Handbrake: Complete Step-by-step Guide (2020 Update)

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Handbrake, the professional video encoder, lets you optimize those 4K media files for the web, or turn your DVDs and Blu-rays into digital files? 

What about compressing and organizing your GoPro videos? 

Yes, you can do that… and a lot more. 

The software comes with a handful of features that can be used from media producers, home DVD collectors, to media file lovers… Handbrake is designed to help you get the most out of your digital media files.

The “Handbrake: Complete Step-by-Step Guide (2019 Update)” goes deep into this amazing tool. 

The complete step by step guide for Handbrake

Table of Contents.

  1. What is Handbrake?
  2. Video Encoding 101
  3. Getting Started with Handbrake.
    1. Download and Install Handbrake.
  4. A Quick Overview of the Handbrake UI.
    1. Presets
    2. Queue
    3. Activity Log.
  5. How to Encode a Video Using Handbrake.
    1. Using Queues.
    2. Point to Point Encoding.
  6. Optimizing Audio and Video with Handbrake.
    1. Compressing Videos for the Web.
    2. Modifying Output Video Size and Cropping Video.
    3. Optimizing Audio Settings.
    4. How to embed subtitles to a movie. 
  7. Ripping DVDs with Handbrake.
    1. Download Libdvdcss
    2. Insert the DVD and choose what to rip. 
    3. The Best DVD Preset.
  8. Optimal Handbrake settings (with GUI and CLI)
    1. Squeezing a video from AVI to MP4 
    2. How to convert MKV to MP4 video format (and vice-versa)?
    3. How to Convert HEVC Videos to MP4 (H.264)?
    4. Reducing the resolution of a video to 480p. 
    5. How to convert 4K to 1080p with Handbrake? 
  9. Advanced Handbrake Operations
    1. Using Handbrake with other tools to streamline the workflow. 
    2. Using the Handbrake CLI to automate Handbrake. 
    3. Upscaling.
  10. General Troubleshooting.
    1. My video encoding is slow? 
    2. Problems with ripping certain DVDs.
    3. Common problems when adding subtitles.
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What is Handbrake?

Handbrake is a free professional video encoder software capable of converting almost any video format out there to a selection of modern and widely supported codecs. With Handbrake, you can compress video size, lower quality, change formats, add subtitles, crop image, etc

You can generally open almost any video formats including disc-based formats like DVD and Blu-ray. The software uses Libav which is a library that enables handling of multimedia data. This library supports pretty much all common operating systems meaning Handbrake also supports most common operating systems.

Video Encoding 101. 

Before digging deep into understanding how Handbrake works, let’s go into a brief intro into video encoding, compression, and its components.

Video compression deals with the reduction in the number of bytes of a digital file. Good compression is achieved with the help form information encoding, which is the representation of some type of information into another form. 

Compressing videos is one of the most important processes from every video production, whether is a Hollywood blockbuster or a simple homemade Youtube video. It is crucial because it allows portability. Simply put, a compressed video is altered to take less space on a digital storage while retaining a good degree of image and sound quality. 

To know how encoding works…

Let’s start by defining the difference between video containers and codecs. 

Video Containers vs Codecs

A codec is a protocol or method for encoding/decoding information for a video file. In other words, a codec is a set of rules to compress video information and control how this information is displayed on a screen. Choosing the right codec can result in the desired quality, file size, or encode speed. XVid, FFMpeg, H.264, and H.265 are examples of codecs. H.264 is the most popular and widely supported for now.

For commercial use, codecs must work alongside containers. A container is also referred to as video format and is a bundle of media files. A container is what “contains” or holds the grouping of compressed video (which was defined by the codec), it also holds metadata, subtitles, audio codec, etc. Examples of video containers are MP4, MKV, AVI, WMA, MOV, FLV, etc. 

Picture of video container and codecs(MP4,MKV,AVI,WMA,MOV)

As mentioned earlier, H.264 is supported by most devices and is widely accepted by almost all platforms online. So far H.265 (HEVC) is supported by some devices and players, but it will take some more time until the codecs are supported everywhere. A clear example of H.265 HEVC codecs use case are the GoPro videos.

Getting Started with Handbrake.

Download and Install Handbrake.

Handbrake is open-source and free software under license GNU GPLv2. The initial release was in 2003 and has been up to date. As for Jun 2019, the latest stable release was on 23 February 2019. The software is multi-platform and is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS. 

*NOTE: The following tutorial was based on Handbrake 1.22 on Mac OSX 10.XX

How to Download Handbrake? 

Visit their official Handbrake website and download their latest stable version. The website will recognize your OS so just click Download. 

