The Easy HandBrake Subtitles Adding Method for Watching Video Freely

Table of Contents:

Video

How to Encode a Video Using Handbrake

Video encoding is the process of compressing and changing video format. The idea of compressing a video is to “lose information on the video” to gain a leaner file size without compromising quality. 

Traditional video production has always resulted in raw video outputs that are usually massive in size, and do not always meet the proper video format and screen specifications. This raw and uncompressed video makes it hard to transport it and play it. For example, it would be impossible to stream video in HD (1080p @ 60fps) to everybody, as not everybody has the right bandwidth to receive that kind of stream. Additionally, playback technology, screen types, and sizes vary a lot, so video needs to adjust. This is where Handbrake comes in handy— as a post-production tool. 

Handbrake helps prepare video for output. It encodes video to compress and make it meet the right formats and specifications.

Quality vs File Size? 

It is very likely that you are using Handbrake to compress videos, to find the optimal balance between small file size and high quality. 

What determines these factors? 

The file size is always determined by bitrate. Bitrate is the measure of data (bits) used per second of the video. Simply put, lower bit rate and you’ll have a smaller file size output (but the quality is not strictly bound to bit rate).

According to LarryJordan’s pro editor the quality of an image is based on the following six factors:

  • Codec
  • Video bit depth (8, 10, or 12-bit)
  • Compressed frame size
  • Compressed frame rate
  • The amount of movement between frames
  • Compression bit rate (Kbps or Mbps)

As with the Handbrake’s presets, the settings to compress a video will vary with what you input and output. For example, if you want a fast video compression with a high bitrate to use for social media, codec H.264 is the way to go. But if you don’t care about compression rate, and want to keep good quality at a lower bitrate, H.265 is a better option.

Encoding Technology Offered by Handbrake? 

Handbrake offers: 

  • H.264
  • H.265
  • MPEG-4
  • MPEG-2

Although video compression starts at production (at the camera level), you can transcode to different encoding standards or compress more. Cameras are usually built-in with encoding (H.264 video codec, in the majority of cases) that take raw images, encode, and store them in the device.

The newest video compression standards like codec H.265, provides a lot more advantages than traditional H.26.4 in terms of efficiency. H.265 offers from 25% to 50% better compression at the same level of video quality or significantly improved video quality at the same bit rate. But H.265 takes a long time to transcode video files, and it is still not supported by the majority of devices. 

Codec

Use H.264 video encoding, which is the default on Handbrake. H.264 is much faster than H.265 (HEVC) and is widely supported. In some exceptions, you can use (H.265) HEVC, especially for large frame sizes such as 4K. Additionally, H.265 supports 10-bit (color) which is perfect for distributing HDR. 

Quality

Quality: Handbrake comes with two options for Quality: Constant Quality and Average Bitrate (kbps). 

  • The Constant Quality method helps you have control over the output quality, but you give Handbrake control over bitrate (file size). Constant Quality can be adjusted using the RF (Rate Factor) bar. For example, an RF ranging from 18 to 22 is optimal for Standard Definition, 19 to 23 for High Definition, and so on. According to Handbrake’s guide: “Small decreases in [Constant Quality] 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.”

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

  • The Average Bitrate Method. With this quality setting, you have control over the bitrate (filesize) but give Handbrake control over the output’s video quality. The metric for Bitrate is in kbps (kilobits per second).

Don’t know which video bitrate to use? Use the following Video Bitrate vs Resolution Table as reference. 

Video BitrateVideo Resolution
300 kbps240p
500 kbps360p
1000 kbpsHD 480p
1500 kbpsHD 720p
2250 kbpsHD 720p
3000 kbpsFull HD 1080p
4500 kbpsFull HD 1080p
6000 kbpsQuad HD 1440p
9000 kbps Quad HD 1440p
13000 kbps4K (UHD) 2160p
20000 kbps4K (UHD) 2160p

Framerate (Frames Per Second – FPS)

Framerate is the amount of pictures displayed per second. Handbrake comes with two options Constant Frame Rate (CFR) and Peak Frame Rate (PFR). The CFR option makes the video strictly one frame rate throughout, while PFR allows you to select the peak of FR based on a threshold. 

There is also another option when you select “same as source”, Handbrake automatically unlocks Variable Frame Rate (VFR) and to detect frame rate and ensure the entire video is made with the same rate. 

