Once and for all....

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jellegard
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:26 pm

Once and for all....

Post by jellegard » Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:36 am

all right, let's get it out there for once and for all time. i think there is mass confusion out there as to what is a good quality encode, what is the best for this display/device, for that display/device, etc. i am not new to this but i must profess confusion/frustration for the proliferation of devices that we all face ourselves with. i have read mac.jedi's guide/tutorial and i think that guy has done more single-handedly in that tutorial than every post combined on the internet - it's fantastic.

here's where i am coming from. i am an audio/visual freak. i have Levinson amps, Levinson 502 Media Center. Meridian Transport, Dynaudio Evidence Master speakers, Dual REL Britannia B-1 subs, Linn Klimax DS, 10 Plasmas, 2 xServes, Qnap 809U-RP w/16 terabytes, 8 Macs, 2 mac minis, 2 Apple TVs, 4 Mac Laptops, 2 iPads, 4 iPhones, a wife and 2 kids. how in God's name am I supposed to be able to support all of that? i have recently begun transferring my 3,000 plus CDs, my 800 plus regular DVDs and 150 plus Blu Rays to serve to every device in the house via xServe and Qnap because i am sick and tired of my wife thinking a CD is a CD and sticking my Mark Knopfler, Emmy Lou Harris "All the Road Running" CD (that i have bought probably 5x because i can never find it) in my kids PS3 Modern Warfare 2 case and having to find it.

i LOVE Handbrake. it is an AMAZING program. so my question is many fold. what is the highest/best settings to be able to watch a DVD or Blu-Ray on my Projection Design projector without losing too much? i think this is a question many of us would like to know. is High Profile the best setting that be can achieved outside of the original transfer from the disc or is it a combination of trade-offs between size and quality? is there a setting that maximizes quality while sacrificing size? will this file play on an Apple TV or do i need to replace them with Mac Minis to use the higher quality file? all of my TVs are 1080p.

the plasmas in my house are all Pioneer Elite KUROs with Media Center or whatever built in via Ethernet. even though the manual says it will play mpeg-4, it doesn't (at least not when played through Nullrivers program) but it plays .avi files fine. so can i make 2 files of Star Wars with one being the best compressed quality and another .avi file AT THE SAME TIME? i realize this may be a time consuming process but i only want to do this ONCE and once i have done it it should be easy to maintain going forward.

i realize this is a long post, but i think there are a lot of people that would gleen a lot from the answers to the questions i have posed...

thanks in advance....

nightstrm
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Posts: 1887
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Re: Once and for all....

Post by nightstrm » Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:30 am

Moving to devices; it seems more appropriate there.
i LOVE Handbrake. it is an AMAZING program. so my question is many fold. what is the highest/best settings to be able to watch a DVD or Blu-Ray on my Projection Design projector without losing too much? i think this is a question many of us would like to know.
This is completely subjective. While I may consider the settings I use to "not lose too much", you may think the output looks like garbage. There are numerous threads here where we have stated what settings we use for encodes that can be used as a starting point.
the plasmas in my house are all Pioneer Elite KUROs with Media Center or whatever built in via Ethernet. even though the manual says it will play mpeg-4, it doesn't (at least not when played through Nullrivers program) but it plays .avi files fine. so can i make 2 files of Star Wars with one being the best compressed quality and another .avi file AT THE SAME TIME
The current supported version of Handbrake will not create .avi files.

Honestly, with the equipment you're using, I would think you'd want to leave the files in as close to original condition as possible. If I were you, I'd use something like MakeMKV to repackage the DVD/Bluray to the MKV container, not touching the audio and video tracks and ensure that I had the hardware to support playback of these files. You're always going to lose something when you convert from one lossy format to another.

jellegard
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:26 pm

Re: Once and for all....

Post by jellegard » Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:37 am

so what is the best program to turn the files FairMount creates into MKV files? i don't care if it is free or not, i just want to know what the best program is for this purpose...

ccjensen
Posts: 48
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 11:09 am

Re: Once and for all....

Post by ccjensen » Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:44 am

I suggest you give MakeMKV a try

mkelley
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Re: Once and for all....

Post by mkelley » Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:35 am

Let me post a dissenting opinion.

Like the old programming adage ("Good, fast, cheap -- pick any two") you are going to have to make tradeoffs to do what you want. No matter how good your equipment is, the current technology just won't let you stream multiple copies of a blu-ray disc encoded to a hard drive without compression all at the same time (which I think you want to be able to do). You will be able to do the regular DVDs just fine (although even there I think you should compress --more later) but with full HD audio and the high bitrates many of these films need, it just won't happen even on the fastest wired network (I know, because my house is similar to yours, minus the kids, and I've been there, bought the t-shirt).

