So. complete newb ready to rip his first BluRay, audio has me wondering (handbrake questions included) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 12:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Just want to make sure I'm doing this right before I get going. I "think" I know what I'm doing, but I don't want to waste a buttload of time if I'm wrong.

Got my new laptop (i7-3610QM) with a BluRay player, and I have the Inception disk. The goals:

1. makeMKV the main movie into a lossless format for backup, keeping all English subtitles and English audio tracks for playback on my home theater system using the highest quality settings and the full HD lossless audio
2. handbrake the mkv, into a version that will play on a laptop using the non-HD audio
3. handbrake the mkv into a version that will play on an iPod


However, the Inception disk has a pile of titles. Most of them are fairly obvious, but there are a pair of 14-chapter titles, one that is 37 GB, the other that is 32 GB. The audio has the following choices:

- DTS-HD Lossless English
- DTS 3/2+1 English


my primary points of confusion are
1. What, exactly, is the difference between DTS 3/2+1 and the DTS-HD? Is the 3/2+1 simply a compressed version of the lossless audio track? I know the 3/2+1 stands for the speaker setup, but what is the difference?

2. If the DTS-HD lossless is selected ONLY, will I lose the ability to later on convert into whatever format is necessary for my daughter's iPod?

3. Handbrake's audio track section has a few options in it that kinda have me confused. Source makes sense, but the other columns give me a headache. When the heck do I select each of the options in the Audio Codec and Mixdown dropdown menus? From what I gather, the "Codec" portion should be AC3 unless it needs to be put onto an apple device, in which case it needs to be aac. However, what is the practical difference between "faac", "aac passthru", and "ffmpeg"? Mixdown gives me multiple options including Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Surround, Stereo, and 6 channel discrete. When do I use what? Would I simply use Stereo for the version I rip for my daughter's iPod, since she'll have a set of earbuds in? Shoult d I mess with the Samplerate section at all? What about the bitrate?

ugh. It's scary that I'm light years ahead of where I was a few weeks ago when I first started looking at this stuff, but I'm still so mind-numbingly clueless.
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post #2 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 02:47 PM - Thread Starter
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wow. handbrake'd from the 37GB to a 3.5 GB in about 4 hours. Sweet....I'm liking this i7. biggrin.gif

kinda impressive to be honest. If anyone gets a chance or has the expertise, would love to get a brief "audio for dummies" explanation for the above. I've read a variety of information on it, but I'm still not quite 'there' yet
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post #3 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 04:14 PM
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From Wikipedia

"According to DTS-HD White Paper[5], the DTS-HD Master Audio contains 2 data streams: the original DTS core stream and the additional "residual" stream which contains the "difference" between the original signal and the lossy compression DTS core stream. The audio signal is split into two paths at the input to the encoder. One path goes to the core encoder for backwards compatibility and is then decoded. The other path compares the original audio to the decoded core signal and generates residuals, which are data over and above what the core contains that is needed to restore the original audio as bit-for-bit identical to the original. The residual data is then encoded by a lossless encoder and packed together with the core. The decoding process is simply the reverse. Note that DTS-HD lossless audio coding is always variable bit rate."

So basically DTS-HD will always contain the "core" DTS track (3/2+1) for backwards compatibility. You'll be fine keeping just the DTS-HD track for all your mkvs. Note that the same is not true for Dolby TrueHD.

As for the rest, i never mess with it. But in a nutshell, anything labeled "pass through" means the audio is more or less untouched. AC3 and Dolby Digital are the same thing. Dolby Pro Logic is, in my opinion, an obsolete format. Google it if you're interested. Ffmpeg and faac are encoders and you probably shouldn't mess with the default settings. As long as you have an aac track, which handbrake should automatically select using most presets, the ipod player will downmix to the correct number of channels (2).

Long story short, pick a preset and stick with the default settings. The developers of handbrake are apple users and decided on those defaults based on their very extensive knowledge of a/v encoding. I like high profile personally.

