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A “best settings” guide for Handbrake 0.9.9 and 0.10

Update: The x264 vs x265 vs VP8 vs VP9 page is back for those interested. I had to drop the video clips, but the image comparisons are still there.

So Handbrake 0.10 has been out for a while now (and 0.9.9 for even longer), and if you’ve looked through my previous multi-page guide that explained all the advanced settings in 0.9.6, I’ve got some good news:

Getting something that amounts to the “best settings” is a whole lot easier in v0.9.9 and v0.10.

(yay!)

The “x264 presets” are now in Handbrake, and 99% of the time, that should mean that you don’t have to dabble in the “x264 Advanced Options Panel”. Though if you want/need to for whatever reason, the old rundown of Handbrake settings (0.9.6) guide should help explain all those options for you in great detail (note that in v0.10 you may need to enable the x264 advanced options panel in the Handbrake settings/preferences located in the drop-down menu).

Note that since v0.10 is very similar to v0.9.9, I’ve simply updated this guide with v0.10-specific additions in orange (like this!).

I’ll use some images this time around to help make things quick & easy. We’ll start at the more complicated part, and work backwards.

 

But first…

-Encodes fast
-High quality
-Smallest file size possible

Pick 2.

The decisions you make during these sections will largely depend on which 2 you choose.

 

Anyway, let’s start at the highlighted area below.

Handbrake settings - Section A

 

Constant Quality (RF) vs Average Bitrate (kbps)

  1. These have the largest impact on quality & file size. Move the Constant Quality RF slider far enough to the right (or use a high enough Average Bitrate) and the video will be large, and look indistinguishable from your source. Moving the slider to the extreme left (or using a low enough Average Bitrate), and you can get really small file sizes, but something looking pretty ugly. Most people aim for something in between.
  2. Generally speaking, one isn’t going to get you a “nicer” video than the other.
  3. I’m really going to be simplifying the rest below (it won’t be 100% technically accurate, but accurate enough to give you an understanding).

First, a quick image to give you an idea as to what Constant Quality entails…. (click for a larger image)

Handbrake Constant Quality details

Constant Quality – Usually this is the preferred method. This targets a certain level of quality throughout your video(s). The advantage to Constant Quality is that your videos all tend to look consistent. The downside is that you don’t know how large each video will be until the end.

RF – Sliding to the right (lower numbers) lead to better quality. Sliding to the left (higher numbers) result in lower quality, but lower filesizes too. If you’ve never used Constant Quality before, normally RF:20 is considered as a starting point for DVD encodes (and RF:22 for BluRay). Most people experiment to find an RF value that looks good enough to them at a file size they can handle, and use that RF value most of the time, deviating slightly when need be.

RF examples – Here are a couple screenshots taken at different RF settings (one at 20, and one at 30) to give you a very rough starting point (click for a larger view):

x264 Handbrake encode at RF 20 x264 Handbrake encode at RF 30

For a more in-depth look at RF values, check out Comparing x264 “RF” settings in Handbrake (examples) for the full write-up.

 

And an image to give you an idea as to what Average Bitrate entails… (click for a larger image)

Handbrake Average Bitrate details

Average Bitrate – Using this and a calculator, you can aim for a specific file size given a certain video length. Helpful if you wanted each of your movies to be exactly 700MB for example. Advantage to Average Bitrate is that you can effectively pre-determine your file size. The downside is that after you finish encoding, you might find out that the filesize you chose wasn’t high enough, and your video looks like junk. Or maybe the file size was higher than it needed to be. 2 pass encoding when using this option used to be strongly recommended, but it’s generally not thought to be as important anymore unless you need a precise file size (“turbo” first pass is okay if you don’t mind losing a little precision in size).

kbps – The higher this is, the larger the file will be (and thus, the higher the quality). Online bitrate calculators are the easiest way to do this.

Looking at Constant Quality vs Average Bitrate from another perspective…:

Let’s pretend we’re encoding a 1 hour TV series from DVD with constant quality and have determined that RF:22 looks just-good-enough to us. Here’s how it might turn out:

  • Episode 1: RF22 – 278MB (avg video bitrate of 686kbps)
  • Episode 2: RF22 – 349MB (avg video bitrate of 915kbps)
  • Episode 3: RF22 – 363MB (avg video bitrate of 948kbps)
  • Episode 4: RF22 – 304MB (avg video bitrate of 792kbps)
  • TOTAL SIZE: 1294MB

All episodes should look consistent. Clearly, Episodes 1 & 4 didn’t need as much bitrate as the others, so they ended up being smaller.

Now what if we’d tried using an “average bitrate” instead, targeting exactly 323.5MB per episode?

  • Episode 1: 798kbps (avg video bitrate) – 323.5MB
  • Episode 2: 798kbps (avg video bitrate) – 323.5MB
  • Episode 3: 798kbps (avg video bitrate) – 323.5MB
  • Episode 4: 798kbps (avg video bitrate) – 323.5MB
  • TOTAL SIZE: 1294MB

The TOTAL SIZE is the same. The problem is that this time, Episode 1 got more bitrate than it needed. Episodes 2 & 3 probably didn’t get enough. Episode 4 got close to the ideal amount for our “RF:22 looked good to us” standards and probably looks identical to the RF:22 version from before. Either way, we’re now in a situation where Episode 1 looks stellar, but in Episodes 2 & 3, things are below our standards, looking notably worse.

That doesn’t mean that average bitrate is *bad*. It’s just not consistent when it comes to visual quality – it’s only consistent when it comes to file size. So if you use average bitrate, you may have to “pad” your numbers a bit just in case some of your videos need the extra bitrate to look okay. If I were encoding the rest of the season via “average bitrate”, I’d probably be encoding everything at 1000kbps to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, that means my total filesize for 4 more episodes similar to the above would now be 1622MB instead of just 1294MB. And at that point, I’d have been better off using Constant Quality with a better RF value.

 

Short version:  Unless you desperately need your file to come out at an exact size, use Constant Quality. Play with RF values until you find values where the video looks good enough to you on the devices you play back from, at file sizes you find acceptable.

 

 

x264 Preset

As mentioned above, this has a different effect depending on whether you went with Constant Quality, or Average Bitrate.

