Introducing Spike.html

Introducing Spike®

If you are deploying QuickTime on CD-ROM or
the Web you need this tool!
(for Macintosh Computers*)

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Spike's mission
Spike® is a batch movie analyzer that has one main mission: to determine the playability of QuickTime files from specified target media and specified target platforms. Spike offers many of the features of Apple's unsupported MovieAnalyzer, although Spike is updated for QuickTime 2.5 and beyond. Spike includes a suite of options that give you complete control over QuickTime data rate spikes. Spike can process batches of QuickTime files as large as you like.

Average data rates vs. data-spikes
Most QuickTime software reports an average data rate after compression. Many people use this figure to make the decision about playability on their target platform. Problems are caused by the fact that the average data rate does not tell you anything about momentary data-spikes which may occur in a movie. A movie that reports an average data rate of 150k can still have many spikes in excess of 500k. Such spikes will cause playback from CD-ROM or the web to stutter or glitch. Spike will identify these problems.

Batch processing with Spike
Spike can process a folder of movies, a folder of folders of movies, or an entire hard drive full of movies. Spike will examine each frame and calculate a data rate. Using the "Settings" window you specify a target data rate. If you are going to allow some spikes, you have many options to control which spikes are considered to be severe enough to cause a movie to glitch on your playback media and consequently, to be rejected by Spike.

Data-spike thresholds
Data-spikes are described by specifying a threshold in kilobytes per second that the data rate may exceed the target data rate. For example, if your target data rate was 199 kps and your spike-tolerance was 3 kps, then a spike of 202 kps would be allowable but a spike of 203 kps would cause a movie to be classified as as not suitable for playback from the target media and/or deployment platform. The movie would not pass.

Other data-spike constraints
You have much more control over the way that data-spikes are handled by Spike. For example, you can specify a maximum number of consecutive frames that will be allowed within the allowable spike region (that is above the target data rate and below the spike threshold).

If you choose, you can also set conditions for the data rate of the frame immediately following a spike. The options for the frame after a spike are that its data rate must drop to:

1) the target data rate
2) the target data rate minus the spike-threshold
3) the target data rate minus the spike-threshold multiplied by the consecutive frames setting
4) the average data rate
5) the average data rate minus the spike-threshold
6) the average data rate minus the spike-threshold multiplied by the consecutive frames setting
7) a special data rate of your choice

Notice that option 3 will guarantee that your average data rate remains at or, in most cases, below your target data rate. Option 4 will guarantee that your average data rate remains well below your target data rate. Options 5 and 6 drive the average data rate even lower.

Data-spikes and data rate-limiting codecs
The avoidance of data-spikes is less of an issue with data rate limiting codecs such as Cinepak, but if you process Cinepak movies with Spike you will see that even Cinepak is not guaranteed to avoid data-spikes. Using Spike with data rate-limited compressions will allow you to squeeze every pixel of quality out of them with the assurance that you will not have glitches during playback. However, where Spike really shines is with movies that are compressed with non-data rate limited compressors such as the Animation compressor.

Working with Spike and Movie Cleaner Pro
When working with a non-data rate limited compressor, we recommend compressing a movie using a variety of settings with a tool like Terran's Movie Cleaner Pro. At YAV we compress most movies an average of 50 times by running overnight batches. We start with the highest possible settings for temporal and spatial compression (and use custom filter settings available in Movie Cleaner Pro). Then we step the settings down gradually with each preset, until, about 50 presets later, we arrive at our lowest acceptable settings. With a single computer running all night, we can usually process 12 to 16 movies, each in a batch of 25 settings. Then, we run the 400 or so output movies directly through Spike to determine which are playable. Spike doesn't rank the movies, however, the information included in the main display is usually sufficient to identify which of the passing movies will be the best.

Data rate graphs and playback window
If several versions of the same movie all pass, Spike provides a data rate graph and playback window to compare various contenders for the best version. Spike's data rate graph's color-bars provide information about the settings that were in effect when the current movie was analyzed. Further, you can open the "Details" portion of Spike's main window to display addition information about the current movie. Spike can also generates detailed "Spike Reports" and append special "Spike Alerts" to any report or log files it maintains. You can use this information to assist in re-editing the movie at serious problem spots.

Using built-in Help
When you are using Spike's built-in Help system you can use the pop-up menu at the upper left to learn more about Spike. Alternatively, while you are using Spike, you can always select Help from the File menu or the Apple menu (or press command-H) to be brought to open this window. You will usually be brought to the help topic about the last button or field you clicked on with the mouse or the last menu item you selected. While you are in the Help area. You can hold the mouse button down with the command key to access a pop-up menu version of the menu at the upper left. Click on any button or graphic on the left side of the Help Window to hilite it (enclose it will a red circle) and locate it in the help text on the right. Use the left and right arrowkeys in place of the next and previous buttons at the lower left of the Help window. Help is also available under the Apple Help menu.

Differences between the registered and unregistered version:
The unregistered version ("lite version") will allow processing batches of up to 2 movies at a time. Registered versions allow you to process batches of any number of files. When you register Spike, 63 presets covering most QuickTime deployment scenarios become available. The lite version requires that you work in kilobytes whereas the registered version lets you choose bytes or kilobytes in the Settings window. The lite version will, from time to time, remind you to register Spike. Additionally, the lite version will not allow you to disable the opening splash screen in the preferences. Starting with version 1.5, the Lite version will no longer expire nor will any of the menu items expire.

Contacting YAV
Upgrades are posted to the Spike web site at Clicking this URL while in Spike's Help window should bring you to the appropriate area of if either of the following two conditions are met: 1) you are using the Internet Config extension, or 2) you aren't using Internet Config but NetScape is running in the background.

1) This version of Spike works with all QuickTime movies that although it is most useful when applied to files that contain video, audio, or video plus audio.
2) Spike requires QuickTime 2.5 or later but will process files from any version of QuickTime (1.0 thru 3.0).
3) Spike will only graph the first 7984 frames (which is about 9 minutes at 15 fps and over 13 minutes at 10 fps)

*Would you like to know why YAV software is for the Macintosh?

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