Breaking Eggs And Making Omelettes

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Sorenson Video 3 For Posterity

August 11th, 2010 by Multimedia Mike

On a recent dumpster dive, I procured a complete, never-been-opened copy of Sorenson Video 3 Professional Edition Compressor for Windows. And because I’m me, I thought it would be interesting to document it here:

Not opened until now, anyway:

I chuckled at the thought that I might open the user manual and find the complete data stream format listed therein. As expected, the guide offers a broad overview of video compression concepts (lossy vs. lossless, inter/intraframes, that kind of thing) and goes on to describe general guidelines for compressing different types of data. Then there is the feature reference. There are standard features and professional features (the latter includes things like bidirectional prediction, masking, and watermarking).

I was hoping to figure out how to encode some video with this software. But I think I need full Quicktime Pro in order to do that. If you’re interested, here’s the user manual in PDF format: Sorenson Video 3 User Guide (626 Kbytes). Here’s an interesting claim from the chapter on audio compression:

Most movies are made up of two parts, video and audio. Historically, the video portion of a digital movie was so large that the audio was only a minor piece of the puzzle. However, with Sorenson Video’s excellent compression capabilities it is possible to create a file where audio is the largest portion.

I know it’s possible to do that, but is it really recommended? I’m sure I have some samples in my vast repository where this is the case but it still doesn’t strike me as optimal for network delivery.

Posted in Software Museum | 6 Comments »

6 Responses

  1. whitetiger Says:

    Maybe it depends on the computer spec’s (of the day)
    I remember when i was first playing with video compression
    my computer at the time wasn’t fast enough to decode MPEG4
    video and mp3 compressed audio at the same time…unless you
    like choppy video, dropped frames etc.
    So until i could upgrade, all my experiments ended up using
    ‘uncompressed’ pcm audio

    The system specs on the box are fairly low, so it could fit
    with this scenario.

    The system specs list windows 9x/NT4 so network delivery probably wasn’t a priority in those days, my guess is that
    this is targeted for CD-ROM delivery in creation of games
    and other interactive content.

  2. Ben Combee Says:

    So, while talking with a friend in the cable box industry a few years ago, he told me the secret of the Music Choice channels that are common on cable systems. They’re really just a bunch of very low bitrate MPEG-2 streams, where the image doesn’t update very often. (Maybe three or four times over the playtime of a song) There’s a case where you really have more audio data than video data.

  3. Multimedia Mike Says:

    @whitetiger: Indeed, I remember those days when uncompressed PCM was necessary and even IMA ADPCM was a computational luxury. And I’ve seen no shortage of computer games that blow hundreds of megabytes of their CD-ROM space on uncompressed PCM. But I’m still hard-pressed to think of a situation where I’ve seen FMV encoded at a lower bitrate than the accompanying audio. Except for Ben’s case…

    @Ben: Thanks for that tidbit. That’s the kind of situation I would suspect — or at least hope for.

    So, basically, if the video is essentially a slideslow, it might be reasonable to expect the video bitrate to be lower than the audio bitrate. I recently discovered a series of videos on the internet where this seems to be the case– the video is actually very simplistic and compresses extremely efficiently.

  4. Ben Combee Says:

    BTW, I forgot to mention that there’s a phenomenon on Youtube where people are just uploading songs by an artist often with their own homemade slideshow. Sometimes, they’re just a single shot of the album cover or of a publicity shot for the entire length of the music. Annoys me when I’m searching for music videos, but it’s something people are doing.

  5. Multimedia Mike Says:

    Oh yes, I see those music videos all the time too. Fortunately, many are getting smarter about labeling them as “lyric videos” or some such (since they often display the song lyrics). Regrettably, I doubt that the encoding backend is smart enough to pick up on the context of the content and encode appropriately.

    Such is the life of the multimedia nerd– always seeing suboptimalities in modern multimedia application.

  6. compn Says:

    there have been multiple users asking how to generate those music-only-with-single-jpeg videos using mencoder in the #mplayer channel.

    popular thing nowadays. when will the venerable youtube get audio only hmmmm?

    will youtube beat itunes in the future? hmm