Preparing for The Touch: Testing Handbrake

Yesterday I ordered a new 32GB iPod Touch.

I could not resist it. I sold my old Touch and my old Apple TV, and upgraded to the 32GB model. With HD video captures, and the new Retina display, it looks great. And according to Apple, it will display:

H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

Which means that my old handbrake settings may now be obsolete. I have always tried to maintain settings that would allow video to be played across all of my iOS devices, iPods/iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs. Previously that meant that I needed to start with the iPod preset in Handbrake, and make adjustments.

With this new HD capable iPod, I suspect I can start with the Apple TV preset. I won’t know until I get the iPod Touch, but I have made a couple of test files. These files loaded and played on my iPad and iPhone 3GS.

I ripped the first Transformers movie with the Apple TV preset into two files. On one I left “large file size” checked, on the other I removed that. I added “iPod 5G Support”.

There was no discernable difference, either in file size or quality.
file size

Both files were exactly the same size. I have no idea what “Large File Size” does. Both files were significantly smaller than my universal settings, using that yielded a file at 3.38 GB. Oddly, this larger file will play on all iOS devices, while the one I ripped yesterday will only play on “HD” capable ones. This is primarily to do with the percentage of constant quality I select in the universal files. I found I liked the higher percentage of 65%, more than the preset 60%. Anything over 65% ends up with a huge files. But as you can see, the 60% mark produces much smaller files.

I took a couple of screen captures of these last two rips. The compression artifacts that you see are in every version I have ripped with every setting. The combination of dark with smoke does not compress well. But, you can also see that either version delivers the same compression artifacts. Both load onto an iPad and my iPhone 3GS. I assume they will load onto the new iPod Touch. They will not load onto older iPods or older iPhones.

You can see the smoke artifacts here:
smoke artifacts

A general action shot with light and dark:
robot attack

I was very pleased with it’s performance on the iPad. The image looked great. Now that the iPods/iPhones have the ability to play higher quality video files, I may switch to the Apple TV preset all the time. I know I won’t be able to watch them on my wife’s 4th Gen Nano, but with an iPod, iPad, an iPhone 3GS and an Apple TV that can play them, I don’t think I will miss it.

My goal has been great looking video, with decent file sizes. The Apple TV preset, adding the “iPod 5G support” gives me both on all of the “HD” capable iOS devices, as well as the Apple TV.


Handbrake and the iPad: The Settings

Handbrake 0.95 is out with an iPad preset pre-loaded. See the review here.

[See an updated post about handbrake settings and how the new iPod Touch and Apple TV effect which preset you can use for multi device video.]

Avatar came out yesterday so I decided to test a few settings and see how they play on the iPad.These are not scientific, just trial and error. I had already discovered that my general cross-platform settings worked pretty good. I start with an iPod preset, raise the resolution to 720 width in picture settings, raise the constant quality to 65%, select iPod 5G support. Those settings result in a decent sized file with a good image that plays on all Apple video capable devices (iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, and iPad)

But both the iPad and Apple TV can do higher resolution. So I tried tried three different larger resolution settings. I ripped about 6 minutes 43 seconds in three different higher resolution settings: My base iPod preset settings with loose anamorphic and with strict anamorphic, as well as the straight Apple TV base setting (with minor changes)

All three worked on the iPad. Not surprisingly, the higher resolution settings I tested looked better, sharper, on the iPad.

Both the loose and strict anamorphic ended up with a resolution of 853×480 (as opposed to a 704×400 on my cross platform setting) and were 211MB in size. I could tell no difference in video quality between these, and both were sharper than the cross platform setting I use.

The Apple TV setting (base one with no changes except I deselected large file size and added iPod 5G support) was also 853×480 size, but only 150MB. It looked almost as good as the larger file sizes on the iPad.

The clips on my Apple TV (hooked to 26″ HDTV) loaded just fine. The larger files were just a hair sharper. On my small screen I had to pause the clip to see it. When playing there was virtually no difference. I don’t think there is any visual difference between the loose or strict anamorphic settings I used and they are just a hair better than the basic Apple TV settings.

