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Handbrake nine four

HandBrake has just release version 0.9.4. It is one of the easiest ways to transcode recorded video or DVD’s to modern compressed multimedia files. This version supports 64 bit processors and narrows the focus somewhat towards m4v output with constant quality.

If you are copying your DVD collection to electronic storage for convenient use with a media player, you might want to change the default ‘normal’ preset to ‘high profile’ to take advantage of some of the extra goodies in the m4v format. For modern (post mid 90’s) movies with 5.1 channel surround sound, hit the audio tab and select the proper track for pass through. That often means a 400+ bit rate rather than a 200- rate. If there is a commentary track, you can add that as well. If you need subtitles, click on that tab and add them, too. These options do mean that you need a media player that can handle selecting these options. VLC and the Gnome Movie Player seem to meet this requirement.

Programs like HandBrake are good ways to learn about modern video technology. For instance, the ‘normal’ preset uses strict anamorphic scaling while ‘high profile’ uses loose. This seems backwards. It may be a bit of a trade-off. The idea is to take the original DVD 720×480 resolution coupled with the intended display resolution tied in with actual video aspect ratio to determine an output resolution that is adjusted slightly for optimum compression. The result may be something that is a bit better resolution than the original 480p often found on DVD’s due to pixel squashing.

When you transcode a DVD using the VIDEO_TS option, you may find titles not in the DVD menu. The Tolkien trilogy extended edition from New Line, for instance, has a couple of MTV items that really don’t fit into the tone expressed on the rest of the DVD set. They are available as Easter Eggs if you run the Windows software on the DVD’s. You’ll also find that some lead in and drop out video is on the disk as a short title, usually well under a minute in length. For the extended Tolkien, the lean in is the usual rating and license and the drop out is a fade to black with notice that you need to insert the next DVD for the rest of the movie.

It should also be noted that there is a bit of a discord in the matter of copying DVD’s for personal use. The recording industry seems to want to restrict your viewing of DVD’s to only when it comes off the original media. Some in the industry even want to allow only a certain number of viewings as well. The issue is playing out in the courts and in treaties and the fallout creates hoops and hurdles, and possibly penalties, for those who want to enjoy published media their own way.

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