Every now and then, when I remember that this is a thing I’m trying to do, when I’m not actively doing something else with my computer, when I can be bothered… I convert one of the shiny platters on the media storage shelves into some kind of digital format. I do this for protection against the inevitable “disc rot” of the shiny platter medium, I do this for convenience (just load up a file on the computer-like device of choice rather than inserting a shiny platter into the spinny playback machine), and yes, I do this because I’m curious to see what the state of the art looks like for doing this sort of thing in the first place.

Oh, the codecs I’ve seen. I’m old, y’all.

I’ve been doing a lot of anime Blu-Ray-to-MKV work lately. (For certain values of “a lot.” Re-read the first sentence of this post.) There’s a great blog post from a couple years ago with some superb recommendations for how to get high quality into a modest file size and it’s served me well thus far.

But what about those non-anime shows? What about a big budget live-action movie? How well would those settings fare with such fare?

On a whim, I grabbed one of the DVDs. I’d done a conversion of some of the music videos DVD collections (Pet Shop Boys, Midnight Oil, etc) a year or two ago (it’s all a blur, right?) but with default, preset encoding settings. The thing about those music video discs is that they’re basically shovelware: Minimum viable product, just thrown together with the barest bones of added production quality. I doubt there’s anything I could do to make the results look actually good.

I have the “special edition” widescreen DVD of The Hunt For Red October, though. That should be different, right?

So I turned the various tools loose on it, with my “super high quality in modest file size” anime settings, and after a couple hours I had a 700 megabyte large, two hours fifteen minutes long, 720 by 368 pixels of real-estate file’s worth of 1990 action movie. And it looks fine, honestly. Considering the limitations of DVD itself, it makes a wholly functional (if the slightest bit fuzzy at “full” size on my 4K monitor) digital rendition for casual “movie night” use.

Mind you, on a 4K monitor at 1:1 zoom it’s nearly dwarfed by its own media information dialog window…


But… hey. Red October is available on Blu Ray. How the hell do I not already own this in the higher-resolution form? One quick online shopping trip and a few days’ wait later, that oversight was officially remedied. At which point I thought… well, let’s try that again!

(Let’s be clear, I chose not to play with the 4K UHD version. I’d have to buy a whole other Blu Ray drive to even rip the thing, and I’d probably need to buy a whole new internal SSD to store the rip of the thing while working on it. The resulting files are meant to be a convenience and a failsafe, not actual pristine highest-quality master copies.)

I generated a 38GB MKV from the HD-quality Blu Ray source and turned the encoder loose. Same settings as before, 10-bit encoder, “slow” algorithm, blah blah details. I expected, especially from my HD-quality anime conversions, for this to take a few hours (roughly 1/2 speed).

Friends… I should’ve started earlier in the day. A full nine and a half hours later I ended up with a seven gigabyte result. (Yes, that’s the other file you see in the above screenshot’s Explorer window.)


Ten times the file size, a bit more than double the height and the width, I admit the result looks great. But… 7 gigs is asking a lot of my storage system. Remember: These files are meant to be a convenience, not an inconvenience.

At least it looks good.

At some point I’m going to stop down and actually just watch this movie instead of skimming through it doing QC checks. It’s a heck of a popcorn flick!

I’ll be researching ways to get this a bit more manageable. Time for a new preset…