Is there a significant loss in quality if I use makeMKV and Handbrake for ripping blu rays?

MKV playback, recompression, remuxing, codec packs, players, howtos, etc.
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Is there a significant loss in quality if I use makeMKV and Handbrake for ripping blu rays?

Post by Sylus » Wed Oct 14, 2020 6:57 am

Hello everyone, I'm interested in a building an HTPC in the coming months because I'm tired of watching movies on my laptop (even if it is really cozy sometimes) but I'm concerned about Bluray playback and the effects reencoding have on sound and video playback.

Can someone give the semi technical explanation to ease my mind?

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Re: Is there a significant loss in quality if I use makeMKV and Handbrake for ripping blu rays?

Post by dcoke22 » Wed Oct 14, 2020 4:36 pm

The answer is, it depends.

It is possible to use Handbrake (or other tools) to crush a blu-ray rip down to almost nothing, making it look terrible in the process. It is also possible to not transcode rips at all and watch them at as good of quality as they are on the disc.

Hard drive space is relatively cheap. A blu-ray rip of a movie is roughly 30GB. You can probably store slightly more than 30 movies per TB. Large internal 3.5" drives are around $20/TB. Figure about $300 for a 14TB drive. That would store more than 400 movies without transcoding.

The usual reason for transcoding is to make movies more portable. Putting a selection of movies on your phone or tablet or laptop is sort-of a pain at 30GB each. Transcoding a blu-ray to a smaller h.264 with a generous data rate might get the file down to 7 or 8 GB. That would probably look quite good, even on a big TV. More importantly, it'd be easy to load up a tablet with plenty of movies for traveling without decent network access. You could trade more quality for less space. You could also dramatically increase transcoding time to transcode to h.265 for similar quality but less space (assuming your player can play h.265).

Lots of people these days just buy a NAS, stuff it with big hard drives, and run Plex (or something similar) on it. They use a player like a Firestick, Roku, AppleTV, or their fancy smart TV to run the Plex client. If your NAS (or Plex computer) is sufficiently powerful, Plex will transcode on the fly for the capabilities of the client. This style of setup lets you hide a big, hot, noisy machine somewhere it won't bother you while watching movies.

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Re: Is there a significant loss in quality if I use makeMKV and Handbrake for ripping blu rays?

Post by donut » Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:49 pm

Answering as a two part question...

makeMKV does not alter the bitstream content of the ripped dvd/bluray/UHD (other than you may include/exclude content such as sound tracks, subtitles, videos from the output). Each title from the disc is output to a separate .mkv file with no loss of quality or change of size.

Handbrake will alter the bitstream content of the video title through the process of transcoding. Audio tracks can be passed through unchanged, or re-encoded to a different format. As an example, x.264 video encoding can be retained or changed to another format. Controls are provided to allow you choose between quality and size of the output in whatever format you choose. In any event, the video is decoded and re-encoded to achieve this. The more aggressive you are with size/quality reduction, the more likely you are to introduce visible artifacts.

In the end, you should not see an "appreciable" difference between the original and the HB copy at default HQ compression levels. You will typically reduce file sizes with HB by 65-75% using the HQ default settings with little if any visible reduction in quality.

Hardware cost is going to be high as a modern 4-8 core mid level processor will take from 2-5 hrs to transcode a 2 hr HD video title. If you try transcode UHD content, it can take 4-6x longer on the same hardware.

That being said, it WORKS!

Your best bet is to try it out to see if you like it before you invest in hardware. All this software will probably "work" on your typical Windows/Linux setup.

Are you going to have a dedicated HTPC that will both rip, store and play video, or do you envision having separate components?

If multiple machines will be involved, consider network speed required to move video between them. Videos compressed with HB will require substantially less network bandwith to achieve smooth video playback / transfer time across the network without buffering.

I have an AC1200 wifi network with a 4k Firestick with Kodi side loaded to it for playback. Network allows unbufferred playback of uncompressed dvd and bluray. Uncompressed UHD buffers to the firestick. HB certainly resolves the bandwidth issue with its reduced file sizes. Firestick is limited to USB2.0 speeds, so network probably doesnt get past 350mbs on it, which puts it right at the outside limit for smooth bluray video. Other USB3.0 sbc's can handle the uncompressed UHD stream at around 650mbs , but using the AC1200 wifi still gives occasional buffering.

I also use HB to transcode VC1 encoded blurays as the firestick android version uses software to decode them, and its not smooth. Transcoding to x.264 solves the problem.

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