Official handbrake website

You can open it as a disk image or install it on your computer. The installation process is self-intuitive. For macOS, just drag the Handbrake icon to the Applications folder.

Installign Handbrake on MacOS

Launch Handbrake by clicking twice on its icon, depending on the system settings one single click might suffice. Depending on the OS, the dashboard color, template, and positioning of the icons will vary, but the functionality is the same. For macOS, the main dashboard should look something like this…

Handbrake dashboard on MacOS

A Quick Overview of the Handbrake UI.

Handbrake’s most common functions can be accessed via the main toolbar located on top.

Handbrake toolbar

The “Open Source” button in the top-left corner, should allow you to select the video that you want to encode. Dragging and dropping the video into Handbrake’s main window should also do the trick.

Dragging and droping video to Handbrake's main window


Once you open the source, the “Presets” values should become available. The presets in Handbrake are really helpful— they are basically a set of output video properties which are optimized for particular common devices. For instance, the drop-down list contains presets for common devices including the iPod, iPad, and AppleTV.

The presets come in different categories, such as General usage, Web, Devices, Matroska (Media Container), or Production. The Windows version of Handbrake contains a lot more pre-made Presets which covers pretty much most of the common devices.

Handbrake's presets

The following table shows the most useful presets. Notice that the most common video codec is always H.264. When selecting a preset consider parameters such as the picture quality, encoding speed, and output file size. 

Table with Handbrake's presets


There’s also an “Add To Queue” button at the toolbar that comes in handy when you want to convert many videos at once. To use it, just add the video, set up its configuration, then click “Add To Queue”. The Queue on the right-hand side of the toolbar shows a list of all videos in the queue.

Add to queue dialog


The last button on the far right side of the toolbar is the “Activity”. This button gives you access to a log of information including all activity since you opened Handbrake. The Activity log will save information such as, the time when you open a new file, convert, encode, or when a conversion faces an issue.

The Activity log is really useful for troubleshooting and viewing the performance. 

Activity dialog

How to Encode a Video Using Handbrake. 

Handbrake’s default settings and most of the official “Presets” use a Constant Quality encoding method which is supposed to make your new video look and sound consistent from start to finish. It is recommended to select a lower quality (different than the existent one) unless you have a specific reason not to.

Increasing your output video quality will make your file take up more disk space and the encoding will be slower. On the other hand, reducing the quality will make the file take up less space, encode much faster, but the end quality will be lower. 

Knowing this…

The recommended settings for an x264 video encoding (which is the default on Handbrake) is RF (Rate Factor) 18 to 22 for Standard Definition. According to Handbrake’s guide: “Small decreases in value will result in progressively larger increases in the resulting file size. A value of 0 means lossless and will result in a file size that is larger than the original source.”

To compress high definition sources, you can play with the Quality Bar, 19 to 23 for High Definition, RF 20 to 24 for Full High Definition, and 22 to 28 for Ultra High Definition.

Manual Encoding

It is advised, not to go below RF 18. Low-quality settings will show significant loss of detail on output videos.

Manual encoding

After making all the needed customizations, you can now preview your video using the Preview button on the top right corner of the toolbar. 

Handbrake's toolbar

The “Preview” button will show you how the end product is going to look after conversion. You can also modify live picture settings such as aspect ratio and cropping.

Preview of video

In case you have made many changes to the current “Preset” and wish to save them, you can create a new preset from the Main Menu > Save New Preset. Handbrake will then use the default behavior rules you’ve set and any settings from the main window.

Saving new preset

Using Queues.

You can use Handbrake’s queuing feature to configure multiple conversions and let the software do everything automatically. Conversions usually take a long time and consume a lot of computational power, so this feature is very useful.

As shown before, add sources to the queue using the Add to Queue button. Go to the Queue menu on the top right corner of the toolbar. From there you can Start the Queue process or Pause it. In this menu, you can remove jobs from the process by selecting the X button next to the unwanted job. 

Using queues step 1

You can also configure Handbrake to perform some action when the Queue is finished, for example: do nothing, send a notification, an alert, put the computer to sleep, or turn the computer off.

Using queue's step 2

You can edit the preset for a particular video clip in the queue by selecting the clip and right-clicking the specific job. This will open a new menu. Just select “Edit Job Settings”, as shown in the picture below. If you are already converting videos, editing a video in the queue will not interfere with the output video properties of the other video clips in the same queue.

Using queue's step 3

When ready, select the Start button on the Queue window or on the toolbar.

Point to Point Encoding.