If you went with Constant Quality, your quality has already been “decided”. Changing this won’t substantially affect the quality any further (if you wanted higher quality, move the RF slider more to the right). Using the 7 slowest settings will find ways to fit that quality into a lower file size. Using the 2 fastest settings will result in a larger file size. Either way, it should look about the same. Note that the 3rd setting (very fast) behaves very oddly with Constant Quality and I suggest you avoid using it. If you want more detail about the RF value and CQ, I’ve got a separate writeup to help clarify all of that (with charts) at Handbrake RF + slower speeds = craziness.

If you went with Average Bitrate, your file size has already been “decided”. Changing this won’t affect the file size any further. Going with slower settings here will try to pack more quality into that file size you’ve chosen. Going with faster settings here will result in less quality.

 

Details: This is where the time tradeoff comes into play. The veryslow preset is about the most hard-core anyone should typically get, and it can take a long time even on a quick machine. This is one of those areas where you’ll have to experiment on your machine and find something reasonable.

Keep in mind that there are diminishing returns as you get slower. Compared to “veryslow”, the “placebo” setting takes forever and a day. At the very least, it’ll usually add a few hours, if not days, depending on your source and computer. Even worse, you might not even notice the visual difference (it’s called “placebo” for a reason). On the other hand, the difference between “ultrafast” and “medium” (skipping superfast, veryfast, faster, and fast) might only be a few minutes and will often give a quite noticeable difference.

Finally, when on the quest for quality, keep in mind that days of encode time is no substitute for simply choosing a better Constant Quality or higher Average Bitrate. Slow settings will let you get more bang-for-your-buck, but it’s not going to work miracles. Sure, a 350MB TV show encoded at really slow settings will look better than the same 350MB TV show encoded at fast settings. But a 600MB encode of the same TV show will trounce both of them even if it was done at really fast settings.

 

 

x264 Tune

In general, these focus on shifting “bits” between detailed & flat areas, depending on the setting. To be honest, you don’t have to really understand what they do – other people have done the grunt work figuring them out, so they’re whittled down to pretty simple “one size fits all” settings.

None – This is like the “old” Handbrake presets. Nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s something of a middle-road setting.

Film – For TV/Movies/Film and 3D animation (Pixar movies for example)

Animation – For 2D animation (Mikey Mouse, Simpsons, etc)

Grain – For very grainy movies/shows. For example, movies like 300 or Saving Private Ryan (the beach scene). Note that this tries to KEEP the grain, which uses a boatload of bitrate, and tends to result in higher file sizes when using Constant Quality (if you’re using Avg Bitrate, make sure you’re using a high bitrate, or overall quality will suffer.).

Stillimage – For still images (slideshow/pictures).

PSNR/SSIM –  Generally for testing/comparative purposes. These stand for “peak signal to noise ratio” and “structural similarity”. x264 has some enhancements that improve the image as you would see it (robbing “detail” from places you wouldn’t notice it anyway, and putting that detail where you would notice it). These settings disable those, so that the image is more “technically” correct so that a computer can compare the video with the source to see how accurate/identical it is.

Zerolatency – Meant for fast encoding with quick streaming.

 

Short version: Film, Animation, and Grain are what you probably want to use most of the time (perhaps “None” as well). The others are for pretty edge cases that most people don’t have to worry about.

Fast Decode (checkbox)

Usually you do *not* want this checked. A few exceptions:

  • Check it if you’re trying to play your videos on an older computer that struggles to decode H264.
  • Check it if playing videos on an older device that struggles to decode H264.
  • You could optionally check it if uploading to YouTube or other video-sharing sites. It may make it quicker for the site to decode it and put your video up. It’s usually not necessary.

It disables a few H264/x264 optimizations, making it easier to play but at the expense of a larger file (or lower quality if using an average bitrate). Since most recent computers/devices have built-in hardware support for these optimizations, you usually don’t need to bother with it. If you find that playback on your favorite device is choppy, try checking this though.

 

H.264 Profile & H.264 Level

This is where things can get a little tricky. Higher profiles & levels tend to get you better compression (so better quality in a given filesize). However, you’re going to be limited by the profile support of the hardware devices you’re planning to play your videos on. Here’s the order of things:

Baseline -> Main -> High
1.0 -> 1b -> 1.1 -> 1.2 -> ……. -> 5.1 -> 5.2 (this one’s easy enough to figure out)

Currently, High Profile, Level 4.1 is the most popular profile on recent / cutting edge devices. Such a device will also play Baseline/Main, and any level between 1.0-4.0. The industry’s stagnated at Level 4.1 for a couple years, probably because it’s at the point where it’s “good enough” until H265 starts taking over.

Here are a few examples of profile support for popular devices:

iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS: Baseline Profile, Level 3.0
iPhone 4, iPad 1, AppleTV 2: Main Profile, Level 3.1
AppleTV 3: High Profile, Level 4.0 (may actually support 4.1)
iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad Mini: High Profile, Level 4.1

Blackberry 7 & 7.1 devices:  High Profile, Level 3.1 (they recommend using Baseline Profile though)
Blackberry 10, Blackberry Playbook: High Profile, Level 4.2

WD TV Play & TV Live: High Profile, Level 4.1

BluRay devices (those which will read from a USB hard drive for example) should normally support High/Level 4.1, but are often somewhat picky and have a tendency to complain about being “too complex”. I haven’t actually bothered to try determining the exact cause, but if you run into this issue, you can try entering bluray-compat=1 in the “Additional Options” window (note that your file size may increase somewhat). If that doesn’t work, try Main profile or a lower level.

Samsung & Nokia don’t list profiles on their spec sheets for phones/tablets. Probably safe to assume at least Level 4.0 on their devices that record in 1080p.

Roku, Boxee Box, Netgear NeoTV don’t list profiles on their spec sheets for media streamers. Probably safe to assume at least Level 3.1 for 720p devices and Level 4.1 for 1080p.

…you’ll have to do your own digging for devices from other manufacturers.

Short version here is that for devices which are a couple generations old, Main Profile, Level 3.0 is usually supported.

Almost every current-generation device supports High Profile, Level 4.1.