If size is a factor, I would use the base Apple TV settings with the slight changes I made. They will look great on the iPad (and iPhone 3GS or 4. See update below). These will not work on the older iPhone or iPods, because they can’t do wider than 720 pixels

Below are some screen shots. I tried to capture the same frame, but hopefully it’s close enough to see the differences. In all images, the quality was very similar.

Apple TV on the left, iPod Preset Anamorphic loose on the right. The color seems deeper on the Anamorphic

Similar capture. Same.

More of an action shot. iPod preset on top, Apple TV on bottom. Again the colors appear deeper in the ipod preset. The iPod preset is a bit sharper.

All three settings. Although smaller, the basic iPod preset looks similar to the Apple TV.

Bit more of an action shot. In this one the cross-platform iPod preset looks more like the larger version.

I wonder if it is the 5% extra in the “constant quality” setting that allows for the deeper colors.

At any rate, unless you are pausing the video, there is virtually no difference to my eye. If you want your videos to play on all Apple devices, stay with my iPod preset. If you only need them on the iPad or Apple TV (and newer iPhones and iPod Touch 4th Gen), I would use the slightly modified Apple TV preset.

Update: After some further testing, a file ripped from the basic Apple TV setting, with “iPod 5G Support” checked will give great performance on an iPad, Apple TV, and iPhone 3GS. I will load it on my new iPod Touch 4 Gen when it arrives and test it through the new Apple TV when it ships, but it should be compatible with those as well. It will not play on an older iPod or iPhone model.

Handbrake Settings for iPad

[Update: Check the link at the bottom for a more in depth look at handbrake settings for the iPad.]

Since I did quite a bit of testing between handbrake’s 0.93 and 0.94 builds, I wanted to report my experience with movies I ripped and the iPad I’ve been using. Later, I may try to see how high a resolution file you can rip for the iPad…

I have watched a few videos on the iPad. Anything from iTunes looked better than the handbrake rips. I don’t know what they use for compression, but digital copies of movies look very nice, even on the larger iPad screen. I have heard that the iPad can handle higher resolution video like the Apple TV. For me, I like my video to be cross platform, so I still rip for the highest quality of the lowest capability device: the iPod.

Movies ripped on the iPod settings I described in previous posts (iPod/iPhone preset, raise resolution to 720 width in picture settings, 65% constant quality, 5g support.) work just fine on the iPad. I did notice that films ripped in 0.93 settings showed more artifacts than those in 0.94. I actually re-ripped a couple in the later release to help them look better for later viewing.

A more in depth look can be found here.

Link to handbrake.

Comparing Settings for Handbrake 0.93 and 0.94

The new version of handbrake took the program in a new direction, and left my old settings behind. My first attempts at using the new version had less than stellar results. After a lot of trial and error, I think I have landed upon settings for 0.94 that mirror my settings for 0.93. These are not really scientific, and stills don’t really represent it very well. The frames are almost, but not quite the same frame from the move. Hopefully close enough to make some comparison

Screen shot from 0.93:

Average bitrate of 2000, 720 width, 5g support, h.264 file. File plays on Apple TV, iPod and iPhone.

Screen shot from 0.94:

iPod preset, raise resolution to 720 width, 65% constant quality, 5g support. File plays on Apple TV, iPod and iPhone.

Screen shot from 0.94:

Apple TV preset with no alterations, just for reference. File Plays on Apple TV, and the ones I tested played on my iPhone 3Gs, but not on my iPod.

The 0.93 file and the 0.94 file from the iPod preset are almost exactly the same size. The 0.94 file from the Apple TV preset is actually smaller, but I cannot use it on my iPod.

Here is an 0.93 capture blown up to fit my computer (Macbook Pro 15″) compared to an 0.94 iPod base capture.

To my eye, the 0.94 iPod base settings are just a bit sharper. I watched through this clip from Transformers, looking for artifacts and noticeable compression. The light and dark with smoke and explosions did reveal some compression in all versions. But all were within acceptable ranges, especially at actual resolution. The Apple TV base setting actually showed a little bit more compression than the others.

For the time being, it looks like I will switch to 0.94 with my new altered iPod preset for future rips.