Whether you’re looking to do some late spring cleaning, or you just want to liberate some of your guilty pleasure movies from their DVD prisons, it is time we revisit the process of ripping your DVD collection into iTunes. Ripping DVDs is not only easy, it can save a lot of money as you begin (or continue) to build your digital video library.
As the self-proclaimed digital projectionist for the casa de la Stark, let me walk you through the basic steps and available software applications to get those movies off the plastic and into your Mac.
If you assume that ripping your DVD collection into a digital format is a task that just isn’t worth your time, you’d be wrong. The typical cost of a movie from iTunes ranges from $10 to $20 dollars. Ripping DVDs you already own, or possibly DVDs you’ve picked up from Amazon.com, presents an opportunity for tremendous cost savings and greater bang for your buck. Those movies are just sitting there. Why not get them into a format that you can actually benefit from, and maybe get yourself even closer to breaking the cable!
When you first begin to rip your DVD collection it is important to map out a plan. Understanding the use of your final output can save yourself time and megabytes. For our purposes, the mission is to get a commercial DVD into iTunes so we can watch it on an iPad or through an AppleTV.
As you move through your DVD collection, you will find yourself fine tuning the process to make it perfect for your particular setup. I would also recommend that you keep all of your original DVD discs. I typically recycle the cases and store the discs on an old CD-R spindle to save space. Keeping the original disc somewhat handy in the beginning is helpful as not all rips will go perfectly, and you might not see the issue until its up on the big screen.
The current software options for ripping a DVD are virtually endless. From free to costly, easy to complicated, the right ripping tool is completely subjective to the end-user. Ideally, find something that makes your life easy while allowing you to create an output file that meets your objective. For this exercise, I will be ripping a new copy of The Recruit that I purchased from Amazon.com for $4.25 (with free shipping). The end result for each of these tools is to generate a file that I can drop into iTunes to be played on my iPad and my AppleTV.
Handbrake is an open source application that is beloved by a strong community of users. Try having a conversation about video conversion, and Handbrake will most likely be thrown into the mix. Unlike the other tools in this article, Handbrake by its own definition is not a DVD ripping software solution. Its primary purpose is about video conversion.
The importance of this fact is that it only works on un-encrypted video sources without the assistance of additional plugins or tools. Most commercial DVDs sold today have some sort of DRM encryption on them, and unless that encryption is bypassed, Handbrake won’t be able to access the video files to perform the rip (or more accurately – conversion). There are several options and third party utilities to help manage the encryption on DVDs. Handbrake, however, will actually offer to point you in the right direction and download a small package to help bypass most commercial encryption. To rip a movie using Handbrake:
- Click “Source” in top left corner of Handbrake window.
- Navigate to your DVD -> Video_TS folder. Click “Open”.
- As it scans the DVD, it will (generally) pre-select the title you need. If it doesn’t, or you want to be sure, scan the available title tracks in the title dropdown. The title with the longest duration is usually what you need.
- In the presets window, select “AppleTV” (or feel free to choose another preset that meets your need).
- Click “Start”
Featured on AppStorm before, RipIt is an easy program for ripping video from your DVD discs. Unlike Handbrake, it has built in tools to circumvent most forms of DVD encryption. It has been purposefully designed with less options in an effort to keep the process of ripping DVDs forcibly painless.
You can use RipIt to burn an exact copy of a DVD, or create a compressed video file (sans the menus and extras) to play on your mobile devices. For most users, RipIt is probably the best choice for getting your digital collection started. Interestingly enough, it uses the Handbrake CLI for the compression part of the RipIt job. You can change output formats and target a specific platform if you want (such as iPhone, iPad, etc). Personally, I think the default settings are just fine for a file that can accomplish this mission. To rip a movie using Ripit:
- Insert DVD
- Click Compress
- Click Automatically Compress
Relatively new to the Mac platform, DVDFab is a powerful ripping suite. Like RipIt, it too can bypass most encryption on today’s DVDs. Unlike RipIt, however, you can be very specific in your output options. You can create mirrored copies of your disk, or target the output for a particular platform.
If you are a cross platform user, DVDFab has a Windows client that operates in almost the exact way as the Mac version. Unfortunately, DVDFab is a bit pricey for most users and that license does not cover both a Mac and Windows installation. However, it does allow you to purchase specific modules which give you the ability to rip Blu-Rays as well as DVDs. To rip a movie using DVDFab:
- Select DVD Ripper from the options on the right.
- Select “More” from the preselects and then choose “Apple TV”.
- By default, the main movie will already be selected. If you want to change it, do that before clicking start.
- Click “display only forced subpicture” (optional). Typically, I will edit the profile and increase the volume for the ripped movies to 150%. I also change the audio output to Dolby ProLogic II for my particular entertainment output needs.
- Click “Start”
These last tools are entirely optional. When you burn as many DVDs as I have, gathering DVD cover art can be a pain. Movie descriptions? Forget it. However, if you want your movies to look like you just downloaded them from iTunes, the easiest way to do that is with a tool like MetaX or iDentify. They use the title of the movie (which you can tweak) and scans different movie databases to pull in cast, art, and chapter information. It then adds this information to the output file itself, so when you drop it into iTunes it looks as professional as the big boys.
Once you have your output file, its time to load it into iTunes. Simply grab your mp4 or m4v file and drag it over to iTunes. If you’ve used a meta program, then you will see your movie with a properly formatted title, description, and cover art. If not, then all you need to do is right click (or control-click) on the file and select “Get Info”. From here, you can update the name, add cover art, and update any other data you want.
Converting your own DVDs to a digital format is a pretty painless process. Using a few basic tools and some pre-planning, you can bring new life to that DVD collection collecting dust in your closet.