User Interface in v1.45 beta

Nov 12, 2012 at 7:10 AM

While I love the ability to specify the H.264 level (and the beta path in general), I really miss the "advanced user options" a lot. What's the reason for this move? Maybe (if all these settings look confusing to some of us) it could be made an option like "Simple/Advanced"?

Coordinator
Nov 12, 2012 at 7:50 AM

What settings did you change on the old Advanced user interface and why?

Nov 12, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Starting from preset "High Profile", I changed e.g. "Reference Frames" and "Max. B-Frames" to 5, checked "No DCT-Decimate", increased "Deblocking" to -3;-3 on some types of movies, increased "Subpixel-ME" to 9, changed "ME-Method" to UMH...

Of course, I created several presets of my own with various High-Profile settings - and I could live without "advanced user option". But when you do some tests it's a lot easier to click and select from comboboxes than to remember to correct option strings... I mean, you've coded that stuff already and it worked just fine, so why throw it away?

Coordinator
Nov 12, 2012 at 4:09 PM

But, why did you want to change those settings? What were you trying to accomplish? Have you tried using the filters and x264 preset/profile/tune settings to do it?

My main reason for removing them is that the x264 developer believes that the preset system should work better than the advanced options for anybody who isn't an x264 developer. So exposing all of this advanced UI for users to just casually change wasn't really doing anyone a service, it was just offering the illusion of control.

But still, the decision isn't set in stone. If there's goals you want to accomplish by editing those settings that are simply not possible now, please let me know about them. But please do not list goals like "changing reference frames", they should be goals like "increasing encoding quality" that are impossible to do by changing the preset.

Nov 12, 2012 at 6:03 PM
Edited Nov 12, 2012 at 6:08 PM

I see your point. 

The main reason for fiddling with those settings is trying to get the best quality along with keeping the filesize within reasonable limits. There are so many tips to be found on the internet in various places (doom9's and handbrake's forum in my case) that sound quite promising, like "allow more b-frames to reduze filesize", etc. I agree that some of them turn out to be placebo, while others may help to reduce banding and block artefacts to a certain amount.

Anyway, I love VidCoder very much - even without "advanced user settings". But please don't try to simply things too much: I think there's no need for another "EasyBrake" (http://www.easybrakeconverter.com), where HandBrake turned into a single-button-solution...  ;-) (not meant to be an offense; many users will surely embrace the ease of use).

Coordinator
Nov 12, 2012 at 8:37 PM

Well, of course there's settings you can tweak to get better quality. These are usually at the expense of encode speed. You can manage this tradeoff in a much more straightforward way by picking the preset you want.

Say that Feature A is fast and gives you a lot of quality while Feature B is slow and gives you very little quality. You'd want to enable Feature A before you enable Feature B, because you get more "bang for your buck". But it's not obvious which settings have what costs and what benefits, so x264 but all these features on a sliding scale. Feature A shows up in almost all presets, while Feature B is only enabled in the slowest presets, after all the "easy optimizations" are turned on.

If you've got special content and want to modify the encoding to optimize for that, you've got Tune.

If you've got such great knowledge of x264's internals and settings that you think you have some settings that are faster and better quality than any of the existing presets, I'm sure you'd make a great contribution to the x264 team! But these people are very few indeed. Helping them out with some UI widgets might be nice, but I don't think it's worth promoting and explaining these settings to your average video encoding enthusiast.

I know this sounds a bit condescending: many users are technical people that love to get into the nitty-gritty and turn every knob they can to get the best possible encodes. An advanced UI is a challenge to be conquered. But I really do think it distracts from VidCoder's main goal of helping people encode videos with great results. It's not my goal to turn VidCoder into a single-button solution. I want to expose UI for choices where a reasonably informed person can tweak them and get better results. I don't think the old advanced UI fit this bill. I don't have plans on taking away any other UI because I believe that they still allow you to make meaningful tradeoffs.

Anyway you can still make those tweaks if you'd like: you have to edit the options string yourself though. Read up on this wiki page and have at it. There's actually more settings than would fit on the old advanced UI anyway.

Nov 13, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Edited Nov 13, 2012 at 10:27 PM

@RandomEngy

Hi,

firstly, I must say I very appreciate and respect all the work (and that's a lot!) that is done and has been put in Vidcoder. But I think the decision to restrict the advanced UI is contradictory, it's more so when you say something like creating your own options strings to have access to the advanced x264 settings people could have via the old advanced settings/menu that can be found in the older Vidcoder version and in Handbrake. That's not easier and certainly not more convenient. Why not let the user have a choice? Let them choose what they want. I also don't agree that such advanced UI would only give users the illusion of control, because those advanced setting do have their effects on the video encode itself, whether it's speed, file size or quality. Some people, e.g. advanced users (hence it's called the 'advanced UI/tab), want to trade off some quality for speed and some others choose the settings to achieve quite the opposite effect. And what you want to achieve is already in Vidcoder version 1.3.4 under the 'video' tab where users can choose the x264 presets themselves from 'ultra fast' to 'placebo' (which have been moved to the advanced tab in the last beta). So with all respect, I am against the omission of the old 'advanced' tab (or UI) and its advanced settings in future final versions of Vidcoder. How can you still call it 'advanced' if it this simplified? To be honest, isn't the advanced tab or UI called advanced because it's meant for advanced users?

