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Making Super Video CD (SVCD)

The Super Video CD standard upgrades the Video-CD format. It utilizes better Video and Audio quality. It also standard includes extensions for surround sound multi-channel audio, provisions for PC playback. It's also based on variable bit rate (VBR) MPEG-2 coding for more efficient use of disc capacity.

  1. Super Video CD standardSuper Video Compact Disc logo
  2. Capturing or ripping
  3. Editing
  4. Encoding
  5. Authoring
  6. Burning
  7. Playing

1. Super VCD standard

With Sony, Matsushita and JVC, Philips has been the major company to develop Super Video CD, SVCD detailed technical explanation is available from their licensing page and from sl00811.zip (86,5Ko) in Acrobat PDF format. Standard is Super Video CD 1.0 and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) has published in July 2000 as IEC 62107.

In early 2001, it seems that industry is focusing on new DVD-R format and SVCD isn't very popular in Europe and Americas but it is in Asia thanks to Chinese government support as a cheaper video format (than DVD) and out of the DVD consortium to avoid paying royalties to non Chinese companies.

Features Super Video CD
Video
bit rate
resolution NTSC
resolution PAL
MPEG-2
variable up to 2.6 Mbps
480x480 interlaced, 29.97Hz
480x576 interlaced, 25Hz
Still picture
resolution NTSC
resolution PAL
MPEG-2 ( I Frame )
480x480, 704x480
480x576, 704x576
Audio
sampling frequency
bit rate
audio channels
surround sound
MPEG-1 layer II
44.1 KHz
from 32 to 384 Kbps
up to 2 stereo or 4 mono
MPEG-2 ( 5+1 ) extension
Overlay graphics and text
sub-channels
coding
overlay video plane
<=4
4 color CLUT ( 2bits/pixel )

The interlaced nature of video signal is preserved, this results in smoother-looking motion for any video footage that was originally shot with a field-based video camera (as opposed to frame-based film or a "progressive frame mode" video camera).

Super-VCD has extensive support for subtitling and karaoke lyrics color highlighting, neither of which were possible in VCD 2.0. An SVCD video stream can contain up to four independent subtitling channels for different languages. The subtitles are overlaid on the top of the video image in real time, which allows turning them on and off at will. Since the subtitles are stored as bitmap graphics, they are not tied to any particular script or character set.

The typical running time of an SVCD disc (with full resolution and quality) is about 35-45 minutes, although it can be extended to over 70 minutes by compromising image and sound quality.

A very good Super Video CD Overview is available from Jukka Aho.

There're two things concerning MPEG-2 program stream I've pointed out from the detailed explanation:

I don't understand about the PTS, I just wrote down here in case I'll encounter this term in further MPEG encoding. About profile and level, I've already heard about so I searched and retrieved a link to MP@ML definition. I've interpreted MP@ML definition for SVCD in two tables:

MP@ML Profile table
B-frames YES
Chroma format 4:2:0
Scalabilty NONE
Intra DC precision 8, 9, 10 bits

MP@ML Level table for SVCD format
Maximum bit rate 2.6 Mbps
Buffer size 1,835,008 bits
Sample density 480x480 29.97fps
480x576 25 fps
Luminance sample rate 10,368,000
Horizontal vector range -512..+511.5
Vertical vector range (frame pictures) 128..+127.5

The use of B_pictures allows a greater efficiency in the removing of temporal redundancy, but on the other hand it carries the need of two reference-frame-memories (instead of one) at the decoder side and of other frame-memories (one for each B_frame) at the encoder side, it increases the coding delay (because of frame-reordering) and often it makes editing even more difficult (open gop).

You can download a SVCD German sample from svcdgs.zip (12.5MB) which runs with Philips, Pioneer and Tokai standalone DVD players (at least). This is a Nero image (I got off the web) which isn't totally SVCD compliant due to MPEGAV folder (a well known I-author bug) but MPEG-2 stream is SVCD compliant and with a maximum bit rate at 1.85Mbps and you'll see it's DVD quality !

So the challenge is to do our home-made SVCDs the same quality.

2. Capturing or ripping

2.1 Capturing

You'll find all details from capture testings I did to establish capture settings for SVCD in SVCD capturing page.