My question for you is what program are you using to play video files on your laptop? Some players can decode the DTS making handbrake compression unnecessary unless you're really concerned with disk space.
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post #4 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 04:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Josh3693 View Post

From Wikipedia
"According to DTS-HD White Paper[5], the DTS-HD Master Audio contains 2 data streams: the original DTS core stream and the additional "residual" stream which contains the "difference" between the original signal and the lossy compression DTS core stream. The audio signal is split into two paths at the input to the encoder. One path goes to the core encoder for backwards compatibility and is then decoded. The other path compares the original audio to the decoded core signal and generates residuals, which are data over and above what the core contains that is needed to restore the original audio as bit-for-bit identical to the original. The residual data is then encoded by a lossless encoder and packed together with the core. The decoding process is simply the reverse. Note that DTS-HD lossless audio coding is always variable bit rate."
So basically DTS-HD will always contain the "core" DTS track (3/2+1) for backwards compatibility. You'll be fine keeping just the DTS-HD track for all your mkvs. Note that the same is not true for Dolby TrueHD.
ou sir
oh wow, so if I understand things, the DTS-HD already has the DTS 3/2+1 within it, so my "main" mkv only needs the DTS-HD. When I go to handbrake down to the laptop format and the iPod format, I'll be able to use the DTS 3/2+1 and then use the AC3 for the laptop format and the AAC for the iPod format.
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As for the rest, i never mess with it. But in a nutshell, anything labeled "pass through" means the audio is more or less untouched. AC3 and Dolby Digital are the same thing. Dolby Pro Logic is, in my opinion, an obsolete format. Google it if you're interested. Ffmpeg and faac are encoders and you probably shouldn't mess with the default settings. As long as you have an aac track, which handbrake should automatically select using most presets, the ipod player will downmix to the correct number of channels (2).

excellent! Thank you sir!
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My question for you is what program are you using to play video files on your laptop? Some players can decode the DTS making handbrake compression unnecessary unless you're really concerned with disk space.

VLC on my laptop.
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post #5 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 06:08 PM
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VLC on my laptop.

VLC is great in that it will play pretty much anything you throw at it. Give a couple of your makemkv rips a shot and see how well they work. You might be surprised. Now if you ever decide you'd like to experiment a bit, give the "Advanced MPC-HC" sticky post a look. Many feel that set up gives better quality (YMMV) and it sets you up for bitstreaming HD audio something VLC doesn't do.
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post #6 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 07:11 PM
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Does VLC decode HD Audio?

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post #7 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 10:44 PM
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http://www.videolan.org/vlc/features.php?cat=audio

Looks like it will decode truehd. Not clear from the chart if it decodes dts-hd or not but it will decode the dts core at least.
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post #8 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 05:06 AM
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No HD Audio = No Go for me..

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post #9 of 26 Old 07-31-2012, 10:55 AM - Thread Starter
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so is there every a reason to bother with AC3? I did a bunch of testing, and it seems that the differences in handbrake between

stereo, discrete 6-channel, DPL-II filesize-wise, are almost irrelevant. I took the Karate Kid (2010) Blu-Ray and handbrake'd it (handbroke??) to a 1280, DP22 format using all manners and combinations of the choices in mixdown and codecs, i.e. faac, ffmpeg, aac, ac3 with all other settings being equal. filesizes ranged from 2,212,000 to 2,200,000, or a 12 MB total difference in a file just over 2.2 GBs, which is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

There's gotta be a reason to use one over the other, right? If it isn't filesize, then what is it?
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post #10 of 26 Old 07-31-2012, 11:44 AM
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AAC is used mostly for iDevices. It's the only format they play natively in fact. It's fine for a pair of earbuds but generally speaking it's pretty poor quality sound. AC3 is used by AppleTV
(in addition to AAC) and virtually everything will play it. It is quite old. It support full 5.1 sound if you have that type of setup. If you're just using your TV speakers your probably won't notice any difference between AAC and AC3 5.1/Dolby Surround/Dolby Pro-Logic etc. If you have good quality 5.1 speakers then one of the HD audio types is easily the best however some people can't really hear the difference between AC3 5.1 and HD Audio.

