Speed Up iPod Video Conversions By Ditching H.264

handbraketweakA 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!


Comments

    Isn't H.264 coding the only standard supported by Android platforms though?

      @JustStuds - possibly true, but the post is titled "Speed up iPod Video conversions..."

      I must admit that I've always ticked H.264 and am happy to be able to save some time on conversions for my iPhone now. Thanks!

    And, isn't H.264 more efficient, battery wise?

    I tried it after seeing a similar post the other day. The BBC series Tripods in .avi format (Bought from Amazon (or Easy DVD) and then converted for travelling - true; 1984 vintage but a classic kids series. Got it for nostaga and cant believe what I am seeing (80's where terrible)
    Very disappointed with the results but will try with the discs when I get back home and see if it improves.

    Just tried on a Yr 2005 They call me Earl DVD. Couldn't really tell the difference without knowing I had done it.
    1 episode with H264 128Mb; without encoded H264 61Mb.
    WOW.

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