Last week at the Beard Bash (thanks, Jim and Rene, for the invitations) I was surprised by acknowledgments from some other attendees—not the attention itself, but how they recognized me and what they wanted to discuss. It was delightful.

During those rare occasions when I visit developer conferences or parties, I usually just blend in with the hobo-nerd style of everyone else. So other than being obviously older than average, I don’t stand out in a crowd. Blandness is an underrated superpower. Take note, flashy mortals.

Anyway, I would say something out loud at the party—usually to my wife because she attends these events with me—and invariably someone would join in with, “Hey, are you Don Melton?” And then ask me about… no, not Safari and WebKit… my Video Transcoding project. Seriously.

It seems that my voice, after blathering on so many podcasts for the last few years, is now quite distinctive to some of you. Maybe it’s my demented-gorilla laugh that gives me away? I don’t really know.

Along with thanks for doing the project—and that appreciation is much appreciated—questions about transcoding came from both home enthusiasts and professionals. There was also quite a bit of discussion about High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), which the Fruit Company announced support for earlier in the day.

Here are a few things I said to the nice folks there and to some others later online:

  • There’s no such thing as an archival transcoding. That’s not what transcoding is for. It’s about portability. And it’s always a tradeoff between quality and size. Not to mention time. Your original DVD or Blu-ray Disc rip is your archival version. Storage space is cheap. So don’t throw away your original rips.
  • Stop trying to mimic Netflix engineering if you’re only transcoding your home disc collection. You don’t have the server farm or time to spend on that. This is exactly why I created the transcode-video tool. Even its default settings will deliver high quality at a reasonable speed without overheating the planet.
  • Hardware-based transcoding, e.g. Intel Quick Sync Video, is a great solution for real-time applications like video conferencing. But at the moment it means lower quality when applied to your disc collection. Of course, that may change someday. In the meantime, everyone needs to calm the fuck down.
  • HEVC/H.265 is clearly the future. It will eventually replace H.264 as our preferred video format. But that doesn’t mean such a future is here yet for home transcoders. The open source x265 encoder is making rapid progress, but it’s still not entirely practical for that domain. And it remains to be seen whether the HandBrake, FFmpeg or Libav teams will integrate Apple’s HEVC implementation. My guess? Not anytime soon.

So I totally geeked out at the Beard Bash but with transcoding geeks this time. It was worth it—even having to drink all that Heineken.