Thus, you probably don’t want to exceed Level 4.1. If you go any higher, your video probably won’t play, or will play-with-glitches on any current smartphones, tablets, etc. Note that some slower computers which lack hardware playback support may also struggle to smoothly play back videos encoded at very high levels.

Enough with the complicated/hard stuff. Now the easier bits.

Handbrake settings - Section B

 

 

Format – MP4 file vs MKV file

This is known as a “container”. Doesn’t affect the quality, so don’t stress too much over this one.

MP4 file – This is what you usually want to use. It has the highest player & device compatibility. Windows Media Player won’t play MKV by default. Quicktime, iPhones/iPads/AppleTV/etc don’t play MKV files either. MP4 is the safe bet and works perfectly fine.

MKV file – This is a more flexible, but less supported container. Technically, you can jam multiple video streams in it, add DVD menus, use a wider variety of codecs, and a whole whack of other things (none of that through Handbrake, mind you). The 2 notable exceptions when it comes to Handbrake are that it will allow you to use the Theora (VP3) video codec, and FLAC or Vorbis audio codecs. In v0.10 it will also allow you to use Googles VP8 codec.

 

Short version: Unless you have a specific reason to use MKV, use MP4.

 

Video Codec – H.264 (x264) vs MPEG-4 vs MPEG-2 (vs H.265/x265 vs VP8 in v0.10)

H.264 – This is probably the *reason* you’re using Handbrake to begin with. It’s the newest codec offered, results in high quality at low file sizes, and is supported by virtually every recent device out there.

MPEG-4 – An older codec, and very few reasons to use it. To give you an idea, old devices/players that won’t play anything newer than DivX will usually do well with MPEG-4. If you have a really old (or really cheap) phone that has very basic video playback capability, it might work on those too. And if you’re hoping to edit your video later in a 5-year old editing program that lacks H264 support, this gives you an option to do so.

MPEG-2 – Unless you have a specific reason for using this (beyond time travel to the late 90’s), don’t.

Theora – Only available when using the MKV container, it’s positioned somewhere between MPEG-4 and H.264 in terms of specifications. Not very popular in the mainstream – Linux users and the open source community in general tend to be most familiar with it. Those who use it usually have specific reasons for doing so – if you’ve never heard of it, it’s probably not what you’re looking for.

H.265 – New for Handbrake v0.10, this allows you to encode your video using the new H.265/x265 encoder. As you might guess, H.265 (also known as HEVC) is the successor to H.264. Don’t go encoding all your videos in x265 just yet though! Here are a few reasons why you might want to wait a while before making the switch from x264 to x265 (as of early-mid 2015):

  • x264 is very mature with many years of development behind it. x265 on the other hand is very young and still has a lot of room for improvement. Depending on what you encode, an x264 encode could very well come out looking better (and being smaller in file size) than an x265 encode. Eventually, x265 should blow away any x264 encode, but we’re not quite there yet… these things take time.
  • x265 encodes take a very long time. I did a number of tests with a 46 minute TV show from BluRay (1440×1080) with the veryslow preset. Using x264, the times were each around 2 hours (+/- 30 mins). Encoding the same episode using x265, times ranged from 21-34 hours.
  • Almost no device support yet. VLC v2.2+ is about the only mainstream player so far on desktop/mobile. Nothing built-in yet from iDevices (technically FaceTime can use H.265 on the iPhone 6, but no playback support yet). Android just added API support in “Lollipop”, but I haven’t come across devices with hardware support. 4K BluRay players aren’t expected until the end of 2015. Intel/nVidia just started adding hardware decode support to recent devices near the end of 2014 and early 2015. Basically, things are pretty early in terms of support.

…all that said, if you’re the “early adopter” type who likes to tinker with new stuff, by all means, try it out on a video or 2. If nothing else, it’s good to get a feel for the way things look at various settings and RF values. Just don’t go encoding your entire library just yet.

VP8 – New for Handbrake v0.10, this won’t show up unless you select the MKV container. If you’ve never heard of it, I tend to think of VP8 as “Google’s version of H.264”. It tends to be inferior to x264, except in perhaps a few very specific circumstances. It’s intended to be patent-free (and hopes were once that it would become part of a standard for web video), though there’s a huge mess surrounding all of that which you can search around for and read up on if you’re interested (both the patent side and the web browser side). As for encode time: a video that took 2.5 hours for me to encode in x264 took a little over 6 hours using VP8. If anyone actually uses VP8 on a regular basis, I’d be very interested in hearing about what you use it for and why in the comments.

 

Short version: H.264 unless you have a good reason to use something else.

 

Framerate (FPS), and Variable vs Constant framerate

Same as source – You almost always want to use this instead of manually picking a frame rate. Handbrake is smart and will virtually always get this right. If you detelecine or deinterlace, it will also do the smart thing here too and change the frame rate to be accurate. Manually setting the frame rate to something incorrect will often result in the video looking choppy/stuttery. Manually reducing the frame rate generally won’t reduce the file size by as much as you’d expect either. There are very few edge cases where manually setting it makes sense – usually it doesn’t.

Variable Framerate – Ideal most of the time (especially if de-telecining). If the “true” frame rate bounces around (or does after de-telecining), this will keep things looking as good & stutter-free as the original (and perhaps keep from encoding extra wasted frames). And if the “true” frame rate doesn’t bounce around, you’ll end up with a constant frame rate anyway.

Constant Framerate – I’d only go with this if I needed a specific frame rate & had manually set it.

 

Short version: “Same as Source” and “Variable” unless you have a solid reason for forcing something else.

On to the “Picture Settings” window.

(accessed via a button towards the upper right)

Handbrake settings - Picture Settings (size)

SIZEAnamorphic – Unless you’re doing some manual resizing, you’re usually best to use “Strict”. I can’t think of a lot of reasons to use “Loose” unless you’re resizing the video resolution (loose makes it fairly easy). “Custom” is beyond the scope of this write-up, but allows you to do a bit of manipulation, including changing the aspect ratio if you have a desire to smush/stretch things. Don’t use “None” unless you know what you’re doing.

SIZECropping – Use Automatic. That way, it won’t waste space trying to save any black bars (your device will add black bars if necessary). On the other hand, if you want black bars manually saved as part of the video stream, feel free to set it to “none” and change the values to all 0’s.

