Handbrake setting recommendations for Live Plus

Okay, I think Mike has finally swayed me to try Handbrake and encode my M2TS files. It’s amazing how fast a 1TB drive fills up!

I’ve got the latest build of Handbrake installed and ready to go. My ultimate goal is to make the encodes indistinguishable from the source M2TS file. While fiddling with Handbrake options in the High Profile setting, a few questions occurred to me:

  1. What’s the incremental difference in encoding at a video quality less than 20? For example, does an encode at 16 look visually better than one at 18? Or 19?

  2. There are quite a few advanced options. Are any adjustments needed on these options to increase the output quality?

  3. The decomb/detelecine options are set to Default. For blu-rays, shouldn’t they be set to Off?

  4. Are there any other setting modifications recommended?

Again, my goal is the best visual quality. The time to encode is a mote point for me.

Thanks for the help.


For encoding blu-ray materials, just use the High Profile preset but change the output type to MKV and (if you have DTS and AC3 decoding receiver(s)) pass through the DTS or AC3 track.

I would NOT change the RF rate to be any lower than 20 for blu-ray material.  Most folks use 22, but I like 20 because I have a 9’ HD projection unit and can indeed see a slight difference.  But for most people even 22 is just fine (and will be around 20% smaller).

RF 19 (no lower) is all right for DVD material (not blu-ray) but even then 20 is probably as much as anyone will ever need.  I like using 20 for both because it’s one less thing I need to worry about.

You can leave Decome/Detelecine at default – they won’t do anything if they aren’t needed and only add a TINY amount of time (a few minutes at most) to the encoding process.  It won’t hurt to turn them off, but if you ever do any television work (for example, the blu-ray of Star-Trek the Original Series, or Band of Brothers) you will need them on.  And there are *some* movies that do need them on (Apollo 13 immediately comes to mind).

I would not change ANYTHING else – leave things alone.  (Subtitles are a whole different aspect but we can cover them as well as when a blu-ray is more than just the one M2TS file in another post).


Thanks for the advice.

What’s the downside to changing the RF to lower than 20 for blu-ray? I’m assuming the file size goes up with marginal to no increase in visual quality, right? Is there an approximate file size increase for each incremental decrease in the RF?

Thanks again.


The file size increase is around 20% for each two steps (22 to 20, for example).

But file size isn’t the only issue.  You aren’t just trying to compress to a smaller size, you’re trying to achieve the same quality as the original.  Blu-ray is actually a VERY inefficient format, so it compresses much better than even DVD (which itself is an inefficient format) when encoded to H264.  Some folks early on thought they’d be “smart” and lower the RF down to 17 or less – and ended up with files that were LARGER than the original.

I did A/B tests on my 9’ HD screen and could literally not tell the difference between the original blu-ray disc (playing on my PS3) versus a Handbrake encoded original (at 20).  At 22 I could see *slight* differences when the material was digital (i.e. animation or something like Avatar).  For many blu-rays I actually do lower the quality (raise the RF) to 22 because it doesn’t really matter (comedies, for example – I’d never see any difference with them even on the big screen).

Most folks on the Handbrake forum recommend 22 for blu-ray material (and some even higher).  I’m one of the few who advocates 20 only because I have seen a difference – but again, only a very slight difference, and not with all materials.  But I’m probably one of the few people who have a 9’ HD TV, so it may be overkill for just about anyone else.

Typically I factor around 7GB for a blu-ray encoded film (at 20) – I can reduce this to 5GB if I go to 22.  But remember, this size is just a ballpark average.  Some films compress much better than others.  Films with lots of detail and/or grain can be huge (Black Hawk Down is around 17GB even Handbraked – about  70% of the original.  But it’s also a VERY grainy film that just won’t compress much).

Hey Mike on this subject, took your advice last week and did some testing on MKV using HandBrake and re-mastering my ISO images but honestly even on my dual quad xeon it’s almost an hour to re-master a movie, any hardware accelerators that you’re aware of that might speed this up? I have a Matrox Compress HD card in my video editing box but HandBrake doesn’t take any advantage of this card. 


An hour for a DVD is pretty good time – you probably won’t get much faster than that unless you start reducing some settings (which you can do but then you also reduce quality.  It’s like that old adage – “Good, Fast, Cheap – pick any two”).

Your PC isn’t doing anything else while you sleep or while you’re at work, right?  You can queue up things in Handbrake and it can run all night and day long.  Even if you have hundreds or more ISOs you can do then in a week or two this way (and for you young guys a week or two is NOTHING.  Us old farts need to worry about time, but time is what you have the most of).

Blu-rays take MUCH longer (I can’t do one in less than four hours) but, again, can be queued up.  I’ve done literally hundreds of my blu-rays in just a few months (and am all caught up now).

Young guys LOL I watched Armstrong walk on the moon, LIVE, not at ancient yet, but working on it!  

I’m on task to keep converting, it would just be nice to have a hardware card that can offload the stress like the Matrox card does for my HD production. 

In the end reduction from 4gb to about 1gb is huge, that’s a 3:1 savings for more movies that I would have had to expand to another drive at a later date as things fill up. I haven’t graduated to Blu-Ray just yet, on the horizon though especially for some movies like Avatar and some other Sci-Fi stuff that I would love to have in HD.

There’s a lot of discussion about hardware offload on the Handbrake forums.

The developers aren’t very keen on the idea…  

lombana wrote:

Young guys LOL I watched Armstrong walk on the moon, LIVE, not at ancient yet, but working on it!  

Everything’s relative – I could vote when he landed there.

As Tony says, the Handbrake guys aren’t keen on hardware accelerators.  Folks do build some nice Handbrake specific boxes that might even trim your current times down, but not by a huge factor (I think even Tony gets a pretty high FPS over what you’re reporting).  For DVDs the time really isn’t bad at all – when you DO get into blu-rays you’ll see what we’re talking about (that’s when it would be nice to at least do it in near real time).

But since you’re probably still employed (I retired years ago) your machine is definitely idle for long periods of time.  Don’t let it slack off! .

In the Handbrake set-up for Audio, does the order in which the tracks appear align with the audio track selection of the encoded file? Is Track 1 the default audio for the movie? For example, if I want to retain special commentaries, should that be designated as Track 2?

By the way, I just finished my first encode, which was “Baraka”.  The source M2TS file was 20.5 GB. At High Profile and RF=20, the resulting mkv is 5.1 GB. The quality is amazing on my 24" PC monitor. I’m just about to try it on my 42" Panasonic.



Yes, the audio files will be in that order – you can use a tool like MKVMerge to change the order of things without re-encoding (but be aware that you need to use version 4.0 or earlier or face issues that are a little complicated).

That file should look just fine for you on anything you view it - as I said, I’ve done A/B tests with my 9’ screen without being able to tell the difference (at 20).  Even at 22 you shouldn’t have issues on a 42" set.