Where can I find an updated "FAQ for dummies" type of thread? Emphasis on the 'dummies' part - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
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when I ask about 'FAQ for dummies", I'm talking about something that actually explains the difference between 'mkv' or 'avi' or whatever. I know it's out there, but I'm too dense to even know what it is I'm looking for. Kinda pitiful I know, but each FAQ or sticky I read generates 20 or 30 questions and my eyes start to glaze over because I don't even know where to start.

For example, all i want to do is start with my DVDs and BluRays, and:

1. Make a backup digital copy with nothing removed (in the event I lose the disc or it gets scratched or whatever)
2. Compress it to a laptop computer-useable format
3. Compress it to a digital device type format (i.e. so my wife can put a movie on her phone and watch it while she's doing the elliptical at the gym, etc)

then I have several questions about each of the above 3 concepts. These seem like a bunch of software questions, and it seems like this is more of a 'hardware' forum, so i apologize, and that's why if someone could direct me to an updated FAQ (found a few other FAQs and forums but when I look through, it seems their FAQs are several years out of date in many cases) that would be greatly appreciated, as my *ultimate* goal is to get an HTPC built and running, but before I do that, I want to understand the process first so I don't do a bunch of dumb things early on and waste my time. I also have a PS3 and apparently can use that in the entire setup process, but no clue how.

thanks, and again, sorry if this is posted in the wrong area or if the question is ridiculously elementary. I'm just fairly lost and would like to find out where to at least start, that isn't way over my head
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post #2 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtrobo View Post

when I ask about 'FAQ for dummies", I'm talking about something that actually explains the difference between 'mkv' or 'avi' or whatever. I know it's out there, but I'm too dense to even know what it is I'm looking for. Kinda pitiful I know, but each FAQ or sticky I read generates 20 or 30 questions and my eyes start to glaze over because I don't even know where to start.
For example, all i want to do is start with my DVDs and BluRays, and:
1. Make a backup digital copy with nothing removed (in the event I lose the disc or it gets scratched or whatever)
2. Compress it to a laptop computer-useable format
3. Compress it to a digital device type format (i.e. so my wife can put a movie on her phone and watch it while she's doing the elliptical at the gym, etc)
then I have several questions about each of the above 3 concepts. These seem like a bunch of software questions, and it seems like this is more of a 'hardware' forum, so i apologize, and that's why if someone could direct me to an updated FAQ (found a few other FAQs and forums but when I look through, it seems their FAQs are several years out of date in many cases) that would be greatly appreciated, as my *ultimate* goal is to get an HTPC built and running, but before I do that, I want to understand the process first so I don't do a bunch of dumb things early on and waste my time. I also have a PS3 and apparently can use that in the entire setup process, but no clue how.
thanks, and again, sorry if this is posted in the wrong area or if the question is ridiculously elementary. I'm just fairly lost and would like to find out where to at least start, that isn't way over my head

You have very good questions and they are important to answer so you can educate yourself on this hobby. Owning and operating a HTPC is kind of like trying to drink from a fire hydrant --- there is a lot to learn. In short, there are no great HTPC faqs out there as they would take an incredible amount of time to create and update. I would suggest trying to read as much as possible here at AVS.

BTW we have discussed creating a "FAQ for Dummies" but quickly recognized the insane amount of time it would take to really do it justice. So its on our list of things to create in the future as we have a hard time sometimes explaining to the uneducated exactly what a HTPC "is".
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post #3 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 01:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by assassin View Post

You have very good questions and they are important to answer so you can educate yourself on this hobby. Owning and operating a HTPC is kind of like trying to drink from a fire hydrant --- there is a lot to learn. In short, there are no great HTPC faqs out there as they would take an incredible amount of time to create and update. I would suggest trying to read as much as possible here at AVS.
BTW we have discussed creating a "FAQ for Dummies" but quickly recognized the insane amount of time it would take to really do it justice. So its on our list of things to create in the future as we have a hard time sometimes explaining to the uneducated exactly what a HTPC "is".

hahaha...wow, I just bolded an absolutely outstanding statement. I feel like a dude who says, "i'm kinda thirsty", holds up his glass, and gets slammed by a 60-foot tsunami