Hitting the “Preview” button is usually a good idea if you’re trying to tweak here.

 

If you want more detail on the anamorphic and cropping settings, I put together a video that thoroughly goes over each of the options. It’s long, but there’s a “table of contents” on the right side so feel free to skip around to the part(s) you’re interested in:

Clicking the buttons to set the video to full-screen and 1080p might make it a little easier to see each of the options I go over.

 

Next, if you click the “Filters” button…

Handbrake settings - Picture Settings (filters)

FILTERSDetelecine – Setting to “Default” is a good idea. If your source is telecined, it’ll detelecine automatically. If it’s not, it won’t. Set-and-forget.

FILTERSDecomb – Setting to “Default” is a good idea here too. If your source is interlaced, it’ll automatically deinterlace it. If not, it won’t. Just like the above. Set-and-forget.

You normally don’t want to use “Deinterlace” unless decomb is giving you problems or you have one of those oddball situations where you want to manually set it for some other reason.

 

FILTERSDenoise – Usually, keep this off. A couple exceptions:

  • Turn it on if you have noise/grain in your source you want to get rid of.
  • Turn it on if you want to reduce your filesize slightly (or improve overall quality) at the expense of softening your image some.
  • Turn it on and use a CUSTOM value if you’re trying to get rid of “dancing dots”.

UPDATE: I put together a new denoise write-up with video and images if you’re interested in de-noise settings.

 

FILTERSDeblock – Off. It’s supposed to get rid of blockiness but in my experience it ends up blurring everything a crazy amount that makes the video hard to watch. On the plus side, it pretty much destroys noise/grain in the process.

 

For Audio Settings, Subtitles, and Advanced Settings, nothing’s really changed so rather than re-write it all, I suggest reading the old writeup for version 0.9.6 if you need further details on those options.

 

 

That about sums it up. As a quick note, I’ve really generalized a fair bit – especially when it comes to the Constant Quality vs Average Bitrate part. But hopefully this has given you enough of an understanding that you’re comfortable using the new system.

Leave a Reply

214 Comments on "A “best settings” guide for Handbrake 0.9.9 and 0.10"

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Stefan Halom

After I choose my previews as Anamorphic=strict and decomb=default, is there a way to SAVE this configuration. So far each time I load a DVD I have to manually reset it. Thanks.

Matt Gadient
Hey Stefan, Saving as a preset is usually what I end up doing (and then select the preset each time). On OSX (macOS) if you save it as a preset, I seem to recall there being checkbox when creating the preset that enables saving the picture settings you’ve chosen. I’m on Windows at the moment (an old nightly), and just saving as a preset seems to work fine as long as the “Save Picture Size” drop-down in the preset pop-up is set to automatic when using anamorphic strict. Worth noting that in Windows under the main Presets drop-down dialog from the menu bar there is a “Set Current As Default” option which could be worth trying too (hopefully it’ll persist when Handbrake restarts each time then too!). Not positive on Linux – my Ubuntu laptop’s not here and I’ve got my VM’s on another machine. It’s probably similar to one… Read more »
Gapos
Thanks for the Post, I need help with choosing the BEST Highest quality settings to export a file I can see in iTunes for Edited Family Home Video in 1080HD that I already exported from Final Cut. I used to use Quicktime 10.3 to export the MOV file to iTunes, but since I upgraded to Mavericks 10.9.5, Quicktime no longer exports my Chapter Markers. Handbrake does export the chapter markers, makes a slightly smaller size file (563MB vrs 744MB with Quicktime), but I can notice the lesser quality in my final video when compared to Quicktime, specially on photos with movement in the final edited video. I use the AppleTV2 settings on Handbrake, but was wondering if there is a superior adjustment I can do to these settings to produce a better quality video? Thanks. Below I included a screenshot of the difference in quality, you can really notice this… Read more »
Matt Gadient
Hey Gapos, It almost looks as though there’s a white text-shadow present in the HandBrake version – when I zoomed in, it looks like a shadow going down-right, and there’s a consistent white effect above each of the B’s. Not sure if that’s *supposed* to be there and QT is dropping that detail, or if it’s *not* supposed to be there and the HB version is artifacting. In any case, if you’re starting with the base AppleTV 2 settings and are looking to get a little more sharpness/detail in some areas, the first place I’d tend to start tweaking would be trying Film or Grain under the Encoder Tune settings. If the video consists of a sequence of images (not actual motion video, and very little animated motion), you could also consider the “still picture” preset – definitely would only try that route though if most of the video has… Read more »
Gapos

Matt, If its not too much to ask, I am including here a link to a 3MB clip of the original .mov file that shows the text crisp and nice so you can play with it? Handbrake does manage to export the chapter markers fine, just trying to see if it can match the crispness of Quicktime 10.3. thanks.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/86716148/Videos/VideowithBlackText.mov

Matt Gadient
Encoded your sample a few times at various settings (including the pure ATV2 default). The only time I’m seeing artifacting around the text is when I bitrate-starve the encode (high RF numbers much > 30), but at that point the text itself is garbling. That said, I noticed your picture settings show a 1440×1080 source resolution, cropped and resized down a bit. The clip you uploaded on the other hand is coming up here as 1280×720 source resolution and doesn’t seem to need cropping. It could be worth doing a quick test encode on your end at Anamorphic Strict (which will probhibit resizing), and manually set the cropping values to 0. See if the text looks fine. If it does, then it might be that something wonky is going on during the resizing (but at least you’ll know where to start looking). One other avenue that might be worth exploring:… Read more »
Gapos

Thanks for your response. I just tried both options Film and Grain, and both look exactly the same, same white shadow around the text. comment image

I am sending a snapshot of the Picture Settings to see if anything there can be improved.
comment image

I have contacted many app developers of video converter available on the app store, and surprisingly none of them export chapter markers! The only one that gave me the same quality as quicktime was Brorsoft Video Converter, but no chapter markers export!

I got a hold of an older mac with Mac OSX 10.8.5 and Quicktime 10.2 and only this version exports the chapter markers and superior quality. Looks like Apple really messed up their quicktime app with 10.3 in Mavericks 10.9.5.

#UnknowN

Thanks!, this article was very interesting and useful for me.

