Brief elgato turbo.264 Review

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by mark-itguy, Jul 27, 2007.

  1. mark-itguy macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007
    Over a month ago I posted here, asking for feedback on this new product. There were many responses, but I ended up unsure if I wanted to try one. Last week I spotted it at an online retailer for $89 with free shipping, so I tried one. Here are my initial observations. And as a reference, I am running a new Santa Rosa\LED MacBook Pro, 2.2 GHz.

    - Encoding has presets only, [see their site for the specs, but they generally max out near the top of Apple's specs for a particular use].

    - No manual setting of... Anything.

    - Encoding a non-encrypted VIDEO_TS folder from my hard drive is right at real time, 28fps to 29 fps. That is a big improvement over other applications.

    - To me, with no official way to test, the visual results are a tad, barely a tad, better than the results from HandBrake or VisualHub. But that could be wishfull thinking, since it was $89!!

    - It seems like it has a built in de-interlace filter, and automatically uses it as needed. I have no way to verify this, except visual observations of the results, but I think it is true.

    - The Apple TV format does not max out the video bitrate, and in fact, is below 3 MBps. Typically just below or just over 2700 Bps.

    - The audio bitrate, for all presets, is 128k. I 'really' wish it was 160k, at least for the Apple TV preset.

    - Again, presets only, no tweaking of anything.

    - Did I mention it was fast?

    - Average CPU usage by the app seems to be about 25% according to top, so I can do other work. Not enough to kick the fans into high gear!! Encoding a video while at work, just doing eMail and minor MS-Office work, I feel no slowness, thanks to the device doing much of the processor intensive work.

    - It does not quite get the cropping right. The aspect ratio IS correct, so this does not cause any viewing issue, other than seeing parts of the black bars in a QuickTime window. And I think if parts of the bars are in the video itself, it would make the file size a tad bigger.

    Summary: Presets Only. Not all are optimal, especially for a geek. Cropping not perfect. All could be rectified in future software updates. I will test a few more days, but due to the sheer speed of the thing, I will probably keep it.

    If anyone has a solution for any of my 'minor' gripes, pls. post!!
  2. risc macrumors 68030


    Jul 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks for the detailed info. I had been considering buying 1 of these but if all you get is 28-29 FPS I'll stick to using software as I get around that already on my Core 2 Duo (pre-Santa Rosa) machines.
  3. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007
    Tough Call - Almost a Wash

    It's a tough call. I think I'm keeping it because it has such a low CPU overhead, I can have it re-encode DVD's [I own] that I ripped to a USB hard drive all day long while I'm at work, with the fans never even kicking in, nor my laptop acting sluggish.

    Encoding to the iPod presets may yield better than realtime results. I'll try to test that soon, and if it is much faster that the Apple TV preset, I'll post that info...
  4. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007
    Update - iPod Conversion Times

    FYI. Converting to the preset called "iPod High", which is 640x480x1500Bps is about the same as the "Apple TV" preset; around 30 fps.

    But... Converting to the preset called "iPod Standard", which is 320x240x768 Bps [the original iPod video spec], is around 125 fps!!!!!
  5. risc macrumors 68030


    Jul 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    Cool; I just ran the same test on 1 of my DVDs here using Handbrake. So this is converting from the DVD to h.264 mp4, not from a file on my HDD & I get 28 FPS at 1500 kbps and 64 FPS at 768 kbps (both have AAC audio at 128 kpbs) on a 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo Mac.

    I'm still not sure if I'll buy 1 of these devices, but hey our info is going to help someone. :)

    Things to note about my times are:

    1 - I did this on a MacBook (running on battery if that makes a difference?)
    2 - It is ripping straight from DVD
    3 - The DVD drive in the MacBook is only 8x
    4 - no time required to rip to the HDD first (I just put a DVD in to rip to the HDD and it was going to take around 30 minutes to rip to the HDD drive as VIDEO_TS folder)
  6. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007

    While I still think the the quality results are about on par with software encoders, and still think the speed for conversions for the iPod Standard preset are fantastic [131+ fps], I have concluded the speed for the Apple TV preset is only 1-2 fps faster than say HandBrake.

