Solid State Entertainment

My eldest has started watching kids’ movies piecemeal, and given the punishment that a 2-year-old can deliver to a standard DVD, I’ve started ripping them (well, only a couple yet, actually, but I’ve thought this through) into MKV format so that I get a single file with multiple audio and subtitle tracks (the reasoning here being that I might as well rip stuff only once and have all the languages we speak readily available).

The time-honored approach I’m using is the usual ready mix of Fairmount and Handbrake, but the WDTV box I decided to buy a year or so ago to replace my PS3 as a media center (nearly eight times smaller, infinitely less noisier) has trouble syncing AC3 audio and H.264 video at conservatively high bitrates, so the following tweaks were required:

  • Detelecine: OFF (on Video Filters tab)
  • Framerate (FPS): 25 (on Video tab)
  • Reference Frames: 6 (Advanced tab)
  • B-Frames: 6 (Advanced tab)
  • Weighted B-Frames: Unselected (Advanced tab)
  • 8x8 DCT: Unselected (Advanced tab)
  • CABAC Entropy Coding: Unselected (Advanced tab)

These result in a simpler but still compact encoding that is viewable on a big screen TV without significant artifacts and weighs in at roughly 1.5GB per movie (including two AC3 soundtracks and two subtitles in different languages), which means I can easily stick half a dozen or so files onto a cheap USB flash drive that is not just nigh on indestructible by toddler standards but which can be left plugged in out of sight - a boon when we reach that stage where you might as well play the movie in a loop for 3 weeks, something I’ve been told will happen but that I’m hopefully going to be able to sidetrack with real life play.

Also, this makes it a lot more feasible to watch cartoon series, since we no longer have to sit through 10 minutes of idiotic warnings, cross-selling videos and stupid pre-rolls when trying to watch a 5-minute cartoon (yeah, I timed it - anyone with a toddler in their home will readily confirm that it is completely impossible to have them watch anything that doesn’t start now, and that trying to make them sit through those stupid preambles is a recipe for disaster…).

I’m told these settings have also been useful for the newer Apple TVs (but, of course, with a straight .m4v envelope), so I’m putting this out there - your mileage may vary, since I can’t test these on an Apple TV, nor do I expect I’ll be getting one until the media industry comes to their senses regarding pricing models and simultaneous worldwide releases.

Which is a pity, because I’m not likely to be able to visit a movie theatre regularly for a couple of years yet.