Carlos Alberto Maciel Ramírez

Great tutorial, it is explained very well and cover all the necesary options, it would be good to add a note to the intel quick sync codec.

Darrel Christenson

Hey Matt, haven’t chatted in a while but I have something odd happening in Handbrake.

I’m processing sme 4:3 480i tv show eps and I noticed some video stutter in *some* scenes when the camera pans.

I found I get HB set to cbr so I re-did one in vbr and compared then and the vbr is better but I still see it slightly.

I’ve processed many 480i and 480p tv eps and movies over the years and have never seen this, any general off the top of your head thoughts on what I can check?

Thanks in advance, email direct if you want…

drc 🙂

Maurice Hayward
Hi Matt – I am using version 0.10.5 x 86_64 on Macbooks with 10.6.8 OS. I am converting .mov files to mp4 using RF quality at 30. These are only intended as viewing copies but are quite adequate for the purpose. The size of the MP4 file is 70 – 100 times smaller than the .mov file. The reason I am using this amount of reduction is to put multiple film clips on to a DVD data file or a flashdrive. The problem I have is when I try doing batch conversion. If I leave the default setting at 20 everything works perfectly but the files are only reduced slightly in size. If I set to RF 30, even although it shows as RF 30 throughout the conversion, it reverts to 20. I have looked at the device settings but haven’t found any way to set RF 30 as a… Read more »
Maurice Hayward

Hi Matt – Problem solved ! I misunderstood the information in the presets help section “simply set the settings you wish to use in the presets”. My interpretation was that I had to change the settings (somehow ! ) in the presets drop down. Once I realised that the settings were changed in the
main Handbrake window it was very easy. I was also trying to change the settings in CDI (silly me ! ) Cheers – a great site you are providing .

Maurice Hayward

Hi Matt- Our emails crossed – Thanks for your suggestions . I now have an extra preset, “quality 30”, which doesn’t change (so far) when I do the batch process. This automatically resets to the default quality ’20’ when I restart the computer- Maurice

Eitan
Eitan
I just tried to encode a single 42 minute TV show episode (SD) on a mobile sandy bridge i7 @2.7 GHz and the only variable I adjusted was the video Codec (Intel QSV vs. x264) and the encoder preset. Nothing else was modified. Here are the sizes of the files and the time needed for encoding Codec | Encoder preset | Time (mn) | filesize (MB) Intel Quicksync | Fast | 8 | 604 Intel Quicksync | Balanced | 8 | 605 x264 | Ultra fast | 9 | 959 x264 | Medium | 22 | 467 x264 | Slower | 60 | 445 x264 | Very slow | 92 | 409 I did not try the placebo encoding preset: I thought that it was stepping into counterproductive territory (too much time consuming). The same file size and encoding time for two different encoder presets for the Intel Quicksync is… Read more »
Tom

I am using Vidcoder 1.5.34.0, which I understand is a container for Handbrake 0.10.2, on my pc with windows 10.

I customized the 16 chapter headings of a DVD video (changing “chapter 1” to “1 abc”, etc.) in Vidcoder. These show without a problem (the newly created mp4 file is loaded as a movie) in itunes on my pc. So everything works fine to that point, including the custom chapter headings, in itunes on my pc.

But, after using itunes to I load the same new mp4 file on my ipad 3 (ios 5.1), the chapter headings in my ipad revert to chapter 1, chapter 2, etc.

Can you tell me how to get my custom chapter headings (instead of chapter 1, chapter 2, etc.) to appear on my ipad? Thanks.

br0adband
Kinda late to this party but, I figured it can’t hurt to ask: I’m looking to do some encodes of my own, from Blu-ray source material to h.264/x264 video streams with HE-AAC audio streams inside MP4 containers (with subs, whenever possible). Here’s what I’d love to be able to accomplish: if you go to YouTube and look at any current video, say the latest Captain America: Civil War trailer, at the 720p video size you end up with what I have in mind that I’d like to duplicate for my own encodes with one exception – my actual target video size will be 960 pixels wide so I end up with “qHD” or one-quarter full HD resolution (with full HD meaning from the 1920×1080 source material). My smartphone (a Sony Z3+) has a 1920×1080 panel in it and the YouTube 1280×720 clips look great on it (I download them for… Read more »
Arno

Just a note to say thank you for all the write ups, comments and answers to comments. A gold mine for average users such as myself.

Michael

Good write up. Thanks!

conca

Hi guys
What s the best preset for ipad mini 4 retina ?
thnks

Dima

Hi Matt,

Nowhere on the Internet I a better explanation on Handrbake settings than yours. Thank you for it!

I am trying to ‘losslessly’ covert a .wmv video to .mp4. Every time I up having an image quality that leaves much to be desired. For example, here are two screenshots and a video comparison table: https://imgur.com/a/bMTk2 The original file has a size of almost 3 GB, the converted one in this example – 1.5 GB. I don’t mind having the converted video to be 3 GB as well, but there doesn’t seem to be drastic improvement if the size increases in result of using, e.g., RF lower than 16.

What settings would you suggest to use to have as less loss as possible?

Cheers.

James Bird
Hi Matt, Great article, extremely useful but I have a question regarding the output of one of my projects. I have put a looping background video together in After Effects, exporting using Apple Pro Res 4444 codec from AE with no issues, the video looks great. The video itself is a solid colour which blends across a colour spectrum, overlayed over ‘flow’ footage. The result is a video which has gradient areas but no extreme shifts in colour and as I said the master export is perfect but at a hefty 1.6GB for a 90 second video. The problem comes when I use handbrake to compress the video. I have used this article to try and work out the issue but to no avail. Here are my settings; MP4, H.264(x264), framerate same as source, constant quality RF 20, encode ‘slower’, tune ‘film’, profile ‘high’, level 4.1. The resulting video is… Read more »
Shea
Hello Again Matt, I appreciate your very thorough answers! I ended up just staying with “high, 4.1” as a general rule, just to be safe. I ran into another small conundrum while encoding the film, “Unbreakable.” It’s shot at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and I did two encodes, 1 at “medium,” and 1 at “slow.” And both times, the encoder blew up the ratio from the original, causing noticeable pixelation. So I’m guessing that this is a special case where I will need to resize the encode, using something like “anamorphic, loose”? What values would I set it at to accomplish this, in order to “mirror” the original film? Also, another thing I’ve run into lately are a few “multi-angle” films. Is it ok to just encode one angle of these films? I know it really depends on what the feature is actually used for in the movie, but I… Read more »
Raoul

I have a question lately when I try to encode with handbrake there’s always some part of the video with artifacts or pixelation but the original source does nit have one I tried different movies and re encodes it will always have that but in different parts of the video not the same time stamp. Why is that happening thanks.

