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||TotalCode Studio(replaces MainConcept Reference) is a simple to use video & audio transcoding application that combines all popular MainConcept codecs and renowned formats such as H.264, MPEG, VC-1, DVCPRO, JPEG2000 etc. Reference 2.0 is the new universal transcoding application that combines almost all available MainConcept codecs in a single software.
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3.5.1 (May 13, 2016)
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Video encoders and especially paid software tend to have the most resource consuming and non-intuitive GUIs, which slow down work and require adapting one's workflow to the tool at hand. A simple CLI encoder is generally easier to use. MainConcept Reference generally follows the trend. Still, I found the program to be the most accessible in its class.
I have tried 2 versions of the product, and the installation of both was nearly portable. The interface is built in Qt (like SMPlayer, VLC) and is overall more stable and less demanding than .NET. Almost any video and audio format can be fed into the program via Avisynth and DirectShow, and exact desired encoding parameters be specified. This is not the case if a plug-in to an NLE is used. Reference includes occasionaly invaluable, straightforward stream manipulation tools, such as resize and channel mixer. They generally work as one would expect.
Some versions of Reference come with Dolby Digital (AC-3 and E-AC-3) encoders, and others come with a DTS encoder (regular and HD). The latest version 3.1 notably does *not* include AC-3 support, making it impossible to produce DVD programs with good sound right away. These encoders are easier to use than most other standalone applications, because a variety of formats and channel configurations can be input (rather than 6 WAVs in a specific format, usually required by other tools) and encoded with specific bitstream parameters. The audio encoders alone make this program worth it.
Earlier versions of the program relied on DirectShow to read most data types, including WAV. The latest version does come with a native WAV decoder though. This both adds flexibility, but can also create disasters in the form of unexpected lossy processing happening in DirectShow, such as color space conversions or inconsistent audio decoder delay!! The set of installed DirectShow filters must be known to the user, and the system must not be set up for playback with on-the-fly processing, as some of it might accidentally be left enabled.
Reference comes with its own set of (good) DirectShow decoders for most formats. They can be used in any player, but are not needed for Reference to function, if other filters can take their place, or if a native demuxer exists.
The preset system is difficult to learn and more restrictive than one might expect. It is not allowed to select any arbitrary encoder, even when producing elementary streams, or step outside the bounds of the current preset (to start defining a new one). Custom presets do exist, but even there not all logical choices are allowed (DTS encoder exists only in some). Earlier versions of Reference do not allow to decode Dolby files.
As another commenter pointed out, the GUI does disable itself while an encoding job is in progress. For an unknown reason, the stream list disables adding or removal of extra audio tracks when it is double-clicked. The buttons will be hidden until the list is doubleclicked again. It is possible to visually select a range of timecodes to process, but the selection works only while a video stream is present. The GUI requires much repetitive clicking.
Awful tool MeGUI is much easier to use than this. The encoder is good but x264 is much better than this tool, plus the ridiculous $500 tag which is totally absurd. Please don't use this Encoder. There are better tools available which use x264 as base and are much better, ex- Xmedia Recode, MeGUI, StaxRip, RipBot etc. Note that this tool does not use x264, it uses the Mainconcept Reference Encoder. Honestly x264 is much better implementation of H.264/AVC specifications.
High-quality and high-speed video (H.264) codec.
Ability to process VOB files.
Easy to use GUI.
Poor cooperation with DirectShow decoders that are already installed in the system. In most cases this results in incorrect detection of parameters of the source (frame count, frame rate, pixel aspect ratio, display aspect ratio, interlacing properties etc) which in turn results in or video deformation or video/audio desync. In other cases this results in crashes on program startup or job file opening.
What worse, inability to specify custom target pixel aspect ratio, custom display aspect ratio, custom target frame rate etc so the user won't be able to work round prior-mentioned problems. (To be honest: the GUI allows specifying whatever output framerate which will be shown in the OSD of media players during playback, but the actual framerate and video/audio desync remains untouched.)
Various GUI minor bugs.
Job queue locks the GUI whenever there is an active job in the queue, which effectively prevents user from editing and configuring the remaining jobs.
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