Whether you are saving your own content, Ripping DVDs, Bluerays or like I do Recording TV Shows and Broadcast Movies you will want to save them for as long as possible. One of the problems you will have is the large file size of the Videos and how do you store them all.
Storage is another topic but for best results you want to build or buy a NAS Network Accessible Storage System. It should be made of a number of drives and formatted with RAID which is a technology that links all the drives and copies parity bits between the drives so if one drive dies you can replace it with a fresh drive and your content won’t be lost. If you are just starting you can simply save the files to an External Drive on your computer but your computer will need to be on all the time if you are serving these files to your televisions. You could also connect the External drive to your TV Box.
Now that we went over the storage options quickly you will know that drives cost a bit of money. If you are storing many large video files even larger drives can be eaten up really quick.
When Recording TV Shows the raw file is normally about 4GB per Hour and that means movies are normally around 10GB. If you were to keep the files at that size you would quickly eat through your drive space so I reduce them to the lowest file size that I can while still keeping decent quality for viewing.
Because I use Windows Media Center to Record Television I have selected a Video Converter called MCEBuddy that watches my Recorded TV directory for new shows and then converts them automatically and saves them on my archive drive.
The benefit of MCEBuddy is that it will take the raw file and reencode the video from .wtv format to .mp4 format and then chop out all of the commercials. Well it tries to catch every commercial and normally does a good job but some TV Networks don’t play well. Removing commercials will gain you about 30% savings on the file size so its important to do.
MCEBuddy can be used on its own without media center and you can drop files into the directory and it will convert them and move them to your archive for permanent storage.
If you are ripping CDs, DVDs or BlueRays I am sorry I don’t own many of them and never ripped them but you will need to use a software product to grab the video off the disk. Before you do this you should verify that it is legal for you to do this in your location. Not all countries allow ripping of DVDs even if you own the disk and will only use the copy for your own use.
Once you have the resulting file you will want to convert it to a more common file format like MP4 but when you do you want to reduce the file size. If you own the DVD you can always play it alone if you want full quality or the extra features.
Handbrake is probably one of the best manual converters and there is a windows gui to make the process easier also Avidemux is good for manually clipping out commercials but sometimes it will result in offset audio.
The big thing though is when you convert files you can never keep the same quality. Even if you are just going from one file type to another and re-encoding at the same bitrate you will lose quality. Its the xerox effect.. a copy of a copy because its not just reading and writing its reading – interpreting and writing.
If you just need to change the container type you can do that by Remuxing that keeps all the original internal video but changes the container say from MKV to MP4 and the video is the same. Remuxing doesn’t lose quality it just lets your media player play the video stream. It also does not reduce file size.
So if you reduce file size you reduce quality and there is no way around that. You can also end up losing features. .. You pretty much just have to get over it and do it because your main goal is reducing file size for your archive.
How do you pick your Bitrate and Video Size to Reduce File Size
Starting with the best file content is important when you are downsizing video. If you have access to both SD and HD Content you want to start with the larger HD video and then drop it down to a smaller width and bitrate. This will preserve details and result in sharper video that will scale up to fit your tv better.
My original HD TV shows are normally about 4Gigs in size for an hour. Removing commercials will reduce the file size by about 25% or slightly more depending on the network you record it from. Reducing the video Width to 720p will reduce the file size by about half and then by reducing all of the above and the bitrate for the video I can normally end up with a 500MB to 750MB .mp4 file that I archive.
What is Bitrate?
Bitrate can be thought of as the amount of file size that is being forced into the video player.
If you have VLC open it and go into the Tools Menu and Select Media Information .. then the Statistics Tab. Keep the dialog box open while the video plays. Watch the Bitrate change as your video plays. You will notice there are two bitrates. There is the actual bits into the player and there is the decoded bitrate. Decoded is what really matters because its what you see on the screen.
View a number of different quality and size videos and you will begin to understand how bitrate effects what you see.
If you must have really great quality because you are displaying the content on a 72 inch 4k television you will need to use higher bitrate and video width settings but you can probably still reduce the file sizes substantially and live with the results.
My personal preference at this time is 720p or 720 width and 1000 to 1400 bitrate. Lower bitrate will save you file size but the resulting quality is not very good. I suggest that you test your quality settings and then don’t live with the software’s default settings. Set up a custom setting for your conversions.
Remember that you can always save a few files at full quality if it is a special show or movie or if you find it does not convert well. You will find that high action movies often have difficulty vs a standard low action situation comedy TV Show.
The main thing about converting your video content is that you need to do lots of testing. Expect to waste a day or two setting your defaults and then a few hours here and there fine tuning them for best results.
You can find that even small changes in bitrate can make large differences. If the increase in bitrate does not drastically increase file size then go with it.
Some tools you should checkout are