Settings for Handbrake 0.94

Ever since the latest version of Handbrake came out, I have been searching for the right settings. I had what I thought were the perfect settings for version 0.93. My initial attempts with 0.94 were not so great. So, I spent some time doing trial and error. I stared out using Apple TV Presets as the base, but was never able to get a video that would load on my iPod. It would play on the iPhone 3Gs, but not an iPod.

My 0.93 settings look great on Apple TV and work on both my iPhone and iPods. My goal was to recreate the same results with the new version of Handbrake. I changed tactics and started using the iPod Touch Preset as a base.

All of these tests were done with the iPhone & iPod Touch Preset as a base. in all of them I raised the resolution to a width of 720.

60%, 720 width- works on ipod and iphone. Decent on Apple TV. Some noticeable artifacts.

70%, 720 width, 5g support- Good on Apple TV, works on iPod. Large file size. 180 minutes=3.5GB

65%, 720 width, 5g support- Good on Apple TV, works on iPod. 180minutes=2.5GB

The front runner so far is the ipod preset with 65% constant quality. I will do a couple of test rips between this setting and the 0.93 settings.

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Price Matching in the 21st Century

Some stores need to seriously update their price matching policies for the 21st century. Before i go on, let me be clear, I am not talking about expecting brick and mortar stores to match an internet vendor. I am talking about matching another store I can physically go to. Or in one case, matching it’s own internet pricing.

Recently I was shopping at a Best Buy, and saw a Blu Ray for a decent price, but knew I was going to Target in just a minute. The Target is about half a mile from the store I was in. I have always found target to have pretty good sales on movies, so I decided to wait and see what they had. Target was priced higher.

An employee happened to be standing by the display, so I asked him if they price matched. He said yes, but you have to show them the ad. I pulled out my iPhone and headed for the Guest Services desk. On the ay I pulled up best Buy’s website (with local pickup) saw that I could show that the movie was in stock half a mile away. And to my surprise the movie was priced even lower on the website.

I could buy the movie from my phone for less, and go pick it up half a mile away. I approached the desk. I explained the situation, and asked if they would price match. They aid they had to see a paper ad so they could know that the price was valid right now. I showed the lady my phone, explained that not only was it valid, but I could purchase it right there with just a few touches of the screen. She said store policy was a paper ad.

I was polite, but I did question that. I had proof in my hand that the price was valid. I explained that since the competing store was so close and the price was different enough, I would go there to buy the movie. They would lose a sale. She said they could not override the policy. So, I left, and went back to Best Buy.

But here was another issue. If I bought online with store pickup, the movie was cheaper. I decided to just drive over, see what they would do. If need be, I would step away from the counter and buy it online while in the store.

I went right to the customer service desk. Had the movie scanned and then showed the man the online price. He immediately said they would match their own website. But he did not change the in store pricing. Why would Best Buy sell things for in store pickup at a lower cost? If I did in store pick up I have to tie up more staff to get it. Someone to see the order, go get it, and then I must go to the customer service desk to get it from a presumably higher paid employee. But if I just bought it, I would likely only interact with the cash register clerk.

Weird, but I got the movie at a great deal.

Later, because I had a gift card there, I went to Walmart. I had check the price of another movie on their own website. So I was surprised to find that the movie was priced 10% higher in the store. I approached the cash register, explained the issue, showed the lady their own website. She said that if I was trying to match Target or another store, she could price match it. but they were not allowed to price match their own website or even another physical Walmart store. I just stared at her. She knew it didn’t make a lick of sense, but that was their policy: match competitors, but don’t match their own pricing.

It’s probable that this kind of thing has been the practice of these companies for decades. But with the ability check competitors, or even their own, prices in the palm of my hand… they should really rethink their approach to price matching. I do not expect Best Buy, Target, or Walmart to match an online store, but I do expect them to match their own website, and competitors in the area. Or they should expect more people to simply go buy the better deal.

It makes me think, what does the church need to change in the changing culture? What are we still doing because of tradition and lack of evaluation that frustrates people?

Searching for the Perfect Handbrake 0.94 Settings

{Updated with more test settings. These are not scientific, but more of trial and error process.}

After Handbrake released it’s newest update, I had some issues. I went back to the previous version so I could continue the march toward finishing the rip of my entire DVD library. But I have also been testing out new settings.

I have one simple requirement, that it look good on the Apple TV and work on my iPod and iPhone. By good I mean almost as good as an SD DVD. And the file size should be smaller than a DVD.

The results have been baffling. Not because of Handbrake, but because I discovered what others may have already known. The iPhone 3Gs can handle higher quality video than the iPod Touch. I have never been able to load video with wider than 720 pixels onto my iPod (or even my iPod 3G from before). When using the Apple TV preset in Handbrake ( something I thought required in the new version if you want watchable video for your Apple TV) you must always turn off the “animorphic” setting which allows the video to be wider than 720. If you are ripping a 4:3 aspect ratio video you must limit the resolution to 640×480, or the iPod won’t play it.

