I've been playing around, trying to find the best settings for converting DVD files (MPEG-2) to H.264 so that I can store everything in iTunes and watch it on the TV. Most of the stuff I have has been ripped using a DVD Recorder. I am in the UK and am using the PAL format. I want to keep it as true to the original as possible, including all interlacing.

If I use Handbrake, it tries to crop bits off and resizes to a weird dimension, so I have to work to switch all of that off. Also, even if I try to turn off all the decombing and deinterlacing options, including putting the :interlaced flag in the advanced options, when I play it back on the TV it has somehow destroyed the interlacing and no longer appears smooth.

I've also tried VisualHub, which is much more simple to set up and keeps the interlacing in fine by default. I find that also converting to H.264 using MPEG StreamClip works just as well. However, one thing I have noticed while converting a TV programme about Pink Floyd is that the conversion to H.264 is making some of the colours washed out. On the computer, the green seems a bit lighter, and on the TV the red looks more like pink. Here's a screen grab from QuickTime Player (left one is MPEG-2 and the other two are MP4 H.264):

enter image description here

Also, ripping from TV keeps some lines at the top of the screen which contain white dots (some kind of syncing data?)... If I crop the video so it removes them then obviously that makes the aspect ratio wrong... Does that affect how it will play back on a TV?

If anyone has some good tips on how best to rip stuff, please let me know!

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    It's odd that Handbrake doesn't work out for you. I may not be that into the details of videos but I don't recall any encoding (or rather, transcoding) issues in any video I've converted with it. I swear by Handbrake, I use it all the time. – Jason Salaz Dec 30 '11 at 16:28
  • I find Handbrake overly confusing and it has a bad UI (no drag-and-drop is pretty poor by today's standards). But I know a lot of people swear by it. I'm sure it's good for converting movie DVDs, but have you ever used it to convert interlaced content, and managed to keep it correctly interlaced? – Jowie Jan 4 '12 at 11:41
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    Handbreak is the best option out there. You would be best served going to their forums and getting help finding the right custom settings. For one thing if your source is interlaced, you must deinterlace to get any kind of decent result. Color issues might be solved by using High 4.1 profile and upping the bit-rate. – Tyr Apr 21 '12 at 21:28
  • I will have a look at their forums and keep an open mind, thanks. However you say I must deinterlace, but it's horses-for-courses. I want to keep the interlacing because I am encoding video for playback on a TV. If I deinterlace the frame rate is cut in half, which I do not want to do! I want it as near to the original as poss. – Jowie Apr 22 '12 at 11:33

If you're using an Apple TV to play this content on the TV I share your pain, and the time to convert everything is also a pain! This is an alternative suggestion, not an answer to your question.

If your main goal here is to simply watch the content, and you'd prefer not to have to rip, then perhaps XBMC to simply view it may be a better option for you (it was for me).

I gave up transcoding everything months ago because of the problems you describe, the long time it took to do it, and all of the steps to get it from the PVR and disc initially into iTunes. I then found XBMC for Mac; it plays the vast majority of formats without the need to convert anything, and maintains it's own library created from wherever you store the files. Obviously it won't be in iTunes, but I don't see that as an issue as most of the content is transitory and I don't keep it for long.

If you do use an Apple TV, then you could airplay to it while running XBMC, or if you're daring, you could jailbreak the device and install XBMC on it and share the folder with the shows.

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  • It's a nice idea‚Ķ It would avoid any transcoding and would mean I could store perfect copies of my DVDs for playback. Unfortunately, I own a 3rd gen Apple TV and I don't think it's jailbreak-able (yet?). Ultimately I would prefer something that would run through iTunes, that way I can store and search for everything in the same place. – Jowie Jan 10 '13 at 9:57
  • I'm now gonna mark this as the correct answer... With the advent of the new Apple TV, and using Plex, I will be able to play proper non-transcoded content, hopefully keeping all interlacing in tact. I haven't tried yet, but wondered if Beamer might work as well (although I think it transcodes to MPEG-4 on the fly)... – Jowie Jan 4 '16 at 14:53

The solution I use for converting MPEG2 from DVD image or EyeTV recording to iPod-friendly MP4 H264 is based on HandBrakeCLI, the command line interface of HandBrake. It is also possible to use FFMpeg.

The settings are much more complex but offer much more freedom.

I spent some time figuring out what are the best options for me, then I put it in a bash script, so that I just have to give the pathname of the DVD image or the EyeTV recording as an argument to my script.

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  • I thought HandBrake was just a UI fro FFMPEG anyway? Do you have a list of settings that will convert to H.264 and keep the colour/interlacing correct? – Jowie Feb 9 '12 at 12:31
  • For colour, I have no clue, I am not a specialist of video codecs. For interlacing, if you don't explicitely specify -deinterlace option, it will remain interlaced. – mouviciel Feb 9 '12 at 13:29
  • I've tried all sorts of ways of turning off deinterlacing in HandBrake, but none of them work. :( – Jowie Feb 9 '12 at 17:21
  • I was refering to HandBrakeCLI. I never tried with the GUI to keep interlacing. – mouviciel Feb 9 '12 at 21:04
  • I will try downloading HandBrakeCLI and giving that a go thanks. Do you have any other best settings to use when converting from MPEG-2 when using HandBrakeCLI? – Jowie Feb 15 '12 at 10:13

Since you didn't specify a budget, and did ask about the "best" way, you should look into using Compressor.

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  • That sounds like a nice idea, and I'd be happy to pay $50 for the app if it works well... But since I've used a few compressors so far with varying levels of success, how can I be sure that Compressor will do a better job before I fork out the money? – Jowie Jun 11 '12 at 14:56

Quicktime Player 7 actually has pretty good export capabilities, including H.264. You can download it now for free.

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  • That's a very good suggestion and believe it or not, I haven't tried it yet! Couple of things though... I believe MPEG StreamClip technically uses QuickTime for its compression, so I would guess the results would be the same as that (interlacing kept, but colours washed-out)... And secondly, although QuickTimes Player 7 is free, you need to pay for a license to convert and export: store.apple.com/us/product/D3380Z/A/… – Jowie Aug 10 '12 at 7:15

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