Load DVD on AppleTV

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Encoding Format/Settings

If you want to watch a video on your DVD with AppleTV, you have to rip the DVD to you computer, and convert it to a file which AppleTV/Quicktime can play. Now you have the choice between a lot of formats/codecs. Since VOB files from DVD are MPEG-2 encoded, it's easy to create mpg files from them, but this could result in 6 or 7 GB large files. Since MPEG-2 is not very efficient, you loose a lot of quality if you shrink it to a smaller size. So many people choose to use DivX or Xvid in the past. Those are MPEG-4 ASP codecs which a allow a better compression (about 50% size with the same quality). But today there are better codecs, so AppleTV has been designed with MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) in mind (.mov from Quicktime 7 is a H.264 codec, as well as the free x264, which is used by the encoding tools described below). H.264 allows about 30-40% smaller files at the same quality compared to xvid/divx at the cost of slower encoding speed and the need of faster hardware to decode it (e.g., Xbox/xbmc only supports H.264 with a resolution of 352x288p, while AppleTV supports 1280x720p or 1920x1080i up to 5 Mbps). So it's a good idea to use the advanced H.264 format.

Next question is the target resolution. DVD uses 720x480(NTSC) or 720x576(PAL). A common resolution used for xvid/divx is 512x348 to create 2 CDs -> 1.4 GB. But if you compare that to the original resolution on DVD, you will notice that you loose about 60% (PAL) of the available information. So you loose a lot of quality. If you watch that on a HD-Screen you will notice that it's a big different to DVD quality. So the best quality would be original DVD resolution. But this resolution is fixed and not 16:9, that's because the 16:9 videos are stored horizontally scaled down. The informatione if it's 16:9 or 4:3 is stored on the DVD, so the Player can scale it back to the correct aspect ratio. This is called "anamorphic encoding".

If you are interested in details on aspect ratio and anamorphic encoding, have a look at:

Tha bad news is, if you want to encode to a fixed aspect ratio you have to use 854x480 (NTSC) or 1024x576 (PAL), if you don't want to loose information. In case of PAL this will cost 40% more filesize and bitrate, without any additional information or quality benefit. Luckily there is a setting for anamorphic encoding in H.264/MP4, so you can stay with 720 width and tell the player to scale the width the same way the DVD player does. So with anamorphic encoding you can save a lot of disk-space and bitrate (which is limited to 5 Mbps on AppleTV).

Last important setting is the bitrate. You can't recommend a bitrate for all movies, because all movies have different video streams/details... but if you choose something between 1,500 and 2,500 Kbps, you will probably get nice results.

Using H.264 with anamorphic encoding, 1.5-2.5 Mbps bitrate and original DVD resolution, makes it possible to downsize movies to about 1.5 - 2.5 GB without loosing (noticeable) quality.

Another question is the container for the movie file. For xvid/divx mostly AVI was used, but it dows not support important features needed for H.264 encoding like B-frames, variable bitrates... But there are new container formats for the new codecs, most important probably MP4, an multimedia container format standard specified(ISO/IEC) as a part of MPEG-4 and MKV, a free, open source container format. Since MP4 is an MPEG standard format, very similar to .mov and is supported by original Quicktime/AppleTV, and MKV lacks support of encoders and players, I'd recommend MP4. You can use MKV too, but you can't use iTunes to sync the files (with MP4 you can) and you have to modify AppleTV to make Quicktime understand the container format by installing perian 1.0 or using another player.

For audio, AppleTV supports AAC up to 160Kbps, which is also part of the MPEG-4 standard. AAC is used by songs from iTunes Store, it is more efficient than MP3 (same quality at lower bitrate), supports multi-channel audio and could be seen as the successor of MP3.

Encoding GUIs

Some nice encoding GUIs, which can encode VOB files (which are MPEG2 encoded) from DVDs to MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) into an MP4 Container.

MeGUI

MeGUI is one of the most advanced encoding frontends, which provides a lot of options to get a really high quality. To make it easier for beginners, there are predefined encoding profiles. If you want to play the encoded file with quicktime or sync it with iTunes to your AppleTV, I'd recommend to use the CE-QuickTime profile, which sets x264-encoder options which are known to be compatible with apple decoders (Quicktime...). If you have your VOB files, you need to start with D2VCreator from tools menue (select Demux all Audio Tracks), after that load the created .d2v file with AviSynth Script Creator, where you should check clever anamorphic encoding and use auto crop. On the second page you can analyze the video and perhaps apply a deinterlacing filter. After that you can load the created AviSynth script into the MeGUI main window, select codec x264, container mp4, Quicktime profile. Use config to adjust the bitrate. I'd recommend something between 1,500 and 2,500 for original DVD resolution (anamorphic, no resizing). Now you need to select the audio file (probably a .ac3 file), which has been created (demuxed) by D2VCreator, and select NDAAC -LC -96Kbps. After every step you have to go to the queue tab and click start.

This are the most important settings to create a .mp4 file wich works with an original AppleTV/iTunes/Quicktime. Have a look at the great guides mentioned below for more details!

Project Homepage

Operating Systems: Windows XP/Vista (try to run as admin if you run into problems on Vista)

Tutorials/Guides:

StaxRip

StaxRip is a simpler GUI than MeGUI, but still very powerful. You have to choose Profiles -> x264 -> more -> CE Quicktime and Profiles -> Container -> MP4. Select you VOB files as source. Check Anamorphic. Set Video Bitrate to something between 1,500 and 2,500. Set Audio Track 1 to AAC -> LC VBR 110-150 kbps (perhaps you have to double-click the field to select a .ac3 file, it it is empty). Don't check resize, perhaps you have to check deinterlace.

This are again the most important settings for AppleTV compatibility, have a look at the following guides for a detailed description.

Project Homepage

Operating Systems: Windows XP/Vista (try to run as admin if you run into problems on Vista)

Tutorials/Guides:

Handbrake/MediaFork

Handbrake is a simple, easy to use encoding GUI, perhaps the best choice for OS X. In the 0.8.5b1 release has an AppleTV preset which makes it very easy to configure. By now handbrake is the only tool, which has implemented anamorphic encoding, which original Quicktime can understand. But this patch is only available in the development version, not in a (beta-)release yet.

Operating Systems: OS X, Windows XP/Vista, Linux

Tutorials/Guides:

Load Movie-Files to AppleTV

There are two ways copying the movies to AppleTV:

  1. If you have encoded a video file in a MP4 container with a quicktime-profile and you resolutiom and itrate is low enough, you can use iTunes to sync movies to AppleTV
  2. Or you could Install_SSH and ATVFiles and copy the files using Fugu(OS X) or WinSCP(Windows) to you AppleTV. Or you could load the files to a file server / NAS / network share, and mount it as a directory for ATVFiles.

Known Problems

Links