Continuing on with my home media series, once the media is on the hard drive, it needs to be encoded. This both reduces the overall filesize, and puts it in a container that can be read by whatever program or device that is desired.
More in this series –
- Part 1 - Setting up a Home Media Center
- Movie Night at Home
- Part 2 - Using Freemake to Import Media
- Part 2b - Backing up DRM Protected DVDs with DVDfab
- Part 3 - Using Handbrake to encode media
Enter Handbrake. Every site I found online with a top X list for best encoders, Handbrake was #1. It seemed like an obvious choice. Now – it hasn’t worked out for me, but I’ll detail my steps anyway for those of you who may have better luck. It’s a great program and I hope my experience is unique – but I recommend running a few tests first before committing a bunch of time to using it.
Handbrake can read just about anything, all types of formats, even VOB files and folders (which is what you get when copying a DVD to your computer not in ISO format).
Handbrake’s installer is pretty straight forward, you can find it here: https://handbrake.fr/downloads.php
Make sure you get the right version – I have heard the MAC product is a bit different (and better) so if you’re in that realm you might have better luck than me.
Once you get it installed it’s time to get working. Open it up and you are presented with the presets. There are two options for output – MP4 and MKV. These are essentially the same, but I believe Apple products (and potentially other mobile devices) natively read MP4 and not MKV. I know MKV is also a better option for HD videos – not that I’m working with those, but you might be.
First we need to select a source, do this by clicking on the source button (upper left). A slide out menu will appear where you can pick Folder, File, or the DVD drive. I haven’t tried to rip anything directly off a DVD, but the only time I ran a preview it was all garbled and nonsense. Use at your own risk. I’m going to select folder, since that’s where my content is.
TIP – the cool thing about selecting a folder, is Handbrake will scan the folder looking for titles. It can import multiple titles at the same time, which can save a ton of work if you have a few ready to encode at the same time. Unfortunately this only works if they are in the same folder and are single media files – for us we’re going to need to do one at a time.
Once it imports the data a bunch of things will fill in, including the destination file (change this as desired). You’ll also have the option of which angle, which chapters to rip (all at the top). No need to change any of those settings since we’re not ripping directly from the DVD – generally we want everything that’s there.
In the output settings select either MP4 or MKV – unless you have a preference one way or another it doesn’t really matter. HD videos use MKV, videos for mobile use MP4.
I recommend selecting “High Profile” from the right to get started. This will give us a base to create our own custom profile for video editing. Yes you will need to make at least a few changes.
In the video tab – set the framerate to Constant. I heard good things and bad things about variable framerate, mostly bad things. Everyone recommended to switch to constant. It didn’t resolve my out-of-sync problems, but it apparently should have. You’ll also check the box that says “Use Advanced Tab instead”. Most people I spoke to talked about setting the sample frame settings etc. The advanced tab is where that all happens. You can leave the rest of the settings alone
You don’t actually need to change anything in the advanced tab, but it will give you the type of limitless customization that you need to create a superior product. I have no idea what most of it means, and I didn’t need to know to get the job done. With more research these settings can probably fix my sync issues, but I wasn’t willing to put in the extra time to learn all about them.
At this point I recommend doing a preview. Hit the button on the menu bar and select a time and duration to test out. I found 30 seconds was plenty to see how things were going to turn out. If the product doesn’t look like what you want, play with the options until you get there.
Once you’re happy with the output, click on the “Add to Queue” button (or just the start button, but if you’re working on multiple projects, add it to the queue). Once in the queue open up the queue and get it started. You can add things to the queue while it’s running, so repeat from step 1 for the rest of your media.
Good luck! and happy encoding. In the next installment I’ll go over MeGUI, which is the encoder I found to replace Handbrake in my workflow.