Compressing your DVDs and blu-rays (not a question but an answer)

First of all, don’t shoot the messenger!  I just want to mention something that apparently at least a few people aren’t aware of who frequent this board.  If you already know about Handbrake just move along, nothing to see here.

If you have more than enough (MORE than enough) disc space for your media then move on and read no further as well.  The nice thing about all this is you have the freedom to do whatever you want to do and no one can (or should) criticize you.  I’m certainly not going to, and I would hope you’d extend the same courtesy to me.

Rather than storing your DVDs and blu-ray rips as originals, I’m suggesting you ought to use a freeware program for PCs and Macs called Handbrake to reduce them greatly in size.  Using the high standard presets on the program (and changing to an mkv container) you will end up with a file that plays with about 98% of the quality of the original (the only thing it won’t have is the HD sound.  It does allow you to pass through the DTS or AC3 surround tracks, but not the HD sound.  Live can’t play DTS-HD but it can do True-HD so if you want that you’ll have to remux it back in which isn’t difficult).  Handbrake also add subs in on DVDs (you can add them on blu-rays as well but it requires two easy additional steps).

I’m very picky about my video and even if you are highly skeptical that further compressing it (it’s already compressed on the DVD or blu-ray) will degradate the picture I would ask that you at least try it with a couple of movies that are high res (anything made in the last few years will qualify – older films tend to be much more grainy and even more forgiving of further compression). You will be surprised and you may become a believer (once upon a time I didn’t believe it either).

In A/B tests I literally can not tell the difference between the original and the encode on my 55" Samsung LED or my 9’ HD Projection unit.  Obviously, YMMV but if you don’t at least try this you are missing out on being able to keep at least four times the amount of movies in the same space (not to mention avoiding issues like not being able to stream wirelessly due to bandwidth issues).

How much are the files compressed?

I’m also an advocate for compression, not only to save space, but the convenience of a single file.

I will need to check more closely, but I am pretty certain that the AC3 pass through on Handbrake passes through 5.1 sound into the mkv file (which is all I have tested). Are you defining Is HD sound as something different? Is there an issue with AC3 5.1 in an mkv file playing to the WD Live?

Depending on the media players in your household, the compatability of the file may be enhanced by using tsmuxer to mux the mkv file into an m2ts container, which is ideally suited to H264 video streams and AC3 audio.

Now for compression. Handbrake utilises the H264 video codec (and some others but you’re unlikely to need them). The most important decision is the bit rate you choose. MPEG2 DVD’s are usually in the range of 5,000 to 8,000 kbps which creates the standard definition image that you are used to. Don’t forget to also deinterlace using the ‘Slower’ option.

I believe that using Handbrake and the H264 codec then 2,400 kbps would mean almost lossless against the original DVD (standard definition). The file size will be roughly half the original. If you don’t mind a small, scarcely noticeable loss of quality, then go as low as 1,800 kbps and file size is roughly around 35% of the original.

Bluray video is already H264 codec (or potentially another AVC standard but this is rarer), hence any encoding by Handbrake will reduce quality. Nevertheless, I find 9,000 to 12,000 kbps produces something not all that noticeably different from the original. Again this will perhaps halve the file size of the original. It all depends on the bit rate of the original.

I would like to keep all movies as the VOB format off the DVD but it takes up too much real estate.

95% of my content has been compressed as MKV files using Handbrake.

 It is true, some of the older ‘Classic’ movies will get very grainy and  if that is the case, I just keep them in original format. Occasinally you will run into a movie that for some reason you can not get the audio to sync up.

Again, save it as a VOB and watch it that way.

AC3 5.1 passthrough works great with WD Live. I use a ‘quality’ setting of 18 in Handbrake (on the video tab) and it produces a movie of between 1-2GB depending on original size. (the setting defaults to 20)

I have 400+ movies on a 1TB drive and thay are all very good quality.