I've summarized my preferred capture settings for SVCD in the following table (audio is PCM 44.1KHz 16 bits stereo):

Codec Setting Resolution Video rate (KB/s) Compression For 1 minute For 1GB Comment
Huffyuv Fastest 480x576 6,523 K/s 2.1 : 1 400 MB 2:30 Preferred (lossless)
PICVideo 18 480x576 1,145 K/s 11.8 : 1 80 MB 13:00 The best if compression is necessary
PICVideo 18 720x576 1,351 K/s 15.0 : 1 90 MB 11:00 Common format for SVCD and miniDVD
PICVideo 18 768x576 1,299 K/s 16.6 : 1 90 MB 11:00 Common format for SVCD and PC
PICVideo 16 480x576 629 K/s 21.5 : 1 48 MB 20:00 Preferred if higher compression needed
MPEG-4 5s 480x576 408 K/s 33.2 : 1 34 MB 30:00 For maximum compression

I made a lot of testings to find the best capture settings among the preferred ones and the best seems to be:

480x 576 - PICVideo Q=18

The MJPEG codec will somehow smooth the picture and that's a good point for further MPEG encoding. I tried to capture at 768x576 but with Huffyuv, the resize (to 480) filter will smooth the picture and provides same results as PICVideo (wasting disk space and processing time) and with 768x576 PICVideo, the smoothing due to resize is added to natural MJPEG smoothing so the resulting picture is much too blurry.

About deinterlacing: I tried TMPG deinterlacing processes which are sometimes appropriate for source interlacing but VirtualDUB deinterlacing filters provide always better results. Therefore I highly recommend to deinterlace PCTV captured video with VirtualDUB, you may find help and how to from my interlaced video page here.

2.2 Ripping

Ripping is much more easy than capturing. The process is to authenticate, decrypt and copy video (.VOB) files from the DVD to hard disk, then convert video into AVI file and expected audio track into WAV file.

2.2.1 Download and install required software

SmartRipper latest release is available from Riphelp.com or from the Lab here: smartripper_222.zip (365KB).

DVD2AVI and VFAPI Plugin from DVD2AVI homepage or from the Lab here: DVD2AVI_162.zip (80KB) and DVD2AVI_161_VFP.zip (44KB).

2.2.2 Follow the process:

  1. insert DVD in you PC DVD-ROM drive
  2. authenticate DVD by playing few seconds with your favourite DVD player software (WinDVD, PowerDVD, etc.)
  3. decrypt and copy VOB file to disk:
  4. convert VOB to AVI and WAV with DVD2AVI

You've done it ! At this stage you have an AVI file 720x576 (720x480 for NTSC) with terrific picture and a WAV file.

2.2.3 More ripping

I'm not a ripping expert so you may find simple information to start ripping from Riphelp Guide and to go further the DVD Rip Guides from Kal'El.

3. Editing

VirtualDUB and Adobe Premiere are my preferred video editing software for SVCD purpose.

Avisynth scripting tool is very useful if you want to burn the same movie on SVCD and another format like miniDVD (cDVD) or VCD or PC. You edit the movie at the highest resolution you need to make an AVI file. Then you create a simple AVS file invoking the AVI file and the precise bilinear filter to resize to the secondary format. So you have one big AVI file and another virtual big one described in a small script file:

AVISource("f:\video\movie\danse.avi") # input file is 720x576 (miniDVD)
BilinearResize(480,576) # Bilinear to downsize ; Bicubic to enlarge

Avisynth offers also an IVTC filter to deinterlace Telecine (3:2 pulldown).

More about using Avisynth as a Premiere plugin or Flask plugin thanks to Edwin videotools page.

We may need another editing tool after MPEG encoding to merge (join) MPEG files. Because processing times are long and settings may be tuned for different kind of scenes (low/fast motion, details or not, etc.) we may have to process movie in several parts and at the end join all the MPEG files. We'll do that with Camel MPEG Joiner.

4. Encoding

I highly recommend to resize to SVCD format (480x576 or 480x480) before encoding to MPEG-2. It's necessary if you make video for PC (MPEG-4) and SVCD with the same captured clips at 768x576 (768x480 for NTSC) and when you rip DVD as well (720x576 or 720x480). You can do this with VirtualDUB or Avisynth with bilinear resize filter.

I know two freeware encoders: TMPGEnc (beta12a) and bbMPEG. I just made a simple SVCD with capture samples which I encoded with TMPG and bbMPEG with default SVCD templates. Results aren't very good but we can see that TMPG provides with a better quality. Encoding times with default remplates are about 4 to 7X (7 times movie duration) with my Dell Dimension 4100.

I've analyzed the MPG files with Bitrate Viewer (German sample looks like DVD quality):

