Quantcast Cinema Craft Encoder Basic, anywhere to buy? - digitalFAQ Forum
11-08-2010, 11:08 PM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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I have been reading rave reviews about this encoder in terms of speed and quality, yet it seems to have been discontinued by the author last year. Is there any source where one can legally obtain this program still? The standard version is a bit pricey to buy just for this job, and is likely overkill anyway.

If not, is TMPGEnc a suitable replacement in terms of quality for MPEG-2 DVD encodes? Source material will be mostly shaky VHS and Betamax home movies. I'm trying to avoid using open source tools as they seem to not be as optimized at these tasks (great for shrinking/re-encoding DVD movies to one disc though) that the commercial encoders are.
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11-08-2010, 11:49 PM
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Every time I read or hear the name CinemaCraft, I feel like I'm back in 2000-2002. Let's step back about a decade (2010 now, so going back to 2000-2002 time frame).

Many years ago, MPEG encoders were pretty lousy -- even the professional ones. DVD technology was still relatively new, and the ability to create DVDs at home had not really happened yet. Most professional MPEG encoders were dedicated hardware (Matrox, Canopus, Sonic Solutions) or software from the likes of Panasonic, Sony, Terran (Cleaner), Ligos (LSX) and Custom Tech (CCE) -- with both types mostly being tied into an NLE or authoring setup like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro or Scenarist.

Of the available software encoders, the CinemaCraft Encoder was the best -- or to be more honest, the one that sucked the least. It was reasonably fast, held down blocky-ness pretty well, and could give decent multi-pass encoding. Most software encoders of that generation created blocky video, were single-pass (or did multi-pass terribly), and wanted more bitrate for even quality.

Things changed.

First came TMPGEnc Plus and Procoder.
Then MainConcept.
Then a crap load of others, some of them even being freeware.

MainConcept has more or less become the industry standard for MPEG encoding technology, as well as H.264 encoding. It was just that good. It's replaced a lot of hardware use, much to the aggravation of vendors that used to make or sell it. MainConcept knows it, too -- the price of their encoder has gone from $200 to $400 to $500 and higher, over the course of the past 6 years alone.

CinemaCraft was always an expensive program -- one that I think was unjustly/ridiculously priced -- at around $2,000 per copy. Hackers/crackers easily bypassed the serials and security on the program, and it was passed around quite a bit on the underground warez scene of its day -- Morpheus, Kazaa, Hotline, Limewire, etc. It's almost amusing to see freeware consumer "DVD copy" programs (like DVD-Rebuilder) coming with the added option of using the professional Procoder or CinemaCraft software as the encoding engine. Sure, some of us actually owned those programs (I've long had Procoder), but it's user base was obviously more widespread than the official license counts probably showed.

In the wake of all this freeware (QuEnc, HC Enc), consumer cheapware (TMPGEnc) and lower-priced newcomers (MainConcept), both Canopus and Custom Tech released stripped down and near-useless version of their apps -- Canopus Procoder Express and CinemaCraft Basic for under $100.

Sure, the programs worked well, but for the same price (at the time), you could get TMPGEnc and not be limited in bitrates, resolution, two-pass encoding, and other areas. Yes, TMPGEnc was slower, but CinemaCraft had it's own problems.

The biggest drawback to CinemaCraft has always been it's handling (and creation) of "mosquito noise" -- the noise that happens just before MPEG blocks start to break out. It's often referred to as "JPEG noise" because JPEG still images suffer the same types of artifacts when overcompressed or encoded/saved with poorer encoding methods.

The reason that neither Procoder Express and CinemaCraft Basic are no longer made is that -- and I'm giving an educated guess here -- is because there was no demand. The full version was what non-pros wanted, so those without ethics would just pirate it. Non-pros with ethics bought other software. Pros had already moved on to other apps during the time CCE was stagnant (compared to what others were doing). Given the era when this happened, around 2004-2005, home DVD creation was becoming more prevalent, and we saw a rise in those shoddy "all-in-one" apps, like iMovie. People did not have the patience to learn quality methods -- or worse, they were unaware of them. So MPEG encoders in general were not matching the upturn in DVD burners, blanks and other related software. Many companies -- MainConcept, especially -- offered their MPEG encoding engines via licensing to companies like Ulead/Corel, Adobe and Sonic Foundry (now Sony Digital), thereby adjusting to the times and its demand for all-in-one apps where MPEG encoding was a background operation.

This site has long (since 2002!) adhered to the principal of using the right tool for the right job -- as well as using a quality tool. When you want to encode an MPEG, you need a good MPEG encoder. About a decade ago, that was CinemaCraft. Now it's not, and probably never will be again.

What amazes me is that I have never met anybody at any studio, production company, indy film, etc., that has used CinemaCraft. The only CCE users I've ever come across have been using demo copies or illegally hacked copies.

According to the CCE site, Apple Compressor 3.x uses CCE. Well, most reviews I've seen for Compressor have not been all that favorable. I don't know where their revenue comes from, but I can't imagine it being their MPEG encoding software to end users. From my perspective, CCE was a product that started off strong, but slowly petered out in the past number of years, overtaken by competitors that did it better, did it faster, did it cheaper.

