The short story

  • x264/AAC is in
  • Standard quality = Small resolution and small files; normally we have to make these ourselves
  • Archival quality = 720p (~4GB) to 1080p (~20GB); normally we can get these from codec artists, from the usual places.

The tall story

So the idea is to have every TV show that we’ve purchased on DVD or legally recorded in a long-term storage format that is easily watched on any device we own.

The technology is available, and the pieces are starting to come together.

I’m not going to get in to patent issues (I personally believe the patent system is entirely broken)

I’m not going to get in to legal issues (Everything on this blog is for personal use and entertainment only; if a statement seems to be anything but this, simply discard it as a miscommunication – it is up to you to abide by your local and federal laws, as well as obey those agreements that you enter in to, whether it be with your full consent, or because you didn’t want to read it)

I AM going to talk about what I’m doing, both hypothetically and actually (and I will not be clear which is which, even though the language may suggest otherwise).

So, you want to watch some video

Currently, and for the foreseeable future, x264 is where it’s at: while it has some legal hurdles in being a patented codec, it has hardware support all over the place: GPUs, media players, even mobile devices.

It also looks better than the commonly available options before it, with brighter colours, darker blacks, crisper lines, and smaller file sizes.

Of course, you can still pull all the legacy files behind you, but I suggest taking the lead and converting or re-encoding from the masters.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two categories: Standard, and archival quality.


These are those shows or videos that you like, but only enough to grab the DVD on sale, and not to worry about the Blu-ray.

For standard, my requirements are simple: Keep the vibrant colours, keep the dark blacks, but cut the resolution and filesize down.

Since we’re on a Mac, we’re going to take the easy way out and go by the Handbrake preset for “iPhone & iPod Touch”, which specifies x264 with a height of 480 pixels, and a width that keeps the original aspect ratio. It also means AAC audio at 128kb/s.

Archival Quality

These are the shows or videos that changed your life, that you respect, that you not only bought the Blu-Ray of, but have bought some memorabilia. You’d donate time, energy, or money to the people that made it happen.

For these, there is no limit, and it matters not only what choices you make now, but what equipment you have plugged in to it.

On RasPis connected via Analog (like mine), DTS is going to be an issue for the foreseeable future, so we’re going to either have to transcode it ourselves when we run across it, or use some software to work around it another way.

Pretty much all archival quality encoding is done in x264, with files up to and including 20GB for a single movie.

I’m going to leave it to the pros, and download them already done, usually in full resolution 1080p or 720p, with multi-channel surround sound and hopefully a stereo downmix track (For the RasPi)