Videos in DVDs or Blu-ray discs are usually divided into logical chapters, which allow you easier navigation through the entire video. With Handbrake, you can use a featured called the point to point encoding which allows you to encode part of a video instead of the whole. 

This can be done from the drop-down menu, “Range,” which contains different alternatives for point to point encoding, Chapters, Seconds, or Frames. 

The Chapters option relates to when you’re decoding from a DVD or a Blu-ray disc. From the same menu, you can also choose a different point to point encodings, such as “Seconds” and “Frames”. For instance, shown below is Handbrake with a video with a length of 10:33 minutes. The option “Seconds” have been selected as the point to point encoding and limited to 300 seconds. 

Chapter options for decoding
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Optimizing Video and Audio with Handbrake. 

The “Video” settings tab is located on Handbrake’s main window and becomes active after you’ve opened and scanned a source. The Video option contains the settings for managing the video properties of the output.

This tab is handy in case you just want to change one parameter, such as Framerate, Average Bitrate, Quality, or encoder settings.

Video settings

Compressing Videos for the Web.

If you are producing videos at home, or have huge file size videos that want to upload to the Internet, you might want to optimize the size. A handy preset for compressing videos for the web is the “Web Optimized”, which is available when converting videos to MP4. 

The web optimized option is great when you have large media files, such as 4K that want to reduce in size but keep quality. This feature gives you preset options to choose from Gmail, Vimeo, Youtube, to different resolutions, 2160, 1400, 1080, 720, 480, etc. 

Compressing videos for web

This optimization reduces the size by placing the MP4 container header at the start of the file. This allows for minimal bandwidth usage and less time-wasting.

Modifying Output Video Size and Cropping Video.

In the “Dimensions” tab you can find the general picture dimension settings which allow you to modify the output video size and cropping.

Modifying output video size and cropping video

On the left-hand side, you can find the video “Storage Size,” which is the total number of pixels that will be encoded. The storage size may be different from the display dimensions depending on the anamorphic settings. The “Display Size” is the total number of pixels that the video will appear to be at its native resolution. It is the result of scaling the storage dimensions by the pixel aspect. 

Why is this important? 

By default two these values will not change and will remain the same. If they change from one another the video image could get stretched and transformed into an anamorphic projection.

Anamorphic refers to when a lens stretches the video vertically to cover the entire film. This results in higher quality but distorted image. Handbrake comes with the Anamorphic feature that “allows inconsistent storage dimensions while preserving the original aspect ratio during playback.

Modifying video output step 2

This feature comes with four options: 

  • Off: Turns off anamorphic. Storage size and Display will be the same. 
  • Auto: The recommended option. It maximizes storage resolution and keeps the original aspect ratio. 
  • Loose: Tries to keep the storage aspect ratio but can result in small storage resolution loss.
  • Custom: Allows manual settings of parameters.

Quick Tip! Selecting “off” allows you to optionally alter both “width” and “height”. The settings used for “width” and “height” should obviously be based on the target device.


Handbrake’s auto-crop is not perfect, but by default, it will try and crop black bars from the video. The crop values could be occasionally but rarely wrong. If you want to do manual cropping, deselect the Automatic Crop option on the Dimensions tab and set your own “Custom” crop values in pixels. 

Video cropping

When cropping either manually or automatically use the Preview. It can be used to inspect the cropping changes and make sure that you are not removing any valuable image.

Video cropping preview

Optimizing Audio Settings. 

To start configuring for the best audio settings, you might want to configure the audio tracks under the “Selection Behavior” button. This behavior will automatically affect the tracks that will be added to the audio tracks list. 

Optimizing audio settings step 1

In the Selection Behavior, you can define the matching languages, auto pass-thru, and the audio encoder for each selected track. For example, if you want to always encode movies in English, you can configure the “Selection Behavior” to automatically select English by default. 

Optimizing audio settings step 2

If you are ripping a DVD which has multiple language options, you can let Handbrake find them and display them under “Tracks”. Tracks will show you which language and type of codec you are about to encode. 

You can always modify the codec type, to ACC, AC3, MP3, etc, and you can also change the mixdown from the same toolbar. 

Handbrake can take different sound mixdowns such as Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital Surround, Digital Theater Systems(DTS), Digital Theater System Master Audio(DTS-HD), TrueHD and pass them through to your source. By default, audio is downmixed to a format that sounds good on both stereo and multi-channel audio systems.

For a close as possible sound experience, you can choose the appropriate channel count surround option from the Mixdown dropdown. 