Baz
I’m in the process of implementing Plex server\client throughout my devices (a mixture of Roku’s and smart TV’s) and was wondering what your thoughts are on the correct combination of settings to achieve the best results. Plex can select media files based on Resolution and most streaming devices also have a maximum bitrate they support. Coupled with the “complexity” that some of the higher value presets present to the streaming device, I’m struggling to come up with one file that will work on all the streaming devices. The smart TV’s offer the biggest challenge and I suspect it is that they simply don’t have the processing grunt for 4.1 and\or the max bitrate. As these streaming devices are all secondary devices, I’m not too bothered about ultimate quality or file size but, would like to keep it as the quality as good as I can and the file size to… Read more »
Shea
Hey Matt, I really appreciate your write-up. Like many other people stated, it’s the most detailed one I’ve encountered. I had tried messing with Handbrake in the past, but just ended up frustrated and confused, haha. I’m pretty new to the whole decoding and compression business. But I read through both your 0.9.6 & 0.9.9/0.10 articles and set most of my settings to your recommendations. I currently have version 0.10.3. I had a quick question on the “profile/level” setting. You mentioned in your article that the basic standard nowadays is “High Profile/4.1” Does this setting affect quality at all, or is it just for compatibility’s sake on newer devices? Also, does the high setting make the encode take longer? What’s the best setting if I’m just encoding mostly DVDs? I noticed on your first screenshot in the 0.10 article, you had it set at “Main/3.1” and you were burning a… Read more »
Ben

Hi Matt,
Seeing it’s 2016 I figure I’ll ask. Any update about x265, have you played with a bit recently? Wondering if it’s time to switch yet or whether you still think x264 is the way to go. I’ve been told WDTV (which I have) will play x265 but if there really isn’t any advantage yet, then what’s the point. Thanks

Ami

Hi Matt
Just a quick update. I have tried with
… film,… high … and level 3 setting (because we have an older Mac 2010) with a “very slow” preset + RF 19
Still no luck.
By the way if I find the solution I will get back to you. I have a deadline. Wish me luck.

Ami
First of all, we would like to say thank you very much for your amazing support, ongoing research and tutorials etc.. the time and energy you have been putting into this help is enormous. Thank you. I am a big fan of Handbrake. But this morning I am having a little problem just after I have updated it to the latest Handbrake 0.10. I have a short 4 mins mov movie (2.85GB, Prores 422) try to convert it to mp4 using Handbrake. After several attempts with slightly different setting it partially hangs (It means “stop /freeze” in the middle of the movie.) I have played these same movies in Realplayer, VLC, QT, but all hangs at the same spot in between the still photo and the movie. QT played through though but it stuck there for a sec or 2. Now, the original mov movie (source) will play smoothly in… Read more »
Bob G

Dear Matt, While I understand that mp4 is more common than mkv, I sometimes am forced to use mkv with Handbrake (such as when I am encoding with multiple subtitles). I have also found problems encoding blu-ray subtitles with mp4. If you have any help (instructions, advice, etc on how to do this it would be appreciated).

Sean
I am in the process of making my Blu Ray collection digital. I am using MKV Merge then using handbrake… I just want your opinion on what I should use for my settings in handbrake. Right now I am using High Profile, and the only thing I have changed is the RF value to 16, use the film setting, and I have been using none on anamorphic. I read here that maybe strict is a better idea? I am also guessing its impossible to cut off the black bars so the picture is full screen on a 1080p tv… I just want to pretty much have the exact ratio as the blu ray has.. so should I just leave it Strict? Also Jurassic World for example, is 27 gb, and when i encode in handbrake it stays 27 gb… What gives.. Every other movie I have ever used drops at… Read more »
Sean

Also I use the slow setting as well…

Jonas

Hey Matt,

first of all, thanks for this awesome guide, it helped me a lot get most of the settings right!
I have only one concern left: I was encoding a Blu-ray as an MKV with the standard audio setting of converting the source DTS audio to 160 kbps AAC. When I watched the movie, I noticed two quieter scenes sounding somehow “noisy”, as if I had used a much lower bitrate.
I then encoded only one of those scenes individually with the same settings as before and it sounds totally fine. Is it possible that, when encoding a large file, the audio quality gets worse?

I would be very happy if you could help me!

Jonas

Cipus
Dear Matt, I found your guide very helpful but still have a small issue. Using Windows I do not have a preview window like in Mac so I cannot judge the difference between anamorphic options. you said not to use “none” unless you know what you are doing. Well, I am not quite sure but the option none is the only one which allows me to change ratio aspect. On “custom” somehow the numbers I put, are almost always reset and cannot make it. can you explain why is not wise to use none option on anamorphic? As I can see, the ratio of my videos are well modified as I wish, the video quality is good enough at 1.500 kbps and the size is reasonable. only the encoding time is enormous, even longer than the duration of the movie, despite the fact that I have a quite fast PC.… Read more »
Anonymous

I’m not too concerned about file size – if I could cut a 40GB blu-ray rip in half, to 20GB, I could live with that (my target is around 5GB). I just want as close to 1:1 quality as I can possibly get with Handbrake. Or at the very least, no visible artifacts. So far my test encodings have been artifact heavy. But this article is helping me put it together. My new test is trying RF slider at 20, and the x264 slider at “slower.” Encoding time is four and a half hours.

