Time for a fight! or maybe just a head-to-head…
Well which is a better container format for converting your HD recordings into? No doubtedly MKV has a better lead on MP4 for HD container format due the availability of tools for converting, editing and creating but this situation has recently been changed and MP4 has gained popularity and the tools with it.
The Humax PVRs capable of playing external media do play some MKVs but are not officially supported. MP4 are officially supported and so you expect a better chance of getting them to play on your Humax.
I’ve also found that DLNA servers tend to give better support to MP4 than MKV, having served both from my NAS, and my Humax HDR-FOX T2 plays the MP4 rather than the MKV (even though that plays via USB).
Converting your HD recordings to MP4/MKV
I’ve asked around on video converting forums to what the best settings for conversions of stuff recorded on your Humax PVR to MP4 or MKV, and unfortunately no one came up with any. The general advice is to experiment and see what best works for you. So using my favourite conversion software – AVS Video Converter (donwload a trial version), I’ve have come up with the following.
Taking a recording of Alexander at 10GB or so and loading it into MediaInfo gives: BDAV: 10.3GB, 2h54mins – 1 video stream: AVC – 2 audio stream: AAC/AAC – 1 text stream: DVB Subtitle. First video stream: 1440*1080 (16:9) at 25.000fps, AVC (High@L4.0) (CABAC/$ Ref Frames). First audio stream: English, 48.0KHz, 2 channels, AAC (LATM) (LC)
So the point of conversion to any other format is to reduce the size of the file. Why not drop the resolution (b) down to 720p (1280×720) and see if this is good enough to view on my 37″ LCD from 4ft. Convert to MP4 using AVS VC:
With the latest version (8.2) of AVS Video Converter, it fully recognises a recording made by a Humax HDR-FOX T2, including the audio tracks (see box a). (Purchase an unlimited license and get to fully use other applications such as DVD, video and audio editing tools!)
I keep all the settings the same (see box b), especially setting the Frame Rate to 25fps or original (if set it lower, then there will be stuttering on playback! Be careful when using the predefined profiles such as HD video for the iPad since they have set the frame rate at 24fps which will make picture stutter on playback on any other device [except the iPad, probably, but I don't have one to test this out!])
For sound (see box c), I will set the bit rate to 19skbps as a closer examination using MediaInfo, the max bit rate for sound is 183kps and for channels I will set it to ‘stereo’ because: (1) most HD programmes (on ITV1 HD) are 2 channels wrapped in DD5.1, and (2) to avoid lip sync’ing issues.
But select use 3/2+LTE 5.1 from the Channels dropdown list, for recordings of BBC HD programmes that have 5.1 sound to keep the surround sound facility on playback. (Here, using MediaInfo the max bit rate for sound was 303kps, so I set it to the closest setting at 288kps.)
So first of all conversion to MKV produced a 5GB file – no surprise that if we drop the resolution to 720p we get a reduction in file size. The surprise is that from 1080p to 720p is not half the resolution! But will the PQ be noticeable on screen? This is all down to individual perception and preference but, for me ‘no’ and I certainly think a reduction of space by a half is well worth making the conversion.
What about conversion to MP4? This produced a bigger file at about 6GB – more than the MKV format – what accounts for the difference, I don’t know (but will have to find out!).
So which of these two will playback on the HDR-FOX T2? Well both will via USB, but only the MP4 conversion will playback via my D-Link 320 NAS using DLNA UPnP (and also tested on my new IOMEGA Home Media Network Hard Drive, with the same result). So MKV produce a smaller file, but MP4 plays via DLNA server – so in terms of the contest - it is about even so far.
So what if you’ve been converting to MKV but now want them in MP4 format? Don’t worry, I’ve recently found this great FREE tool! It is called MkvToMp4 (download it here from the AV Programs page). This utility will convert MKV into MP4 without re-encoding – which means it doesn’t take hours to do the task. It works very well with all the MKVs that been converted using AVS Video Converter, and the HDR-FOX T2 is able to play via USB, but again not via DLNA.
Examining the file produced by the conversion with no re-encoding using the MkvToMp4 utility, reveals that it is pretty much identical in size as the original MKV produced by AVS VC. This leaves me with an initial conclusion to why the MP4 produced by AVS VC is 1GB bigger than the MKV – that is the extra data makes it playable via the DLNA server.
So, back to the contest, conversion straight to MP4 using AVS Video Converter wins if you are using a DLNA server, but MKV wins if you are using a direct USB hard drive to play converted recordings.