Sunday, January 27, 2013

Exporting to AVI: The Quality vs File Size Dilemma

Till recently I had no real need to dive into the options of utilizing Codecs for an AVI file, whether it be for a walk-through or a sun study. This wasn't until Multi-Office collaboration came into play & pleasing the Project Principle in charge in a satellite office ;p (his 1st Revit Project; talk about getting your feet wet in Revit on a 1 million SF project), sending AVI files back and forth through a Corporate IM platform (we are currently testing Webex Connect in a trail phase, but have been hearing so much about Microsoft Lync that we're holding off on an official IM until we sort out our Cloud Infrastructure that will be finalized firm wide later this year, which I'm working on another post dedicated to this experience).

Encoding is a complex topic so let me provide the best site I could find to express the ends-n-outs of what I know because it's a ton of material to cover (I had a past in video encoding/converting for personal use; cough, cough, but I digress, lol). So this Link gives the overview, and these codecs below have been found to be the best codecs out there not only by me, but a sort of consensus by the masses; XVID (,), and H.264 (Shark007)(, or, which are a 2 step process involving Conversion of uncompressed data). So the easiest of the two (when dealing with possible settings) is to go with XVID. So is H.264, but depending on the two (divx/h.264), it either has too many possible settings to deal with and requires the added step of converting. In my weak attempt to find a codec version that will populate the Codec options before exporting I wasn't able to find something really "championed" by many, but if you want you can try finding something other than Shark007's Windows 8 Codec (x64). In general when exporting an "animation" in Revit with these codecs that I recommended have a limit. It's a max output resolution of 1290x1024 (Horizontal by Vertical , if either parameter passes this threshold usually your options decrease for Decompression types and or possible errors could occur.)

With XVID I recommend to use the default settings, or for any of the other provided codecs for that matter. So remember:
(image taken from a walk-through, not Solar Study) 1290 (horizontal max) x 1024 (vertical max), haven't played to see if it's interchangeable. I personally have always preferred the widescreen ratio.
 So this is what shows up after installing XVID, and SHARK007's x64 Codecs. If you're unaware the defaults in Revit are the 1st 3 listed and the last one listed.

When I tested a single day Solar Study in Hidden Line Mode as my sample from 7am-5pm in 30min intervals with 4frames/sec = ~10sec of video the file size was more than 5.5mb using "MS Video 1", and quality was very low at the highest setting; considering my history with Visualization tools. Then when Uncompressed it was just over 50mb. Finally when I used XVID the quality was as crisp as in the "view" seeing it live in Revit on your monitor at a file size nearing 0.5mb. When I used the Conversion option it was also an added 0.5mb compared to XVID when I played with the frame settings. Between Divx & H.264 conversions, H.264 wins.  When having both tools set to the highest mark Divx showed more pixelation & H.264 showing no degradation at all.

Hope this helps. Please comment on any other tools that populate the codec option (aka: Compressor) to encode the AVI file format using XVID/DIVX/H.264 codecs.