I am using SD DVD movies not HD.

IMHO - worth a try!

And just for my own two cents (there are as many opinions as to what settings to use in Handbrake as there are in how to store the files on your Live :>).

First of all, I mean HD sound to be the actual HD soundtrack.  While Handbrake does “pass through” AC3 (and, if you use the mkv container, DTS) it will not pass through the HD audio of a blu-ray track.  What it does is extract the compressed core (there are compressed cores in all HD audio tracks for playback on devices that don’t support HD audio).

AC3 5.1 AND DTS 5.1 play just fine with the mkv container with the Live as long as you select “digital” as your sound output (as opposed to stereo).  At first I was under the impression that surround sound in the Live was limited to the optical out but it turns out not to be the case, as even HDMI (with “Digital” selected) does pass through 5.1.  I prefer the mkv container because you can also include subtitles without separate files, but I have used tsMuxer extensively for other things and it does work great.

Standard DVDs will compress just fine to around 25% of their size (with the latest Handbrake release just select “High Standard” preset).  You do not need to delinterlace – in fact, it’s not recommended anymore (decome and detelecine are set to auto by default in this preset and it’s all you need do for nearly any video source.  You can, of course, turn them completely off for any movies).  So a typical 4gb DVD will end up under 1GB and be absolutely superb.

The good news is that blu-rays compress even better – they have so much resolution to begin with you actually can lower the settings (on the High Standard preset I change the RF setting to 22 from 20 – you don’t need to know what this means, just do it :>).  Because two-pass encoding is now passe’ Handbrake is SO much easier and faster to use (of course the main reason is the H264 encoder was optimized).  Blu-ray discs typically come in around 4-5GB per two hour movie (now you should be aware that because we are using variable encoding, to really take advantage and give us the absolute best combination of quality and space savings, this may vary widely.  Some of my blu-rays are as large as 9gb, others as small as 2.  Standard DVDs will also vary but because the files are much smaller you don’t notice it as much).

I’ve actually challenged folks to tell, on our 9’ HD screen, which was the disc and which was the encode and even for very high end blu-ray discs they are pretty much batting 500 (which is to say they don’t pick one or the other any more frequently).  Most of the time I can’t even get them to guess – they just say “both look good to me” which is how I feel (note: YMMV.  I can’t say this enough because I don’t want to be flamed by those folks who insist that Handbrake MUST be set at 19, or perhaps 23, because they definitely can tell.  I’ve done my tests and it satisfies me, but some folks always feel they are missing “something”.  To those folks I say, don’t even bother then).

I should point out one more thing that might explain why some folks talk about certain settings in Handbrake which are no longer relevent.  The latest release of Handbrake changed the ground rules quite a bit.  No longer is two-pass or constant bitrate needed (although those options are there they just are archaic).

With single pass variable encoding you get bit rates high where you need them and low where you don’t, which is why a blu-ray that’s only 4gb (from a 20gb original) can look as good as it the disc.  It also means that folks who were used to doing things a certain way in the past need to reexamine their workflow. 

It’s also MUCH faster than it used to be – but you should be aware it will always take some time to encode your movies.  That’s the tradeoff you make – you don’t lose quality, but gaining space means takng the time to encode the movies down.  On my i7 machine it takes around 3 hours to encode a blu-ray movie (less than an hour to do a standard DVD) but older, slower machines will take longer, maybe MUCH longer.  But you’re not doing anything with the computer while you sleep, right?  Ahd Handbrake has a superb queing system (even better now on the current snapshot).

Thanks for the HandBrake tip… I ran 2 tests last night on a couple DVD’s.    I was getting around 500% capacity reduction with minimal imapct on picture quality.

I had to use pass-through on the audio to get all channels of audio… any audio tips?


I always pass through the track(s) if AC3 or DTS 5.1 (or higher).  If it’s any other type (mono or stereo, for example) you can safely use the default conversion (to AAC) which will save you a bit of room (not much but worth it). 

