Tweaking Handbrake Settings In Linux Mint

Handbrake running on Linux Mint 13.

Handbrake running on Linux Mint 13. Click to enlarge.

Handbrake is a marvelous transcoding tool for ripping and converting your home DVD collection to a format that can be read and played by a variety of computer/home entertainment devices.

The default settings within the program are usually satisfactory enough to meet the needs of most users.  There are, however, certain options that allow you more control over the finished product.

These are only suggestions.

For this demonstration I have loaded a finalized DVD copy of Big Buck Bunny for transcoding.

Once the DVD has been scanned by Handbrake, you will notice a series of tabs.

Handbrake customization tabs.

Click on the Video tab.  There are two settings here that are worth noting.  The first is the quality settings slider:

Handbrake quality video setting.

This setting is rather counter-intuitive.  The lower the number, the higher the quality and the larger the file size.  The higher the number, the lower the quality and the smaller the file size.  Just like in Physics, you don’t get something for nothing.

The default setting of 20 is preferable for most people’s taste.  It’s a good balance between the quality of the finished product and the outputted file size.  Your results may vary, so you may want to try several variations to compare and contrast.

The second setting to consider under this tab is a bit more subtle.

Handbrake framerate setting.

The variable framerate option is selected by default.  Most but not all embedded media players in portable and set-top box devices can play a video file smoothly using a variable framerate.  The savings in file size using a variable framerate is negligible compared to the same video file using a constant framerate.  There is no real advantage gained in using a variable framerate as opposed to using a constant framerate, but you will reduce the risk of compatibility issues when playing that video file on different devices.

Under the Audio tab, the correct language audio track is selected for you.  You do have a few options when it comes to the embedded sound file format of the finished product.

Handbrake sound encoding setting.

Staying with the default setting will give give you good sound quality results.  Some of your options may vary depending upon what available system codecs you have installed.

The MP3 option might give you a more robust sound, but because Handbrake converts both sound and video simultaneously there can be a slight lag in the sound conversion process.  This causes the synchronization between sound and video to be offset just enough so that lip-sync on screen does not match with the sound you hear.  This phenomenon does not occur on every DVD transcoded by Handbrake.

Movie makers love to interject subtitles in their films.  Foreign language scenes with English captioning lends realism to the storyline.  On most discs, those captions are housed in a special file that Handbrake does not access by default.

Once you are in the Subtitles tab, click on the big plus-sign to load the subtitles file.  Then select “Burned In” and “Forced Only” to embed the subtitles (if any) in to the video file.

Handbrake subtitles settings.

This method will work for the majority of your transcoding jobs.  However, some discs will place the forced subtitles in a file all by themselves.  In that case, you will want to select “Burned In” only.  Always scan through and check the completed video file.

You can delete, alter, or add to any textual information you find under the Tags tab.  It’s usually best just to leave it blank.

This last tweak is strictly personal preference.  Near the top of the screen is a large button marked Picture Settings.  Click on it.

Handbrake "Picture Settings" button.

Within the picture settings is a drop-down menu containing four options.  Change the default setting ‘Loose” to “Strict” and close the pictures settings window.

Handbrake picture settings options.

Begin transcoding.

These are just few suggestions that you can use to control and manage your transcoding jobs in Handbrake.  Experimentation is the key to finding the right balance between quality and file size.  You can always delete the completed video file and try again quickly and easily.

Happy transcoding!



4 Responses to “Tweaking Handbrake Settings In Linux Mint”

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  3. infinitekiff Says:

    i have learnt nothing new, i wanted to know about the advanced tab you are just rehashing everything the app tells you anyway. i cannot select any options under advanced tab??? i want to decrease the file size but frame ref etc. nothing selectable all greyed out??????

    • The Doctor Says:

      To access the settings under the Advanced tab you must change the Frame Rate setting under the Video tab. In your case, you will want to change the default frame rate setting “Same as source” to “25 (PAL Film/Video).” This will unlock the settings in the Advanced tab.

      To decrease the file size, select “Constant Quality” under the Video tab and move the slider control from the default “RF: 20” to a higher number setting. Remember, you don’t get something for nothing. The smaller the file size, the lower the video quality.

      If you want to shrink the physical outputted size of the video, you need to change the width and height settings under Picture Settings.

      I do not recommend altering these default settings.

      Good luck!

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