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Monday, February 14, 2011

PS3 as a media center: addendum

2 comments
Following on from my recent post here, on my experience with turning my PS3 into a media center, I have been playing around a little more and have a bit more advice based on my findings.

First of all I am no longer using DVDShrink to encode my movies. I had a few issues with the movies I had copied using this software. Creating small files and playing them sequentially worked well, but there was a noticeable pause and stutter whenever the PS3 switched from one file to another. Additionally, a couple of my movies had issues with syncing the sound up after I had fast-forwarded or reversed them.

So, I looked for another method and came up with the following.

Handbrake is a freeware open-source piece of software that decodes a DVD movie and encodes it back in the .h246 mp4 format (which the PS3 can play).
  • This gives much smaller file sizes, meaning you can fit more movies on the disk drive.
  • A two hour movie will be around 2GB in size, meaning you do not have to split the file to fit it on a FAT32 hard disk drive.
  • The quality of the video is not as good as the pure DVD copy obtained from DVDShrink, but the difference is hard to spot (I couldn't see any difference on my 42" screen).
  • The encoded file takes much longer to create (about 45 minutes for me to encode a 2 hour movie, compared to 15 minutes using DVDShrink).
  • I have had no sound sync problems using the mp4 format.
Consequently I have re-copied all my files in this new format using Handbrake. It takes longer, but I can see no difference in the picture quality and I do not get any of the stuttering or sound issues I found with the VOB files that DVDShrink generated. Additionally the files take up about half the space.

Another thing I have found is that the PS3 does not support subtitles unless you are encoding into the DiVX format. So, if you have any foreign language films you want to watch with subtitles bear this in mind.

So, here's a quick guide to using Handbrake. It's quite a complex programme with lots of options, so here is what I do to get good quality copies quickly.

Load up Handbrake (after starting AnyDVD and preparing your external disk drive as per the previous guide). Select the DVD you wish to encode from the Source drop-down file, then select the Target (browse to the target directory and give the file a name).

Next you need to set your options. Click the "Regular - High Priority" preset in the right hand window. This will set most of the options you need. Then click the video tab and slide the Constant Quality slider to the right. You should use a figure of between 20 to 17 (17 gives the best quality but takes longer to encode and the file is larger). Then click the Advanced tab and enter the following in the text entry box at the bottom:
ref=4:b-adapt=2:rc-lookahead=50
Your options are now all set. You can save these settings as a preset by clicking Add in the presets pane on the right. Call it PS3 and save the settings. Next time you can simply select the PS3 preset and everything will be ready to go.

When you are ready to begin encoding just click the Start button.

As a final tip, if you want to copy a DVD containing several videos (like a TV series) then you can add each Title file to the queue before encoding and Handbrake will do them all in one run. Just make sure you have "Automatically name output files" checked in the Tools > Options menu first.

I hope all that helps someone!

2 comments:

  1. Ha ha. I guess this makes my previous post redundant, as this is also the way that I rip my DVDs :) Just a note: I still use DVDShrink before using Handbrake. DVDShrink is basically to rip the VIDEO_TS folder to my PC first. After that I direct Handbrake to the ripped folder, which I use to create an .mp4 file of the film, which I put on on external, FAT32 Formatted hard drive (used AOMEI partition assistant to do that), which I then play my PS3. Just have to remember the folder hierarchy you mentioned in your previous post.

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    Replies
    1. Wow, its been a while since I wrote this. Glad you find it useful. Handbrake seems to do a much better job.

      One tip - when you browse your files hit the green triangle when selecting your hard drive and select "View All". It really speeds up the browsing.

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