I think you should use Handbrake to compress to MKV ALL your stuff. This will give you the best tradeoff of great picture image and sound, with enough compression to be able to handle three or four streams of this stuff simultaneously without dropouts. Both DVDs and blu-rays are overkill when it comes to the image source (you'll be passing through the audio tracks so no need to talk about those). You can easily compress them further -- even on my 9' screen (and I'm very critical) a blu-ray compressed using the High Profile is indistinguishable from the original doing A/B tests (about half of the time people think the compressed image is the better one).

As suggested earlier, YMMV, so just make some tests first and see if you agree. You will need to do this regardless of how you proceed --- if you take the MakeMKV route you want to rip at least some of your highest bitrate films (try The African Queen or Black Hawk Down -- they brought my wireless network to its knees even with the compressed version and even playing only one stream, which is why I went to fully wired). You will want to stream three or four simultaneously to your playback device (I use the WD Live, which loves this stuff, but most devices operate the same). See if both the quality and the rate of playback are acceptable, and keep retesting as you go (because you don't want to get months into the process only to find that some movies aren't playable -- that's what happened to me with the higher bitrate films).

The only tradeoff I see in using Handbrake is the time it takes to encode -- other solutions (ripping directly to your hard drive and then just playing back the mt2s file) are much faster. But I have ended up with a system where I have thousands of DVDs and blu-rays playable in any room of the house at the same time without searching for something (for me it was the only way I could handle trying to find a particular film, because there's only so much alphabetizing you can do before you run out of shelf space -- besides, it's so much easier to kick back in the bedroom and scroll through my lists and see if there's something I feel like watching right then. Ah, bliss, and I'm only a month or so away from being completely done).

jellegard
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:26 pm

Re: Once and for all....

Post by jellegard » Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:21 pm

Great stuff mkelley and exactly the kind of dialogue i was hoping for. My whole house is hard wired with Cat6. I connect it all with a Cisco SGE2010-P Switch. I would never try to do this wirelessly. Though I have a wireless network that covers the whole house, it is used primarily for e-mail and internet - no heavy file transferring and certainly won't be used to stream movies.

I have started just transferring movies using FairMount and they are just sitting in the a folder using mac.jedi's methods. So what you are saying is that I should encode these movies into .MKV files using h264? I did test encoding Star Wars II last night to just see how it looked and I must say i was impressed with the output. I viewed on my 30" Cinema Display, I am just curious how it will look on my 100" Projection Design television. I suppose for critical viewing I could just get my fat a** off the couch and dig out the DVD (provided it finds it's way back to its home).

Since you seem to have ventured down this path before mkelley and it seems you have a pretty advanced set-up I would like to know what you are using to view your media in each room? Plex? Front Row? Something else? I had intended to use Plex unless someone can recommend a better solution. I do very much like the Hulu plug-in that is available for it as well as some of the other plug-ins. Plex seems like a great, great program with a very bright future and I hope the developers keep up there hard work because I think they are definitely headed down the right path.

So here are the questions:

1. Encode using MKV and h264?
2. Are MKV files compatible with Apple TV and multiple devices?
3. What have you found is the best way to view your media in each room?

Thanks for all the info everyone. It is really amazing what we are able to these days to make watching and listening to our libraries as easy as pushing a button (or two, or three!).

Be well...

john.

mkelley
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Re: Once and for all....

Post by mkelley » Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:04 pm

I went for a hardware solution because I don't want a PC on all the time. I use the WD HD Live box (around $100) and I have three of them (need a fourth but I'm not worrying about that until I'm completely finished). I stream this from a D-Link NAS (which only takes about 20 watts in idle state) so it's on all the time, any time, and I can just turn on any set and view something. My PCs in my network take a LOT more power (and sometimes are busy doing other things, like encoding files with Handbrake :>) so I didn't want to serve data with them. The Live is wonderful for this but it's not all things (like Hulu) although it can use media servers as well (in case I do want to connect via one of my PCs).

Because I'm using the Live I encode everything to MKV -- Apple TV won't play these files (I actually still have an Apple TV but am looking to dump it -- it will be the fourth device replaced by the Live <g>). I got away from Apple due to the @$!$% iTunes thing (what a PITA to have to encode *just* a certain way for it to play stuff). I had to make a decision that my iPhone was for phone stuff, and my movie files were for HD viewing (you can't have both -- the resolutions the iPhone/iPad will accept are far below true HD viewing). I still use iTunes for playing music throughout the house (although the Live will do this as well, but my Airtunes are attached to my stereo receivers so it just makes more sense for that).

