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Handbrake Encoding Settings for USB Channel

Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:08 am

This is a guide for the use of Handbrake to encode video for optimum playback in the Roku USB Channel.
(Although other good tools are available, Handbrake excels at ease of use with extremely good output.)
(These recommendations have been extensively tested with both the Roku XDs and the Roku 3 connected to a Samsung HDTV.)

General recommendations

  1. Use a current Handbrake Nightly build, which is generally quite stable and usable, rather than the 0.9.8 release build, which is badly out of date, and update Handbrake monthly. (I'm using svn5379 as of this writing.)
  2. To make your own Roku preset, start with the Handbrake High Profile preset, and make only minimum necessary changes -- Handbrake presets are generally good.
  3. Don't try to second guess the x264 developers -- default x264 settings are quite good -- only make changes if you really know what you are doing.
  4. These recommendations are tuned for:
    • Transcoding material from DVD, Blu-ray, and HDTV sources. For other sources you may want or need to adjust settings.
    • Playback on Full HDTV connected to 2.1 sound system. For other playback you may want or need to adjust settings.
Output Settings

If your output will exceed 4 GB, be sure Large File Size is checked.


For preservation of source material with highest compatibility, set Anamorphic to None and Modulus to 16.


Setting Denoise to Weak can substantially reduce output file size with little or no degradation in visual quality. (Otherwise x264 will produce a largerr file size to faithfully preserve noise!) For noisier sources, it can help to increase this to Medium.


  • Constant Quality is better and faster than Avg Bitrate, and 22 will produce very good quality at a relatively low bitrate. For better quality with a larger file size, you may wish to try 21 or even 20. (Lower number is higher quality and file size -- see Constant Quality Guide.) (If you must set bitrate, see Note 2 below.)
  • Although the default x264 preset of Medium produces good results, Slow will do better without much increase in encoding time. (In gneral, use as slow a setting as you can tolerate.)
  • For x264 Tune, if your sources is DVD, Blu-ray, or HDTV, use Film or Animation depending on the particular material. (This helps reduce visual artifacts and file size.)
  • Set H.264 Level to Auto, which will set the minimum level needed (and works well for Roku).

  • Set DRC (Dynamic Range Compression) to 1.0 to process compression hints in AC3 sources. (For more information see this link.)
  • Default Bitrate of 160 for AAC is as high as you need for excellent (transparent) audio quality, and a lower bitrate won't make enough difference in file size to be worth the quality loss.
  • Since AAC Dolby Prologic II suits my needs, I remove AC3 Passthru in order to decrease file size.

Roku doesn't support chapters as of this writing, but might in the future, so check Create chapter markers.


  1. 720p is a big jump in quality over DVD, but 1080p is a much smaller jump in quality over 720p (for typical HDTV) at a much larger file size, so you may find 720p a good compromise.
  2. Rules of thumb for video bitrates typically needed for very good visual quality with H.264 AVC variable bitrate encoding:
    • 848x480: 1,000 Kbps
    • 1280x720: 2,200 Kbps
    • 1920x1080: 4,000 Kbps
Screen Shots
Hope this helps,
Roku 3 (4200R)

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