Hey all -
so I sat down and doodled some more with my AppleTV last night and today, and here's what I learned.
What is DVD
DVDs for widescreen movies are anamorphic 720x480 - this means that if you look at the image with all the pixels as tall as they are wide, it looks wrong - the image looks too tall (or not wide enough - same thing). To get the image to look proper, you need to either crush it vertically or stretch it horizontally. And therein lies a key quality decision - if you crush it vertically, you're losing vertical resolution. if you stretch it horizontally, you maintain the resolution.
In order to maintain full resolution and display with square pixels, you want to keep the 480 pixels tall, and stretch the horizontal pixels wider to get the aspect ratio in order and get the pixels to square display.
For 16:9 movies (a 1.78 aspect ratio), the 720 pixels needs to be stretched to 854 pixels wide. I'll explain best way shortly.
Apple's downloadable movies take the cheap way out - they scale the 720 wide pixels to 640 pixels, then scale the vertical size to 360 or less (depending on aspect ratio - the "wider" the aspect ratio, the shorter in height they make it).
For iTunes video downloads (and your own converted videos for playing on iPod Video) the max datarate is 1.5 megabits H.264. Apple COULD use 640x480 size and use anamorphic display, but they chose to use smaller pixel dimensions to get better video quality at the limited datarate the hardware could handle. Perhaps we'll see separate AppleTV optimized videos in the future that are larger? I'd guess that in order to differentiate them from the iPod video size, they'd skip straight to 1280x720 (or 1280 by whatever less for aspect ratio reasons)
So, let's see how to make the best possible video conversions from DVDs for your AppleTV.
The best tool I've found so far had been Handbrake. When I went looking for the latest version, I discovered they've merrged with another company to make a new/revised product, and it is called MediaFork">MediaFork. You're going to want to download and install it.
I've got a couple of different DVDs I've been testing with - The Sciene of Sleep is a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
MediaFork Configuration for AppleTV rips fo DVDs
If I fire up MediaFork, I can configure it for optimal output of AppleTV files.
Here's how to do it:
1.) Insert your DVD (we're going to start with 1.85 pixel aspect ratio movies first)
2.) If DVD Player starts up automatically, quit it.
3.) Launch MediaFork
4.) Select the DVD in the "Detected Volume" (should do so automatically)
NOTE - click on any of these images for a larger view, but be warned it'll take you to a new page with just the image. Yes, my coding skills are weak and/or I'm lazy, take your pick. So command-click in Safari if you have Tabs enabled is my recommendation
5.) Press Open, it'll scan the chapters
6.) Title and Chapters will take care of themselves. The first thing you'll want to change is the destination - click the Browse button if the desktop isn't where you want it to go.
7.) Now is where we need to start actually changing settings from the defaults. The first one to change is under Output Settings - the File Format is already correct, but we need to change the Codecs setting from MP4 to AVC/H.264 / AAC Audio
8.) Then make sure the Encoder is set to X264 (h.264 main)
9.) Average bitrate is set to 2250 (this is my guesstimate to maintain picture quality on par with Apple's downloadable videos at the larger size we're going to use)
Note - this is pretty good quality, but scenes with a lot of motion will probably block up a bit. High data rates will yield better quality, up to a limit of how good the original DVD looked in the first place. Exactly how high you can go before you run into diminishing or non-existent improvements is something I haven't tested but am interested in the answer. The answer will also vary on a scene by scene basis - a static shot of someone standing in front of a white wall uses lots less bandwidth than, say, a panning wide shot of a city on fire - the more stuff changes frame to frame, the more bandwidth is needed to maintain a given quality level per frame. If you haven't dealt with compression before, it is a complicated subject. But it has been suggested that my suggested datarate is higher than optimal - I don't know yet, but while I may be overdoing it here, I'm confident this will look pretty good. I'm converting these to play back on my 60" 1080p set, so I want them to look REALLY good, a close match to the source DVD in quality.