Trimming Videos with Point-to-Point Encoding

Handbrake allows you to compress large videos even more, by trimming them. You can use a feature called point-to-point encoding (Range) which allows you to encode part of a video instead of the whole. It gets the name because you’ll need to define a start-point and an end-point. In some way, it is similar to a split or cut functionality found in video editing software. 

Trimming (or point to point encoding) can be done from the “Range” menu, which allows you to define a range based on: 

  • Chapters
  • Seconds
  • Frames. 

For instance, the option “Seconds” lets you define the start and the end time in (H:M:S). Alongside there is the Duration, which gives you the total time for the “trimmed” video. The total duration for that particular video is 00:00:12, so you can define its start and finish within that range. 

“Frames” is another option, which is simply trimming your video based on the frame number. 

A very useful feature from Range is Chapters. 

Encoding Specific Chapters

Videos in DVDs or Blu-ray discs are usually divided into logical chapters, which allow you easier navigation through the entire video. If the source is a DVD or Blu-ray, Handbrake will automatically detect chapters and add them to this Range “Chapters” menu. 

My video only has one chapter, that is why you can’t see more chapters on the screenshot. 

Once you define the range of chapters (for instance chapter 2 through 6, or 2 through 8, etc), you can use the “Chapters” tab to see the detected Chapter markers. HandBrake will copy the Chapter Markers from your source to the output file.

Detected chapters will look as in the following screenshot. 

Image Source:

Additionally, you can Import or Export chapter markers using a CSV file. 

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Making videos

Supported Output Formats

HandBrake has two methods of subtitle OUTPUT:

  • Hard Burn: This means the subtitles are written on top of the image permanently. They cannot be turned on or off like on the DVD.
  • Soft Subtitles: This means the subtitles will appear as separate selectable tracks in your output file. With the correct playback software, you’ll be able to enable / disable these subtitles as required.

Soft subtitles are currently unsupported in the WebM container.

The following subtitle types as supported as follows:

  • Bluray PGS Subtitles

    • With MP4, you can burn ONLY 1 subtitle track into the video.
    • You can not pass-through PGS into MP4 as this file format does not support it.
    • With MKV, you can pass-through multiple PGS tracks. These are not burned into the video unless you choose to do so however you can only burn 1 subtitle track into the file. The rest must be passed through.
  • DVD Bitmap Subtitles (VOBSUB)

    • With MP4, you can burn ONLY 1 subtitle track into the video.
    • With MKV, you can pass-through multiple VOBSUB tracks. These are not burned into the video unless you choose to do so however you can only burn 1 subtitle track into the file. The rest must be passed through.
  • CEA-608 Closed Captions (DVD and some ATSC streams)

    • When selected, these will be passed through from your source file to the MKV or MP4 output file.
    • Only 1 CC track can be read from the source.
    • CC tracks within an MP4 appear as a subtitle track, not a CC track.
  • SRT Subtitles

    • Can be read from your source file or imported through the “Subtitles tab” if you have separate files(s)
    • You can set an offset (measured in milliseconds) to change the start time that the first and subsequent SRT subtitles will appear. Use trial and error encoding a single chapter to obtain the correct offset.
    • You should make sure the correct character code is selected from the “Char Code” dropdown. Selecting the wrong code, will result in your output file having no subtitle track, and can cause the player to crash when playing that track.
    • Please note, SRT tracks are converted to SSA in the output file. This behavior is not currently configurable.
  • SSA Subtitles

    • SSA Subtitles can be passed-thru or burned into the video.
    • When burned into the video, all styling (e.g. fonts, colors, etc) is preserved.
      • Animated effects (e.g. fade in/out, karaoke) are not currently supported. (Only the middle frame of the animation will be used.)
    • When passed-thru as text, only bold/italic/underline styles are preserved. Some players may not support the simultaneous display of multiple passed-thru SSA subtitles.

Summary

The best of Handbrake, despite being one of the most powerful encoders, is that it is 100% free and open source. 

People love Handbrake because it comes with fantastic preset parameters and queuing functionality. So anyone can convert a big list of MKV movies to MP4, or compress 4K movies, and take a break from the computer. Another big benefit of Handbrake is that it lets you rip your DVD or Blu-ray disc collection into media files. 

If you want to improve your media, even more, Handbrake can be paired with other sets of tools, like a Seedbox and Plex media server. Just download different media formats safely and anonymously from the Internet into your Seedbox, automate and optimize the video encodings with HandbrakeCLI, and organize your media collection with the Plex Server. 

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