In my current quest to get all of my DVDs and Blu-Rays transcoded to H.264 for viewing on Apple TV and iPad, I’ve run into a major glitch: subtitles and HD audio on Blu-Ray discs.
The current shipping version of Handbrake (version 0.9.8) doesn’t recognize subtitles on Blu-Rays (Version 0.9.9 now available, see end of post). It’s also not very fast and doesn’t take advantage of multi-processor setups very well. I have one Blu-Ray in particular – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, that I wanted to get into 1080p H.264, but was getting hung up on the subtitles. So I started using the nightly builds of Handbrake, which supported Blu-Ray subtitles. But the nightly builds, unlike version 0.9.8, didn’t support the 5.1 core of the HD audio streams. Strange, but I thought I would wait. After a few weeks, I downloaded another nightly – version 1084, and it converted the HD audio to 5.1 AC3 correctly. Woohoo!
It’s also fast as hell. Version 0.9.8 will average about 600-700% processor on my Mac Pro 4,1 8core when encoding A New Hope. Nightly #1084 will push all the way to 1500% (of a max 1600% available). Which makes it just slightly slower than real-time, which has been unheard of for Blu-Rays. I’m very happy with this current build and can’t wait for the next full release.
EDIT: May 14, 2013 – I’ve noticed that this article is consistently the second or third highest trafficked page on this blog, so I thought I would write an update. I’m still using Nightly #1084 on a daily basis as I didn’t want to risk downloading a newer version and have it break some functionality. It’s working perfectly for me right now. I’ve encoded countless DVDs and Blu-Rays, both TV shows and movies since January and haven’t had a single issue. I probably won’t upgrade until a new official version is released. The only feature I would add at this point is the ability to add multiple discs to the queue (instead of just multiple titles from a single disc). Then I could get more encoded overnight than just a single disc. Seven episodes from a single disc of The Simpsons finishes in less than 30 minutes. You can do this now with Nightly 1084, but it’s crashy. OK, a second feature I would add is a better way of dealing with sources that have mixed frame rates and pulldown issues. The early seasons of the Simpsons are a good example. Along with documentaries such as When The Levees Broke which has a lot of mixed sources (23.98 film and HD, 29.97 raw DV footage)
EDIT: May 19, 2013 – Version 0.9.9 has just been released. I’m gonna give it a shot to see how it compares to Nightly 1084.