Changing channel count surround

Quick Tip! To keep sound quality, make sure to use pass-thru. You can set it up for each track or configure it in the Selection Behavior. Passing sound through means the sound is passed bit-for-bit without altering it. The common sounds formats which can be passed through include but is not limited to AC3, MP3, AAC, and FLAC.

How to Embed Subtitles Into a Media File. 

Handbrake is not only capable of encoding video files, but it can also help you get subtitles into your digital files. There are a couple of ways to get subtitles into your media files.  

  1. When you rip a DVD, you keep the subtitles in the video.
  2. If you don’t have subtitles, you can find them online and add them to your video. 

Configuring the “Selection Behavior”

Every time you scan a new source or select a title, the “Selection Behavior” rules can be pre-configured to automatically select preferred audio and subtitle tracks. To configure the track selection behavior, go to the “Subtitle” tab then “Selection Behavior.”

Selection behaviour

In the Selection Behavior menu, you can select your preferred tracking selection method, such as “First Matching Selected Languages” or “All Matching Selected Languages”. For example, if you want to always add closed captions in English to your videos, select your tracking selection behavior, then “English” in languages, and “Add Closed Captions When Available.” 

Quick Tip! To help Handbrake find the subtitle automatically, leave the SRT file inside the same folder as the media file. 

Helping Handbrake automatically find subtitle

Adding Subtitles to a Media File.

Start opening the source or inserting the DVD disc, and allow Handbrake to find it. Go ahead and click the “Subtitles” tab. 

  1. From DVD or Disc. If you want to rip a DVD and embed the subtitles in the video, Handbrake will automatically detect the subtitles language and the encoding. Choose the language of the subtitles that you want to add in the video and click on the “Burned In.”
Adding subtitle to a media file from a dvd or a disc
  1. When your subtitles are external. If you have a digital file and have the subtitles externally, you can configure Handbrake to embed the subtitles in the video. Click the “Tracks” drop-down menu, then “Add External SRT” and select the subtitles file. If you configured the “Selection Behavior” correctly, Handbrake will find the right SRT file automatically. If these rules have not been configured, you can add subtitle files manually.
Adding subtitles to a Media file when subtitles are external

Matching Subtitle Timestamps With the Video.

In some cases when the subtitle does not match the timestamps of the video, or in other words the timing of the subtitles is offset with the timing of the voice, you can configure Handbrake to match them. 

Once, you added the external SRT, by trial and error and counting the seconds, you can set the SRT Offset in positive or negative values in milliseconds (ms). Handbrake only supports SRT files for the offsetting feature.

Matching subtitles timestamps with the video

Ripping DVDs with Handbrake.

Handbrake is an amazing software to rip your DVD or BluRay movie collection, digitize it, and organize in a media platform such as Plex. With Handbrake, you can rip copyrighted and non-copyrighted DVDs. However, with copyrighted DVDs, you’ll need to include software files into Handbrake to be able to decrypt such DVDs. 

Download Libdvdcss

To rip a copyrighted DVD, you need to install libdvdcss on your computer. Libdvdcss is an open-source library, capable of circumventing the Content Scramble System (CSS) used on DVDs.The process varies from Operating System to the other.


Download the files from here and copy it into your Handbrake installation folder (Screenshot below shows default path:

How to add libdvdcss to a Handbrake in Windows


On Linux, mainly Debian and Ubuntu, the relevant files can be grabbed here and installed via:


On macOS, go to libdvdcss and download the latest and version of files. Run the installer, to put the files where they belong (or copy them to /usr/local/lib). 

After installing libdvdcss, the copyrighted DVDs can now be loaded and decoded.

Insert DVD and Choose What to Rip. 

Once you insert the DVD and proceed to open Handbrake, the software will recognize the DVD mounted on your computer. Choose and open the DVD title that you want to rip, and Handbrake will automatically fill all information. 

Pick the right output folder and the video preset. 

Choose a destination folder or “Save As” to store the ripped files. Then go to Presets to choose your output video. 

Inserting DVD and choosing what to rip

A Quick Tip! Although presets are a great way for a fast and easy DVD rip, you can also adjust other output parameters manually, such as picture, video filters, video, audio, subtitles, chapters, etc. This allows you to make your media files more personalized. 

The Best DVD Preset.

The best DVD preset in Handbrake depends on your desired output. As mentioned before, think about the final resolution which should be related to your viewing display, the encoding speed, and the file size. 

The best quality with the smallest file size?

Referring to the table above, the presets Very Fast 1080p30 and Fast 1080p30 are good options if you are looking for a fast encode and small-average file size. 

Best dvd presets table
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Optimal Handbrake Settings.