So, if you want to play it on a portable device, especially Apple, then include an AAC track. if you have a home theater with 5.1 setup add an AC3 6 channel track also to get the proper surround. Otherwise AC3 Dolby Surround or Dolby Pro-Logic might suffice for you.
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post #11 of 26 Old 07-31-2012, 01:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by JMGNYC View Post

AAC is used mostly for iDevices. It's the only format they play natively in fact. It's fine for a pair of earbuds but generally speaking it's pretty poor quality sound. AC3 is used by AppleTV (in addition to AAC) and virtually everything will play it. It is quite old. It support full 5.1 sound if you have that type of setup. If you're just using your TV speakers your probably won't notice any difference between AAC and AC3 5.1/Dolby Surround/Dolby Pro-Logic etc. If you have good quality 5.1 speakers then one of the HD audio types is easily the best however some people can't really hear the difference between AC3 5.1 and HD Audio.
So, if you want to play it on a portable device, especially Apple, then include an AAC track. if you have a home theater with 5.1 setup add an AC3 6 channel track also to get the proper surround. Otherwise AC3 Dolby Surround or Dolby Pro-Logic might suffice for you.

As pitiful as this is going to seem, please let me make sure i understand what you mean for my 'process" as I am still learning what everything means in handbrake and a lot of stuff which should be obvious...isn't quite so obvious to me. So please let me talk this out...

My process:
Step 1 - makeMKV the original disc. I'll use this on my home theater system for a lossless copy. I'll store these files on my big hard drive, so I have no issue with the 25-35 GB mkv files from BluRays. Max quality is key. I have a decent home theater system and a big ole' Blu-Ray capable TV.
Step 2 - Handbrake the fullsize MKV into a smaller mkv suitable for use on a laptop or smaller home system. I'll store this on a smaller portable hard drive to take with me on deployments, and for my older daughter to take with her to school to watch on her laptop. I'd prefer to keep these under 1.5 GB, but this needs to be a step up from just "earbud/headphone" sound because I want it to be playable in our 'family room' which has a 37" TV and a cheap, older 5.1 speaker system
Step 3 - Handkbrake the MKV into an mp4 suitable for use (and temp storage) on an iPod. Quality can be lower, small file size IS important, I want these to be under 650-700 MB at most. These are just earbuds and at most 960 resolution or whatever the little portable devices can use today.

so that means:

Step 1 - Include original DTS-HD/TrueHD (BluRay) or DD/DTS 3/2+1 with makeMKV
Step 2 - Use Handbrake's AC3 (ffmpeg) and Dolby Pro Logic II to allow for at least reasonable sound on lower quality "home systems" plus maxing out any laptop type sound system
Step 3 - Use handbrake's aac (faac) or aac (ffmpeg) for the audio

Does my process make sense? If so, I think I'm *almost* there! biggrin.gif 3 questions, please:
1. you mentioned the "add an AC3 6 channel track". Is that the "6-channel discrete" Mixdown setting?
2. If I'm using the "full sound" available from the orignal source mkv for my home system, I wouldn't need anything more than DPL-II for a 'lesser' system, correct?
3. Is there really any difference between faac or ffmpeg as the audio codec? I notice the file size difference is neglible. Is there a compatibility difference? Or is it basically a to-MAY-to to-MAH-to type thing?

Thanks a ton for putting up with my questions. I'm sure it'll make perfect sense once I get it all in, but for right now, it seems like calculus. confused.gif I've been doing my reading and I've makeMKV'D/handbraked several dozen files in the last 2 weeks (pretty much 24/7 with the queue and whatnot), and I only have so much time to test in each of the various environments. Even with an i7-3610, it takes over an hour to makeMKV a BluRay and another 4 or so to Handbrake the sucker (less for the iPod), so that's a lot of time. Thanks again. smile.gif
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post #12 of 26 Old 08-01-2012, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by sgtrobo View Post