    BUT... I encountered a major flaw. When encoding a DVD that was originally in 23.97 FPS, [aka 23.8, 23.9, 24 FPS], the results range from jittery to down right jerky on scenes with large object movement. These are not PAL DVD's, just at the 23.9 FPS rate. At a high level only, I understand the deal, but also know that software encoders like HandBrake overcome this problem, while keeping the video at it's original 23 FPS rate, [not adding in frames to bring it to 29.97 FPS like some older software encoders used to do].


    Thoughts? Comments?? Workarounds???
  7. npm macrumors newbie

    Jul 9, 2002
    This is in the beta that is out, give them a shout on their site. I emailed Elgato with several suggestions and they responded to me with a link to try the beta.

    I emailed tech support with questions about this and other things and emailed their feedback department. YMMV...

    Here is the note:


    Thank you for contacting Elgato Systems.

    The latest Turbo.264 software is now available for testing.

    Besides various bug fixes, you can now create new Custom Settings for your export presets, using a wide variety of criteria. Add a file to the Turbo.264 software, then choose "Edit..." under the Format section. The options you can control are:

    For H.264 video:
    Aspect Ratio
    Frame Rate
    Data Rate

    For AAC Audio:
    Sample Rate
    Data Rate

    To add or subtract your Custom Settings, use the + and - buttons at the bottom left corner of the new Edit screen.

    We would like your help in testing the various combinations of options, to see if there are any unexpected issues that need fixing. Please note that some controls may be limited by the capabilities of the Turbo.264 hardware, like Size (resolution).


    Hope this helps!

  8. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007

    Thanks! Most of my issuses and concerns were indeed addressed in this Beta!

    However, one serious probles still remains, [and I did eMail back tech support to advise them of this]. Some US NTSC DVD's encoded in 23.98 FPS, [aka 23.97 FPS aka 24 FPS], appear very jittery, as if they are missing frames. Others do not do this. I think it *might* have to do with telecine.

    After reading several articles, including this one I think I could be right, or at least am close.

    Perhaps the 23.98 FPS DVD's that encode OK have the extra 3:2 Pulldown frames in the actual movie. And perhaps the ones that do not, but instead have the flags there, expecting the hardware DVD player to 'slow down' some frames to make up the difference, are the ones that appear jittery. Just a theory, but a good one I think.

    Odd though, software based encoders like HandBrake do not seem to have ever caused this issue...
  9. wwooden macrumors 68000


    Jul 26, 2004
    Burlington, VT
    My new thing lately has been buying DVD seasons of shows ( Family Guy, Futurama, Macgyver, etc.) I like having them in my iTunes and then on my iPod if needed for trips. I am planning on getting an AppleTV at some point in the future so I want to find a file size that looks good on both. I think anything that is 640x480 will look good on my Tv, even though it is a 720p HDTV. Ripping 43min episodes on my iMac go at about 3-4 fps, not worth it to me. If this can do it in real time and I queue a bunch and leave it over night, I would be very happy.

    I'm glad to see Elgato is continuing to work on the software for this, I will order one this week and report on my findings.
  10. Analog Kid macrumors 601

    Analog Kid

    Mar 4, 2003
    You might want to hold off a bit. I was doing the same so I could watch TV shows while traveling, but the Turbo.264 doesn't handle it well-- you can't queue up individual episodes for encoding. It seems to try to encode the largest title and ignore the rest. I wound up getting forced back to handbrake...

