A simple settings tweak can make converting video files for use on an iPod or other similar device much faster.
For converting DVDs into iPod-friendly format, I've always favoured a combination of DVD Shrink and Handbrake, both long-established Lifehacker favourites (and both featured in our Hive Five of the best DVD ripping tools) I've also tended to stick to the default settings in Handbrake -- but that may well have been a time-consuming mistake.
Technology journalist (and video encoding guru) Darren Yates pointed out on a mailing list I'm on recently that the default H.264 coding used by Handbrake is overkill for a screen that size. By Yates' reckoning, using the MPEG-4 codec instead won't make any discernable difference, but will run about three times as fast.
I tested this proposition by processing the same video (an episode of the UK comedy drama Murder Most Horrid running 29:42) in Handbrake, using the default H.264 setting and then switching to MPEG-4 (under the Video tab in the Output settings area) instead. The results were quite dramatic. The default settings took 4 minutes 40 seconds to process the episode. Switching to MPEG-4 SP dropped that time to 55 seconds, and dropped the file size to around a third of the H.264 option. At iPod Touch screen size, I couldn't spot any visual difference either.
Obviously the timings would vary on other machines and with other content, but it's certainly a big enough performance difference to warrant a permanent change to my Handbrake settings.
Got your own tweaks for faster video conversion? Share them in the comments. Thanks Darren!