Squeezing a video from AVI to MP4 

Squeezing the size of videos is one of Handbrake’s most common use cases. To reduce disk space or minimize time and bandwidth consumption when uploading a file, you might want to reduce its size. This is known as squeezing.

Video formats like AVI are typically known to be less compressed than videos encoded using any of the encoders supported by Handbrake. Handbrake supports H.264, H.265, MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 encoders.

Re-encoding an AVI video file with any of Handbrake’s encoders would reduce its size. H.264 is known to be the format that gives you the highest quality compared to file size.

Squeezing video from AVI to MP4

In other cases, you might also want to further squeeze the size of a video file that is already encoded in Handbrake’s supported codecs. A few other variables such as pixel dimensions, frame rate, constant or variable bitrate streaming, and audio sample rate, will help you accomplish a good squeeze.

Adjusting these variables can have some effect on the video squeeze, but would have some effect on the re-encoded video quality.

How to convert MKV to MP4 video format (and vice-versa)?

MKV (Matroska Video format) is a multimedia container format. Although it is popular, not all video players support it. To open an MKV file, you can either use a player that supports it (such as VLC) or download the appropriate codecs. 

But still, many people prefer to convert it into the more standard format MP4. 

MKV to MP4? 

Open the video source. On the “Summary” tab make sure that you select MP4 File as “Format”.

Summary tab in source in Handbrake

Go to the “Video” tab, and select H.264 as the video encoder. H.264 is the new standard for video compression from the basic MPEG-4. Clearly, H.264 has a higher compression rate than MPEG-4. When converting video from MKV to MP4, use H.264 as output video encoder. 

Leave the Framerate Per Second (FPS) to Same as Source and Constant Quality with default values.

Video tab in video source

MP4 to MKV? 

Handbrake comes with a significant list of MKV presets, to make the conversion from MP4 to MKV easier. Either choose a Preset from the sublist “Matroska” or go to the “Summary” tab and choose MKV as the format. 

Choosing MKV presets

How to Convert HEVC Videos to MP4 (H.264)?

Converting videos from HEVC/H.265 to MP4/H.264 with Handbrake is a bit different than just changing a format (container) to another. The main difference is that with an HEVC your output format can be either MP4 or MKV. 

Summary tab

Open the source, then go to the “Video” tab, and select H.264 (x264) as the video encoder, and leave the rest by default. 

Video tab

Reducing the Resolution of a Video to 480p. 

The easiest way to reduce the resolution of a video to 480p with Handbrake is to either use a Preset or do it manually. To choose a preset, just go to “Presets” on the top bar menu, choose the “General” submenu, and select “Fast 480p30”. 

If you want to review the output size, you can either go to the Preview window or to the Dimensions tab. The “Storage Size” under the “Dimensions” menu will be automatically adjusted to 480 pixels height. 

Reducing video resolution to 480p

For encoding from 1080p to 720p, follow the same steps shown above. Just select Fast 720p30 on the Presets menu or change it manually. 

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How to Convert 4K to 1080p with Handbrake? 

4K videos are Ultra High Definition “UHD” with dimensions of 3840 x 2160 pixels or 4096 x 2160 pixels. These type of videos have the best quality but tend to be very large in size. If you compress or downscale a 4K video to HD 1080p, you’ll keep a decent image quality for most displays and still save a good chunk of your storage memory. 

To compress a 4K, start by opening the source and let Handbrake recognize it. You’ll likely have the 4K video in formats such as MP4, MKV, or MXF, and encoded in H.264, H.265, VP9, etc.

Step 1. Choose two of the recommended 1080p30 presets: Both will be compressed in the MP4 format and encoded with H.264.

  1. Fast 1080p30 preset. This preset has a fast encoding and average file size. It is standard in terms of size and image quality. 
  2. HQ 1080p30 Surround preset. This preset has a slower encoding and larger file size but has high picture quality.
Recommended 1080p presets

If you are not happy with the presets results, you can also manually adjust the settings for the 4K conversion to 1080p. The recommended settings are:

Go to “Video”.

  1. Choose H.264 (x264) as video encoder. The H.264 10-bit is also a good option for 4K because it can preserve better color in the image but at the same time, it will increase the size of the file a lot. You can experiment with both options. 
  2. Disable the “2-pass encoding”. This option analyzes the entire source before converting it. Handbrake uses the information collected to make decisions based on quality and bitrate. Without this option, Handbrake will compress the video much faster, but the quality of the final output will be slightly degraded.
  3. Leave Framerate and Quality values by default. 
video tab
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Advanced Handbrake Operations

Using Handbrake with other Tools to Streamline the Workflow. 

