Man vs. MKV III: Clever Subtitle Here

I tend to bounce between projects quite often, and recently I’ve been back at work on converting video into something that I can import into iTunes so it can play on the AppleTV in the living room.

My end game is basically to have only two boxes hooked up to this TV: one AppleTV for iTunes content and a PS3 for disc media.

I am some ways away from this end game, but the Handbrake developers have – at some point since I last looked – made reaching this goal considerably easier.

I have about 900 files that are in MKV format with stylized soft subtitles in Substation Alpha format, and I’ve been wanting to get those into m4v format with hard subtitles for some while now.

I had a process that does this. It was not a pretty process, because it involved playing back each file and capturing a raw video stream, then re-encoding that. This took a couple of hours per 24 minute episode but did work. It relied, also, on a custom version of ffmpeg that I’d compiled for OSX so I couldn’t move it to the encoding workhorse that runs Windows 7.

Basically it was a mess, but it managed to work about 80% of the time and there wasn’t any better alternative.

This whole thing has now been replaced with one command:

Handbrakecli -i -o –preset=”AppleTV 2″ –subtitle 1 –subtitle-burn

So, thanks Handbrake devs. You have rendered my previous process completely obsolete and I am quite in your debt for it. 🙂

My final problem is video files in avi containers with external srt-format subtitles. Fortunately I don’t have files that fit this description, but the ones I do have are driving me to distraction. I’ve been demuxing then into a video track and an audio track with ffmpeg, converting the subtitle files into Substation format with ffmpeg and then remuxing the whole mess back into an mkv, which puts it in the “previously solved problem” category, but I have about 8 of these files that simply won’t remux and I still need to sort out why.

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