How to Calculate Handbrake Video Bitrate/Quality Settings

[Latest Updated: Nov. 1, 2018 by Estrella H. to DVD Ripping]

Convert DVD video with HandBrake

Get best HandBrake bitrate settings for compressing videos.

HandBrake is powerful integration of DVD ripping and video converting software. It is open-sourced and cross-platform on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. As for free program, HandBrake gains great reputation and popularity. However, some of HandBrake's settings are always confusing to general users, for example the mostly concerned issue - how to calculate Handbrake video bitrate/quality settings when ripping DVD and converting videos. And this article aims at illustrating how to compute these complicated settings to choose the parameters that perfectly meet your need.

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Understanding of HandBrake Video Setting Control Panel

Video Codec is device or software that enables video compression/decompression for digital video. Video codec used by HandBrake includes MPEG-4, MPEG-2, H.264 (x264/Intel QSV) and H.265 (x265). MPEG-4 is one of the latest compression methods standardized by MPEG group, and H.264 (also known as AVC, MPEG-4 Part 10) achieves high quality video in lower bitrates. There is minor quality difference between MPEG-4 and H.264, but only H.264 has the option for converting video with Intel QSV tech.

HandBrake video settings control panel

Other HandBrake video settings on the panel


Framerate (FPS) is the frequency at which an imaging device produces unique consecutive images called frames.

2-Pass Encoding

When you use average bitrate in 2-pass mode, the encoding will take twice as long. It can do a better job doling out bitrate, and you get a better quality video closer to the average bitrate you told it use.

Turbo first Pass

By enabling this, when encoding 2-pass with x264, you can cut down the time of the first pass by 50%-75%. There will be a drop in quality, but so slight as to be imperceptible to the eye.

How to Calculate HandBrake Quality Settings

!!! Update: HandBrake has removed "Target Size". Luckily, there's still a way to calculate the bitrate to get approximately the same sized output without any other software.

1. Target size is just the flip-side of average bitrate. Video size = bitrate x duration. So if you have limited HDD storage or nearly run out iPad, iPhone space, choose Target size option. Based on your need of file size, HandBrake will calculate the proper bitrate on the basis of formula above. And the input value will be in MB units.

2. When you have fair enough HDD space, the file size is obviously not a problem and Video Quality comes first. But to avoid space waste, you need to find a balance between video size and quality, which can be achieved by manually setting the Avg Biterate. See the specific video bitrate calculating formula: Bitrate=output width * output height * k * r


Excellent bitrate

Good bitrate

Normal bitrate

480P H.264

4266 kbps (720*480*0.0123*1.0)

2346 kbps (720*480*0.0123*0.55)

1493 kbps (720*480*0.0123*0.35)

480P MPEG-4

4665 kbps (720*480x0.0135*1.0)

2565 kbps (720*480x0.0135*0.55)

1632 kbps (720*480x0.0135*0.35)

Note: Different video codec has diverse K value (H.264 k=0.012345, MPEG-4 k=0.0135), and R depends on the quality you desired (excellent r=1.0, good r=0.55, normal r=0.35).

You'll notice that it is not as difficult as thought before. You can compute the approximate bitrate in accordence with the video codec you chosen and the file size you preferred. But take note that, this HandBrake Video Quality Setting formula is just approximately empirical formula. It can be applied to majority of video codecs, but not all of them. So you still need to make choices in accordance with actual situation. How to set HandBrake for X265 videos >

3. With the average bitrate or target size methods, you know exactly the file size but lose control of video quality. Constant quality mode does the opposite; you specify a quality level and HandBrake adjusts the bitrate to meet it. Because it takes a different bitrate to reach a given quality level for any given part of any movie, the output size is unpredictable and varies from source to source. In details, to preserve quality, set Constant Quality to RF20, and RF28 for higher compression. You'd better keep RF below 32, otherwise the output quality will be terrible.

HandBrake constant quality setting

Another Note: 100% applies no compression. So should you use 100% to perfectly preserve the source? Nope. You'll end up with a video way larger than the DVD, but doesn't look any better. To sum up: when converting from a DVD source, do not go above 80% quality, which is roughly equivalent to how heavily the DVD is compressed.

But some HandBrake alternatives, like free WinX DVD Ripper Platinum, can make perfect backup of the DVDs by copying DVD to computer as MPEG2 with 100% original video, AC-3/DTS surrounding audio in only 5 mins.

Something Wrong with HandBrake Since 0.9.0

  1. From HandBrake V0.9.0 (Aug 19, 2007) to V1.1.1 (June 18, 2018), users always denounce the castigate of HandBrake that - how and when can HandBrake backup encrypted Disney DVDs. Learn to conquer HandBrake VLC 64bit error when ripping copy-protected DVDs.
  2. HandBrake not support protected DVDs
  3. From Wikipedia you learn that - HandBrake is designed to convert MPEG video (including DVD) into an MPEG-4 video in MP4 or Matroska (.mkv) containers. That means you have deadly limited output choices. Sometimes HandBrake developing team lack of deep-going analysis upon specific video conversion (without specific optimization to peculiar video codec, the conversion always consumes a lot of time).
  4. Apart from HandBrake powerful DVD/video converting ability, it needs much more user-friendly GUI, since not all of HandBrake users are masterful at computer things.

At Times HandBrake Alternatives Achieve Better Video Conversion

WinXDVD multimedia software family (WinX DVD Ripper Platinum, DVD Ripper for Mac, VideoProc) are best recommended HandBrake alternatives. They are fully compatible with Windows (32 bit & 64 bit) and Mac OS and have particular Profile system, which employs best optimized DVD/Video converting scheme (tested time after time by senior Digiarty Software Developing team). In accordance with your video converting demand, they can perfectly achieve Speed, Size, Quality as you expected.

Moreover, it is pretty hard to learn to create Handbrake iPad/iPhone preset settings, but with WinX DVD Ripper/Video Converter, you can not only use prepared iPad, iPhone, iPod, PSP, Xbox profile settings, but also make self-defined Profile settings for all your portable and console players at will.

  1. WinX DVD Ripper Platinum ( free download) and WinX DVD Ripper for Mac ( free Download) will make up ripping all DVDs that always cause troubles upon HandBrake, for instance backup Sony, Paramount and Disney encrypted DVDs.
  2. Built-in 370 input codecs and 420+ output codecs, VideoProc ( free download) support all your UHD/HD/SD videos (like 4K, Blu-ray video, BDAV, AVCHD Video, etc), as well as HandBrake unsupported portable console players, like PS4, Xbox. What's better than HandBrake is that it can take full use of QSV, CUDA/NVENC and AMD to fast encode, decode and process (edit) videos in any format.
  3. Moreover, WinX DVD/Video software is designed with user-friendly GUI. Even inexperienced users can finish DVD/Video conversion without hassle.
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About the Author

   Estrella H.@hl_estrella

Estrella H. is a senior editor in Digiarty Software. She manages the software test section and creates easy and useful how-tos. When not in editing, she spends her spare time on Rubik's Cube and ukulele.

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