The best of Handbrake is that you can combine it with other multimedia tools to automate your encoding workflows. For example, you can set up an automatic media collection tool and let Handbrake convert all that media so you can play it seamlessly in your devices. 

For example, if you are constantly downloading media files through the Internet and ripping DVDs, most of those files will not come with the same formats and encoders.  

A media collection needs to be:

  1. Built-up.
  2. Organized.
  3. Standardized. 

There are certain recommended tools for each item in the list above. To build up a media collection a Seedbox can help you automate torrent downloads and protect your anonymity at the same time. To standardize all those different video formats, use Handbrake to automatically grab files and encode them to a specific preset format. 

Finally, to organize your media collection, the Plex Media Server can help you centralize everything into a single platform, present it in a beautiful dashboard, and allow you to play in through any client device. Although Plex, adapts the video quality on the fly for each specific device, it takes high resources to compress streaming video. This is when Handbrake becomes really handy because you can prepare and optimize all your media files beforehand.

Seedbox and plex architecture

With a Seedbox or VPS (Virtual Private Server) from RapidSeedbox, you can have everything in one place. The service comes with one-click app installers that allow you to easily integrate all these applications to streamline your workflow. 

A use case would be, track and gather torrents automatically for your favorite movies, download all that media anonymously to your online seedbox, letting Handbrake deal with video encoding automatically, and allowing Plex Media to organize all that media into one place, so you can stream it anywhere and anytime. 

One click installers in RapidSeedbox

Using the CLI to Automate Handbrake Operations. 

Handbrake comes with a command-line interface “CLI” version which works just like the GUI. The command-line version comes in handy when you want to automate tasks via scripts. You will also notice that HandbrakeCLI offers a lot more options that can be configured with the GUI version.

If you are capable of developing scripts through bash commands, Python, JavaScript, or whatever, you can automate tasks in Handbrake and save tons of time. For example, if you downloaded a couple of media files to a Seedbox and want to convert them right away to stream them on your display, but the files are too big and the encode time could take too long. In this case, you can write a batch script and run it through Handbrake’s CLI. 

To access the CLI, go to the terminal in macOS or Linux or the Command Prompt in Windows. Navigate to the file where you extracted the HandBrakeCLI.

Once in the same folder as HandBrakeCLI you can open a source and define the destination with the following command… 

An example of what you can do with HandbrakeCLI…

This command will encode a source video “Media002” to an output called “Media002v1”. It will also encode it to x264 with a Constant Quality of 20 and encode the audio as 160 Kbps AAC.

Knowing how to create scripts in Windows, macOS, or Linux to automate Handbrake, gives you a lot of flexibility. For instance, the following simple bash script in Linux downloads and converts a file without your intervention. 

The Handbrake’s CLI commands reference shows all the options for encoding videos through commands. 

Handbrake CLI command references

For example, with Handbrake CLI, you can encode everything that falls into a folder to MP4 and encodes subtitles in Engish. With the help of a script, you can run these commands every time a new MKV file downloads to a folder. 


Upscaling refers to a situation whereby you want to convert a lower resolution video to a higher resolution video which is barely ever optimal and necessary.

Handbrake GUI doesn’t allow for upscaling. But upscaling can be done via the command-line interface with the -width and -height options.

You might, for instance, have a broken hardware scaler on the viewing device but still want to utilize its maximum resolution. This is one of the few cases you might want to use Handbrake’s upscaling feature.

Upscalling via command line interface

General Troubleshooting.

My video encoding is slow? 

Before finding a reason why your encode speed is slow, let’s define what is encoding speed. Encoding speed is usually measured in frames per second (fps). This speed can be altered in Handbrake and is usually defined by default. 

There are three variables that can affect your encoding speed. 

  1. Your hardware resources.
  2. The encoder settings.
  3. The source file. 

1. Your Hardware.

Handbrake can scale to up to 6-8 CPUs cores, meaning that the hardware you are using to encode with, will definitely affect encoding speed. On the new Intel Processors with onboard HD graphics, Handbrake supports Intel QuickSync which offers very high-performance encoding at a reasonable quality.

If your encoding speed is slow, make sure that you leave enough processing power on your computer. Do not open many applications while encoding, as it can be a strenuous process depending on your computer. 

2. Encoder Settings. 

Handbrake’s default encoder settings might not be the best most of the time. They included the Presets with different options in terms of encoding speed, from ultrafast to very slow. Bear in mind that fast encoding speeds usually sacrifice video quality and file size. A fast encoder preset could reduce quality or increase the file size, while a slow encoder uses algorithms that take longer but result in higher quality and more compression. 

