To Convert or Not to Convert

To convert or not to Convert, that is the question.
When processing Bluray discs for adding to my Plex media server, I have a workflow. First, use MakeMKV to rip the media to an .mkv file, then it can be uploaded to the Plex directory and made available. However, these files are large. Scratch that, they are friggin HUGE. Alien for example is 30GB.

Disks are cheap, so why even bother converting?

The argument to convert

The 30GB file can be processed and squeezed down to ~5GB. A factor of 6 reduction. Not to be sneezed at. Additionally, that will reduce the overhead on the Plex server, as the full resolution BD rips often have data streams at 10 to 30MB/second, and pumping that to my Tivo for instance, means that it has to be down sampled in real time to 4MB/s stream, as that is the limit.

By pre-processing into an h.264 stream closer to that bit rate will reduce the work needed to be done. I have presets in Handbrake that do this conversion, and the quality is outstanding.

Seems like it should be a simple decision tree, and the answer would be an unequivocal yes. Reduce storage, ample quality, and a lighter load on my lil’ NUC that is my media server.

But that is only half the argument.

The argument to keep native

Bluray discs use a different method of handling subtitles, and if you want to preserve them, you have one choice, burning them into the media stream. As in, they will always be visible. Sure there are some things you can do to work around these limitations, but I have tried, and, frankly, they suck. Better than nothing, but not as good as the original alignment.

Second is speed. The NUC is plenty powerful to convert at up to 200 fps of DVD sources, but Bluray sources are far more data dense. In reality, with the dual core, quad thread of the built in processor, I am lucky to process at an average of 7fps. That is roughly 1/4 playback speed, and therefore, to convert a 2 hour video, it will take 8 hours.

8 Hours of 4 threads pegged at 100%. My poor NUC.

If I was serious about this, I would build a monster system, akin to this for the transcoding, 16 cores (2 CPU with 8 cores each, 16 cores, and 32 threads) this system will make it much more efficient. But alas at the cost of an insane amount of electricity to be consumed, and enough waste heat to make my room into a sauna.


I will stick with the mkv files, and toss storage at it. As most of my collection is digitized, and working with satisfactory results, I will live with it as-is.

The true sad item is that the era of the disc is rapidly waning. From the arc of the DVD, to the BD, streaming is decimating the need for discs, and my quantity of purchased media is dwindling.

Next challenge will be to re-rip all my music CD’s to high quality formats to be served up by my Plex server. Good times to be alive.

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