Fighting the war on .avi

I’ve had an AppleTV for a little over two years now.  That is, one of the original Intel-based AppleTVs, the ones that got dropped like a hot rock when they released the ARM-based AppleTVs much more recently.

I have one of those, too.  It was cheap after all and it does a lot more than the old one.

Anyway, it’s a great unit for playing back 480p and 720p video, with some frustrating limitations on format.  It will play pretty much anything that iTunes will take as input, and the nice thing is that anything you can make plan on an Apple TV should also play on an iPad or iPhone.

iTunes doesn’t actually take that many types of video files as inputs.

Anyway, a year or so ago I sorted out a way to convert mkv files into a format that the AppleTV would handle, with subtitles included, and I converted a few things just to make sure that it would work and then I more or less put that aside.

Recently, though, I decided to get serious.  A few months ago, I upgraded my gaming PC to a 6-core AMD 1090T processor with the justification being that a six core processor, while not really any advantage for gaming, is a beast when it comes to video encoding.

So, last week I found a tool that would look at every single media file on my server and spit out a list with the included codecs and bitrates and sizes and so forth.

It turns out that I have about 3500 video files on there, with about 400 of them being in formats that an AppleTV can play.

That’s when I decided to get a little less serious.  Starting a project of “well, I have a little over 3000 files to convert, let’s get to it” is insane.

Starting a project of “Well, let’s start by getting rid of the avi files because most avi files are encoded very poorly anyway” is a little less insane.

I whipped up a quick & dirty DOS batch file that iterates through a folder and feeds all the avi files in it to ffmpeg, and it works pretty well.  I’ve been able to encode folders with 20 or 25 avi files in them at once, and I’m getting 4-5 times realtime encoding speed which is nuts.

Now, then, flush with victory, I’ve just copied all seventeen seasons of Top Gear into a single directory and I’m letting the batch file go nuts.  That’s probably a 36 hour encoding job.

I’ll get back to you in a couple days to let you know if I still have a PC.

Update: Total run time before the encoding stopped was about 6 hours, encoding 33 episodes.  Some of these were extra-length specials, so call it 35 hours of video.  It didn’t precisely crash in any way I would have expected, ffmpeg was just sort of paused.  Let’s see how it does with the remaining 105 episodes.

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