Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ikena review - part 1

What is Ikena?

According to the folks at MotionDSP, "Ikena is MotionDSP’s powerful, easy-to-use forensic video enhancement software for Windows. It uses patented super-resolution technology to reveal and enhance details in videos that are dark, low-resolution, noisy, and interlaced. Ikena also features sophisticated algorithms that can stabilize shaky videos.

Ikena provides:
  • Video and audio playback - Import, play, and enhance video files of a variety of formats.
  • Powerful video and single-frame enhancement – Remove noise and compression artifacts and increase video resolution by factors up to 9x (3x in both the vertical and horizontal axis).
  • 'Live Preview' of video enhancement – Enhance videos and preview enhancement results "on-the-fly" and save enhanced videos to disk.
  • Still image capture – Capture enhanced, high-resolution still images from video with just one click.
  • Export of results – Export enhanced video and still images to a variety of formats."
They go on to point out the need to "obtain a clean source"

"Good quality video enhancement requires a clean source. Ideally, users should import the video in its natively-captured format - that is, the file as it was transferred right from the camera.

Video that has been transcoded (i.e., had its format changed from one format to another, e.g., from FLV to MOV) loses many of its high-frequency details, and is much more difficult to enhance. Video that has had its frame rate changed (e.g., a video that has had its original frame rate of 7 frames per second changed to 15 frames per second by framerate doubling) is also difficult to enhance, since duplicate video frames can cause problems with frame analysis.

Ikena can still produce impressive results with videos that have been transcoded or have had their frame rates modified, but you will always have best results on a "clean" source."

Got it? Good.

I'm going to do the review in several parts. I thought I'd start out with the basic claims from MotionDSP and go from there. When we're done, we'll have a good idea of what it can do well, what it can do OK, and what it doesn't do at all.

Let's start with the first step in the Ikena workflow - getting files into Ikena (Importing). After creating a new project, importing video into Ikena is simple. You can choose import from the file menu, use the handy buttons on the interface, or just drag the files into the bin.

Simple, right? Well, sort of ...

7533408.AVI is an XVID encoded AVI file from a generic standalone PC based DVR. What happened? Ikena installs with its own codec pack (or without, if you prefer to keep your current copies). It seems to work with most DirectShow codecs. But for some reason, this one wouldn't work as a direct import. Not to worry, there's a work around. Ikena will import files generated by DVR dCoder from Ocean Systems just fine (Unlike the Salient Stills or Ocean Systems offerings, MotionDSP lacks a screen capture utility - so you'll need to rely on another product for that). So, as the file was playable within Windows, I just captured it with dCoder and went about the test.

You do need to be careful as to the content that you bring into Ikena. According to the User Guide, "Note: There are many forms of interlaced content, and many forms of MPEG2 encoding. Some formats, for example 352x480-encoded video, may be displayed with the incorrect aspect ratio (for example, they may appear squished in the horizontal or vertical axis). Future versions of Ikena will address these aspect ratio issues. In the meantime, to correct these aspect ratio issues, select "fixed output size" and fill in the boxes to a set ratio, for example 704x576 (4CIF), or 1440x960 (4x super-resolution on 720x480 DVD-video)." We're used to "fixing" aspect ratio problems, so as long as you are paying attention to what you bring in, getting it out correctly shouldn't be a problem. Right?

In MotionDSP's example, the generic file is processed in a minute. In my test, the results were slightly longer as I counted the Import as part of the process (they don't). I also factored in the fact that I wanted to account for I frames, B frames, and P frames (varying or missing - depending on the file) in my content. Ikena makes no judgements about the frame types - a frame is a frame as far as Ikena is concerned (for better or worse). Also, there's no way of knowing if Ikena brought everything in correctly (frame count, and etc).

an interesting frame rate reading from Ikena

So the verdict on the import process is mixed. If you've got good solid standard Windows format footage full of I frames, you'll do just fine (how often does this actually happen?). If you've got any of the 400+ DVR file types out there, you'll need some help to get the file into Ikena. All that other technical stuff? That's hopefully on the way in a future release.

Verdict: C+/B- C+ for not accounting for "all the technical stuff." B- because if you've got a file type that it likes, getting it in to Ikena is easy.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

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