My house is CAT5 wired (I did it myself) with the exception of one Live unit (which is wireless -- works fine for MOST of my videos, but not the highest bitrate ones. We mostly use it to watch old 4/3 television series stuff we like).

So...

1. I use the High Profile but passthrough the AC3 or DTS tracks (Live will correctly play them in surround sound) and encode to MKV.

2. MKV files are compatible with most every device out there, with the exception of Appleland (which, as I said, doesn't bother me a whit. Encoding for Appleland means you give up too much for me, but YMMV).

3. I use the WD HD Live. Other alternatives are the Seagate Theater (very similar), the CinemaTube (can't do surround), Popcorn Box (not released yet and I won't buy vaporware), etc.

I'm very very happy with my choices, and no digging around for the disc for me anymore (I have a ton of discs up in my attic, though :>) BTW, if you are at all interested in the D-Link 321 NAS (which I would recommend for ANY cheap NAS work) it's available through Friday for $20 off if you buy it at Amazon, Egg or Buy.com (which brings it just under $100). I can put 3TB of space on the network for less than $300, which is about as cost effective as anything you can find (I have two such boxes right now, but am getting a third).

wysinawyg
Posts: 19
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Re: Once and for all....

Post by wysinawyg » Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:42 pm

mkelley wrote:Because I'm using the Live I encode everything to MKV -- Apple TV won't play these files (I actually still have an Apple TV but am looking to dump it -- it will be the fourth device replaced by the Live <g>). I got away from Apple due to the @$!$% iTunes thing (what a PITA to have to encode *just* a certain way for it to play stuff). I had to make a decision that my iPhone was for phone stuff, and my movie files were for HD viewing (you can't have both -- the resolutions the iPhone/iPad will accept are far below true HD viewing). I still use iTunes for playing music throughout the house (although the Live will do this as well, but my Airtunes are attached to my stereo receivers so it just makes more sense for that).
Hmm, well I'll chip in my 2p (or 2c if you prefer) as its a thought process I've just been down and I think I've finally settled on my options.

I'm generally not a million miles from mkelley's position in terms of general outlook, save that I quite like iTunes for the simplicity and I love having my media available on the go. For me that means trying to keep things iPhone compatible. Also a big fan of mac.jedi's tutorial which actually makes what I want look achievable in an acceptable amount of time.

I'm stuck in the dark ages AV wise so don't have to worry about anything beyond CD and DVD yet. That means no resolution concerns for me on the video side as an iPhone 3GS will happily play strict anamorphic full res DVD files which have been encoded to .m4v with Handbrake.

So at the moment I'm using some bundled together settings from the AppleTV presets threads (see the devices forum) essentially a mix of DynaFlash and VidJock's settings with RF 19 and strict anamoprhic. Please note that mac.jedi's options box doesn't work properly in BatchEncode so you need to look on the most recent page of the tutorial thread about going into the BatchEncode.sh file and hard coding x264 options if you want to move beyond the presets into more advanced stuff. I'm also preserving commentary tracks where appropriate which means having two BatchEncode.sh files as the CLI chokes if you ask it to encode two audio tracks when there is only one. So I have to run the script through which takes two audio tracks and then swap it for the single audio version and run that again to pick up tracks which didn't have a commentary.

Also messing around with Subler to add in all the special features which are available and tag them properly. I'll probably never watch most of them but I've opted for a bit of OCD approach. I also think Subler will let me add commentary tracks into files where they were two separate videos on the DVD, that is tonight's experiment.

Everything is then being fed into iTunes which means not only does it synch over to the iPhones (and AppleTV if I go there) but I've also got a Mini hooked up to one of the tellys which is then remote controllable for video and Airtunes via the Remote App.

Going this way gives you compatibility for everything except the TVs, which I suspect you'll have problems integrating into the rest in any kind of sensible way (given your iPhone to people ratio I'd be tempted to get the files iPhone compatible and then go for docks and component connection kits where you don't have AppleTV but want everything available).

Have to say if I was in your position and looking to include Blu-Ray in a high budget setting I'd still do all of the above but I'd dedicate a MacMini and a Drobo to the projector room. My understanding is that mac.jedi's scripts will then happily produce both a HD version of some sort and the regular iPhone compatible version at the same time. iPhone compatible goes into iTunes and HD into the MacMini in the projector room running Plex.

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