As I said, the ultimate goal is to take my BluRay and DVD collection, digitize them, and make them available to all my electronic devices. My kids tend to borrow/take/lose/scratch/obliterate discs and beating them unconcious is messy, illegal, and immoral (among other issues) so I figure trying to "network" my entire media collection, useable only by members of my household, makes sense and is legal (I hope) since I purchased and own everything I'd be using this for.


so perhaps I'll try to ask a few pointed questions here / make a few statements, incorporating what (I think) I know, and either a "yes, you're on the right track' or "no, you're smoking crack" can help set me straight:

1. If I want to take a full BluRay disc, and make a "useful" backup (i.e. one that takes up less hard drive space than the full BluRay disc itself), I need an "authoring/encoding" application to make certain filetypes (iso? vob?), as well as a 'copy protection' breaker that will allow me to even make a backup in the first place. This will be an 'encoded' file(s) that I use to remove the 19 language subtitles

2. If I want to take my DVD/BRD and make it 'useful' on a laptop, I can/could use applications like "makeMKV" or "handbrake" to make a *moviename*.mkv file (Container?), that is playable on laptops that use VLC. mkv is "good" because it's small filesize with good quality, but is unreadable by my PS3, so ultimately, this may not be the best (container?) file format and avi is a lot more widespread and supported (?)

3. If I want to take the DVD/BRD and make it useful on my daughter's iphone or my wife's Droid, then I should do as in #2, using a different piece of software and a different filetype / container, neither of which I've looked into since I'm still trying to figure out if I'm correct with #2

4. I have a PS3, an XBox, NetFlix through the XBox, Direct TV with the Direct TV Cinema, and the capability to record TV shows on the Direct TV. Somehow, I can incorporate these to provide more 'options/functionality' to the whole 'networked home theater PC' thing. A little curious about legality, although it's all paid for, and would never be used to give to someone else or sell or whatever. Just (for example) save the 19th episode of SpongeBob on the direct TV, then get it to a digital format so my youngest can watch it on my laptop or my cell phone while we're driving across the state to one of my other daughter's soccer games (again, for example). Makes the long drive more tolerable for all of us. smile.gif

5. Ultimately, I'll need a buttload of storage, an HTPC (i3 should be more than adequate for this), and a home network to make the whole thing run properly, and if properly configured, I will have reached nirvana without a completely empty bank account.


so am I fairly accurate in the above statements? if so, at least that'll answer a few of my questions and I can be a bit more focused in my web searches. Thanks a ton for any responses.
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post #4 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 02:06 PM
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My approach to getting help on the HTPC forum is to post new threads that ask what I am unsure about.

Sure, it reveals me to be the "dummy" that I am... but this group has never been less than gracious to me and my stupid questions smile.gif

*Edit* Unfortunately, tho', I don't have the answers to your particular questions. But I am confident that someone (probably multiple someones) here will lend their expertise to this discussion smile.gif

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post #5 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 02:18 PM
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I started down this road with a Patriot Box Office (PBO Core) that I picked up on SS for $60 with a free 8Gb memory stick. I still use the memory stick.

The PBO is no longer in use as I realized within a couple months that it wasn't going to be enough.

Do you have a fast, multi-core PC and gig home network? You're going to need it.

There's some guy that publishes a guide on his blog page. The hardware guide is free and the software guide costs $25 and will probably answer a lot of your questions and some you didn't even know you had.

There's this other guy that puts out a hardware guide and chimes in often with his own test results in real-world HTPC usage of hardware and software. When he responds to one of your posts with his insight you feel like you've been blessed with holy water.

Then there's the developer's of both software and hardware that frequent these forums. They are another wealth of information.

Welcome to avsforum. I warn you to watch out for addiction, though.

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post #6 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 02:36 PM
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It sounds to me like you are on the right track. Let me warn you...this hobby can become very addictive. This forum is a great place to start...the stickied threads have lots of info, but for my dollar Assassin's guides give you the best info with easy to understand, step by step instructions to do just what you are wanting to do. A steal at $25.

For #1, I use makeMKV and it will do everything you listed. And it's free while it's in beta.

For #2, mkv can be played on many things, even PS3 with some work. I haven't tried it, but a quick google search brought up plenty of guides. You could use VLC, or media browser, or plex or lots of others. Many options here.

#3 Plex will do this for you. It has some limitations, but it's super easy to set up and it will play mkv files.

#4 Can be done.

#5 Yes.

Most, if not all of this and more is covered in Assassin's HTPC guides.

