Note: This will be a long post and not necessarily a good read. You are warned. ;p
I started this thread a few months ago with a particular agenda. I had it in mind to accumulate the so-called "money shots" from several movies, and string them together in one long piece. The audio component would be the raw audio straight from the highest-quality tracks on the blurays, and the video component would be literally the actual original video with as few re-encoded frames as possible.
That project is now effectively done.
If I were to suggest a main purpose behind this project, besides the obvious appeal of having about 45 straight minutes of some of the most spectacular material contemporary movies have to offer, I would perhaps say that there are times when a movie is not necessarily worth returning to, yet it had That One Scene, and if you do return to the movie, it's probably for the sake of said scene. This thought was in fact the spark behind the whole project. Certainly it is not applicable to all or even most movies, but there are some.
Here is the sequence of clips I threw together, in order:
01) DTS logo - The original DTS "The Digital Experience" animation seen in theaters, sourced from DVD. I always really liked it, and unlike say the THX logo, to the best of my knowledge it never actually reappeared on a movie DVD. Not particularly relevant to my video, but who cares.
02) Tron, Tron in the identity disk battle.
03) Dune, shield practice.
04) Aliens, Ripley in a loader mech vs. the queen alien.
05) Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace, Obiwan vs. Darth Maul.
06) War of the Worlds (2005), the first alien begins disintegrating the gathered crowd.
07) Tron, light cycle battle.
08) Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones, seismic charges in the asteroid field.
09) Terminator 3, car chase.
10) 2012, Yellowstone's eruption.
11) The Matrix Reloaded, the big brawl.
12) Contact, destruction of the machine.
13) Independence day, the aliens begin annihilating cities.
14) 2012, the earthquake sequence.
15) Super 8, train wreck.
16) The Matrix Reloaded, Morpheus battles twins, car chase, Morpheus battles agent (several edits to tighten the pace).
17) Dune, worm eats harvester.
I'm pretty satisfied with the selection of clips and the way I managed to get them to flow together.
Visually, not a single traditional edit has been made, because the focus was on preserving the original video streams so that no unnecessary layer of visual degradation could come into play. Contact and The Matrix Reloaded were legacy releases from the HD-DVD days and were VC-1 streams on the blurays. These had to be re-encoded as H264 to match the other movies. I was careful to use optimal quality settings. For the rest, clips were extracted using VideoReDo TV Suite - the only program which proved capable of extracting H264 without affecting the majority of the stream. To get said app to play nice, I had to construct H264+AC3 MKVs out of each movie, as this was the only configuration VideoReDo would accept. Most of the time, I had to create the AC3 myself. VideoReDo (trial version) also had a ten-minute limit on exported clips, so I ended up doing the final splicing with MkvMerge. Surprisingly, this worked, but I'll get back to that.
The audio half took at least two thirds of the total work time, which was unexpected. Most of the audio tracks were 5.1. Super 8 offered a 7.1 mix, and The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones both used a 6.1 configuration which I reconstructed as 7.1. I correspondingly reconstructed all 5.1 mixes as 7.1. I elected to do the mixing from within Premiere Pro, with small edits in Adobe Audition. In order to get everything synced, I made use of a raw 432x243 rendering of the entire video. Now, the reason why everything ended up taking so long was twofold: First, there ended up being considerable discrepancy (exactly 22 frames) between the start time of the raw video I created and the start time of the actual video, which I attribute to shortcomings of directshowsource() in Avisynth. But far worse, and still completely baffling, for some reason there was a huge problem with syncing the reconstructed audio with the original video. Audio and video were in sync at the beginning, but by the end, audio was preceeding video by 13 frames. Resampling the audio to match (by a factor of 1.000159459) was not satisfying. Ultimately I went back and re-timed each individual clip to match the ever-increasing disparity. The final audio is a 7.1 LCPM mix.
Now I want to talk about the first obstacle I met when dealing with the audio. It's one I was braced for. These individual movie soundtracks do not magically automatically agree with one another. Terminator 3 and Contact both refused to exceed about 50% of the maximum amplitude. War of the Worlds is bizarrely lacking in sound effects, even when buildings are being blown to bits; there is an extreme over-reliance on the LFE to pick up the slack, as it does very loudly whenever the alien fires its laser. Dune was an embarrassing rush job with a lot of clipping (and the LFE seemed to be a straight-up mixdown of the stereo track, complete with higher frequencies). But by far the worst offender was Super 8 - ironic, since it offers up a lossless 7.1 mix. For starters, I've never seen so much clipping in an ostensibly professionally-crafted mix. Then there's the use of so many stock sound effects. The center channel is given the unenviable task of doing most of the bass-heavy work that should have been shifted to the LFE (often while the LFE remains silent). And the strangest thing of all is the standard AC3 track which is also on the disc. It looks precisely like what you'd get if you took the ultra-clipped 7.1 mix and recorded it with analog equipment. All the clipping is still there; it's just no longer hitting the max amplitude, but has instead taken on the sinuous qualities of a tape recording. The person behind this mess should be ashamed.
Anyway, I fixed most of these problems to the best of my ability and patience, in order to force the full soundtrack of my video to flow agreeably.
Now, I said I would return to the issue of whether the resulting MKV file works. Yes and no. It works as an MKV that can be played on a PC, and I'll soon know if it works on a Popcorn Hour media player. But I already know it has problems. The nature of the video component, being a series of clippings and splicings, has resulted in something which has a lot of unexpected qualities. I cannot, for example, make a true bluray out of it, because there are too many things wrong with it. A solution would be to re-encode it as one solid, new H264 stream. I haven't done this because it would defeat the purpose, and also because some movies (I am looking at you, Aliens) are already so grainy that I seriously doubt they could survive re-encoding.
Thus ends my latest video experiment.