As we manage the school's media storage (Photos, Presentations, Performances etc) we perform a check every so often to find large files that could be taking up too much space on the servers. In most checks, there are many uncompressed (or badly compressed) video files, that are FAR larger than they need to be! Often video cameras, phones, web-cams etc save video in a poorly compressed format, which is sometimes 10x-20x larger than what it could be. Handbrake is software that allows you to compress and save this video with no noticeable difference in quality, to save you time and space on your computer, as well as our servers.

Getting and Installing Handbrake

Here are the links to download and install Handbrake.

Using HandBrake

Open Handbrake either from your Start Menu/Applications, OR you can try my other tip to start it more quickly.

It can look a bit daunting, what with all of the available options and adjustments you can make to the video (it's quite a robust bit of software!), but you shouldn't worry, you only need to know the basic steps to get your videos sorted!

Step 1: Choose a Source

Click the "Source" button in the top left of the Handbrake window. You'll be given a choice of 2 or 3 options (depending on whether you have a DVD drive)

Handbrake can convert more than 1 video at a time, and sometimes even take video from a DVD (as long as it's not encrypted or region locked).

For this example, I'm going to use a video file I found called "00005.MTS" (MTS files are raw video from many video cameras). It's less than a minute long and a whopping 97Mb!

Step 2: Tell it Where to Go

Click "Browse" and find a spot to put the final video (I've chosen my desktop) and what to call it. The "mp4" bit at the end is just the file TYPE, and you don't need to enter that yourself. 

Step 3: Begin Compressing

Click "Start" then wait until the process finishes. It will show a progress bar and some more information at the bottom of that screen, and you should feel free to get on with other tasks in the mean-time (video compression can take some time, as well as battery, so make sure you're plugged in!)

The Result

The original video was just under 100Mb. Without changing any settings or quality, I've reduced that to 31Mb (less than a 3rd!). I then played with some settings, like using a more advanced method of compression (x265) and lowering the quality slightly (still no noticeable difference in most videos), and managed to get the same video to be less than 2Mb! That's small enough to attach to an email, let alone take up any significant space on a hard drive.

What If I Need to Do A Whole Folder?

Often at MAC Language, Gateway or Drama performances are recorded. It can be useful to tell Handbrake to do a whole folder at once, and just leave it going overnight.

Step 1: Put All Videos in the Same Folder

Step 2: Set Output Folder

Open Handbrake's preferences/options, and turn on "Automatically name output files" in the "Output" section then define a destination folder for them all.

Step 3: Add Videos to the Queue

Then close the options menu, and click Source, followed by "Folder", then find that folder. Then, click the little arrow next to "Add to Queue", and choose "Add All". You should see "XX encodes pending" at the bottom of the screen, where XX is the number of videos. Finally, click start.

You'll soon have all of those videos properly compressed and residing in the folder set. Make sure they're of an acceptable quality/working then delete the old, uncompressed videos.

Extra Tips

Play around with the other settings as well if you'd like, I find one of the best ways to save some space is to downscale the video from 1080p (Width: 1920) to 720p (Width: 1280). Try it out and see if you can tell the difference! Most consumer video cameras (like the ones we use at school, or are present in our devices like phones etc) will record in 1080p, but because of limitations in their lenses/lighting conditions etc, the overall quality won't change much at 720p.