Vector 22: Don Melton on transcoding video

Vector 22: Don Melton on transcoding video

Vector is our cross-platform, cross-site podcast where we talk about the technology that matters to all of us. In this episode, Don Melton, former Engineering Director of Internet Technologies at Apple, deep-dives into his non-browser-based passions: Blu-Ray, transcoding video, H.264, and managing massive amounts of media. Bottom line, if you want to get your videos onto your devices, and you're not afraid of command-lines or codecs, you're in for one hell of a ride. But, yeah: Warning: Contains extreme nerdery.

Show notes




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Corkers100 says:

Nerdery! Excellent

NIST says:

Command lines? What? Transcoding video from one format to another is pretty easy. Especially with software like Xilisoft for Windows. You can rip and convert to any format pretty darn effortlessly.

ladydias says:

Was thinking about format factory myself.

Rene Ritchie says:

This is a little different. Don's talking about transcoding perfectionism somewhat. Automatic solutions, for example, can fail to properly render scenes in Jaws or other movies, or just lose detail, etc.

We start off by saying most humans don't need to know this stuff. It's for people who want perfect transfers and really notice even small issues.

ladydias says:

Ah, gotcha. I'm not that type but I have friends who are. :-)

Fellipe Abib says:

FormatFactory is the best!

eolorvida says:

this should be on video... :S

I need a program that will edit the mp4 tags correctly to place movies in movies, tv shows in tv shows, and then those episodes in the correct season, etc. Im tired of all my movies and tv shows being a garbled mess in 'personal'. As badly as they have messed up Xbox Music, they have messed up Xbox video ten-fold.

On Windows, I use posh scripts (aka Windows PowerShell), to do file system level stuff. For instance, I made a script for my audio collection folder with some hundred tracks (pre-released sudio tracks and more tracks). I first organize the songs in folder (Vocals -> Artists -> Albums -> *.mp3's). Then I updated the meta-data taken from an xlsx file, implemented with posh with following algorithm:

- Open and parse xslx in a loop iteration.

- For each row, read cells and concatinate it to construct a file absolute path and update the metadata.

- Close the xslx file after the loop.


You can find readymade posh scripts by going to I use it for all kinds of operations. Since Windows XP SP2, PowerShell is not just a replacement to cmd, you have entire cmd, powershell cmdlets, system calls AND whole .NET framework at your disposal. Once you learn the posh syntax and tricks, you will feel like a superman  You can even host websites using CLI (haven't tried OWIN yet but we can certainly do nodejs and owin with powershell). PowerShell is good for all kinds of software automation, for some hetrogenous chores (download all docx docments from certain URL and batch convert them to pdf), interacting with filesystem. !!  8-)


For video conversion (HTML5-mp4 or avi / mov / mpg / wmv), I use ffmpeg with CLI (posh and / or cmd). You can also use Mplex.

Finally, if you are on Windows and don't wana dig into CLI, you can always download Windows Live Movie Maker edge version for free and convert videos for any platform (Android, Xbox, iOS, Windows Phone, Zune, HTML5, SkyDrive, Youtube etc.). Many profiles are available and you can create profile for your device with custom settings.


Headsup, since Firefox is finally gonna support H.264 (mp4) format in early 2014, we would need one video file for our websites!

Localhorst86 says:

Nevermind, this post was garbage.

Ticomfreak says:

Read "Don Melton" as "Don Mattrick" lol

Diego Amador says:

i´ve found Wild Media Server to be the perfect program for this, transcoding my content on the fly from my pc to my home theater or other dlna devices. the problem is it depends on your internet capacity but, at least is the most hassle free option ive found.

Totally not trying to troll, but the way you describe Don is very confusing, and I'm wondering if this is addressed in the podcast.

You mention that he's passionate about Blu-Ray in the description. When did he work for Apple? I ask, because the only way that I could buy someone from Apple being all that passionate about Blu-Ray is in their disdain for it.

In fact unless something has changed I don't believe there's actually a way to play normal BD content on a Mac. Am I wrong?

Rene Ritchie says:

Don worked for Apple until last year. While there, he was responsible for creating WebKit and Safari. Prior to that he worked on open-sourcing Mozilla for Netscape.

He's passionate about Blu-Ray because he loves movies and would rather buy the best quality source he can.

You can play Blu-Ray on the Mac with an external drive and 3rd party player. 

The amount of nonsense put into Blu-Ray in the name of "copy protection" (HDCP, Java virtual machines, etc.) makes it really unpleasant, as do the encryption keys that expire, trailers you can't skip, junky menus, etc. but sadly Hollywood has no interest in a better experience for paying customers :(

Rene I hear ya. I personally was a bigger fan of HD-DVD. Java to me is just a bad idea in general when it comes to something where you need light and nimble performance.

I also hadn't realized that there were any properly licensed playback apps for the Mac.

I just see star trek and had to read!

pocketDragon says:

A quick question, where are the HandbrakeCLI scripts? I was unable to find them on his blog.

Rene Ritchie says:

I believe his scripts are meant to run on OS X (and I guess BSD UNIX), but here they are: