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25 November 2009, 17:56

HandBrake 0.9.4 arrives

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Zoom HandBrake 0.9.4 on Mac OS X 10.6.
After one year in development, the HandBrake Project developers have released version 0.9.4 of their open source multi-threaded video transcoder. HandBrake is a popular cross-platform program for converting various formats to several other formats, such as an MPEG-4 video file using the .avi, .ogm or .mkv containers. The video transcoder features subtitle support, chapter selection, picture de-interlacing, cropping and scaling, and multiple built-in pre-sets, such as AppleTV and iPhone.

According to the change log, the latest release of HandBrake features more than 1,000 changes, including "speed, size, and quality improvements" for x264. The developers note that the improvements, a "large portion" of which are from the x264 project, result in even better and faster encodes. Additionally, HandBrake now has a new and much improved compilation system and support for 64-bit systems – resulting in approximately 10 per cent better performance than the 32-bit versions.

Previously the ability to add subtitles from Closed Captioning data from DVDs or TV broadcasts meant that they were rendered onto the video track permanently, reducing video compression. The 0.9.4 update now lets users include subtitle tracks that can be turn subtitles on and off. The addition of Live Preview lets users test their settings before "spending hours on a full encode" by encoding a short clip, viewable from inside of HandBrake, from the current preview. Other notable changes include better input support for DVD and non-DVD sources alike, changes to pre-sets and the removal of several containers and a codec.

As AVI does not support modern container features, such as chapters or variable frame rate video, doesn't support large files and because the code for HandBrake's AVI muxer has not been actively maintained since 2005, it has been removed and "is not coming back". For various reasons, OGG/OGM and XviD have also been removed.

HandBrake 0.9.4 also marks the migration to "quality-based encoding". According to the developers, constant quality encoding "means that instead of telling encoders to use a specific size and vary quality to meet it, we tell the encoder to vary size to meet a given quality level". As part of the change, 2-pass encoding is no longer needed as a single pass at constant quality "provides just as much compression efficiency as two passes at an average bit rate".

More details about the release, including a full list of new features, can be found in the news file and the release announcement. Handbrake 0.9.4 is available to download for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. A user guide is also provided. HandBrake is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

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