Ryan
Hey Matt! First I want to thank you very much for this very well thought out and explained article. I have been searching for weeks for something like this online. A friend and I have both started a project to rip all our DVDs and Blu Rays for streaming in our home/devices via PLEX. We had ripped quit a few DVDs and Blue Rays with MakeMKV, but hadn’t worked through on how to encode the video file with something better like h264. This article makes this dead simple. I loved the straight forward and well explained points … and the side articles which drove the points home. However, I am still confused on the audio portion. I did read your info in the old guide. But, unfortunately I am still confused. With DVDs I basically just want to make it so I have a surround sound track to play and… Read more »
Matt

Great Wiki on Handbrake thanks for the info..i am trying to convert a two disc BRay into one mkv file??
How do i encode multiple source files into one mp4/mkv target file? I don’t see how to do this?
thanks

Isaac

“If anyone actually uses VP8 on a regular basis, I’d be very interested in hearing about what you use it for and why in the comments.”

Almost Human Ltd. Uses VP8 for .IVF videos in their ‘Legend of Grimrock 2’ dungeoncrawler. It’s the oly supported video format for the game; so any imported video in user mods/maps, is VP8 encoded.

ChandraKanth

Sir! What resolution did you used to encode?

some guys rip TV show videos at a resolution of 1280×720 at a size 300 or 380 MB but, I tried a lot to do the same but nothing seems to be working. I’m kinda of losing the video quality and noise is increasing with the same settings they used (with the settings I used they achieved better quality videos). Can you guide me out of this problem. My hdd space is at low and I really want to compress the TV shows I have…. I used vidcoder and handbrake but, didn’t get any good results…

Gary

All sorted. ?

Gary

Evening Matt, having a real problem solving or finding an understandable solution to taking individual episodes from a DVD. When adding to library I get the option to either overwrite or cancel. It is probably quite simple but I am struggling! I’ll keep trying but any help would be welcomed.

Mike

Hi Matt, great tutorial! Since you seem to be really on top of this stuff, I wanted to ask you.. Since x265 is a while off from maturity, if you were starting a site that would be selling downloadable (not streaming) videos that are long play (from 1 to 4 hours), and you were starting off with very good quality AVCHD 1080i, what Handbrake settings would you employ? I don’t think I would need to provide HD videos, a smaller frame size would work, 720P or maybe even less based on what I’ve seen in the download realm. But since the videos are so long, file size is a consideration….Thanks for any suggestion.

Andrea

Hi Matt,

Thanks again for your time…

About the TUNE option… You have some suggestion? I leave it with NONE or i can use FILM? It increase the encode time? I can see some improved image result?

Have a nice day, bye

Andrea

Andrea

hi Matt, Andrea again…

about the audio passthru… i see another strange detail…

in the AUDIO tab (where to select the audio to encode or to leave passthru) in some bluray HANDBRAKE show me double audio track…

example: ELYSIUM have DTS HD MA for English and Italian, but into handbrake (tab “audio”) i see DTS HD MA and also DTS for both language…

and again, THE LAST STAND… bluray have only DTS HD MA, but handbrake show me also DTS standard track…

also DJANGO UNCHAINED… same situation, only DTS HD MA, but in the encoder i see also DTS…

why???

best regard.

Andrea

Andrea
hi Matt, Andrea again… after some rips of my bluray i am back here… at the moment i rips the bluray with the personal modified HIGH PROFILE. i have current set the RF to 17 for all BR, but in some case i need to reduce or increase the value… for example the bluray of PREDATORS (2010), i have used RF 18 and encoder speed to SLOW, and the result of TOTAL BITRATE is 19,2 Mbps and the size of mkv is 15,77 GB… THE AVENGERS same setting, but RF 17 and the bitrate is 17,5 Mbps and size of MKV is 18,71 GB… i don’t understand why some BR ripping with the same RF factor are big/small respect another different BR… about the rip, in the ENCODER OPTIONS i see TUNE setting… i leave always to NONE… but it’s a good choice? there are many option (FILM, ANIMATION and… Read more »
Natalie
Hi Matt, great site you have here. However, I think you need to make a distinction of what kind of footage is being encoded, eg. is it a film or a TV show? A frustrating number of TV shows that are shot in widescreen are, for some reason, squished into a fullscreen format on DVD (a good way of determining this is if the box says ‘enhanced for widescreen TVs’ or something like that). And since TVs and computer monitors don’t have the same resolutions, once you go to rip the DVD, it will look squished. So if you are dealing with this kind of footage, it’s critical that anamorphic: none is selected and “keep aspect ratio” is checked. Otherwise, the video will have the wrong aspect ratio and look off. You can have the best encode ever and if the aspect ratio is wrong, it will still look like… Read more »
Ben
Hi Matt, A quick question here I just noticed. It thought when using the same CQ# for example I used CQ16 for my tests, regardless of the speed the quality should be the same. The speed settings essentially just make the file smaller (slower speed) with the same quality. However I first noticed it on 5 different titles, then to verify picked a few chapters on different sources for a good sample size. VeryFast is always the smallest file size, even when compared to Veryslow. The first test was on 5 different full length movie titles on VeryFast and VerySlow. The VeryFast was smaller. Then I picked the various chapters and ran VeryFast, Faster, Fast, Medium, Slow and VerySlow and the other behaved like I thought they should but VeryFast was always the smallest. ??????????????? Should I assume then that VeryFast is actually not at the same quality (CQ16) like… Read more »
Ben

Sorry, somehow when I searched your comments I made a typo and typed VerFast and not Veryfast so I did not see above posts.

But my take home from the reading is: DON’T USE VeryFast unless you literally are leaving for a road trip in 42 minutes and want that movie ripped ASAP!!! And Use a CQ setting a little better (lower) than what you would normally use under medium or slow settings to get the same CQ.

Otherwise, if you have the time, use Slow or VerySlow…will give the best quality for a specific CQ#.

*(Editorial) On a side note, why have a setting called “constant” quality if it turns out it’s not actually CONSTANT. A CQ20 on Veryslow is actually more like CQ22 on VeryFast??? That’s not constant!!!

