XviD vs h.264

      I finally have a stable setup that can encode a DVD to both h.263(DivX/XviD) and h.264(AVC). Since several devices I have cannot playback h.264 due to the higher computational difficulty, I wanted to see if it was worth the cost. Here's the side-by-side comparison.

      The test was run using 'handbrake' to encode from DVD to h.263 (using ffmpeg) and AVC (using x264). The source was detelecined, and encoded using 2-pass at the listed bitrate. All other video settings were left as default since I don't understand the advanced settings anyway. Sound was 160Kb/s aac for all videos as sound wasn't being tested. The source was the credit free opening from the second Toradora DVD. Screenshots and general playback was using 'mediaplayerclassic-homecinema'.

      I'm sorry this does not fit nicely without side scrolling on most screens, but I wanted the comparison to be side-by-side.

      For historical purposes, the old video encoder overview is still available here.

Crashed 400
      We begin at 400 kilobits per second. At this setting, handbrake using ffmpeg to encode h.263 would reliably crash. AVC looks fair in stills, but lacks sharpness in motion.
600 600
      600Kb/s: XviD is straight unusable. AVC does not noticeably improve.
800 800
      800Kb/s: XviD is still too blocky to use. AVC is actually approaching usable, though it is still a bit jagged.
1000 1000
      1000Kb/s: XviD is cleaning up, but still unpleasant. AVC is well into being usable, though well short of the source.
1200 1200
      1200Kb/s: This is the lowest I would want to set XviD for an archive. First frames are still noisy, though by the second frame, the encoder is cleaning up the image quite a bit. AVC is very nice looking by this point.
1500 1500
      1500Kb/s: XviD is actually looking nicer than the image overall (see conclusions) though it is no match to the source. AVC is approaching the quality of the source.


      There were several things I learned about the encoders while doing this. One is that XviD seems to require 2-3 frames to build up a sharp image, even at high bitrates. AVC seems to be able to frontload the sharpening more effectively. Another thing I'm having trouble tracking down is why XviD seems to lack contrast compared to the source.

      In the end, it is clear that AVC brings much better quality to the table than XviD. There are now handhelds on the market that will play AVC, so it may just be time to upgrade.

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