The recommended settings are Medium Presets, which provides a good balance between speed, quality, and file size. If you really want to improve speed and sacrifice quality, go for the Very Fast presets. 

Very fast presets

If you are still experiencing slow encoding speeds, try experimenting by adjusting the presets with the Constant Quality slider. The recommended RF values for H.264 and H.265 are between 18-28. An RF of 28 will produce smaller file size and faster encoding speeds. 

Experimenting with presets and constant quality slider

Filters are another type of settings that can be memory intensive. Filters like denoise and sharpen can slow down your encoding. If you are looking to speed up your encoding, make sure that these filters are off. 

Filter tab

3. The Source File. 

Last but not least is the source file. Large files will also affect performance mainly based on the resolution and format. If you are compressing a 4K video, you’ll certainly have a slower encoding process, than if you are encoding a 576p file. 

The other thing that will affect the encoding speed within the file, is the encoder. For example, a high profile H.264 10-bit will take longer to decode than a standard H.264 format. 

Problems with ripping certain DVDs.

By default, Handbrake will not rip all DVDs especially copyrighted ones. 

Unable to rip a DVD in Handbrake?

1. Check whether you have downloaded and copied the right and the last version of the library files libdvdcss in Handbrake folders to enable circumventing the Content Scramble System (CSS) used on DVDs. For more information on how to install it, check above. 

2. Make sure you are scanning the disc and choosing the main title. By default, Handbrake will scan the entire disc and will give you many titles to rip, from deleted scenes, bonus clips, extras, etc. Having so many options makes it difficult for you to choose the right one. Play the main feature and record the name of the main title. 

Go to Handbrake > Open Source (Main Title) > Scan DVD.

Scanning divd with Handbrake

Handbrake will scan the entire disc. If the library libdvdcss was not installed properly and you are scanning a copyrighted movie, Handbrake will not be able to finish scanning it. 

Once it finished scanning the DVD, make sure you choose the right Title and choose the entire range of Chapters, for example from 1 – 30. 

Once finished scanning DVD choose the right Title and entire range of chapters

Common problems when adding subtitles. 

Unable to burn in subtitles.

If you are unable to transfer subtitles from a DVD to MP4, try changing the Burn-in Behavior parameters. 

Go to “Subtitles” tab, select the right track and make sure that only the “Burned In” option is checked. 

Subtitles tab

If you are still unable to burn in the subtitles, go to Selection Behavior > Burn-in Behavior > Choose “none.” 

The burn-in behavior helps you select which subtitles you can make permanent by overlaying them on the video image. Choosing “none” as burn-in behavior, forces only subtitles and does not force any CC tracks. Sometimes Close Captions CC tracks are unsupported, so this option will only force subtitles. 

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Handbrake is a really powerful tool and the best of all is that it is 100% free and open source. With it, you can compress those large videos into smaller-sized versions with good-decent quality. People love Handbrake because it comes with fantastic preset parameters so that you are only a few clicks away into converting media files. 

You can also leave multiple files in the queue, each with different presets, and go out to drink a cup of coffee while Handbrake does all the work. Handbrake can also rip any DVD or Blu-ray disc. 

Handbrake can work wonders with other sets of tools, such as a with a Seedbox and Plex media server. Just download media files safely and anonymously from the Internet into your Seedbox, automate and optimize the video encodings right from the Seedbox, and organize your media collection with the Plex Server. 

  1. FROM THE HANDBRAKE WEBSITE: “A lower RF number produces higher quality video, and a higher RF number produces lower quality video.”

    So i can’t trust a thing with this tutorial when you have the RF completely backwards. From what I remember, 20DVD, 16/720P, 18/1080P, 16/1440P, 14/4K (but don’t quote me).

    You had me questioning myself for a moment. I’ve been using RF as lower is better and seeing the appropriate results for years. I thought there’s no way I have it backwards. Thankfully, I don’t.

