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Question: HandBrake Aspect Ratio Settings Conversions

HandBrake is an super program for converting your DVDs into a format compatible with your 5G iPod. I spent some time figuring out how to convert widescreen movies to either the 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio using the crop settings in this program, and I thought I'd share them here. I'll assume a basic knowledge of HandBrake and skip all the settings except for cropping (they are covered very well in several other threads). I'll also assume that you're using the H.264 option, although most of this is relevant if you're using MPEG4 as well. To begin, click on "Picture Settings", this is where you adjust the height, width and crop settings.

For reference, here are the common aspect ratios:

4:3 (1.33 SDTV)

16:9 (1.78 HDTV)

13:7 (1.85 Flat)

47:20 (2.35 Scope)

If you let HandBrake choose the crop settings automatically, all you need to do is adjust the width (in the "Size" box) to 320 and leave everything else alone. You'll end up with a file that will play on your iPod with letterboxing (unless of course, the movie is already in 4:3). For the purists, this is the way to go. I like this setting for some movies, there are others that I don't mind converting to 4:3 or 16:9 so I can see more on my iPod screen. I find that movies which are already in 16:9 work well when converted to 4:3 and that the common widescreen formats (1.85 and 2.35) work in 16:9 format. As I'll mention below, I don't recommend converting widescreen movies to 4:3 as this cuts too much of the picture off.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind: 1) You won't ever need to adjust the height in either the "Size" or "Crop" boxes. 2) Start with the "Crop" settings, you'll adjust the "Size" last. 3) Use whatever "Automatic" crop settings for height that HandBrake selects and go from there.

The basic idea is to divide the pixels for width by the pixels for height and to get the result as close to either 1.33 or 1.78 (4:3 & 16:9) as possible. The movie I'll use as an example has a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the initial pixels in the "Size" box are 720X304. Divided, this equals 2.368. As you can see, it's not exactly 2.35. Don't worry about getting perfectly to 1.33 or 1.78. The distortion when you're close is imperceptible. I'll go through the steps now to convert this movie to 16:9 or 4:3.

For 16:9 - In the "Crop" box, set the width to 96 on either side. This causes the width in the "Size" box to go from 720 to 544. Dividing 544 by 304 (which didn't change) we get 1.789. If I change the width to 98 I come up with 1.736. Since 96 on both sides gets us closest to our target, that's the setting we'll use. Now change the width setting in the "Size" box to 320. This causes the height to scale down to 176 (keep the aspect ratio box checked). Now you can go back and rip the movie and you'll have it in roughly 16:9 format.

For 4:3 - In the "Crop" box, set the width to 156 on either side. This causes the width in the "Size" box to go from 720 to 416. Dividing 416 by 304 we get 1.368. In this case, we're doing a pretty radical adjustment of the aspect ratio. I don't recommend doing this as you will probably cut too much off the sides. It is good to try this to help understand the process. It is interesting to note that the movie width stays at 416 with crop settings from 152 to 158. Since the ratio at 416 is 1.368 (a little too wide), I chose 156 as the best setting. Again, change the width setting in the "Size" box to 320. This causes the height to scale down to 240 (keep the aspect ratio box checked). Now you can go back and rip the movie and you'll have it in roughly 4:3 format.

Below are initial settings for basic conversions. I suspect that each movie will be slightly different, so you may need to go through and "fine tune" the settings. Just keep in mind that you want to come as close to the ratios I list above and you should be happy with your rips. Hope this post is helpful...

From 2.35:1 to 16:9 - Width crop setting is 96

From 2.35:1 to 4:3 - Width crop setting is 156

From 1.85 to 16:9 - Width crop setting is 18

From 1.85 to 4:3 - Width crop setting is 98

From 16:9 to 4:3 - Width crop setting is 86

Powerbook G4 1.5 Ghz 15 Mac OS X (10.4.3)

Posted on Nov 22, 2005 12:25 AM

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Question: HandBrake Aspect Ratio Settings Conversions