I'm converting many Blu-ray discs to MKV with Handbrake and in most cases, keeping English subtitles as a stream in the container. It occurred to me that if I crop the black bars on (very) wide screen movies, that the subtitles will show in the video portion of the movie...yet if I keep the black bars (keep it at 1920x1080), I get the subtitles below the movie which looks better.
I know encoding black is somewhat wasteful, but it also compresses very easily.
Is this a common practice, and for that same reason? Or do many of you simply crop the black bars and watch subtitles over the movie?
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It's completely a matter of personal preference. The bitrate for encoding solid black is negligible.
Try to make its height a multiple of 16, the usual height of AVC macroblocks. This should ensure a rather sharp border.
I actually prefer the subtitles to be over the video myself. When they are, you can watch the video and read the subtitles without having to constantly change your point of focus. When they're below the video I find having to look "up and down" a bit distracting and it takes more effort. It is a personal preference thing.
Plus I tend to do terrible things (according to some) such as zooming in on the video until it fills the screen even though it means I lose a bit of picture off the sides (I use MPC-HC as my media player and it will zoom without distorting the picture). As "fills the screen' obviously means "until the black bars are gone" I can't use them for subtitles if I want to zoom.