Good luck!
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post #7 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 05:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

Do you have a fast, multi-core PC and gig home network? You're going to need it.

just ordered a quad-core i7 Ivy Bridge
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There's some guy that publishes a guide on his blog page. The hardware guide is free and the software guide costs $25 and will probably answer a lot of your questions and some you didn't even know you had.
There's this other guy that puts out a hardware guide and chimes in often with his own test results in real-world HTPC usage of hardware and software. When he responds to one of your posts with his insight you feel like you've been blessed with holy water.

hurm....
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Most, if not all of this and more is covered in Assassin's HTPC guides.

hurm....
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*snip stuff*

hurm...funny, I created and originally read through (and responded) to this thread on my cell, so I didn't really look at the authors of the articles. So now Mr. Assassin is $25 richer and I have some reading to do. I will attempt to refrain from posting any further questions for at least 24 hours, as that should be sufficient time to read through Mr. Assassin's numerous guides and get myself into the position to ask smarter questions.
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post #8 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 05:27 PM
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Excellent info here already, just wanted to add a few things based on my own personal experience.

1. I would start out with MakeMKV as mentioned already. Makes high quality .mkv back ups and allows you to choose which languages, subtittles, extras to keep. These will also play back easily on any reasonably powerful pc or laptop using VLC. IMO there are better players out there though.

2&3. Handbrake (free) to .mp4/.m4v. These containers are natively supported by PS3 and all iDevices. Not sure about Droid or Xbox 360 but I think so. Just be aware re-encoding video can be time consuming depending on your hardware.

4. I think you might have trouble getting things from your Direct TV box. I don't know for sure but I imagine they have some sort of DRM (copy-protection) on it. There are ways around this...

5. I got my whole home set up on a budget, I'm confident you can too. Hopefully hdd prices come back down soon!

PLEX is mentioned and it is great for streaming files to pretty much anything but I personally had issues with transcoding (basically converting from one container such as .mkv to another compatible one on the fly) causing really bad video and audio distortion. YMMV.
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post #9 of 24 Old 07-09-2012, 05:36 PM
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I think that Hauppauge has a PVR solution for D* TV.

The i7 is overkill for an HTPC but will do you well for transcoding.

Also, take a look at renethx' and Greeneyes' sticky threads, especially the first fiew posts in each of them.

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post #10 of 24 Old 07-10-2012, 11:50 AM
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I dumped DirecTV for my local Cable provider, a $1.99/mo CableCard, and a HDHomeRun Prime I can use to record to my PC. Once there I can convert the TV shows as long as the DRM flags aren't active... or so that's my plan. So far I don't have a need to compress or distribute Prime-recorded TV shows although I now record them on my WMC-based PCs (not a DirecTV provided HD-DVR box) and can watch these recorded (.wtv) files on any of my LAN-connected PCs.
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post #11 of 24 Old 07-10-2012, 12:08 PM
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Only $1.99/mo? Don't you have to pay something for the content? My CableCARD is $2/mo but the content is another $80/mo when my current promo expires ($60/mo right now).

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post #12 of 24 Old 07-10-2012, 03:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtrobo View Post

For example, all i want to do is start with my DVDs and BluRays, and:
1. Make a backup digital copy with nothing removed (in the event I lose the disc or it gets scratched or whatever)
2. Compress it to a laptop computer-useable format
3. Compress it to a digital device type format (i.e. so my wife can put a movie on her phone and watch it while she's doing the elliptical at the gym, etc)

HD Video on a PC
HD Audio on a PC
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post #13 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
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ok, so a few small questions


1. Is it possible to use handbrake to convert an mkv to an mp4 or an m4v with no loss in quality? If so, does it make sense to do this if mp4 can be played on ipods and PS3s without difficulty? Also, what settings?

2. I cannot figure out how to use Handbrake as in the Assassin guide, i.e. I can't get the sucker to show me the ""Target Size = MB" option in the video tab as explained in the Assassin Ripping Guide

3. Wow. 7 hours to do Thor @1080p (2 hr, 4.4GB) from m4v to mkv using 'regular high profile' on my i3/2310. When i do a CTRL-ALT-DEL and check resource useage, all 4 CPU things are maxed out. Am I doing something wrong, is Handbrake really that slow, or is the encoding process THAT intensive??? I know it's a bigtime CPU drainer, but YOWZA....
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post #14 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 05:17 PM
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1. By design Handbrake compresses files so there will be some loss of quality. However, depending on your settings you might never notice the difference. Lossles remux from .mkv to .mp4 is possible for some a/v codecs but I know of no simple way to accomplish this. I tried to do it by extracting the streams with mkvextract then remuxing with mp4box but had issues and eventually gave up. Too much hassle for very little improvement while Handbrake is pretty much set and forget. Plus, the compression provided by Handbrake is very mobile (limited disk) friendly.

