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this just in: handbrake is awesome

I’m leaving on an airplane in a few hours to go to Vegas to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving with my family.

Seeing as I recently picked up an iPod Touch, I figured I should throw some video on it in case I don’t sleep through the flight (which is at 6 AM — in other words, the need for videos is actually academic).

I’d been hankering to re-watch Firefly for the hundredth time, so I figured I’d pop the series on my iTouch and enjoy.

Last time I attempted to convert a DVD to anything else it took about a day for one DVD. With this outdated knowledge, I decided to acquire some AVIs of the show, even though I already own it, as I figured that’d run a lot quicker.

While that acquisition was taking place, I figured a dry run would be in order. I had the entire Arrested Development series on my HD, and figured there’s nothing wrong with taking one of the funniest shows in history along as well.

Things did not go well.

I found a piece of free software — ffmpegX — that would convert the AVIs to MP4 (iPod format) but it didn’t have a built in option for iPod Touch/iPhone size. Also, it wouldn’t let me add more than one AVI at a time, and it would reset the settings each time I tried to load a new file. This led to incorrect settings and skewed pictures and all sorts of unhappiness.

So everyone was talking about this other thing, VisualHub, so I give it a go. Converts the first video quite fine, so I drop $22 to get a licensed copy.

Of course, once I do that, it decides to no longer work and all the converted files have audio off by many seconds. Tweaking options didn’t help. They were useless.

“Bah,” I say to myself.

Then I remember some co-workers telling me about Handbrake, a nice little tool to convert DVDs straight into whatever you want – DiVX, iPod Touch, ASCII, etc. I figure I can rip the first disc overnight and the second today — I’ve got a few cores now so I assumed it would take at most 12 hours each.

I was wrong – apparently the state of DVD conversion has come leaps and bounds since my last attempt. To convert the whole DVD (which includes ripping the content and decrypting it from the disc) only took about 1.5 hours for a bit over 3 hours of content.

Not only that the quality was leaps and bounds better than re-encoding the AVIs I had downloaded. Despite the same bit rate, they looked fantastic. I understand re-encoding causes quality to suffer, but the AVIs were pretty good quality, so I was surprised to see it cause such a large difference.

Huzzah! I will have Firefly on the plane. How exciting for me. I might rip Arrested Development, too.

(By the way, one HUGE thing — despite ripping stuff, consuming both cores 100%, the Mac responded instantly throughout the entire process. Even playing a video file while ripping didn’t skip. I was shocked that I could both encode AND still use my machine. On my Vista box, which was a 3 ghz machine, I couldn’t do *anything else*. I could hardly open a run window).

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