Test Drive: Telestream Episode Pro, Part 2

In the first installment for this month, I looked at Telestream’s new Episode Pro for Windows, detailing the interface, I/O, and preview function. This time out, we’ll look at encoding quality, performance, and compatibility. Let’s jump right in with Blu-ray and DVD.

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Figure 1. MPEG-2 encoding parameters in Telestream Episode Pro.

DVD/Blu-ray

Episode Pro offers only two Blu-ray presets—one for PAL and one for NTSC—and both are very conservative at 20Mbps, where Blu-ray can accept up to 40Mbps. Both are MPEG-2 presets, which obviously means that there are no H.264 Blu-ray presets, though I personally still prefer MPEG-2. In contrast, Sorenson Media Squeeze offers 23 presets, with data rates ranging to an average of 30Mbps, with 12 in MPEG-2 and 11 in H.264. It also has several 24fps presets, which was nice for my tests because one of my test files was 24fps. Telestream could certainly do a lot more to make Episode easier for Blu-ray producers to use.

Otherwise, as with the Macintosh version, Episode tends to offer more compression parameters than most competing programs. Though the language is often quite novel (VBR using VBV, anyone?), the program is well documented via easily accessible help screens, and output quality—with the exception of Windows Media Video files—is quite good. Just be prepared to do some research if you like to know what all the dials and levers actually do.

That said, producing SD DVD from HD video gave me a minor scare. I liked the fact that Episode had HD to SD presets, but the preview made it look like the program converted my 16:9 input source into 4:3 output, which is seldom the desired result. When I actually produced the file and input it into Adobe Encore CS4, however, the authoring program recognized the file as 16:9. All’s well that ends well, as they say.

Further on this theme, to test the compatibility of the encoded MPEG-2 streams, I created separate Blu-ray and SD DVD projects in Encore. The Episode encoded footage loaded into their respective projects without problem, and Encore gave the appropriate “Don’t Transcode” indicator for the video, meaning that it found the video properly encoded. Encode did not re-encode either file when rendering ISO images for each disc, indicating very good compatibility with Encore.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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