Blog Post

H.264 is Pretty Cool

First off – sorry to all my loyal readers (I know, but at least I realize I’m delusional) that I’ve been quiet for the past week or so. I was off in Mexico with no connections whatsoever to the outside world. It was actually kind of nice… (Though I did bring my new big cat with me to play a little bit.)

So have you played with Quicktime 7 Pro or any of the cool H.264 features yet? Color me impressed! I’ve dabbled with the QT 7 Pro features a bit, but the real fun came when I pulled out HandBrake (0.7 beta 3). If you’re not familiar with HandBrake, it’s a DVD ripping app for OS X. Works very well, but takes a while. I usually use it to rip a movie or two before a plane trip. No DVDs to cart along means one less hassle and bulk in my bag.

So back to the point at hand. I ripped a movie that was 90 minutes long. I set it for the best audio and video, using the H.264 compression – obviously. While it took about 10 hours to run the rip (sheesh!) it was well worth it. So 10 hours later I had a nice 90 minute mp4 file of my DVD that I could watch in tiny mode, or full screen and the quality was the same either way! Awesome.

So any guesses to how large the file was? Anyone? Anyone? (Bueller. Bueller…) We’re talking about a full 90 minute DVD quality movie here. Drum roll please…. 700mb. That’s it! Crazy. I’m dumbfounded and so excited about this.

Ah, the possibilities. So I’ve got my 700mb movie file in mp4 format now. Guess what. I can make a BACKUP copy of my DVD if I wanted. Toss your new file into iDVD and burn yourself a copy of the movie that the kids can watch and trash while keeping the original safe and sound. I realize there are products like FastDVDCopy and Popcorn out there that already do this in basically one step. But this is a cheap, do it yourself solution if you really want it. I’m all for that. Of course I can only condone making backup copies, and not for “other use”…

So what interesting things have you found while playing with the various H.264 options available now in Tiger?

I just stumbled upon this great piece over at Shape of Days. It does a side by side comparison of H.264 and Sorenson 3 compression schemes. He knows what he’s talking about – much more than the “it’s cool” that I provide. Definitely go check it out!

22 Responses to “H.264 is Pretty Cool”

  1. eric, I agree with your file size results. The original poster was, at my best guess, using the Target Size option to limit the file size to 700MB. That’s not near 100% quality. Anyway, I’ve been wondering about 100% quality myself. I do know that the .avi format supports uncompressed audio but those files won’t play in QT. On the audio side, I know that DVD uses a Sample Rate of 48,000 Hz and a bitrate of roughly 448 kbps. 320 is our highest setting here in HB so that seems like a limitation. On the video side, I know that bitrates vary wildly all through a movie on DVD so setting a maximum seems like asking for more compression. It seems to me that the Constant Quality set to 100% is our closest option to getting an exact copy in HB. It’s a shame we all don’t have 2TB XServe RAIDs to hold these files (much less RIP them in the first place). If you’re only using the final files for viewing on your computer, you could try MacTheRipper which simply RIPs the DVD to your hard drive without any alteration or compression. Those files would then play in OSX’s DVD Player. You get a folder full of files, thouigh, not one nice clean one.

  2. i currently use handbreak to rip my dvd’s to my harddrive, but i do have a question. i’m a stickler about getting 100% quality, and i havent been able to get a perfect copy of a dvd onto my mac. what are the settings you use when preforming the task? i’ve tried hitting constant quality 100%, but it becomes a 17gb file (i know, unbelievable) and will not even open in quicktime. thanks

  3. well i dont know whats up with your 9 and 10 hour things, but on my pc i can rip and encode a full 140 minute dvd in 4 hours using handbrake. at highest quality settings etc, H.264 (x264) codec. thats with other things running…so 10 hours for a mac just doesnt sound right. are you sure you have your computers optimized or whatever? and yeah quicktime doesnt like the outputted files, but with some fiddling you can get them to play in just about anything. handbrake needs to be made to let the files be played in qt without the fiddling though. either way its an amazing tool and i have never found a better one. not to mention the files are supreme quality. also: its faster if you use dvddecryptor or something like that and get an exact copy of the dvd’s files on your hard drive first.

  4. Michael_L

    QT7 does not like to transcode mpeg2 – even with the official Apple mpeg2 plugin ($20) it will not transcode the audio track. If Handbrake will transcode from a DVD to H264, does this mean it transcodes both mpeg2 video + audio, unlike QT7?

    Does anyone know what codecs QT7 transcodes fully from into H264? Has Apple posted this information somewhere?

  5. Kokopelli

    Stevew, handbrake uses libx264, the open source encoder. It may not have the bells and whistles but it can be used in a cross platform open source product more easily than the QT encoder.

    For those who are compraing handbrake to Mac The Ripper, DVD2Onex, and Popcorn, they serve a different purpose from handbrake. If you are trying to copy a DVD onto another DVD (for backup or what have you) Handbrake is not the right tool. Handbrake on the other hand can encode a movie using H.264 with a much higher video quality to size ratio. This is good if you want to rip to your hard drive or CD and are not in a rush.

    If you want a faster encode you can use constant quality. Decreasing the output resolution helps quite a bit as well. I prefer targeting size and 2 passes. For casual viewing on the road a 700MB rip is quite acceptable, though not DVD quality. Still much better than a comparable rip using popcorn though.

  6. Stevew

    Some questions.

    What codec H.264 is Handbrake using? The open source one or the Quicktime one?

    If it’s the open source one doesn’t that lack some bells and whistles and multi-processor support?

  7. Not to be too confusing, but Mac The Ripper is indeed excellent, however it doesn’t transcode to mpeg4 like Handbrake does.

    The total time of 10 hours to transcode the movie sounds about right considering it was ripping and transcoding at the same time.

    I personally prefer to rip and transcode in separate steps, using MTR to rip and Handbrake or ffMpegX to transcode. I don’t like hearing my optical drive grinding away the whole time I’m transcoding.

  8. sorry, should have mentioned that. It was my 17″ powerbook. 1ghz G4 with 1gb of ram. Nothing else running on the machine either. just the rip. Man it was painfully slow…

    Does MacTheRipper support H.264? I guess it probably would now that it’s available.