But today’s results were intriguing.

These settings are built using the Apple TV preset in the 0.94 version of Handbrake.

Apple TV Preset, No changes: Good on Apple TV, Worked on iPhone 3Gs, Did not work on iPod

Removed “Large File” check: OK on Apple TV, Worked on iPhone, Did not work on iPod

Removed “Large File” check, No “animorphic”: Not good on Apple TV, Worked on iPhone, I had trouble with the iPod but don’t know why.

Removed “Large File” check, No “animorphic”, added iPod atom: Not good on Apple TV, Worked on iPhone, I had trouble with the iPod but don’t know why.

Left in “Large File”, Set to 65% constant quality, No “Animorphic”: Average on Apple TV (Some obvious artifacts) Not compatible with iPod

Left in “Large File”, Set to 70% constant quality, No “Anamorphic”: Good on Apple TV, No go on ipod. But file size significantly larger

If my goal was just good looking video on the iPhone and Apple TV, I would just continue to use the base Apple TV preset. But 0.93 allowed me to rip video that looked good on all 3 of my devices, as well as my wife’s iPod Nano. trying to limit the Apple TV preset was getting me nowhere. I was ending up with large files that still didn’t work on my iPod.

So, I decided to change approach. I fully expected this to fail, because the forums for Handbrake are all abuzz about how the h.264 codec is now different than what the Apple TV expects. And if you don’t select Apple TV as a preset you will get “blocky” video. The Apple TV preset turns off a new setting which fixes this issue. But, I decided to use the iPod Touch preset a a base.

iPod Preset:

Constant quality at 60%, 720 width: Works on ipod and iphone. Decent on Apple TV.

I was surprised. I was sure that the “blocky” video would be back. But I saw decent video that worked great on my iPod. But the video isn’t as good as the 0.93 version rips. So, I am still working.

I have ripped another test clip with similar settings at 70% constant quality, but the file size sugests a 180 minute film will weigh in at 3.5GB. I have not had time to check the quality yet. I am going to try another test at 65% to see if the file size can drop a bit. Ideally, each movie would be under 3GB.

Hope to update again soon.

[Update Comparing Settings]

Practice, Practice, Practice

What’s the difference between “that worked really well” and “I wonder why that didn’t work?”

Practice. Plain old, simple rehearsal.

I am often surprised when I see people throw something together, sometimes very complicated somethings, and then not bother to test them. I know that it takes an extra 15 minutes or so to get everyone on point and run through it, but the risk is too great.

Practicing does two things: It helps an operator get familiar with the pattern and timing of execution and it requires you to know that everything is working technically.

The year after 9-11 I was serving at First Baptist West Monroe. we had planned a major memorial service. We had created quite a bit of video, some of which had what I thought was difficult switches. (Today I would not be consider them hard, but back then, with that gear, I was nervous.)

We had just upgraded video switchers, which was great because it allowed us to do some great things and terrible because I was not yet familiar with the controls. I spent over an hour practicing the transitions in and out of the video elements.

The result was a near flawless execution of video playback during the service. not because I am that good, but because of rehearsal.

For the Singing Christmas Trees every year we have multiple run through with full tech systems. It is during these run throughs that we discover the issues and fix them. This strand of lights is out. That midi cable is bad. Those microphones have issues. Even, the transition from this scene to that one is too quick to complete the microphone swap.

These issues are identified and then fixed before opening night. We do sometimes have issues during presentations, but not for lack of practice.

But even for small, seemingly simple things taking the time to rehearse can mean the difference between success and failure. Test that video signal with audio, from the actual source you will be using even if it’s not the actual video. Run the transitions and make sure everything fires. Turn on the lights and make sure they don’t wash out that projection screen.

Testing, rehearsal, or practice can make the difference between successfully using technology in ministry or causing a preventable distraction.

Running on Fumes

I love Christmas, and love productions, and my job and all that. But this time of year is super busy. I didn’t work nearly as many hours as the technical type guys who work for me, but I am just plain spent. It was worth it. Over 28,500 people came to the Singing trees, and over 800 of those made decisions for Christ! That is worth the time and energy.

But people only have so much to give. If you are like me, there are some things that tend to happen when you start running out of gas. I get short tempered. Things that should just roll off my back, stick. I also start forgetting details. And then I get paranoid about forgetting details.

How do you combat this?

1. Stay in the Word. I wonder how anything will mean anything to me when I open the Bible while I am so tired. Yet, invariably, the days that contain time with God are better than those that don’t.

2. Engage your filter. When I am like this, I often take longer to answer questions or emails because I don’t want emotion to rule. I stop, back up and review before reacting. It really helps keep me from being a jerk.

3. Make a list. Whether mentally or on paper, have a list of things that you have to get done. Then do them. I often remember things at random times when I am tired, so I use the note function on my phone to record them.