As pitiful as this is going to seem, please let me make sure i understand what you mean for my 'process" as I am still learning what everything means in handbrake and a lot of stuff which should be obvious...isn't quite so obvious to me. So please let me talk this out...
My process:
Step 1 - makeMKV the original disc. I'll use this on my home theater system for a lossless copy. I'll store these files on my big hard drive, so I have no issue with the 25-35 GB mkv files from BluRays. Max quality is key. I have a decent home theater system and a big ole' Blu-Ray capable TV.
Step 2 - Handbrake the fullsize MKV into a smaller mkv suitable for use on a laptop or smaller home system. I'll store this on a smaller portable hard drive to take with me on deployments, and for my older daughter to take with her to school to watch on her laptop. I'd prefer to keep these under 1.5 GB, but this needs to be a step up from just "earbud/headphone" sound because I want it to be playable in our 'family room' which has a 37" TV and a cheap, older 5.1 speaker system
Step 3 - Handkbrake the MKV into an mp4 suitable for use (and temp storage) on an iPod. Quality can be lower, small file size IS important, I want these to be under 650-700 MB at most. These are just earbuds and at most 960 resolution or whatever the little portable devices can use today.
so that means:
Step 1 - Include original DTS-HD/TrueHD (BluRay) or DD/DTS 3/2+1 with makeMKV
Step 2 - Use Handbrake's AC3 (ffmpeg) and Dolby Pro Logic II to allow for at least reasonable sound on lower quality "home systems" plus maxing out any laptop type sound system
Step 3 - Use handbrake's aac (faac) or aac (ffmpeg) for the audio

I don't think you need 3 different files really. I'd suggest the following but it might depend on how much space you have on your iPod or iPhone and how old it is. What I'd suggest is:

Step 1 - MakeMKV of the original disk for home use.
Step 2 - Handbrake to .m4v for both use on a laptop or iPod. Add 2 audio tracks to the file. The first should be AAC and the second should be AC3 downmixed to 6-channel discrete. .m4v will play fine on a laptop with most players.

You'll save youself 1 conversion and the disk space of having 3 seperate files instead of just 2. One is for the big screen, the second is for everything else.
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1. you mentioned the "add an AC3 6 channel track". Is that the "6-channel discrete" Mixdown setting?
Yes
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2. If I'm using the "full sound" available from the orignal source mkv for my home system, I wouldn't need anything more than DPL-II for a 'lesser' system, correct?
That is technically correct. I like to include the 2nd AC3 6-channel discrete audio track to future proof it, say for an AppleTV or plugging an iPad into an AVR for playback. But, you're right that it's not needed for a laptop or iPod that only has stereo speakers.
Quote:
3. Is there really any difference between faac or ffmpeg as the audio codec? I notice the file size difference is neglible. Is there a compatibility difference? Or is it basically a to-MAY-to to-MAH-to type thing?
Thanks a ton for putting up with my questions. I'm sure it'll make perfect sense once I get it all in, but for right now, it seems like calculus. confused.gif I've been doing my reading and I've makeMKV'D/handbraked several dozen files in the last 2 weeks (pretty much 24/7 with the queue and whatnot), and I only have so much time to test in each of the various environments. Even with an i7-3610, it takes over an hour to makeMKV a BluRay and another 4 or so to Handbrake the sucker (less for the iPod), so that's a lot of time. Thanks again. smile.gif
The big reason for AAC is that it is required for playback on iPod/iPhone/iPad. It is not really superior sound in any way. faac and ffmpeg are just the conversion mechanism. The final codec is AAC. faac has always worked well for me but there's really probably only very minor differences between the 2.

I'd say you're probably about right with your timings. 45-60 minutes to MakeMKV a blu-ray. Make sure not to pick uneeded titles, audio and subtitle tracks. 4 hours for a good conversion in Handbrake is about what is to be expected. Just queue them up and let them run overnight or while at work.

Let me know if you have more questions.
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post #13 of 26 Old 08-01-2012, 08:06 PM - Thread Starter
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I don't think you need 3 different files really. I'd suggest the following but it might depend on how much space you have on your iPod or iPhone and how old it is. What I'd suggest is:
Step 1 - MakeMKV of the original disk for home use.
Step 2 - Handbrake to .m4v for both use on a laptop or iPod. Add 2 audio tracks to the file. The first should be AAC and the second should be AC3 downmixed to 6-channel discrete. .m4v will play fine on a laptop with most players. You'll save youself 1 conversion and the disk space of having 3 seperate files instead of just 2. One is for the big screen, the second is for everything else.