10.) Click the 2-pass encoding option to ON
Your Video settings should now look like this:
11. Now click on the Picture Settings button - on the screen that comes up, click the Anamorphic (PAR) button. Keep Aspect Ratio should be OFF. You should see something like this:
12. Click Close
13.) You should see something like this:
14.) Now click on the Audio tab (next to Video)
15.) Change Sample Rate to 48, Bitrate to 160 (these are somewhat arbitrary, just what I prefer to use). EDIT/UPDATE: I'm choosing 5.1 audio in this example, banking that Apple will EVENTUALLY support it in AppleTV, but they don't as yet. Chose the stereo option if you want to save file size or are pessimistic. You should now see this:
16.) Click Rip in the bottom left corner, it will start encoding your movie. This will take approximately forever - depends on the movie length and the speed of your Mac. You'll see something like this:
17.) When it finishes, let's see what we've got. Drag your new movie to the QuickTime Player application icon to open it in QT Player, you'll see something like this:
See how everything looks too tall? That is because we're looking at an amamorphic image. In order for this to be viewed properly while still maintaining resolution, we need to stretch the image wider. How wide? While the aspect ratio is 1.85, our display is only 1.78 - so we multiply our image height (480 pixels) by 1.78 to get 854. How do we make it that wide? Easy - with QuickTime Player Pro. You have to have the Pro version - the standard version lacks the needed features. It is $29 from Apple online, or comes with Final Cut Studio. You want QT 7.1.5 for all this.
18.) To do this, press Command-J to see the Properties window. Click on the Video Track and then the Video Settings tab to see this:
19.) Uncheck Preserve Aspect Ratio, and change the Scaled Size first number from 720 to 854.
20.) If it isn't checked, make sure High Quality is turned on. You should be seeing something like this:
OK, now the should be looking right - circles should be round, not too tall or too wide.
The catch is, you need to save these settings for them to stick. If you just hit Command-S, you get a Save As dialog, since a simple .mp4 file can't remember to display stretched, so it has to be a QuickTime movie. Select Self Contained Movie and save it wherever you want it to go. Before pressing Save, you should see something like this:
OK, now you've got a movie. Want to watch it on your AppleTV? It has to go through iTunes, so drag your NEW movie icon (the one that ends with .mov, not .mp4) to the iTunes icon in the dock.
Once it is imported into iTunes (and I recommend using the Keep iTunes Libary organized so it'll copy the file to a stashed directory), you can sync iTunes with your AppleTV and make sure this new movie file gets copied over (but that's another posting).
It should display correctly in iTunes, and moer importantly, on your AppleTV and you should be good to go.
OK, it is late, so I'm going to wrap this up for now - unfortunately, I'm having trouble with Casino Royale and its 2.40:1 aspect ratio - MediaFork refuses to process full 720x480, I get 720 by less than 480. So I need to figure that out. In theory, the playback sizes should be:
for AppleTV 1.78:1 aspect ratio playback (standard 16:9): 854 pixels wide by 480 tall.
UPDATE: For 2.40:1 aspect ratio movies (like Blood Diamond and Casino Royale), if you go with the non-anamorphic defaults, you'd get 720x300 or a square pixel movie. If you wanted iPod Video compatibility, you'd have to bring that down to 266 pixels tall and 640 wide. So my way, we're getting a 50% increase in overall resolution. You still want to do the QT Player trick to stretch it to 854 pixel playback - that'll be the case with all anamorphic DVD conversions.
If you discover that I've got something wrong here, or you find out something new and useful, please add it to the Comments below.
PS - some have suggested a "Rent, Rip, Return" model with Netflix or the like, so you could add to your video library. I think that would be illegal AFAIK, and not fair to the content creators to hang onto a copy of a rental. Would you like it if somebody did that with the movie YOU made?
Monday, March 26, 2007
Hey all -