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Movies and Video For people making movies and editing video with their Mac.

Converting .avi to .mp4 without losing quality


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WasabiTaylor

 
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Member Since: Apr 29, 2005
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Hi all,

I have a number of .avi video files that I'd love to convert to .mp4 so that I can view them in Quicktime and Front Row instead of needing to use VLC player all of the time. I typically use Handbrake for all of my video conversion needs. My question is about quality. Will I lose video quality in converting these files from .avi to .mp4? Are there particular settings I should use to make sure that is not a problem?

I truly appreciate any help you all can give me. It will be a big help to my ongoing media center project.

Best,
Taylor
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Nethfel

 
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Honestly, if you're building a media center and using a Mac, I'd look at using Plex for the front end - and this is why:

1) Plex can play video from MANY more containers (and codecs) then what Quicktime and/or Front Row can handle without requiring Perian to be installed.

2) Plex has an ideal front end interface, and if you setup your video folders correctly and properly name your files, if they are associated with movies and/or TV shows, Plex can scrape information, box covers, fan art, etc. and display it for the given category.

3) Plex can through its own interface connect to SMB shares without having to first mount a drive within OSX (this can be very convenient if you have a central storage in your home where you keep your video for multiple systems on a network. Most of my video (except for some high bitrate HD footage) is stored on a drobo that is connected to my network via a droboshare unit)

4) If you're hooking a mac up to a home theater receiver with optical audio, if you have containers that have ac3 or dts sound (and assuming your receiver can decode the respective format) Plex can pass-through AC3 or DTS from appropriate container files (ie: if you have a MKV file with DTS sound, and a DTS capable receiver, it can pass the audio through)

5) If you have some things that can only be played in Front Row (ie: video you've bought thru iTunes that contains DRM) Plex can launch Front Row for you to access that video, then when you exit Front Row Plex will re-launch itself.

6) If you have files that contain soft subs (ie: subs that are not "burned into" the video, but rather either text or pictures that can be selectively turned on/off (on AVI's you wouldn't as I've never seen an AVI that can contain a softsub (although it might be possible to have an external .srt file associated with an AVI)) Plex can easily display them.

7) Plex has its' own compensation for overscan so if you have to set overscan when connected to a TV and you normally loose top/bottom/left/right portions, you can adjust the viewable region within Plex to make sure you're not missing any of the video.

8) well, there's many more - I'm sure you get the picture

But, if you are planning to convert from AVI to mp4 (or you have no desire to setup a home theater system like it sounds you want to do), you probably aren't going to be using the same video codec when converting from avi to mp4. I'd start by finding whatever bit rate the avi is at and start with that as the average bit rate on the transcode within handbrake; also might want to do 2 pass encoding. It also couldn't hurt to look into using mpegstreamclip which would also allow you to save the video as a .mov with other video codec options that might generate a better output.

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WasabiTaylor

 
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Thank you for the reply, Nethfel.

I've been toying around with both Plex and Boxee for some time. I definitely like both of them and probably will use one or the other rather than Front Row when the time comes. I guess I ought to give a little background on what I'm trying to do, media center-wise.

Ultimately, I'm looking to easily, and relatively cost-effectively, view the media that is on my computer on my television. I realize that there are a number of ways I can do this, so it can be difficult to try and pick the best solution. Since I don't know when I'll have a proper apartment, my main concern at the moment is to use cables to be able to view my computer on my television and go from there. I've been looking into the Kanex cables, but won't invest in any until my media is ready to go. While I don't mind viewing .avi files in VLC, for some reason I really enjoy viewing my media in Quicktime. I like the interface I guess. Likewise, I like the option of having my media organized in iTunes rather than having them all in folders in Finder. I don't care whether or not the videos will go onto my iPod or iPhone because I can optimize videos especially for that purpose. Additionally, I know Front Row isn't all that great, but I am hoping Apple will upgrade it somehow and I'll have all of my media ready to go. The last reason I prefer the .mp4 format is that I enjoy being able to take advantage of the Preview feature built into OS X. I can't use that on .avi files.

Again, my main concern is about loss of quality in converting to .mp4. Any DVDs I rip go right to .mp4, but I have a lot of good stuff in .avi format that I want to look equally as good when I switch up the format.

Thanks again for your reply.
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chas_m

 
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Going from a lossy format to another lossy format inevitably reduces the quality, but using the higher-quality settings should keep the loss to a minimum.

I've been using VisualHub for some years for this, but its unavailable anymore so I usually suggest ReduxEncoder which is free.

Another option you may not have considered that will save you a LOT of time is to simply buy a DVD player that can play DivX/XviD files burned straight to an ISO data disc. This has a couple of advantages to this; first of all you lose no quality, and secondly you can easily put 10 hours worth of files on a single-sided DVD. Such players are cheap; I got mine for about $30 or $40 as I recall.
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