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Handbrake: Video Conversion

written by: Michael Dougherty•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/30/2010

Looking to convert your favorite videos from one format to another? Download a video in some obscure video codec and want to convert it to one of the more popular video formats? I bring you, Handbrake for Mac.

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    Now that we’ve taken a look at the basics of what Handbrake is and what you can do with it, let’s take a closer look at how to convert your videos using the built-in presets. In most cases Handbrake’s built-in presets do an adequate job of converting your videos. Whether you need to convert your video to be played on an iPhone, iPod or AppleTV, Handbrake has a preset that can help you accomplish this quickly and easily.

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    Again, you will find the presets pane to the right of the main Handbrake window. If it is not present, simply click the presets button along the top to reveal it. In the presets pane you will find the various presets the Handbrake team have configured for some of the more common tasks.

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    HandBrake Conversion Window 

    One of the most common tasks for users of Handbrake on the Mac platform is to convert videos for their favorite Apple device. These devices include the iPod classic, iPod Touch and iPhone. In this example we will use a standard .avi video as our source and convert it into an iPod Touch compatible format. You simply have to choose your source file and then click on the “iPhone & iPod Touch” preset in your Handbrake presets pane. This will select the H.264 video codec, a constant quality of 60%, a picture size of 480x272 (the perfect size for the iPhone and iPod Touch screens) and down-mix the audio to 48/128 using the AAC audio codec. Once you have your preset selected simply hit start or add the file to the Handbrake queue for processing at a later time. The resulting file will be ready to be copied to your iPhone or iPod Touch via iTunes.

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    Another common conversion task is converting videos for your AppleTV. This preset will result in a video of higher quality that can be displayed on a big screen TV with limited distortion. The file will be encoded using the H.264 video codec, a constant quality of 60%, a picture size close to the original, and down-mix the audio to 48/160 using the AAC audio codec. The file will be larger than those that you convert for your iPhone or iPod Touch but still of a reasonable size. The increase in file size is due to the increase in the size of the screen you will be watching it on and thus the quality needed to limited distortion on these larger screens.

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    HandBrake Video Conversion Preview These are just a few examples of the video conversion you can accomplish with Handbrake for Mac. Keep in mind that if none of the built-in presets meet your needs you can easily create your own. In the main Handbrake GUI you can tweak the settings for audio, video, subtitles, chapters as well as other advanced settings and then save this custom preset for future use. The possibilities are endless when using Handbrake for Mac as your primary video conversion software.