Test 3: Futurama

The 3rd and last test deals with a completely different type of movie (well, actually it's not a movie but a series but let's not be picky, shall we?): animation. In animated features we often have large areas that are uniformly colored so the codecs are challenged to reproduce such areas properly. Edges between such areas also become rather important. I personally haven't seen an animated feature that I liked yet, so I settled for an animated TV series that I like (Bender's my favorite ;): Futurama. So far Futurama is only available on DVD in Europe, and as usual with TV series, the DVDs are interlaced so I had to let Decomb return me a progressive stream. While certain codecs can handle interlaced material, my previous experience with interlaced material for DVD-R output was that interlaced encoding is always less efficient.

I reviewed the intro up to the scene in the animal clinic (frames 1 - 4965) and the scene leading up to the el chuba nebre song (frames 23517 - 24259).

Let's start with the intro.

What this shot fails to show is that all the ray of lights do not only move, but inside the various rays there's a lot of motion as well and most codecs have a hard time reproducing this.

Did I just say problems? I mean a lot of problems! Especially 3ivX bites its teeth out here.

The problems actually start prior to this logo, they start with the ad at the very beginning where we have blurry edges.

The flight through new New York is also not very impressive and you can clearly spot blocks in the sky and the tube.

The flight ends with a crash in a billboard. While the billboard is still on, there's some sinus waves visible on the background (in the foreground we have the series credits). 3ivX utterly fails to reproduce those waves.

DivX5 reduces the detail level somewhat but manages to look pretty good.

The ad prior to this log exhibits some edge problems though.

The logo is a bit unsharp and smoothed out in RV9.

Furthermore you can notice banding effects during this logo scene.

If you look closely enough you notice that there are many blocks in this SBC scene, but they get smoothed out pretty good by the postprocessing of the playback filter.

The ad prior to this logo exhibits some banding and some blocks that stay in place while the object that caused them moves (the arm of the alien in the ad).

WMV9 does not keep many details during that scene, and during the ad scene there is some banding in the violet background.

In XviD you can also noticed some smoothed out blocks in the background, almost as in SBC (though they're somewhat less frequent here).

The ad scene looks good in XviD.

The flight through new New York exhibits a glitch in XviD's otherwise very good impression: When you see the spaceship flying close by there are some artifacts on its green hull for one or two seconds.

Then let's focus on edges and a color that no codec likes: red.

If you look hard enough you can spot one or two irregularities in this shot. They are casued by the JPEG compression (JPEG @ 97%) and are not actually present in the original. But I feel that the quality level is enough

3ivX has a lot more problems with edges than this shot can show. Many edges are rather blurred.

DivX5 is not known to be very good with edges but makes a good impression in this scene.

RV9 performs very similar to DivX5 in this scene.

There are some blocks on Nibbler's red cape in SBC, which you can hardly spot on the screenshot but they become apparent when you watch the clip.

And what about that funny block on Nibbler's nose? We managed to find ourselves a shit frame here. This error will eventually be corrected when the next keyframe appears. DivX3 has had a tendency to create such corrupt frames ever since it was released and there's a mechanism called Anti-Shit in Nandub that can be used to avoid such frames (Nandub compares the original and the compressed frame and re-encodes it if it detects such errors.. this obviously will slow down encoding).

WMV9 has no special problems with red or edges in this scene.

XviD has no problems with this scene either.

I'm going to skip the shots for my next keypoint: Nibbler biting Bender's rear end (Bender is the robot of the series in case you don't know it, and Nibbler is that 3-eyed animal you could see in the last shot). Leela, the one eyed alien, moves here hand over a machine in the background (looks like a toaster) and this causes some artifacts in DivX5 and SBC.

The next scene takes place at the animal clinic. Bender tries to put Nibbler down but Leela stops him by ripping out his arm.

If it weren't for JPEG compression the ceiling would be uniformly colored, and the same goes for Leela's hair.

Here you can't blame JPEG alone, you can clearly spot the edge problems 3ivX is having and the blocks on the ceiling.

DivX5 has some blocks on the ceiling.

RV9 also has some blocks in the ceiling but they look somewhat smoothed out.

There are also some blocks on the ceiling in the SBC clip, in fact more than in any other codec (with the exception of 3ivX).

WMV9 makes a good impression in this scene.

In XviD you can notice some smoothed out blocks on the ceiling but only if you look really hard.

In this scene you best look at the T-shirt of the mutant with the large brain.

Argh, here JPEG is helping the codecs. 3ivX actually turned the T-shirt rather blocky.

DivX5 also presented a blocky T-shirt.

RV9 returned a blocky T-shirt that looked a bit checkered, almost like a chess board (of course all fields being variants of green).

In SBC the T-shirt also got checkered, but unfortunately that structure got lost in JPEG compression (you can still see some blocks though).

In WMV9 there were also blocks on the T-shirt but they were less regular than in other codecs and while you can spot them, the overall impression is still pretty pleasing.

Finally, XviD exhibited a pretty similar effect to WMV9. While being blocky, the blocks were distributed in a fashion that didn't disturb the eye.

Except for 3ivX I was rather surprised to not have spotted more serious problems when encoding an animated feature. Maybe the rather high bitrate helped, but then again the resolution was also pretty high (608x). In any case, XviD's cartoon mode seems to work pretty well. Except for that glitch I was impressed by its reproduction of an animated feature. WMV9 came in 2nd with RV9 being a close third. I was not too impressed by SBC and DivX5 in this test.

Now proceed to the conclusion.

This document was last updated on May 5, 2003