Andrea
Hi Matt, This guide is very interesting, but i have again some doubt (sorry for my english, i am italian) I want to convert all my collection of bluray into .mkv h264 in FULL HD 1080p 24hz… Same as the source, but more compressed obviously… I am using the HIGH PROFILE preset, and i change the RF from 18 to 15 and the encode to SLOW (i am courious to try also SLOWER or VERY SLOW) I set also SAME AS SOURCE… But the doubt are for the VARIABLE FRAME RATE or COSTANT FRAME RATE… What i have to use for the Blu-Ray??? I see many, many many encode of bluray, and all are with COSTANT FRAME RATE… I am not sure to understand the difference for these two setting… In the official forum (and you) the suggestion is for VARIABLE for default preset… But also with the full hd… Read more »
Anonymous

Thank you very much, sir

Chandra Kanth Talari

Hey !!! Your reviews or articles are really useful…. I’m having a problem using other x264 settings used in other’s video (someone else ‘s video). Can tell me how to place the command line in handbrake x264 options tab ?!

cabac=1 / ref=8 / deblock=1:1:1 / analyse=0x3:0x133 / me=umh / subme=9 / psy=1 / psy_rd=1.00:0.00 / mixed_ref=1 / me_range=16 / chroma_me=1 / trellis=2 / 8x8dct=1 / cqm=0 / deadzone=21,11 / fast_pskip=1 / chroma_qp_offset=-2 / threads=12 / sliced_threads=0 / nr=0 / decimate=1 / interlaced=0 / bluray_compat=0 / constrained_intra=0 / bframes=3 / b_pyramid=2 / b_adapt=2 / b_bias=0 / direct=3 / weightb=1 / open_gop=0 / weightp=2 / keyint=250 / keyint_min=23 / scenecut=40 / intra_refresh=0 / rc_lookahead=60 / rc=crf / mbtree=1 / crf=20.0 / qcomp=0.60 / qpmin=0 / qpmax=69 / qpstep=4 / ip_ratio=1.40 / aq=1:1.00

Please help. Thanks in advance and sorry for my bad English.

VideoPortfolio

Hi Matt,

To echo all the other comments here, thank you so much for this very helpful tutorial.

I am not nearly as experienced or knowledgable as everyone else here, so apologies if my question has already been answered/is very simple.

I need to convert a VOB file to something I can edit in Final Cut Pro X, but it is very important I don’t lose *any* quality in the process, as it is for a video portfolio. I don’t care about file size right now, as long as I can edit it. I will eventually upload the edited video to vimeo. Are the settings described above the best for achieving this? Should I even be using Handbrake for a totally lossless conversion (is that even possible)?

ZH

I can’t seem to make x264 downscale 1814×1028 to 1272×720 no matter what. Feeling really frustrated here. I tried using many different combinations of “sar=x:x,method=spline” with different dimensions, but it was all to no avail. Thanks for the HB log thing though.

Anyway, if I can’t get x264 to use those dimensions, I might as well ask about this green vertical line on the right side of my encoded videos. If I recall, I ran into a similar problem with something of unusual dimensions before. Would you know why it happens? I tried the EVR thing on MPC-HC and I tried using VLC. It still appeared, as if it was PART of the video.

Thanks for the quick feedback!

ZH

Hey there. Just wanted to ask where we could see the codes Handbrake uses when encoding (e.g. C:\Users\user\x264.exe –vf resize:1280,720 –preset veryslow –crf 20 -o C:\Users\user\Desktop\gintetvidb2.mkv.mkv C:\Users\user\Desktop\gintetvidb2.mkv).

I might as well ask while I’m here.

I want to resize something with non-standard dimensions of 1814×1028 to 1271×720 in x264 but it never works. I wanted to ask how Handbrake makes it work (even if it changes 1271 to 1272 for some reason), which is why I was asking where to see the codes it uses while encoding.

Zeus
Zeus

This isn’t just my favorite handbrake guide, it’s one of the best guides I’ve ever run across on the net. Just out of curiosity, has anything changed since the 0.10.x Handbrake?

I notice that “faac AAC” is no longer an option, at least for Windows users.

Which do you recommend: “AAC (avcodec)” or “AAC (FDK)”?

Dale
Over the past two years, I have been using the Avg. Bitrate setting in Handbrake rather than Constant Quality. My average bitrate settings were always 5000kbps for Blu-rays and 3000kbps for DVDs. After reading all the comments on this site, I decided to give the switch to Constant Quality a try. RF22 seems to be sweet spot for Blu-rays for me but DVDs at RF16 are still more grainy during dark scenes than the flat 3000kbps that I’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not overly concerned about file size, I just want as little pixilation as possible. It seems to me that the outcome is less predictable with RF settings than what I am accustomed to with the average bitrate. Maybe it’s the DVDs that are the problem. I’m going back to using the average bitrates I’ve always used since they always yielded a known quality for me. I found myself… Read more »
Jani
Thank you very much Matt for your great guide! It’s absolutely the best I have found on internet, because you actually explain WHY to choose all those options, and what they actually do. I set up my Handbrake based on your advice and now I am getting great quality when I am importing my DVD’s to HDD. However, there’s one thing that I have noticed, when trying to convert music videos from various sources. I noticed that I get choppy video playback when there’s horizontal movement (and sometimes on vertical camera movement as well) when using your suggested Filter settings (Detelecine: Default, Decomb: Default). So I tried to test with different options there, and now I have found settings that has been working every time if I find that those default settings are producing choppy playback: Detelecine: Off Decomb: Bob With those settings I am getting smooth video playback. If… Read more »
Ron

I’ve been using handbrake for a while. For my blurays, I’ve used “High Profile” default settings (20 constant quality, no filters).

I’m very happy with the quality EXCEPT color banding, usually in the background on darker scenes. If I play the bluray in my bluray player, I don’t see the banding, so I’m quite sure it’s related to handbrake.

Is this a case where I should play with denoising? Or do you have any other advice?

Guest47
I am a novice when it comes to encoding videos. Matt’s guide was very useful and should be an accompanying document for Handbrake. I have noted on many guides, including this one, that the recommended RF setting (at least as a starting point) is 20 or 22. Isn’t the default 14? Anyway, the point has always been made that this setting should be determined based on two factors: namely the size of the file and the quality of the picture. While that is true, I think it is also important to consider the resolution of the video. As the resolution decreases (and the file size falls), the quality has to be increased to make up for the lower resolution. A practical example is when encoding a file to be used for playback on a TV via USB. The standard requirement for TVs that play DivX is that the video resolution… Read more »
Tim

Best. Guide. Ever.

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