MakeMKV vs Handbrake (for Plex)

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by SWD, Jan 1, 2016.

  1. SWD macrumors member

    May 3, 2011
    I'm finally ready to start the DVD/bluray "backup" process. I've got an Apple TV 4, and Plex seems pretty great. I've read lots of tutorials that say to use MakeMKV and Handbrake. I'm familiar with Handbrake, and I understand what the difference is between uncompressed MKV and lossy MP4.

    What I'm trying to figure out is, do I really need Handbrake in this process. Plex plays the MKV great on my wired network. File size isn't really an issue, as they're on a Drobo. I do have probably a fair amount to back up (200-300) between DVD and BR. Right now my only use is to play back on the home network, but someday I may need to download a smaller copy to an iDevice for my kids. But I understand Plex will transcode for the device as needed.

    Other than file size, is there something else I need to consider as a reason to use Handbrake?
  2. waw74 macrumors 68030

    May 27, 2008
    as long as you've got the space, and the processing power to handle the conversion when you want to watch something. I'd say keep the original.

    that way, the settings that you decide are good enough for your current TV setup, doesn't seem inadequate when you upgrade the TV.
  3. off_piste macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2015
    I keep both the MKV and the MP4/m4v. Handbrake takes about 4x longer but I set up a queue and let it run.
  4. Beatbeckham macrumors regular

    Feb 23, 2011
  5. SWD thread starter macrumors member

    May 3, 2011
    Long story (that I couldn't explain properly) short.

    Using MakeMKV to produce a MKV "file" will give you the best quality, as it should be bit for bit from the disk.

    Handbrake is great, but it will still be compressed for a smaller file size.

    I'm currently testing handbrake to see if I can tell the difference. But the high profile setting is going to take 6 hours. Yesterday's settings I found were going to take 16. Both I think too long for the amount of BR I have. I'm still going to play with settings just to see, but at the end of the day, Make MKV is really darn speedy, and Plex instantly found and catalogued it with proper meta data. I may just compress DVDs since they're SD.
  6. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    There are lots of variations on a theme as well as desired output. In my case, I prefer the highest quality product/file I can achieve when archiving my discs. The catch then becomes that this highest quality may not be a good match for smaller devices than a computer or TV. With this scenario, I would prefer to create a 2nd file that matches the needs of these smaller devices. Thus, a full archive library with top quality files and a 2nd for small devices.

    If you have faith in PLEX doing the on the fly conversions then perhaps you are saving a step. As for those that go directly to Handbrake for all of their files, I can only be envious that they don't see the difference as I surely do on my TV and computer screen between the full file and the Handbrake compressed file. Lets understand that both MT2S (Blue Ray) and VOB (DVD) video are already in a form of compression and thus, you are compressing an already compressed file when using Handbrake.

    The one caveat to MKV files is that if they include forced subtitles, they may not always be picked up by some players. In this, I prefer having M2TS native style files over MKV for this purpose while MKV works well for all else and selected subtitles (Blue Ray).

    Last - there are only a few tools on the OSX side and lots of nice (free as well) tools on the Windows side. If you run bootcamp or a virtual Windows, you will have lots more quality tools at your disposal - includng ClownBD, TXmuxer, various MKV tools, subtitle tools etc. and the long standing ANYDVD (license fee required).
  7. Rigby, Jan 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016

    Rigby macrumors 601

    Aug 5, 2008
    San Jose, CA
    That's like asking if groceries taste better if you buy them in a plastic or a paper bag. ;) MKV and MP4 are both just container formats. What counts are the actual video and audio streams inside.

    In order to get the best possible quality you should avoid re-encoding the video (like Handbrake does). It's possible to put e.g. H.264 streams from a Blu-ray into both MKV and MP4 files without re-encoding, and in this case the quality is of course identical.

    One advantage that MKV has is that it supports more different codecs than MP4, both audio and video. For example, some Blu-rays use VC-1 instead of H.264 for the video, and that is not supported by MP4. On the audio side, MKV supports pretty much every codec under the sun including FLAC and DTS(-HD), whereas MP4 is much more limited (in particular it doesn't support any lossless multi-channel audio codec at the moment). So in many cases MP4 forces you to do a lossy re-encode where MKV doesn't.
  8. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    It's not that people can't see a difference, but most people can't see enough of a difference to deal with the vast amount of storage required maintaining a collection like that.

    BD mkv is ~30gb, and since you don't compromise on image quality I'll assume your mobile versions are ~5gb.

