The Xena transfer

A project log for The 2200 DVD archive robot

Where optical disks created from 1997-2010 were stored.

lion mclionheadlion mclionhead 07/03/2018 at 03:272 Comments

After 1 week, all the Xena episodes were transferred. They were all on 1 or 2 CD-R's, manely 15fps, Oxygen split screens which could be somewhat increased in framerate by converting frames to fields. Some were rerecorded after the dot coms crashed & Oxygen converted to a sane full screen. Some were recorded from WB.

They used 2 or more encoding passes, to get the file size as close to a CD-R as possible. Only near the very end was inverse telecine good enough to encode a complete episode at 24fps on a CD-R. They were all MPEG-2 video + MPEG-2 audio in program streams, with no B frames. There was no source code for compressing audio + video in Quicktime.

Some had the black levels lowered, but theoretically the lion only lowered to the darkest part of the video. No such thing as histogramming during playback, in 2001. The very last episodes were non standard Quicktime mashups of MPEG-4 + OGG Vorbis, at 24fps, on a single CD-R, in 2004. The quality was lightyears ahead of its time.

Remembered the router had a very slow DVD drive so 3 disks could be copied, simultaneously. Virtualbox constantly crashes when reading the Mac DVD drive. The most reliable drive is a Matsushita in the Macbook. The fastest drive is a Lucky Goldstar.

It was a highly debated move.  There weren't any significant errors.   For only the price of an Amazon prime subscription, you can view all the Xena episodes in full framerate, full digital, low definition.  The only compromise is a lousy player with no dynamic range compression, no bookmarking, & no access once you stop feeding Bezos.

The past obsession with codecs was quite different than working with video for a living.  Doing it for a living means creating set top boxes.  You're implementing standards on the cheapest hardware available, with almost no regard for quality.  There's some concern with making the network streaming reliable, making the GUI as responsive as possible.  The amount of information in the number of bits is all defined in standards from long ago, far below the theoretical limits & the GUI maxes out at awful by the price of the hardware.  Nowadays, there's little need to max out a codec anyway, since you can throw endless bits into an 8TB hard drive & the artifacts are invisible in 4k.


zachnzxt wrote 03/03/2019 at 04:36 point

This is such an interesting project. It's true that one can  easily get the complete series in higher quality on Amazon, but two things Amazon does not have are those fun little trailers that aired before each episode, and the video montage that was played over the credits when the show originally aired. 

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Greg Kennedy wrote 09/29/2018 at 00:58 point

"The past obsession with codecs was quite different than working with video for a living... Nowadays, there's little need to max out a codec anyway, since you can throw endless bits into an 8GB hard drive & the artifacts are invisible in 4k."

Yeah, time really moves on... I remember tweaking video settings and doing multiple re-encodes of pirated movies so I could squeeze the last bit of quality into exactly 700mb files to fit on a CD-R.  Or fiddling endlessly with TMPGenc so I could craft the ultimate VCD.  Dodgy collections of codecs distributed as a self-extracting .exe file (AngelPotion?)

All that work is practically meaningless now that 1080p is standard and there are essentially no constraints any more.  Though, as a hobbyist, at least I found the journey fun even if the destination is pointless today.

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