German sample got off the web bbMPEG on capture Huffyuv 480x576 TMPG on capture Huffyuv 480x576
Num. of picture read: 1497
Stream type: MPEG-2 MP@ML VBR
Resolution: 480*576
Aspect ratio: 4:3 Generic
Framerate: 25.00
Nom. bitrate: 1850000 Bit/Sec
VBV buffer size: 48
Constrained param. flag: No
Chroma format: 4:2:0
DCT precision: 10
Pic. structure: Frame
Field topfirst: Yes
DCT type: Frame
Quantscale: Linear
Scan type: ZigZag
Frame type: Progressive
Num. of picture read: 750
Stream type: MPEG-2 MP@ML VBR
Resolution: 480*576
Aspect ratio: 4:3 Generic
Framerate: 25.00
Nom. bitrate: 2376000 Bit/Sec
VBV buffer size: 112
Constrained param. flag: No
Chroma format: 4:2:0
DCT precision: 9
Pic. structure: Frame
Field topfirst: Yes
DCT type: Frame
Quantscale: Nonlinear
Scan type: Alternate
Frame type: Interlaced
Num. of picture read: 751
Stream type: MPEG-2 MP@ML VBR
Resolution: 480*576
Aspect ratio: 4:3 Generic
Framerate: 25.00
Nom. bitrate: 2520000 Bit/Sec
VBV buffer size: 56
Constrained param. flag: No
Chroma format: 4:2:0
DCT precision: 8
Pic. structure: Frame
Field topfirst: No
DCT type: Field
Quantscale: Nonlinear
Scan type: Alternate
Frame type: Interlaced

What can I say after few testings:

So far I highly recommend to deinterlace source video for captured clips and to use TMPGEnc beta12a with this SVCD template lsvcd12d3.zip (PAL).

I'll come back on TMPG settings after every new project to fine tune if necessary.

Quality is different with DVD rip versus captured video: you may see on my comparison page that best results are from DVD rip, encoding from DVD capture with PCTV are somehow excellent but from Hi8 camcorder, results are rather VHS quality.

Here are some samples to download (including TMPG templates) :

Clip Duration Type available File Comment
DVD Dogma rip 56 seconds SVCD Nero image dogma.zip (16.4MB) Somehow DVD quality
DVD Dogma rip 56 seconds MPEG-2 clip dogma_mpg.zip (15.1MB) Somehow DVD quality
PCTV capture of DVD Dogma 30seconds MPEG-2 clip dvdcap.zip (8.9MB) Excellent quality
PCTV capture of Hi8 video 30 seconds MPEG-2 clip hi8cap.zip (9.2MB) VHS quality

I've focused on standalone DVD playback for every clip. Please note these are the same samples available in my comparison page.

5. Authoring

5.1 Nero

Nero 5.0.3.8 from Ahead can create SVCD layout and burn. You can choose MPEGAV or MPEG-2 folder (to make exotic XVCD or VCD 3.0) and you just drag and drop the MPG files. We expect menus and other extensions with Nero 5.5 or Nero 6.

5.2 I-Author Deluxe for SuperVCD

The most used software to author SVCD, the editor is EnReach. I'm not sure to be able to test it.

I-Author MPEGAV folder issue: lot of people have reported that SVCDs done from I-Author store video in MPEGAV folder but the standard is MPEG-2, this may cause comparability issue.

To make I-Author burning MPEG-2 folder, there are two alternative methods:

A. Change folder name before burning:

Open I-Author and create your SVCD, and before building your SVCD disc image go to View > Preference > Project Preference and change Title Mode from SVCD to Super VCD, then build your disc image and burn. And what have you got? A SVCD with MPEG-2 directory.

B. Change svcd.cfg:

Having to do this before building every disc image is boring so a better method is as follows go to the directory where I-Author is installed delete svcd.cfg create a copy of supervcd.cfg and rename to svcd.cfg now I-Author will always produce SVCD with MPEG-2 directory.

This solution was posted on VCDhelp forum by Kill2This.

5.3 Philips Super Video CD designer

Philips delivers Super Video CD designer free of charge. I haven't used yet, you'll find a guide "Using Philips SVCD Designer" from Jukka Aho.

When the design project is completed, use the Philips Toolset ($500) to create the CD image and then burn it with your preferred software.

6. Burning

I use Nero 5.0.3.8 to burn SVCD.

7. Playing

7.1 Reading with standalone DVD player

Standalone DVD player must be multiread to read home-made CDs: CD--R and CD-RW, and they must be SVCD compliant. Best compatibility list I know seems to be DVD Player List from VCD Help but you'll find others in the page below.

Pioneer players are the most compliant among major brands but compatibility should be check for every particular model.

Philips players are somehow compliant after proceeding some patches (for Europe and Americas), let's see the Lab's page at Standalone DVD player Philips DVD-950.

7.2 Reading with Windows/PC

Classical DVD software (WinDVD, PowerDVD, Cinemaster) read SVCD but compliance must be checked for each release.

My experience:

SthSDVD, freeware from Asia, reads everything so it reads SVCD even if not totally SVCD 1.0 compliant, you can download release 5.5 from the Lab at sthsdvd55.zip (871KB).

 


Appendices

Super Video CD related links:

Download:

Software:

Related Leon's Lab pages:

 


Bibliography

Refer to bibliography in Create VCD compliant with VideoCD 2.0 standard

 

Back to VIDEOCD page.


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Version of the document: 1.3EN
Created: March 6 - 2001
Updated: March 21 - 2001
Author: Leon