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MP4 vs MKV (for your recordings)

September 29th, 2012 1 comment

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.

Categories: Media Formats, Software Tags:

The MP4 AV Container Format

March 29th, 2012 5 comments

MP4 (or MPEG-4 part 14) is a multimedia container format specified by the Moving Picture Experts Group. It is most commonly used for containing AV streams allowing subtitles, menu and picture data as well.

In my previous posts I have been advocating the conversion of recordings to either the AVI or MKV container format, but I have now seen the light and suggest  all recordings be converted to MP4. Here are the reasons why:

  1. MP4 is better supported by CE devices.
  2. MP4 is better for streaming.
  3. MKV is not supported on Humax boxes.
  4. MKV is a bit of a ‘pirate’ format.

Although the first two points apply over MKV only, AVI are not supported in iTunes, for example, and hence on iOS devices.

You can convert your recordings to MP4 without fuss using AVS Video Convertor – download a trial copy here, and if you like it, purchasing an unlimited license allows you to use all of the other Video and Audio tools, as well.

Categories: Media Formats, Software, Windows Tags:

Converting Radio recording to MP3

November 17th, 2011 5 comments

Sorry for not posting for a while… No excuses – now straight to the post. So the Humax PVRs are not just for recording TV, but very useful for radio too! Now that the radio EPG is fully populated, recording a radio series is a breeze. But for those who do listen to a lot of radio, converting recording to MP3 will save space on you recorder.

Doing this conversion with AVS Audio Converter is breeze. Remember you get all the AVS tools including this Audio Converter when you buy/register an unlimited license for £35! I say this for those who have already purchased the AVS Video Converter following my other posts. And for those who are going to purchase the Audio Converter – you will be able to download and use the Video Converter too!

First step is to move/copy your radio recordings to move/copy your recordings to a USB drive. Second is to startup AVS Audio Converter once it has installed on your PC, and click on the Import from Video button. This will show up the .ts files of your recordings. Import all the files you would like to convert.

You can now edit the recording(s) – removing pre/post-ample talk and introductions by pressing on the Editor tab. Select the section you wish to remove by highlighting the area. You can perform various tricks such as fades and other processing on your audio if you wish. Once you are happy back to the Convert by the tab and choose what output format you wish to convert to. If converting to formats which have metadata, you can also edit the filenames and tags of the files.

Finally, one neat feature of AVS Audio Converter is the facility to create an ‘audio book’ – attaching covers and making chapters out of a set of audio recordings!

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Converting SD recording to AVI

September 18th, 2011 6 comments

Well, now that you’ve recorded a load of programmes, movies, and Strictly Come Dancing! what are you going to do when you are running out of recording space? Well, some PVRs have the autodelete option, but to keep the recordings you don’t want to delete you will have to convert them to a compressed format.

Using AVS Video Convertor (download a trial copy here), you can do this with ease. First you need to export your recording to an external drive or transfer it to your computer. With access to the .ts file you can drag and drop it into ‘Input File Name’ text box of AVS Video Convertor:

Click on the Format tab, if you are not there already, and click on the To AVI icon. Now, if the recording is from a commercial channel, you might wish to edit these out. This is simply done via the Editor, click on the EDIT icon.

Move the down arrow with the separation line to the spot at the start of the advert section you wish to remove, then click on the Trim Start button (top middle section). Then move to the end of this ‘trim’ section and click on the Trim End button. If finding the start or end frame tricky, you can ‘zoom’ in by sliding the zoom bar, so that you have a better editting accuracy with the arrow/separation maker.

After marking out all the adverts, zoom out to see the pattern and check that you’ve not missed a section.

Once you’ve satisfied that you’ve marked all the adverts, select each marked area and click on the ‘Delete Object’ icon to remove the ads. Do this until all the marked objects are gone.

Click OK to close the Edit screen and go back to the main screen. Click on the Advanced >> button to get the Conversion Options full screen. In the Output File section, pull the drop down menu for the Vide Codec, select DivX MPEG-4 or XviD MPEG-4 Codec. Now, click on Convert!

Click on << Advanced button to minimise AVS Video Convertor:

At the bottom of this window, it displays the conversion progress…

This recording of The Transporter 3 movie (unedited), compressed down to  1.4GB from an initial size of 2.5GB, from .ts to Xvid MPEG-4 Codec AVI, from an initial 2.5GB file.

Try it out and Purchase License now!

With AVS Video Convertor, you can select multiple recordings to batch process all in one go! This software is an expensive tool and if you purchase an unlimited license for £35 using this link, not only do you get to use ALL AVS tools but you will support these blog posts on mine!