2. Personally I've never used the "Target Size..." option. The presets in the right hand pane have always been fine for me. I use "High Profile" as my default with great results on my ps3 and iDevices. Just load up your .mkv, click High Profile, then start Handbrake. Easy! Also, I assume letting Handbrake determine the final file size will result in better quality. (Full disclosure: I am an extremely satisfied subscriber to Assassin's guides. However, my advice is based on my own personal experience. Portions of Assassin's guides may go out of date as software is updated but I'm sure he'd be happy to help you out if you send him a PM.)

I ripped about 200 DVDs with handbrake last year so I could easily stream them to my PS3 and iPad. In the process of doing that I happened across this forum which convinced me to dump the idea of using the PS3 as my primary mediastreamer and build a proper HTPC. Took a few months to convince my wife I needed to build a new computer but she LOVES it now. biggrin.gif
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post #15 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 05:24 PM
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Yeah, that sounds about right for 1080p... Encoding video is just that intensive. You might look into MediaEspresso (I think that's it) which can utilize your CPUs quicksync function and speed things up a bit. Not free.

DVDs tend to go a lot faster, takes me about an hour on my i3-2100. I ended up keeping my blu-rays as .mkv unless requested by my wife or daughter. Then i would start it before going to bed smile.gif
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post #16 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Josh3693 View Post

Yeah, that sounds about right for 1080p... Encoding video is just that intensive. You might look into MediaEspresso (I think that's it) which can utilize your CPUs quicksync function and speed things up a bit. Not free.
DVDs tend to go a lot faster, takes me about an hour on my i3-2100. I ended up keeping my blu-rays as .mkv unless requested by my wife or daughter. Then i would start it before going to bed smile.gif
Another contender in the Quick Sync encoder market is Mirillis. I use their Action! screen recorder and it can convert a 2 hour (40 GB) 1080p capture to AVC in about 30 minutes (i7 2600).
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post #17 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 07:53 PM - Thread Starter
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1. By design Handbrake compresses files so there will be some loss of quality.

so really no reason to use it to convert from mkv to mp4 or m4v or whatever, "just because", only use it for the purpose of shrinking
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2. Personally I've never used the "Target Size..." option. The presets in the right hand pane have always been fine for me. I use "High Profile" as my default with great results on my ps3 and iDevices. Just load up your .mkv, click High Profile, then start Handbrake. Easy!

do you use mkv as the output for your PS3? I thought I had read that PS3 doesn't read mkv's properly or something. What file format do you use?
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I ripped about 200 DVDs with handbrake last year so I could easily stream them to my PS3 and iPad. In the process of doing that I happened across this forum which convinced me to dump the idea of using the PS3 as my primary mediastreamer and build a proper HTPC. Took a few months to convince my wife I needed to build a new computer but she LOVES it now. biggrin.gif

so the PS3 is basically a stopgap solution until I end up building an HTPC then? Not something that is incorporated in, rather it's just a stopgap

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Yeah, that sounds about right for 1080p... Encoding video is just that intensive. You might look into MediaEspresso (I think that's it) which can utilize your CPUs quicksync function and speed things up a bit. Not free. DVDs tend to go a lot faster, takes me about an hour on my i3-2100. I ended up keeping my blu-rays as .mkv unless requested by my wife or daughter. Then i would start it before going to bed smile.gif

what reqiures the conversion? ipod or something?
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Another contender in the Quick Sync encoder market is Mirillis. I use their Action! screen recorder and it can convert a 2 hour (40 GB) 1080p capture to AVC in about 30 minutes (i7 2600).

wow, that's really fast. Does that also shrink the file size down?
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post #18 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 08:20 PM
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1. Main reason i used handbrake was to convert from .whatever to .mp4/m4v (same thing) for easy playback on ps3 and iPad.

2. I always output handbrake as m4v. M4v will playback natively on my ps3 and iThings but mkv won't which is why i converted. Selecting any of the handbrake presets will default to m4v.