WD Live will play 5.1 surround sound (assuming your audio device supports it) if the sound output is set to digital (settings).

Note that Decomb is essentially an automatic deinterlace in ‘Slower’ mode if it is needed. Naturally for progressive Bluray it is not. For traditional DVDs, which are interlaced, then it kicks in.

Handbrake is outstanding and very robust for reading DVD (VIDEO_TS) folders and the quality is excellent. Another program I rate is MediaCoder. Mediacoder does not seem as hardy coping with DVD folders, but is excellent for single raw capture files. Also great flexibility in output formats and I often go straight to m2ts, but it happily produces mkv files. Mediacoder does seem a fair bit quicker on my machine (Core i7) but I have not focused heavily on ensuring Handbrake is optimised.

What is the best way to approach Blu Rays?

I have AnyDVD,… and do I copy the dvd to the HD?  But then Handbreak does not see the source files?  What do I point handbreak to?

I get the feeling that I am missing a step.

I see lots of m2ts files… one of them is 39GB and the same length as the movie  (File type is AVCHD Video).

Do you point to this file?.. Anything else or to be aware of with HB and blu rays?


All I ever do is copy blu-rays, so I know a little about this .

I’m on a PC, so all my advice will be PC orientated (if you’re on a Mac or Unix box there are equivielent tools but you’ll need to do a little research).  First, I use AnyDVD HD to rip the disc to my hard drive (it sounds as if you have this already).  Then I use the freeware BDInfo to examine the folder and make sure I’m identifying the right file (9 times out of 10 it will indeed be the largest m2ts file in the Stream sub-folder, but 10% of the time it will be made up of a series of m2ts files.  This is particularly true of Disney.  In those cases there will be a playlist file that contains a list of all the files needed which I make a note of).

If it’s just the one file I go to Handbrake and, using Select Video file, select this file.  I use the High Standard preset for nearly all my discs but I do adjust the CF factor to 22 if the disc isn’t a title I’ll be watching on the 9’ screen (on my 55" screen everything looks good at 22, but on the big screen I like a factor of 20).  I select  the audio track and pass through either the first AC3 or DTS stream there is, and select MKV as the outpuf type.

If you don’t want subs or there’s just one title that’s all there is.  If there is a series of titles I use txmuxer and load in that playlist file and create a TS file of all the m2ts files needed.  Then I pass this file through Handbrake as above.

If I want subs I can use tsmuxer to first demux the various sub streams I want, then the freeware BDSup2SUb which translates them into idx files, and finally the freeware mkvmerge to merge them in with the Handbrake created MKV file (sounds like more effort than it is).  I tend not to need subs except for those rare cases of movies with forced subtitles (like 2012, or Kill Bill).

Feel free to PM me for any other questions as I’ve got my entire blu collection of hundreds on my Live now.

Handbrake is a piece of garbage !  If you do not notice the visible loss in quality on your big screen LCD, especially considering your SD is being upscaled, then you have eye problems and need to go have them checked STAT !  handbreak is a piece of garbage, stop trying to spread rubbish - any form of compression results in loss of quality.  Handbreak is poor, there is a significant amount of grain and artifacts on the resulting compressed file, no matter what preset you use and no matter what rate you use, even your suggested setting provides a significant loss of quality and grainy video scenes that looked perfect on original DVD.

I would advise against using that piece of garbage of a software, it’s mediocre !

You’ll get much better results using ratDVD, if only WDLive supports that format, but from what I was told the WDLive will be phased out in a month, no more upgrades - will have to buy a new physical revision.


Actually you’re the one who’s unbelievable.  WD Live phased out in a month?  Yeah, right.

(Can someone remove this troll from this forum?)

1 Like

Just a friendly reminder to keep it courteous and on-topic. Any further posts in this thread not about “Compressing your DVDs and blu-rays” will be removed. Thank you!