The video encoding and transcoding tool, Handbrake has been updated to 0.9.3. This latest release brings a number of substantial changes to this excellent video utility.
The two most fundamental changes make Handbrake more flexible and also more limited. First flexibility — Handbrake will now accept many different video sources and does far more than just DVDs. The second change is that DVD decrypting has been completely decoupled from Handbrake and you’ll need another app to do perform that step in the conversion process. This version has a number of other improvements for Mac, Apple TV, and iPod users. Read the release notes to get a full list of changes.
Just in time to help us deal with our grief at the passing of Techspansion and its seminal video converter, Visual Hub, Handbrake now has the ability to convert all sorts of different source material to H.264 or MPEG4 video. This potentially allows Handbrake to transcode AVI video from digital cameras and other such files. This new flexibility comes as a benefit of incorporating the libavcodec and libavformat libraries from the FFmpeg project. Unfortunately, the AVI file from a Canon P&S camera I used to test this on resulted in great looking video with a bunch of static in the audio track.
DVD Decryption Decoupled
For reasons that perhaps only the developers fully understand, Handbrake no longer includes the libraries required to decrypt commercial DVD’s. We Mac users are fortunate in that Handbrake will dynamically use VLC to decrypt a DVD if the app is present in your Applications folder. Just install VLC as you would normally and then anything that can be played with VLC can be read by Handbrake. If you want, you can also use something like RipIt, DVD2OneX, or Mac The Ripper 3 to decrypt DVD’s and place a copy on your hard drive. Personally, I’ve found RipIt.app does exactly what I want (makes a copy of the full DVD to the hard drive) and is dead simple to use. It costs $19, but it is simpler than the convoluted MTR donationware process (join the forums at ripdifferent.com to get the details), and cheaper than D2OX.
Other Benefits for Apple Fans
Besides the built-in VLC integration (a Mac exclusive), Apple users also get a number of improvements to the Mac GUI like better organization of presets, a better queue (that is saved between sessions or in case of a crash), reading from ZFS volumes, and more. Many of the presets have been redone as well to take advantage of the updates to the underlying encoding libraries. The new Apple TV preset is great at constant quality and supports Dobly Digital for Apple TV files directly (that still work with Apple TV 2.3). If you are really interested in tweaking the Apple TV preset to get transparent standard definition DVD, you’ll want to hang out in this thread at the Handbrake forums. The iPod and Universal presets have been updated as well. Be sure to “Update Built-in Presets” from the Presets menu when running the app to make sure you have latest settings.
I have been using the development snapshots for a while now and the improvements in video quality are great. I am really glad to see the changes move into the standard release. Taking out DVD decryption is not a huge deal because there are other alternatives for the Mac. And adding the ability to work with a wider variety of video formats is particularly welcome now that Visual Hub is no longer being developed. I will post follow-up comments if I figure out what caused my issues with my AVI video file. Let us know about your experiences with Handbrake 0.9.3.