There is a LOT of confusion “out there” concerning the best settings for converting your media files with Handbrake. There are a lot of opinions, and it’s not that anyone is necessarily wrong, but there are just a lot of different things that will work depending on your needs.
When I record television or rip the DVD’s I own, I like to convert the files to h.264, as it is a very efficient format for the quality of what you see (file size to picture quality ratio). It’s also the format that Plex streams natively to Roku for the best (fastest and glitch free) streaming experience.
Since storage has become so cheap, I don’t worry too much about shrinking the size of media, especially if I’m ripping DVD’s (which are already SD instead of HD… which means fewer pixels and less space). I tend to just keep the file at native resolution (though I always convert to square pixels so devices aren’t confused about how to display the file –the “stretching” or “squishing” you often see when your device is trying to figure out how to interpret a file and display the correct aspect ratio).
My files are usually around 550MB for a half hour tv show at 720p, and a normal DVD movie ends up being around 800MB to a gig (which is decent, considering a “normal” DVD is around 4 or 5GB).
Here are the settings I use when I do this.
One thing I learned recently is that you can actually trim your video file as you are encoding in Handbrake (so you aren’t encoding/keeping any footage that was recorded before/after your program). If you switch the “chapters” dropdown to “seconds,” you can set the beginning and end points in minutes and seconds. Just view your file in a media program like VLC to see where you want your in and out points to be, and then when you set them in Handbrake it will encode only the part of the file you want.
I like to keep my files at their original size, but aspect ratios can wreak havoc on media files. Some programs are in 1:78 (16:9), some are anamorphic with “non square pixels and a 1.33 aspect ratio stretched to 1.78, etc… I like to make sure everything is just square and physically as it should appear, thus I set “anamorphic” to “none,” and then choose modulus 2. Then I tick “keep aspect ratio” and choose my width or height. With HD recordings, I sometimes “down rez” to 720 from 1080 (it’s a smaller file that won’t look much worse (if at all) on an HD screen). With DVD’s and SD recordings (720x480 pixels (wide) or 640 x 480 pixels (4:3)) I sometimes “up rez” just a tiny bit if the file is actually 640x480 displaying 720x480. What this means is that a file that is 720x480 but in anamorphic format will actually display as 720x540 in square pixels. That means more lines of horizontal resolution, for a slightly better picture with not much more space taken up. Alternatively, a 720x480 file that’s anamorphic but wide screen will display as approximately 848x480 as square pixels.
All you really need to know is that if you’re encoding a non-HD file, tick the “keep aspect ratio” box and then let Handbrake set the width when you set the height to either 480px (native SD resolution) or 540 (if you want to up the horizontal rez a bit –I only do this with anamorphic files so they convert to 720x540).
Finally, make sure your cropping is set to “custom” and all the fields read “0.” This will keep your file from having black borders.
You can spend a lot of time playing with these. I just set decomb to default and it does a decent job of removing the horizontal lines created by television interlacing. Basically the “decomb” filter only applies de-interlacing when there is motion (when the horizontal lines caused by interlacing become visible). Handbrake does a decent job of “choosing” when to apply this filter, so I just let it do it’s thing. Using the other filters requires quite a bit more processing (thus time to convert), so I am just satisfied with the speed/quality of letting Handbrake “decomb” as it sees fit.
I haven’t messed a lot with video settings. I keep things pretty close to default, but I do know I want a constant framerate (and leave it as the same as source), and I use constant quality instead of variable bitrate. Variable bitrate takes up less space, but it takes more time to convert and isn’t quite as “good” as constant Quality. I set the H.264 level to 4.1 and set the speed to around “fast” or “faster” (depending on the show I’m converting and what kind of quality I want from the file).
Hopefully these settings help somebody set up their Handbrake satisfactorily!