Backpocket

A week off work. Rested and ready….for a bank holiday tomorrow :)

Blu-ray Ripping

I still buy Blu-rays as it’s the best quality you can get today, especially compared with streaming services that always over compress. I also like to own my media and not rely on Netflix or Amazon keeping a film available on their service. One thing that still irritates though are the forced adverts, crappy menu’s and general slowness when booting up a Blu-ray film. Ripping a Blu-ray is fairly straightforward now but a little more awkward on Mac’s as Apple has never shipped a Mac with a Blu-ray drive. So a few weeks ago I picked up a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive that works over USB so I can rip my disks.

There are a number of different guides online on how to rip Blu-rays on the Mac but the one I recommend is from Jason Snell – How I rip DVDs and Blu-rays. The software I use is:

Snell’s guide shows how to setup Handbrake to use MakeMKV to read Blu-ray’s but I prefer a two step process. I firstly extract the Blu-ray to the Mac’s hard drive via MakeMKV and then within Handbrake I convert to a more suitable format for storing longterm on the NAS.

Currently I store as MKV’s and use the H.264 video codec. You can see the other settings I choose in Handbrake below. I’ve found keeping framerate constant delivers better results, Quality I set to RF 18, Tune to film, Profile to high and Level to 4.1. I also set the Preset to veryslow which means the conversion process takes longer but you get slightly smaller file sizes.

HandBrake video

HandBrake audio

Handbrake picture

For audio I select Auto Passthru rather than encoding as something different and in the Picture settings I turn off any cropping settings and set Anamorphic to none. Handbrake will take some time to encode a film so I generally run a couple of encodes overnight as a batch or while I’m at work and it’s generally the only time my iMac fans kick in as Handbrake will use all the CPU available.

Plex

What I’m left with is a great quality MKV that I watch via Plex. Inspired by a recent tweet my Marvel movies have never looked better. Over the next few weeks I’ll look at H.265 to see if it offers a better long term storage format but for now if you want to watch your Blu-ray without the hassle of piracy warnings, menu’s and forced trailers I’d recommend MakeMKV, Handbrake and Plex.

Backpocket

Last week was busy but I’ve a few days off work so plenty to catch up on.

A year with Apple Watch

Time flies and it’s been a year since I picked up an Apple Watch. There’s been quite a bit of negativity around the Apple Watch in recent months – is it really justified?

For me it’s been a mostly positive experience. The Apple Watch as a notification hub has worked well and stops me reaching for iPhone/iPad just to see what the latest ping sound meant. Quick replies to messages is also a real plus. At a glance I also get info on weather and activity which has pretty much replaced the Fitbit for me. Being able to set timers and reminders easily has been useful and Nightstand since Watch OS 2 has been perfect. Finally, having Apple Pay available on the Watch is more convenient than pulling out the phone but there’s been couple of odd times where using the Watch has been made difficult due to weird scanners, especially with boarding passes…looking at you British Airways.

Whats inescapable is that app’s are generally poor. They are slow or of little value on the small screen. With the news that Watch apps must be native by June 1st I can only assume that big changes to the OS and faster hardware is on it’s way. Siri has also been a miss on the Watch as it’s just too slow to be of practical use. I also think Apple have missed a trick with watch face customisations. There’s a quite a choice but you should be able to do more with complications and why do watch hands obscure some of the complications? It’s a digital watch and should act as such.

The negatives are all fixable which is why I still believe in the Watch platform. It’s been convenient to use, battery concerns proved unfounded and I miss it when it’s not on my wrist. While not essential I’ll be sticking with it for now. Time will tell if future upgrades will keep the platform alive.

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