Hey everyone here's the long story short of my predicament:
I am digitizing (well not quite because I guess the files are already digital) video taken on a 1998 sony handycam that was recorded on MiniDV tapes. I am successfully pulling the AVI files off the tapes and storing on my windows desktop in all of its original 480p glory and quality. The avis actually do look really good (native quality) when played back in the "movies & tv" app on windows 10.
Here's my issue and where I've been struggling for weeks to come up with a solution: I need to get these avis to play back on an Apple TV 4k and each method I have tested so far has produced less than ideal results. I have tried virtualdub to try and reencode to something apple friendly, I have also tried handbrake. I have attempted to remux using avidemux to an MP4. I have setup a plex server on my MBP using the original AVI file in the Plex library. I have tried to convert on the MBP to .mov in quicktime. Each of these has produced a quality that is obviously and noticeably worse than when I play the AVI on the windows 10 tower PC. I have the individual avis pulled from the MiniDV tapes and I have so far been able to combine those individual avi files using avidemux without any loss in quality, but now the final step would be to get these files to somehow play on Apple TV 4k without any loss in quality.
Perhaps I don't understand exactly the mechanics behind the containers and codecs, perhaps this is not possible without a loss in quality, can someone please point me in the right direction. Thanks!
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Any time you compress with a lossy codec you will get a loss of quality. But if done properly and with sufficient bitrate that loss will not be visible at normal playback speeds.
You "captured" the tapes via firewire? So you have DV AVI files (about 13 GB/hr)? Handbrake should have done an acceptable job with that. What exactly was wrong with the results? Did you use "copy" mode when you edited in AviDemux?
In Handbrake set Deinterlace to Yadif and Preset to Bob. Try the x264 encoder at RF=12, Encoder Preset Slow, Constant Frame Rate 59.94. That should give very good results.
WinDV. I have the individual avi files now (30-60 avi files per 60min/13gb tape).
I thought I was using the best settings on handbrake, but yours have produced a much better product. I thank you. There is still minor pixilation/loss of quality when there is fast motion or panning, but it has produced the best results I have yet to get from all the methods I have already tried and outlined above.
Maybe you started with a Handbrake preset that limited the bitrate? For future encodings, on the Video tab, in the h.264(x264) settings make sure that Encoder Profile and Encoder Level aren't restricting your bitrate too much. Set them both to Auto (no limits). Or to High/4.1 (far higher than any DV AVI should need, but still Blu-ray compatible -- some players are limited to that).
Try playing a source DV AVI and Handbrake encoded video side by side on your computer. Can you see significant differences there? Maybe your TV is displaying video differently than the PC. Note that TVs are often set up with exaggerated contrast and saturation. And often with artificial sharpening and noise reduction. Such things can make minor defects look worse.