Another Look at Thoggen (Part 1)

Thoggen is a tool for backing up DVDs to the ogg container with the theora video codec and vorbis audio codec. Theora is the darling video codec in Linux because it is unencumbered by patents. There are other free formats, such as Xvid – a format compatible with Divx, but it is based on MPEG-3, which is patented by the group the controls the MPEG standard. Technically all encoders need to pay them a fee to encode to MPEG formats. This can get expensive – M$ is curently being sued by one of the patent holders of MPEG Layer 3 Audio (AKA MP3) for a very large amount of money. I *think* it’s in the billion range, but I could be off by an order of magnitude. So, theora, which was licensed to the open source community, is the safest bet.

Due to the explosion of Divx, kazaa, and bit torrent culture, anyone can play Xvid files because they can play Divx files. I know that my Xvid encoded files play in Windows Media Player and I didn’t have to do anything outside of installing Divx. Mplayer and Xine can also play it in Linux and BSD. I also think it will play in Quicktime. So what about Theora? Sure, you’ll be making patent-free videos (how responsible of you) that Linux purists can watch. But will they be the only ones watching? Hardly! Both VLC and Democracy Player will play Theora files on Windows computers. So if you create Theora files, you will be able to make videos that EVERYONE (even rms) can watch.

Last time I looked at Thoggen (approximately 1 year ago) they were at version 0.4 – they are now at version 0.6. That version is about 6 months old, so hopefully another one is coming out soon. I am running Thoggen on my DVD of The Birdcage. This is a hilarious movie with Robin Williams, Gene Hackman and a slew of other A-listers which ecape my mind right now. Well, the beginning screen to Thoggen is very simply and professionally done. You select the movie you wish to encode and go on. The next screen allows for cropping, selection of language, and selection of saving location. Again, very well done! Well, except cropping didn’t work the way it should. No matter where I “seeked” to, all I got was a black screen so I had no idea how much I would be cropping. Then I hit save and, after all this wonderful professionalism, we hit a snag.

This was present back in 0.4 and it’s still here – the encoding is slower than a group of elderly ladies jazzercising in the water. I cam 6 minutes into the movie and it says it will take another 5 hours to encode. It’s encoding at 14 frames per second or half the speed of watching the movie. I forget if this is Thoggen’s fault or libtheora’s fault. Either way it’s unacceptable. Only rms would patiently wait to convert his DVDs this way when Xvid encodes with at least 4 times the speed. Usually a decent enough quality 1-pass encode in Xvid (in mencoder) only takes about 20 minutes for the average length movie. In fact, I’ll time it with The Birdcage when this one finishes up.

I’m not going to stick around for another five hours – that’s about the time I am eating my breakfast. Tomorrow or tonight….er…basically 3 April in the evening or 4 April in the 0000 hours of the night/morn, I’ll put up part 2. My focus will be on the following:

  • how fast does Xvid encode (in mencoder) vs Theora (in Thoggen)
  • What are the final file sizes?
  • How does the quality compare?

I may think of other things later, but those are my main comparisons. I’ll have to make sure I scale the video to the right size in Xvid to make suer I have a valid comparison. So join me tomorrow!

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