    1. Mike, thanks for the observation. The incorrect wording on the tutorial has been updated.

  2. Hi,
    I have been using Sorenson Squeeze for years but since they went belly up I’m needing a good & flexible video/audio encoder. Handbrake could be it, but it isn’t. Specifically in the area of audio, and setting audio “paths” and saving them in a preset for specific project uses (of which I have many).
    The problem I encounter is when I have MOV files (from a recorder like AJA’s KiPro in Prores422 HQ format) that have different languages on different audio tracks and the language can’t be set in the KiPro.
    So I need to (say) set track 1 (of 6 embedded tracks) to only encode to the left output, and track 2 to only encode to the right output (for me track 1 is English content recorded at an event and track 2 is Spanish content from a translator in a booth at the same event).
    The result I get from Handbake is both tracks in both outputs and I can’t do anything unless I use QuickTime 7 (no longer supported by Apple – not 64 bit) to associate a “language” to my source tracks.
    It would be great (for me) to be able to map a source audio track (or channel – we also use Samurai recorders and they use many channels) to an encoded output channel, an audio matrix if you will. Sorenson had this feature and it’s configuration could be stored in a preset. So different audio configurations could easily mapped and stored.
    Has anybody else had anything like this type of need? I can’t be the only one doing this on the planet, surely!
    I’d love to hear what you could do/suggest for this need. Meantime I continue searching for a Sorenson Squeeze replacement, everything else about Handbrake is great!!

    Thanks for your considerations.

  3. I am trying to reduce the file size of my videos and I get as result a much larger size than the original. I modified the RF factor to 18 or less and get no change in the size of the video. Can you help me.

    1. When you choose Constant Quality, it means that you are adjusting the output video quality and you are letting HandBrake figure out the bit rate (size). On the other hand the “average bitrate,” lets you control the size of the output file but will no let you control the video’s quality.

      So, choose Avg Bitrate mode, as it enables you to decide the bit rate which influences the output file size. Remember, “the higher the bit rate is, the larger output file will be”.

  4. Hello, I have figured out most things in handbrake but one thing is nagging at me. I can’t figure out how to duplicate a 1.66:1 aspect ratio film. I know it can be done because I have downloaded films like Dr. No and they have the proper aspect. How would I go about doing that? Thanks

    1. If you are trying to duplicate a movie with certain aspect ratio settings, under “Picture” tab leave the Anamorphic option to “Automatic” or “Strict” and make sure the “Keep Aspect Ratio” is with width and height of 1.66:1 (5:3) — or 1280×768 (or whatever dimensions you want).

  5. Hello,
    Many of the MKV’s Handbrake makes will not fast forward greater than 2x on a dvd player or TV. Anything greater than 2x will cause it to stop and restart. Are there any settings in constant vs. variable frame rate or other areas that would remedy this?

    1. Hello Gregg…

      If you can’t play those files in VLC, then it might be a problem with errors within the container. If they work in VLC, you can try to explicitly put a frame rate in the FPS field other than the “Same as Source” option.

      According to Handbrake’s documentation: “A video’s frame rate is how many still pictures are displayed per second. Common frame rates are 23.976/24 for film, 25/50 for European broadcast standards, and 29.97/59.94 or 30/60 for North American broadcast standards. Modern video formats can be variable frame rate, switching between different frame rates on the fly, e.g. from 23.976 films to 29.97 NTSC and back.”

      For more information:

  6. My handbrake will only concert up to 43 minute files
    How do I change it for 2 hour file

  7. Has anyone tried to fix the issue with LibDVDCSS not working on titles that have the form “”

    1. between the quotes is supposed to say ‘greater than symbol’ title ‘less than symbol’

  8. My Settings from Full HD/HD Video with High Data Rates 2k & Up to convert to Small File Size with Good Quality
    Format: MP4
    Dimension: Same as Source
    FPS: Same as Source
    Bitrate: 1,500
    2-Pass Filter: Enabled
    1st Pass Turbo: Disabled
    Encoder: Slow
    Audio: Auto Pass Thru

    The Results are amazing.

    1. after reading this, i use my previous settings then i disabled the 2 pass then use denoise hq-medium & sharpen lapsharp-medium.. the result is better.. it is close enough with the original..

  9. Hi, I’m having trouble with Handbrake skipping chapters. I have a large number of homemade DVDs. I’m trying to digitize them to an external hard drive. The DVDs are recordings of VHS tapes I recorded years ago. Almost all the videos are in SD. I’m fine keeping the dubs mono. How do I make sure the Handbrake dubs always do all chapters? Thanks!

  10. i have 2 mp4 videos from my dad’s memorial service and want to burn them to a dvd that will play on my mom’s dvd player at home — what is the best preset / settings for me to use in order to do this and keep good quality as well?

  11. Hi. I’m getting “Encode failed” message after pressing “start”. I had silent family 8mm film transferred to dvd. Now I’m trying to transfer the dvd to my computer and hopefully put the footage into chapters so I can send it out to various family and friends. Any advice on settings in handbrake to make this work would be greatly appreciated!

  12. I want output fike if 720p resoulution and Is there a difference in video qulity if i encode a video from a 1080p source or a 720p source .

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