3. For me, that ended up being the case. The ps3 works ok as a streamer but it has nothing on a dedicated htpc. Interface, features, plays anything. Plus this has become something of a hobby for me smile.gif

4. Yes, i convert for our iPad, mostly for if we want a movie in a place where we need to keep a toddler entertained for a while, car, doctors, etc.


Now all this is what worked for me. Every case is different so of course, YMMV.
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post #19 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 08:21 PM
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wow, that's really fast. Does that also shrink the file size down?
yes. Typically about 5 to 1.
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post #20 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by sgtrobo View Post

For example, all i want to do is start with my DVDs and BluRays, and:
1. Make a backup digital copy with nothing removed (in the event I lose the disc or it gets scratched or whatever)
2. Compress it to a laptop computer-useable format
3. Compress it to a digital device type format (i.e. so my wife can put a movie on her phone and watch it while she's doing the elliptical at the gym, etc)

Per your OP, i found mp4 to be the most compatible format with my devices. No codecs, no special players, it just works. Hence my recommendation for Handbrake. And it's free smile.gif
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post #21 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 09:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Per your OP, i found mp4 to be the most compatible format with my devices. No codecs, no special players, it just works. Hence my recommendation for Handbrake. And it's free smile.gif

excellent.

so makeMKV to convert the disk to lossless mkv, while removing the Portuguese subtitles and various other languages and non-necessary audio type tracks.

then use handbrake to convert the mkv to:

1. smaller mkv for playback on laptop
2. mp4 or m4v for playback on other devices

is there any quality/compression advantage for the mp4 or m4v vs. mkv? Or is the only advantage over mkv simply compatability?

i know mkv has a big advantage in filesize/quality ratio as opposed to avi or mpg, but does that advantage still exist compared to mp4/m4v?

thanks a ton. This is so darn helpful.
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post #22 of 24 Old 07-15-2012, 11:57 PM
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Not too sure about filesize:quality on mp4 vs mkv, shouldn't really matter as those are just "containers" for the a/v streams. Now i do know that mkv is more robust in that it supports virtually all codecs while mp4 is much more limited. So technically you could just extract the streams from an mp4 and repack them into mkv but not necessarily vice versa. VC-1 video (some blu-rays) and DTS HD/Dolby TrueHD audio are big ones missing from mp4. Mkv also has much better subtitle support if that's important to you.

Edit: appears i was mistaken, mp4 does support vc-1 according to Wikipedia.
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post #23 of 24 Old 07-16-2012, 11:52 PM - Thread Starter
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alrightee, so I've been going to town and using makeMKV and Handbrake.


makeMKV is a fickle beast it seems, although when it works, it works brilliantly. I get some strange errors ("cannot find optical device", and then "error saving file" or something AFTER it goes through the entire video) but for the most part, it seems fairly useful.

Handbrake is a heckuva program, but trying to figure out the settings is way over my head, and despite reading about as much as my sorry brain can handle, I'm still waddling around through that application.

so while I wade through that muck, i have a fairly simple question to ask.

"Which audio file should I use"?

for example, my 25th Annivesary Edition of Platoon has a DTS (1,510 Kbps/48.0 KHz, 24 bits, 6 channels, DTS) and a DD (AC-3, 640 Kbps, 48.0 KHz, 16 bits, 6 channels, AC-3)

Now I'll assume that the AC-3 is much lower quality, but what about the AAC? I read somewhere that I only use that if I'm going to go for an mp4/m4v? If I go with AC-3, does that mean I can't get sound in an mp4 if I later convert it?

Also, does it make sense to keep the DTS audio stream in the original mkv, then just use Handbrake to "downsize" it later? If so, do I need to keep the AC-3 audio stream?
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post #24 of 24 Old 07-17-2012, 03:29 PM
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Yeah, MakeMKV is a beta program and still a little "rough around the edges" so to speak.

As for your question, well, it's really up to you. You could keep both streams in the mkv if you want to. That's what I would do. Mp4 supports Dolby (AC-3) quite well but DTS, not so much. Later if you decide to run it through Handbrake you can just drop the DTS track, then convert to AAC and/or "passthrough" the ac-3. I think the handbrake high profile setting sets this up by default. If you are converting exclusively for play on an iThing you can uncheck passthrough to save some MBs. Otherwise keep it.

Hopefully that made sense, really happy to answer anymore questions you have smile.gif
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