Anyway, don't get me wrong, I still love Vidcoder, but I really hope the 'advance' tab still keeps the advanced settings from the older Vidcoder versions in future releases.

Coordinator
Nov 13, 2012 at 10:40 PM

You can trade off encoding speed and quality by picking the right preset. Is there a particular setting you like that has a better quality/speed tradeoff than any of the existing presets?

Anyway the UI is not final. What I'll probably end up doing is moving all the x264 options (preset/profile/tune/level/extra options) to the Video tab, putting all the useful controls in one place. Then whether or not to keep the Advanced tab is rather a separate affair.

Part of the reason I went ahead with the removal was to see how many people would be upset by it, and quite a few people have piped up, so I'll consider keeping it around. But I still don't like it; I haven't heard of a single case of someone using the panel to accomplish a task that couldn't be done better and more easily by preset/profile/tune/level.

Nov 14, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Edited Nov 14, 2012 at 12:49 PM

@RandomEngy

Hi,

Don't get me wrong, I am not really upset. I totally understand your reasoning behind your choices for Vidcoder and its future. Actually, I like Sundance's idea, i.e. adding an option in Vidcoder so users can set Vidcoder in Simple UI or Advanced UI mode, perhaps either by 'unlocking' in the 'advanced' tab or by activation via 'tools' > 'options', or make the choice during installation (?); The Simple UI will be the default setting for Vidcoder. I think that such compromise can keep the new and advanced users happy, while achieving your goal of 'exposing UI for choices where a reasonably informed person can tweak them and get better results'.

Anyway, I wish you success in the further development of Vidcoder.

Nov 17, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Hi RandomEngy. I've just switched to VidCoder a few days ago and it's easily my favorite x264 encoder. Very nice work. I also like simple, minimal GUIs, but I really hope you keep the advanced tab because I've spent days tweaking & testing and have a preset that gives me perfect perceptual quality at an amazingly small size. I've tried using the preset, tune etc. and end up with the file size 20% bigger, with no quality gain. 

I haven't transcoded film so maybe for film the advanced settings are unnecessary, but for my screen recordings of software tutorials I get substantially better quality/size balance using the advanced settings which I spent so many hours testing to find the perfect settings. I overlayed screenshots of the different encodings in photoshop for comparison and toggled them and really scrutinized them. That makes it easy to spot the differences, especially when zoomed in 200%. I really put effort into testing for my perfect settings.

Though it seems like it wouldn't be possible to get optimum encodings with lesser possible adjustment levels. Lets pretend there's 1-10 whole numbers only, you wouldn't be able to use 8.5, for example, to get the best possible quality for a certain size limit. Also I get my better results by not having everything turned up high that's supposed to help with compression. Some of those settings being too high increases file size, so I can't seem to get my mix of high and low to medium settings using the presets. I'm guessing the presents simply increase/decrease all of those compression settings together.

Anyways, thank you so much for VidCoder. I really love it. And I hope you keep the advanced tab so I can keep enjoying the latest versions. :)

Coordinator
Nov 17, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Well first off the plan was never to take away the advanced functionality, just the user interface for it. All your tweaked presets would still continue to work. But I've come around and after seeing this UI example the plan of record now is to fit the preset/profile/tune on the Video tab and keep the Advanced tab around as it is. Thanks for your feedback.

Nov 17, 2012 at 9:51 PM

Awesome. Thanks a lot. :) I'm really impressed by VidCoder. It has a lot of conveniences and improvements over the others I've tried.

Dec 6, 2012 at 12:43 PM

Thanks for keeping the Advanced UI.

As I only play encodes on PC, profiles aren't an issue for me. So my custom presets have everything tuned for maximum compression and quality.
True this is at the expense of speed (seriously so, single-digit FPS on 8 core dual xeon') but with the batch facility I just set it and forget it.
With the retention of the Advanced UI, and your addition of Target Size, my needs are met!

Also, while I haven't tried them with VC yet, I used to use two script-apps called "Handbrake Batch Encoder" and "Watch Folder" a lot.
(See them here - http://videoscripts.wordpress.com/
I'm guessing they're not going to work with VC.. haven you seen them? Any idea if VC can be made to work with them?

Coordinator
Dec 7, 2012 at 6:01 PM

You're probably right. My guess is that they're just calling the HandBrake CLI. As for the functionality as you've discovered VidCoder already has the batch capability built-in. The folder watching might be something I could build into VidCoder if it's useful. I'd have to check what all they do.