    So even if you only had a small/medium size movie collection of 200 movies you are talking 7tb. Plus a back up 14tb. And if your back up is any good (RAID0), you'll need 21tb of storage. We could knock some of that off if you encoded the mobile versions on demand, and even more if your were fearless and ready to lose your collection with no backup. But even going back to 7tb we started with, that is too unwieldy for many users.

    Using your method I would need to look into business solutions for my movie collection. It would be cheaper and easier to just use the physical media.
  9. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    Well stated.

    I have over 200 transcoded movies (mp4 using HB). Most, are just detritus hanging around that I only viewed once and probably will never go back to...but hey...might as well have the 2TB disc filled as half empty. Doesn't cost any different. That said, for a handful of movies that are visually stunning and I re-watch occasionally, I have kept the MKV files (and backed them up). So it's sort of a hybrid system.
  10. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    To both you and cynics - yes, I use a NAS and have more than 7 tb of movies. I also have the original discs neatly stored. I am happy to take the risk of not having everything off site for disaster recovery procedures. As for BD being 30 gigs, sorry but mine range from 15 gigs to about 24 on the average as I only do the main movie video, one audio stream (HD usually) and subs as needed. While it still adds up, the exercise was to archive the movie as near identical to the discs. If people like to compress a compressed file even further and don't see much of a difference then I am happy for them. In my case, it is quite easy to tell on a 65" plasma screen. I also rarely go to "hand view" media size files but have a few for IOS devices.

    Btw, why would anyone go to RAID 0 for backup? A set of striped drives is about the worse thing one can do. Perhaps RAID 1 (mirror) is what you meant, cynics?

    Last-to each their own and I simply prefer as close to the original purchase as possible. I don't care to watch a lesser quality simply because I may view it only once or twice a year as each showing of the file is unique in itself and thus to be enjoyed. I'll just say its akin (for me) to listening to well recorded CD quality classical music over 256 bitrate AAC or lesser quality. You can really tell the difference with the proper output (such as my speakers) and even my friends with less aural sensitivity can tell too.
  11. hakuryuu macrumors 6502

    Sep 30, 2007
    Lomita, CA
    MKV will almost always give you the best quality for video because the files are already well supported by iOS/OSX/Windows from an encoding standpoint (h264). However Plex will adjust the stream quality depending on your settings and where you're accessing it from (local network vs remote network). I have my local network streaming set to unlimited.

    Plex will, however, have to transcode the audio stream depending on what you're playing on as some devices (apple tv, iPhones) don't support DTS and only support DD (not bad)/AC3. Some/most blu-rays though have both DTS and DD/AC3 surround tracks so you can select which track you use when watching.

    Just make sure you've got enough spare performance on the plex server to handle any transcoding it may need to do which usually shouldn't be much. Also just use the MKV as the source.
  12. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008

    For those a bit less familiar - consider MKV a "wrapper" with a file inside. The files within may be compressed within an MKV making an MKV file smaller. The file within can be multiple formats ranging from AVI, MP4, M2TS, VOB etc. IOS and OSX in themselves don't support directly MKV files but there are various software that can support MKV on IOS and more so, OSX.

    The file within - Apple applications running on IOS and to some extent OSX are extremely limited (by Apple's choice) to support MKV. This is where 3rd party software/applications do their charm in being able to play most MKV files "as is" or convert the file to a playable format. As mentioned above, the audio portion often is problematic with Apple making it a real challenge to play or pass through any HD audio. It is not the hardware that is incapable but OSX (and IOS) itself that wont have these forms of audio play (DTS-Master etc.). Even with applications like Kodi or Plex there is no direct play of the HD audio but rather, these apps convert the audio stream to something playable. Proof can be found by simply installing Linux or Windows on an Apple computer and then a proper application. Thus (as in my case) something like a Mac Mini running Linux or Windows with Plex will play back the HD audio stream properly.

    One might say that Apple chose to only support audio up to its own level found in iTunes movie/TV rental/purchases.

    Advantages of on the fly conversion for playback of files that are not normally supported "as is" are plenty including the ability to have one master file that can be played back on multiple devices. Plex offers this opportunity quite well (with proper hardware). The disadvantage is that if you play other than "native" the file, you are taxing the computer that Plex is using to do conversion on the fly. You can decide if you want to tax your computer which includes for some the fan kicking in on high meaning that the internals are subjected more often to warmer temperatures.

    Sad that Apple provides such limited choices in media files out the door and we have to resort to work around methods. Apple could easily support most MKV natively if they desired but they wont and here we are.

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