Yeah, TMPGEnc Plus 2.5 is a great encoder. Go ahead and use it, without feeling that you're missing out on something else.
And only $37 from http://edge.affiliateshop.com/public...7389&BID=12418
Guide for using it at http://www.digitalFAQ.com/guides/video/convert-tmpg.htm

I'd skip CCE in favor of pretty much anything else.

My personal preference is for MainConcept Reference -- a professional encoder for MPEG-2 and H.264 (and some other formats).
Get it for about $550 at http://esd.element5.com/affiliate.ht...reference.html

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11-09-2010, 12:11 AM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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Sounds like I ran across some more outdated information (damn you videohelp!). Ligos LSX-MPEG, now that is a flash from the past. I actually had the full version of that at one point (3.0), I think it came with my Matrox card. Highly doubt it works too well on my Windows 7 x64 machine, although I hear its what powers ATI MMC's MPEG compression. Codecs have come a long way in 10 years, thats for sure.

If anything, I will be keeping the lossless HuffYUV compressed source files. Should something better come along, I can always re-encode.
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11-09-2010, 01:36 AM
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lordsmurf lordsmurf is offline
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Videohelp is a good site, but as with any other really large forum, you'll run across a variety of opinions. When the site shifts heavy to non-pros, you can find yourself surrounded by people who don't know their ass from their elbow. You almost have to know something about the topic in advance, so you can learn new information from educated sources, while still ignoring the baloney.


Not all Ligos applications were the same. Ligos, like Panasonic and Sony, were companies that mostly made hardware encoders, and their software versions simply did not translate well. ATI's supposed use of Ligos would have been on the hardware side (Theatre chipsets) from what I had read many, many years ago.

---- EDIT: Nope, nope, nope -- I had it backwards. The Ligos GoMotion MPEG encoding engine formed the basis of the ATI Multimedia Center (ATI MMC) MPEG encoding, in some sort of hybrid with the Rage Theatre (Theatre 100) chipset found on the card. You can read more about that in Maximum PC, May 2000 issue that was written for the ATI All In Wonder (ATI AIW) 128 Pro, which was one of the first cards to use ATI MMC 7, and was consider the earliest of the classic ATI AIW Radeon series cards. /EDIT ----

Speaking of old MPEG encoders, you may get a kick out of the reviews from tangentsoft.com, including both the factual information and the commentary. Not that I agree with 100% of what he wrote, but it was still interesting.

In case the side goes missing, I'm archiving those pages here in this post, as PDFs of the "printed" versions of the pages. I've also attached RAR files with the sample images and data linked to on the original pages, and mentioned in the PDFs.


Attached Files
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg1 - MPEG Encoder Reviews.pdf (65.6 KB, 6 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg2a - Encoder Criteria.pdf (36.3 KB, 2 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg2b - Analysis Method.pdf (48.5 KB, 2 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg3 - bbMPEG.pdf (63.2 KB, 2 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg4 - CinemaCraft Encoder Basic.pdf (63.0 KB, 13 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg5 - CinemaCraft Encoder SP.pdf (69.0 KB, 7 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg6 - Hauppauge WinTV PVR.pdf (74.2 KB, 2 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg7 - Ligos LSX-MPEG.pdf (86.4 KB, 0 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg8 - Pinnacle Systems Studio DV.pdf (68.8 KB, 1 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg9 - Tsunami MPEG Encoder (TMPGEnc).pdf (70.3 KB, 3 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg10 - Vitec Multimedia DVD Cut Machine.pdf (75.6 KB, 1 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg11 - Vitec Multimedia MPEG Maker.pdf (67.9 KB, 1 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg12 - Conclusions.pdf (41.3 KB, 4 downloads)
File Type: pdf Tangentsoft pg13 - Summary Tables.pdf (64.7 KB, 8 downloads)

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Last edited by lordsmurf; 11-09-2010 at 01:46 AM. Reason: ATI correction
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11-09-2010, 01:38 AM
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lordsmurf lordsmurf is offline
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What I find amusing is the assertion that "hardware is dead" -- not likely to happen, ever. But there was quite a bit of decent software out there at the time. Those reviews were dated to have been from 2006, but were clearly originally written around 2001 or so, with updates and additions (CCE Basic, for example) having been made 5 years later.

You don't see a lot of quality discussion of MPEG encoding (or even H.264 encoding) anymore. So sad.

Pages 14-16 were other documents from that site, related to MPEG, and worth a quick read. Again, not sure I agree with any of that 100%, but it's still worth your time to peruse what's been discussed and analyzed in depth.

Here's the rest of the files...

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11-09-2010, 07:40 AM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
What I find amusing is the assertion that "hardware is dead" -- not likely to happen, ever.
It still lives, in camcorders anyway as hardware is key in real time capture applications. Like software it only improves with time and there seems to be an active community that does quality tests on various cameras and HD capture cards. A good example is the current crop of AVCHD cameras. The first batch were kinda hit or miss in terms of quality and would even stop recording if there was too much motion (codec wasn't compressing the video enough and overwhelmed storage I/O).

Nice to see a review including the G400-TV. Its interesting to see such a late review of the card, but nothing about its crappy Windows 2000 support. Even then people were more concerned about how well cards were for TV watching then video capture. Many people don't realize that the Matrox had its roots in video capture, the TV Tuner was grafted on to compete in the all-in-one market (the Matrox's video capture section was from their well regarded Rainbow Runner line). 90MB/min video was a big deal then, now its something to laugh about.
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