well, I have a 3 TB and a few 1 TB externals, and a 1 TB internal. I also offload the "mini-Pod" files onto the iPod itself (iPod classic). I've found that setting handbrake to get me an mkv around 1~1.5GB seems to be a pretty decent mix of filesize and quality for playback on the laptop and the 32" in my dayroom. I don't want to toss a 1.5 GB file on the ipod, since I'm able to get the ipod files to about 500 MB and my daughter is perfectly happy with them. Since I'm offloading them anyway, space isnt' an issue, and I just set up handbrake's queue to do about 10 of the "mini-pod" files while I sleep. biggrin.gif
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That is technically correct. I like to include the 2nd AC3 6-channel discrete audio track to future proof it, say for an AppleTV or plugging an iPad into an AVR for playback. But, you're right that it's not needed for a laptop or iPod that only has stereo speakers.
The big reason for AAC is that it is required for playback on iPod/iPhone/iPad. It is not really superior sound in any way. faac and ffmpeg are just the conversion mechanism. The final codec is AAC. faac has always worked well for me but there's really probably only very minor differences between the 2.
I'd say you're probably about right with your timings. 45-60 minutes to MakeMKV a blu-ray. Make sure not to pick uneeded titles, audio and subtitle tracks. 4 hours for a good conversion in Handbrake is about what is to be expected. Just queue them up and let them run overnight or while at work.
Let me know if you have more questions.

one of the things I'm considering is doing a handbrake of the original BluRay using RF19 and pass-thru audio, and using that as my "play file" for my big screen. I honestly can't say I notice any differnce at all between an 8 GB BluRay that I handbrake'd at RF19 and the original 30GB full-size mkv, other than some stuttering with the 30 GB.

Understand, I have an i7-3610, so CPU *shouldn't* be that much of an issue. I wonder if that 8 GB file won't just play a little smoother?
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post #14 of 26 Old 08-02-2012, 08:55 AM
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When you said iPod, I just assumed an iPod touch. For an iPod classic I can see why you would want smaller files so if you don't mind spend the extra time then do it. However, I imagine that some point you may wish to upgrade the iPod classic so you might want to re-encode then.

If you don't notice the difference between the full size .mkv and an compressed handbraked file then I'd suggest doing that. A lot of people don't notice the difference, it may be their TV, their distance from the TV, their eyesight or whatever. If you don't notice the difference then no problem going for a smaller file size. Do you have a 5.1 audio setup on the main system? Does it suppoer DTS-HD or TrueHD? If so then keep those audio tracks as pass-through.
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post #15 of 26 Old 08-02-2012, 03:02 PM - Thread Starter
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When you said iPod, I just assumed an iPod touch. For an iPod classic I can see why you would want smaller files so if you don't mind spend the extra time then do it. However, I imagine that some point you may wish to upgrade the iPod classic so you might want to re-encode then.
If you don't notice the difference between the full size .mkv and an compressed handbraked file then I'd suggest doing that. A lot of people don't notice the difference, it may be their TV, their distance from the TV, their eyesight or whatever. If you don't notice the difference then no problem going for a smaller file size. Do you have a 5.1 audio setup on the main system? Does it suppoer DTS-HD or TrueHD? If so then keep those audio tracks as pass-through.

yeah, what I've been doing is "future proofing" (tee hee) the iPod classic rips, into a format that has suitable resolution for the classic as well as the higher resolution touch and iPhone. Tested on both as well as my wife's Droid 4, which I think does 960 resolution, and I can get pretty much every movie down to the 500ish MB level with acceptable visual and audio quality

I do have a 5.1 audio, so I am doing pass-thru for the files. For example, I did the Platoon BD, which was over 25 GB "whole" as an mkv, then hadnbraked using RF20 and DTS-HD pass thru, and it ended up being 12 GB, which is obviously more manageable. I'm learning how strange it is with compression though, some files compress really well, others, not so much. I did the Karate Kid (2010) BluRay with my 'laptop' settings, and I couldn't get it under 2 GB, yet using identical settings, I am Legend is barely over 1 GB, and I got Inception just under 1 GB.

Interesting how some movies compress way better than others, even with identical settings.
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post #16 of 26 Old 08-02-2012, 03:24 PM
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Yes you can't use the same settings for different content. Stuff like pixar animations which are obviously digital and very clean compress very well.

Films with a lot of grain usually demand a lot of bitrate.

