM
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Quote:
Thumbnail Menus - ever useable?
Usable? Sure. You can select content with them.
Useful? Not really.

Quote:
any automated methods?
No, not really.

Consider how a thumbnail menu is created by software:
  1. Thumbnails are based on chapter points. Chapters can only be made at an I-frame in the MPEG-2 video. A typical NTSC GOP is 15-18 frames long, with only one I-frame in the GOP. NTSC video runs at not quite 30 frames per second. So maybe two, at most, viable frames each second. Not every frame is worthy of a still shot, even if it does create a valid I-frame that can be used by the authoring software.
  2. Thumbnails always use the first I-frame. Some software will allow you to manually change it, similar to how Youtube and Facebook let you change the thumbnail for uploaded videos -- again to an I-frame, and at equidistant intervals pre-selected by the software's unintelligent AI. But most are just going to use the first I-frame, and you can't change it. Again, not every frame makes for a good still image.
  3. For still thumbnails, the still extracted image is drop-frame deinterlaced, giving it a really jaggy appearance. For video thumbnails, the video is drop-frame deinterlaced and scale down with a very rough method. In both cases, you're left with a really lousy thumbnail that may or may not properly illustrate the chapter content. It tends to look bad on a small computer screen where designed, and even worse on the larger TV or HDTV. Worse yet, it may not be useful, and would still require text to help the person understand what it is. Therein lies the failure of a thumbnail like this -- it doesn't help with navigation in the slightest.
Automated frame extraction, whether from authoring software or editing software, is unintelligent. It's the same technology that would power "automatic commercial removal", which is also not possible. The software attempts to guess which I-frame represents meaningful content change, but usually fails.

Ulead DVD Workshop 2 is a good example of excellent software that has a terrible "automatic chapter" function. I could close my eyes, randomly click the mouse as I moved it across the timeline path, and it would be no more accurate than DVDWS2's picks. I've seen DVDWS2 attempt to create 99 chapters for a 20-minute video!

TDA/TAW is great for menu-less DVD authoring; its menu quality is very lackluster. It's a good example of bad menu scaling, butchering of menu animation, and lack of aliasing on font work. It's a truly consumer/amateur program, when used to generate menus, as it looks like something homemade when compared to ... well .. pretty much anything else.

I know what you want, what you're wishing for. Heck, I'd like it, too! But it just doesn't exist.

The only way to make a quality thumbnail menu is to manually create each asset for the menu. I've seen some good projects by the members of this forum, but I know it took time and effort to put together. It wasn't just a few clicks and drags, and letting some software "do its thing". It was work -- hours of time invested.

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