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High quality MPEG-4 transcoding with Mencoder

Rather than just provide a script, I've decided to present this solution as a sort of informal thesis, so hopefully it will help others to reinterpret it for their own purposes. As of 10th Dec 2011 this article is still a work in progress, so if it seems incomplete then please have patience, and come back later.

Objective: Transcode video from any source to MPEG-4 ASP (note: this is DivX 4/5, not MPEG-4 AVC/H.264), for playback on most standalone devices, keeping the file size reasonable, whilst retaining as much quality as possible, but without any regard to transcoding time or CPU utilisation. In this case I'm also going to hardsub (render subtitles directly onto the output video) a SRT subtitles file previously ripped from the source's forced subs (subtitles that only appear when foreign language is spoken, in a soundtrack that is otherwise in your locale's language). You can rip your own subtitles files using SubRip (Windows, also works under Wine) or Avidemux (multi-platform), or just download them from places like opensubtitles.org.

Note: The method used here is extremely CPU intensive, which may cause your PC to die of exhaustion, and you to die of boredom. You have been warned. :) However, the result is worth it IMHO, as the video quality is exceptional. H.264 generally produces better results at lower bitrates (or so Messiah Jobs keeps telling us), but unfortunately it's not compatible with nearly as many devices as DivX/XviD (e.g. most Smart TVs will play MPEG-4 ASP DivX/XviD files, but not MPEG-4 AVC H.264 files, mainly because H.264 is infested with a ton of nasty patents that make it difficult and expensive for manufacturers to implement). Also for compatibility reasons I've chosen the AVI 2.0 container format, and forced the FourCC from FMP4 to DX50.

Selling Free Software: An Analogy

People often conflate proprietary software with commercial software, believing software can only be sold if it's proprietary, because a proprietary license is the only thing that prevents people from using software without paying.

In fact that is not the case at all. On the one hand, proprietary software is used all the time in violation of its license, as the industry's own figures demonstrate.

So clearly proprietary licensing is no guarantee of payment, therefore the license itself is irrelevant to selling software for profit.

On the other hand, Free Software is sold all the time, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Indeed the GPL permits this, and the author of the GPL, Richard Stallman, actively encourages it.

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Andrew Orlowski

Andrew Orlowski, looking like The Picture of Dorian Gray

I know, it seems puerile to blog about one's comments being rejected from other blogs or forums, not that this happens to me very often, mind you. After all, their blog/forum, their rules. Right?

But still...

This one is rather poignant, and deserves some attention.

For those of you who read the The Register, you'll no doubt be aware of a long-term contributor called Andrew Orlowski. To describe Orlowski as having somewhat right-wing tendencies would be, frankly, a bit of an understatement. His politics and opinions are highly offensive to anyone with even a modicum of common decency, which may be why, for the entire duration of his 11 year tenure at The Register, he conspicuously remained the only contributor to completely disable comments in his articles.

Until now.