X264 has a lot more settings than you see in handbrake. To account for things like that. But that's only if you want to get really serious. I don't pretend to be an expert.
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post #17 of 26 Old 08-02-2012, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes you can't use the same settings for different content. Stuff like pixar animations which are obviously digital and very clean compress very well.
Films with a lot of grain usually demand a lot of bitrate.
X264 has a lot more settings than you see in handbrake. To account for things like that. But that's only if you want to get really serious. I don't pretend to be an expert.

haha...95% of what Handbrake has is completely over my head. I've managed to get a basic grip on the RF slider and I'm starting to "get there" with the basics available on the audio tab. I'm just happy that I am starting to 'get a clue' what the difference between aac, ac3, and DTS are (ha....)
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post #18 of 26 Old 08-02-2012, 04:52 PM
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No I'm with you man. The pros do it all via command line. And they have scripts that are 3 or 4 lines long with all the various settings.

Rf is a great way to start though.

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post #19 of 26 Old 08-02-2012, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by sgtrobo View Post

haha...95% of what Handbrake has is completely over my head. I've managed to get a basic grip on the RF slider and I'm starting to "get there" with the basics available on the audio tab. I'm just happy that I am starting to 'get a clue' what the difference between aac, ac3, and DTS are (ha....)

Join the club. I've been messing with CLI and just recently figured out all of the audio commands. But subtitles are still over my head. I've spent enough time on it that I'm giving up and want to just pay someone so I can move on to my other projects. No one wants my money mad.gif.
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post #20 of 26 Old 08-02-2012, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by scl23enn4m3 View Post

Join the club. I've been messing with CLI and just recently figured out all of the audio commands. But subtitles are still over my head. I've spent enough time on it that I'm giving up and want to just pay someone so I can move on to my other projects. No one wants my money mad.gif.
Pay someone to what? Encode your whole movie collection?
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post #21 of 26 Old 08-03-2012, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by whiteboy714 View Post

Pay someone to what? Encode your whole movie collection?

No, to create a CLI string that does what I need it to.
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post #22 of 26 Old 08-03-2012, 11:10 PM
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Its hard to just create one for everything. What about when they have a different AR?
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post #23 of 26 Old 08-04-2012, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by whiteboy714 View Post

Its hard to just create one for everything. What about when they have a different AR?

Understandable, but I just want to keep it the same as the original. Kind of like the 'auto' and 'copy' features.
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post #24 of 26 Old 08-04-2012, 07:45 PM
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Well that's the thing. Normal procedure is that you don't encode the black bars. It's a waste of bitrate. So you need to crop each one according to the ar. I guess you could just leave them if you don't care.

I have some really good settings that were given to me from one of the original members of ESiR. Not sure if you know the name but they were one of the top X264 encoders for a long time.

I was using megui though I can't do CL. If your interested in them shoot me a pm. I'm away from home for a few days though.
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post #25 of 26 Old 08-10-2012, 03:08 PM
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So what's the best constant quality setting for a 1080p and 720p? Somewhere between 19 and 18 for both? I always get the DTS-HD sound. For some reason though I can't get handbrake to pass thru TrueHD so I just demux with MKVextract and mux it back in with MKVmerge.
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post #26 of 26 Old 08-10-2012, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by 357 View Post

So what's the best constant quality setting for a 1080p and 720p? Somewhere between 19 and 18 for both? I always get the DTS-HD sound. For some reason though I can't get handbrake to pass thru TrueHD so I just demux with MKVextract and mux it back in with MKVmerge.
Got this from the handbrake site.

Its hard for someone to tell you what is the best. Some people like small files. Some people like the quality to be as transparent as possible. Probably best to test and find the right quality/filesize ratio for you. But I thing 18 or 19 is a good place to start.
Code:
x264 Recommended Quality RF Values

The Quality slider ranges from (Low Quality) 51 to 0 (High Quality) For good quality output at reasonable file sizes, the following values are recommended:

Standard Definition (e.g DVD's)
Use an RF value of around 20 +/- 1 
As an example using the AppleTV2 preset at RF20, with 20 different sources, the average size was 925MB per hour of video. (Min: 625MB/h Max:1,503MB/hr)

High Definition (e.g Blurays 720/1080)
Use an RF value of 22 +/- 1

You should note that the quality slider is not linear for x264. It is logarithmic (like the Richter or pH scales.) This means small movements in the numbers can have large results. 
You can control the granularity of the slider in the preferences / options. 
You can encode a few chapters of a source to experiment with different quality values if the above recommendations are not suitable. Encoding a 10minute sample in the middle of your source should give you a good idea of what to expect.
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