Blu-ray to 1080p MP4 with smooth playback on native ATV2
A while back I made several attempts at getting my Blu-ray MKVs converted to a 1080p MP4 format that would play smoothly on the ATV2. No matter what I did, the files simply would not play smoothly. During this time I had jailbroken a couple of my ATV2's and could play these same files smoothly via XBMC. So I knew that the limitation was with Apple's built-in player and not with the ATV2 hardware (Note: The ATV2 will not *output* 1080p even via XBMC, but it will play 1080p files downscaled to 720p). For anyone wondering, the reason that I wanted to maintain the resolution at 1080p was so that I could have a single version of the movie on my server which could be played at 720p in rooms with and ATV2 and in other rooms with a more capable streaming device/computer at 1080p. I also figured that eventually Apple would get around to releasing an ATV3 with 1080p output capability. So, I was looking to produce a future-proof 1080p MP4 file, so that I didn't have to go through the effort of reconverting these movies again in the future.

Anyway, as I mentioned, all of my tests with Handbrake failed. The files would play smoothly via XBMC, but have noticeable stuttering and/or reduced framerate when playing the same movie through the native ATV2 UI/player.

Now flash forward to the release of iOS5 and the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S can record video at 1080p and you can stream those videos over AirPlay to the ATV2 which will play them smoothly (albeit output to the TV at only 720p). Now, I have trouble believing that the iPhone 4S is doing on-the-fly transcoding from 1080p to 720p before sending the video over AirPlay, so I'm assuming that the ATV2 is playing these 1080p files smoothy on its own. This would suggest that there should be a way to encode my Blu-ray 1080p files to a 1080p MP4 format that will play smoothly on the ATV2. But even after the iO55 update, my ATV2 still won't play the encodes I've made smoothly.

Now since I'm posting this in the XBMC forums (I've also posted this same thing on a couple of other Apple forums), I'm sure that many of you are wondering: Why bother worrying about playing them smoothly under the native ATV UI since you can play them smoothly via the XBMC UI. That's a fair question, and there are a couple of reasons for this. One might be that I'd like to play these same files on non-jailbroken ATV2's, or non-jailbroken iPhone 4's or iPads.

Has anyone else attempted this and had success?
I have yet to have issues with any of my 1080 h.264 mkv's on my ATV2. Get the MediaInfo data on the files that don't play smoothly and post them here. I think there is a bitrate threshold where the ATV2 starts to choke, but there doesn't seem to be a conclusive bitrate.
Ned, thanks for the reply, but you misunderstood my question. I'm talking about being able to playback 1080p MP4 files from within the native Apple-side UI (including non-jailbroken ATV2's). As I mentioned, I'm already able to play super-high-bitrate 1080p (Blu-ray rips) via the XBMC side, but I'd like to re-encode these rips to a 1080p MP4 format that will play smoothly on the native ATV2 side (output at 720p) and play at 1080p on other more capable devices (e.g., my Acer Revo).
And what's the difference between handbrake and iPhone made files, when compared with media info?

I suppose you tried using handbrake ATV2 preset, but changing manually to 1080 instead of 720 and that did not play? I haven't played with it a while, but as far as I remember this is how I was doing it. And make sure default audio track is in Dolby pro logic.
My skins:


I was doing exactly what you are trying to do. Encoding my blurays at 1080p. I used the High profile preset in Handbrake at Constant Quality RF: 22. I also had trouble until I started "optimizing" the videos using subler for mac or drax for windows. Apparently you can do this in Handbrake as well. Click the "web optimized" option for your encodes. YMMV but it worked very well for me. Also, High Profile is a little harder to decode, so using the Apple TV 2 preset might work if High Profile doesn't.
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Blu-ray to 1080p MP4 with smooth playback on native ATV200