FlasK MPEG - Faster and Easier to Handle!
The legendary cult program to convert MPEG-2 files to MPEG-4 ones is beginning to show its professional colors - version 0.6 of FlasK MPEG is visually more appealing and provides a graphical interface that's easier to handle. And that's not all! The first extensive tests with Windows 98 SE and Windows 2000 demonstrated that the tool is substantially more stable and less likely to crash than its predecessors.
The new program's real selling point, however, was supposed to be its ability to support dual processor functions. It should be obvious, however, that dual-processing capabilities are only possible with Windows 2000 or Windows NT 4.0.
FlasK MPEG - Faster and Easier to Handle!, Continued
The new version really speeds up the process of copying a movie from DVD-ROM to CD-ROM, even though FlasK MPEG still only takes care of encoding to MPEG-4 files. If you want to transfer the video file to your hard drive, you still need an appropriate rip program, which will also remove the copy protection if need be.
In our many previous tests, we've explained
FlasK MPEG in Version 0.6. The additional profiles help beginners choose the correct video resolution.
Expanded Support for AMD and Intel
FlasK MPEG 0.6 supports seven different command extensions for iDCT.
FlasK MPEG provides several encoding algorithms for iDCT (inverse discrete cosine transformation) in the new version. All told, there are 7 different algorithms that support special processor command extensions.
For the AMD Athlon, there's the "AMD iDCT" routine (basically the optimized 3DNow), which, speed-wise, has quite a leg up on the standard "MMX iDCT" as far as MPEG-4 encoding goes.
Even the Intel Pentium III and the Pentium 4 benefit from specially adapted iDCT routines - the Pentium III works well with the "MMX-iDCT" code, while the Pentium 4 is considerably faster when used with the "Fast SSE2 iDCT" code. On the downside, "Reference iDCT SSE2" is weaker when it comes to increasing speed.
Dual CPU Support: Not Yet Integrated
The FlasK MPEG interface had several important features added to it.
Despite the claim made in the information that the new version of FlasK MPEG is supposed to support several processors, we weren't able to back that up in the test.
In Windows 2000 (multi-processor kernel), utilized CPU capacity was 52 percent for each processor. If you ignore a slight overhead of 1 or 2 percent, utilized system capacity is precisely 50 percent for each processor.
If FlasK MPEG really provided multi-processor support, the utilized system capacity would be 100 percent for both processors. We compared this scenario with a single processor setup - and FlasK MPEG obtains the same frame rates when encoding in single mode as in dual mode!
Data Rate vs. Video Quality
Top-notch video quality at a relatively high data rate and resolution.
Despite the fast motion, this sequence still demonstrates high video quality - thanks to the new Divx codec.
Potential video quality at a specified data rate, with the actual data rate consisting of combined video and audio data, is a very interesting and important topic. Generally, a video data rate of 1500 Kbit/s (equivalent to 187.5 KByte/s) and an audio data rate of 128 Kbit/s (equivalent to 16 KByte/s) produce quite high-quality video. Unfortunately, at a total data rate of 203.5 KByte/s (203.5=187.5+16), barely 55 minutes of video will fit on your average blank CD-ROM with 650 MB storage capacity.
Using a 700 MB medium only increases the time by less than 4 minutes, making for a total of 58 minutes of video. The options for reducing data volume have been thoroughly discussed in our previous article "
In general, a slight reduction in your resolution while maintaining the same data rate will improve your video quality considerably.
Another option is to split the film up into several CD-ROMs. This latter method keeps the resolution and the video quality high, while the solution with lower resolution fits on one CD-ROM.
Expanded Audio Functions: Increasing the Volume
A look at the special audio menu.
By integrating an audio player with numerous adjustment options, FlasK MPEG has done away with deficiencies in earlier versions. One essential function is increasing or compensating for the volume, which was often encoded to be much too quiet in earlier versions.
However, balancing volume takes up additional time for calculation. In addition, DVD movies with 4 or 5-channel audio can have the relationship between "front" and "back" changed. This function in particular improves the sound considerably, since sound output is in stereo anyway.
Improved MPEG-4 Codec: Divx 3.22
There's also some news on video codecs - in the 3.22 version, the new Divx codec is no longer separated into a slow and fast version. From now on, it only comes in one version.
The new 4.0 version of the Divx codec is still in its alpha phase and is still very slow when encoding.
Weaknesses - 4 GB Limit and No NFO Acceptance
The new version of FlasK MPEG still has some deficiencies - in Windows 98 SE, the maximum file size is limited to 4 GB. Files grow very quickly to this size if several VOB files are combined on the hard drive when ripping a DVD-ROM. Another of the new version's problems is its inability to process NFO files. This function was still available in the old FlasK MPEG version.
The new FlasK MPEG version processes more file formats, but can no longer read NFO files (scripts).
Conclusion: FlasK MPEG - More Functions and Easier to Handle
The cult program FlasK MPEG is on its way to becoming a professional tool. More and more users are using FlasK MPEG either to save space by storing movies on the hard drive in MPEG-4 format or to burn private videos from a DV camera to a CD-ROM (in MPEG-4 format). The new version supports command structures for modern processors like AMD Athlon or Pentium 4.
Compared to earlier versions, the program's MPEG-4 encodes very rapidly. FlasK MPEG is also substantially more stable - in Windows 98 SE, the program crashes less often and in Windows 2000, it is almost totally stable. Individual settings for audio and video codecs still have to be set manually each time, whereas encoding could be faster and more painless if there was a save option for these settings. The most current versions of FlasK MPEG and the Divx codec can be found at the following links -