Full Speed Ahead with Handbrake

See how Handbrake, a powerful and easy-to-use video conversion program, can help you enjoy your favorite TV shows or films while at your computer, whether you're at home or away from home.

The H.264 pane allows Handbrake users to tweak various advanced x264 settings to their specifications. For the average user (such as myself), this pane can be left alone. Those interested in the settings here can consult the Handbrake Web site's user guide page, although as the page notes, it (at the time of this writing) hasn't been updated yet for 0.9.4.

Figure 7. H.264 Pane


The Chapters pane gives you the option of including chapter markers at the same places the chapter breaks exist on the original DVD. To activate this, select the Chapter Markers box. The length of each chapter is displayed, as well as generic titles reading “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2” and so forth. If you want to create specifically named chapter titles (such as “That cool scene where Magneto makes the guns hover” or “Statue of Liberty slugfest”), click on the chapter title of choice and type a new name.

Figure 8. Chapters Pane

For my usage, I keep the Chapter Markers box checked, although I usually don't bother renaming the chapters.

Customized Presets

After performing all the previous customizing steps, you might want to save these settings for future reuse. To do this, click the Save button shown in Figure 3 at the bottom of the Presets pane, and give the desired settings a custom name in the box that appears. The new preset then will appear in the Presets pane, ready to use for future video conversions.

Length of DVD Video Conversion

After finishing all of the above, to begin conversion, click Start. For my computer, an HP laptop with 4GB of RAM and a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 processor, running Ubuntu 9.10 (64-bit), it took two hours and 43 minutes to convert the X-Men movie (which runs an hour and 44 minutes) using the High Profile preset. The end result of all this, of course, is that I now have a high-quality movie file that I can view (or use) as I wish.

Figure 9. Finished Video File Playing in Totem


As you can see, Handbrake is a great program for those wishing to convert their video media, particularly their DVDs, to a more versatile digital format. Thanks to Handbrake, I've converted much of my DVD collection for easy access and viewing on my laptop, allowing me to enjoy watching Hugh Jackman (or Bugs Bunny) in action while away from my TV set or away from my apartment entirely.

Anthony Dean works as a file clerk for the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He's been using Linux as a primary operating system since 2005. Anthony can be reached at adean33@gmail.com.