    I'm sure ElGato will fix this at some point, but it's a problem for now...
  11. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007
    Confirmed. The only way to do this is to use MTR, and extract individual DVD Titles separately. The good news is, when you do so, it makes the whole eposode one sinlge .vob file. The Turbo.264 works fine. But HandBrake will not, since it only works with entire DVD's. The bad news is, if one DVD has say 4 episodes\titles on it, that's 4 separate rip sessions...
  12. risc macrumors 68030


    Jul 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    What? You can rip episodes (or chapters) from a DVD using Handbrake. It even has a queue so you can queue them up.
  13. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007
    Correct. IF the DVD is physically in the drive. What I meant was, if you rip a single title with other software, [MTR on the Mac, or vobcopy on Linux, etc.], you end up with a VIDEO_TS folder, but a single .vob file. With MTR, there are no .ifo or .bup files if you have ripped a single title. Likewise with vobcopy. With some Windows tools you get some of those data files, but not enough that HandBrake will read the VIDEO_TS file and think it's a whole live DVD that just happens to have, say, title 2, only...

    I always rip to the hard drive first. One because the DVD drive itself spins far less time, which probably means less wear & tear. Related to the wear, sometimes I encode twice; one for my Apple TV and again for my iPod. But third, if it's a kids DVD, I save the ripped files on the hard drive so in a month when they scratch it all up & it won't play, I can punch out a new disc.

    I guess I forgot that sometimes people do rip and encode with HandBrake, all it one step...
  14. live4ever macrumors 6502a

    Aug 13, 2003
    What the Turbo.264 really needs is integration with HD content from the EyeTV Hybrid. Encoding HD sources (.ts mpeg2 streams) to HD h.264 takes so much longer than SD (DVD resolution) this is where hardware encoding is really needed, hopefully it is just a software update away.
  15. Jowl macrumors 6502

    Apr 13, 2006
    I notice that V1.1 of the Turbo is now available (with custom settings etc)

    Is it still tied to quicktime or can other Apps (Handbrake) use the hardware?

    I'd buy one tomorrow if I could the hardware to rip (directly) from Handbrake and EyeTV
  16. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007
    Got 1.1

    I already downloaded 1.1 and have encoded a few DVD's. Final review notes pending, I can say so far that it pretty much is the same as the Beta I tested, and those release notes are above.

    Yes, it is still tied to QuickTime. So no, apple like VisualHub and HandBrake will not benefit from it.

    Almost all of my issues, and all of my wish list items, were rectified. The only issue that may remain, [and I can not test until I get home from work], is the jittery videos on some US DVD's in 24 FPS I had been seeing.
  17. wwooden macrumors 68000


    Jul 26, 2004
    Burlington, VT
    So, just so I am clear. What is the process to take inorder to rip movies or episodes from a DVD using the turbo h.264? Use MTR to remove all the Video_TS files, then bring those into the turbo h.264 program? Can MTR queue so I can remove all episodes in one session?

    I really wish this would work with handbrake, I like the one step process from dvd to movie file.
  18. Cromulent macrumors 603


    Oct 2, 2006
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    Just set MTR to rip an entire DVD. Using MTR and Handbrake together is far faster than just using Handbrake, I guess the same is going to be the same with the H.264 Turbo.
  19. TheNightPhoenix macrumors 6502

    Dec 16, 2005
    The Beta of MPEG Streamclip also works with the turbo.264. It has a lot more settings the the official software, I mainly have a problem with the way the official stuff deals with interlacing, but mpeg streamclip works great.
  20. mark-itguy thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2007
    Thanks for the tip, downloading now. While the Turbo.264 is a great piece of hardware, the software is not there yet. 1.1 seems to be a big improvment, & I suspect they'll get there after another rev or two. But along with the jittery telecine\3:2 Pulldown\whatever issue some US NTSC 24 FPS DVD's have, the new version has a new issue. True, the new version allows you to manually set the bitrate, but it does not hit the target. It varies, a lot. I set it to 3072 and encoded several videos. No two wee the same, and they ranged from 1500 to 2600!

    In the meantime, perhaps MPEG Streamclip 1.9b3 beta is the answer! Will re-post here with updates if warranted.

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