4. Check it twice. It’s OK to double check yourself. But use the list so you don’t get freaked out about what you may or may not have done.

5. Go home. Really. Do what needs to be done and then go home. Leave early, come in late, whatever. If you don’t get rest, you will never recharge.

There are more things you can do, but that’s a start. If you are running out of gas, you have to slow down enough to get filled up again or you will end up on the side of the road. Do what must be done and let the rest wait.

UPS Mail Innovations

I was unexpectedly introduced to UPS Mail Innovations this Christmas season. I ordered a gift online, and selected standard shipping. The package was sent UPS Mail Innovations. I got a UPS tracking number, and tracked the package like normal from NJ to FL, where is suddenly said it was delivered. I began to search for the package, but no one had seen it.

Our shipping department helped me identify the issue, the package was not delivered to me, but to the US Post Office, who will now deliver it to me.

I’m guessing this must save a lot of money, but I’m not sure how. UPS took the package from NJ to Orlando. Then USPS will take the package the rest of the way. Does the USPS have such a better system of actual delivery that it is cheaper for companies to use them rather than UPS? Why not use USPS all the way? How does this hybrid delivery system help the end consumer? How does it work?

I don’t know, but it is interesting.

Did 0.94 Break Handbrake?

Handbrake, a nifty video ripping program that has always been amazing, just released a new build- 0.94. This new version has all kinds of great new features, and claims faster encodes. You can even preview your rips before you take the time to rip them.

Sounds like a lot of great improvements, and I was very happy to see them. But then I read this:

Constant quality encoding
No more looking for the perfect bitrate for a source–HandBrake is migrating to quality-based encoding. This means that instead of telling encoders to use a specific size and vary quality to meet it, we tell the encoder to vary size to meet a given quality level. Overall quality improves, since bits are spent only when they are needed, and are saved when they are not. While this means output size is somewhat unpredictable, the results in picture quality speak for themselves.

Color me skeptical, because I had found settings that delivered great results using the variable bit rate target of 2000. I have never had great results from the constant quality settings. I understand what they are trying to do, but my results didn’t lead me in this direction.

I think it’s a bit wrong headed. If I know that my machine can only do a certain bit rate, I can set the target there, and know that it will always be able to play on the device. But with constant quality, if I set it too high it may produce a bit rate that won’t play smoothly. But I am not a programmer, and I am just thankful this program is being developed.

So, being a dutiful follower, I upgraded to version 0.94, and tried my old settings. The result was ugly, chunky, compression artifacts in the video. I then switched to the new constant quality settings (using the base Apple TV settings as a starting point- turned off animorphic resolution, large file size, and turned on deinterlace), and that got rid of the chunks, but the compression artifacts at 60% (the default) cannot be ignored when watching on my Apple TV. So I tried 100%, which resulted in a 17GB file size. Then I tried 80%, which iTunes could not open for some reason, but resulted in a 5.5GB files, more than double my normal 0.93 files.

Since then I have re installed build 0.93 and gone back to the old encode settings that worked so well for me. I have to re rip about 7 movies I tried using the new version on. I am so close to being done ripping my library, I hate to be slowed down.

Does anyone have setting that work for the new 0.94 build of handbrake? Ones that deliver great looking video (as in DVD quality look) on an Apple TV but are still playable on an iPhone? (I used to use a VBR or 2000 with an iPod atom, deinterlaced, with forced subtitles on. No animorphic resolution. I limited the width to 720, which was required for use on the iPhone.) Has anyone gotten this to work well for this application? I feel like this version has taken a step back in quality of end product.

Update: Some usable settings for 0.94.

Singing Trees Christmas Reflections Video Wrap Up

Today was the last quick-turn video we did for the Singing Christmas Trees at church. For most presentations the project went very smoothly. I would go out into the welcome centers right before doors opened, capture a few answers, and then move inside the worship center after people began seating. 20 minutes later I was back transferring footage.

We found that the Z1U in full auto with our LED light was the best setting. I used a monopod to stead the camera, and a basic Shure beta 58. I did not want to use anything wireless because I have gotten interference before, and I needed audio as clean as possible. I used a cord about 8 feet long. Enough to reach across pews, but not so long as to trip me up. I tried to boost the low audio as much as I could, but we had no time for real mixing.

Capturing direct to Quicktime was a critical component in making this work. The night I captured to Raw DV I was very pressed for render time. QT was recognized by Final Cut without need for render. We laid the new video over the music bed and rendered the graphic. Using the AJA for direct playback into the switcher also was a huge time saver. The real key to making this work was to eliminate all capture and export time.

The result was a fun element of the program. Audience members were able to participate in the program, and it set the tone for remembering past Christmases.

Will we do it next year? I don’t know. It was definitely a more frantic pre-show for me, but it worked well. I can see us doing more things like this in the future. I liked the process of using actual audience members in the presentation.