Whether you’re trying to protect your DVDs from your kids, or you just relish the concept of all of your personal DVD library conveniently accessible with the touch of a remote – storing your DVDs in your iTunes Library for access via your computers, mobile devices, and TVs is a more convenient way to access them, and helps protect your expensive DVD collection. In this article I’ll walk you step-by-step through the ripping process.
I don’t offer legal advice here. On the whole, it is legal for an individual in the United States to make a copy of media he/she owns for his/her own personal use. Distributing software that circumvents copy protection is illegal. Sharing digital copies of copyrighted media (music, videos) is also illegal. This means sharing your ripped movies with your friends is illegal.
So let’s get down to it. You want to take that DVD, whatever it is, and get it into your iTunes Library so you can watch it.
I have been backing up my personal DVD collection for years. I’ve tried methods on Mac, *nix and Windows. There’s more than one way to do it, and no right way, but there is an easy way. And that’s where HandBrake comes in. HandBrake is a video transcoder, freely available on all major OS platforms.
NOTE: Regarding ripping – this walkthrough will focus on creating the most ideal video for viewing on Apple TV. You can still use these instructions to help you rip a version for specific devices like iPod, iPhone, or others.
STEP 1: Download and install HandBrake
STEP 2: Load the DVD in your Mac and launch HandBrake
STEP 3: Update the built-in presets.
Click the “Toggle Presets” button on the menu. The drawer will slide out, and you’ll need to click the disclosure triangle with a gear next to it at the bottom of the drawer, as shown in the photo below. Choose “Update Built-in Presets”. This is something you only need to do periodically, not every time you rip.
STEP 4: Set “Apple TV” Preset as your Default
This is something you’ll only have to do once. Now that your presets are updated, open the Apple category and highlight the Apple TV preset. Now click the gear drop-down again and choose “Make Default”.
M4 Power Tip: The Apple TV preset is great because it will ensure you get Chapter markers, Stereo and Surround tracks (if both exist), and a great quality file. Don’t mess with the Constant Quality. RF: 20 is a great balance between quality and file size.
Obviously, if you’re not ripping for Apple TV, this step isn’t necessary. Or you may choose to create a custom preset and set that one as your default. In any case, when doing a large batch of rips, it can save you headache later.
STEP 5: Scan the source DVD
Click on the Source icon in the menu. A selection window will appear, and you should click on the DVD you want to rip. Don’t select any subfolders, but the disc itself.
HandBrake will scan the disc. If it can read the disc, it will return a list of Titles that it found on the disc. This is where you may have to exercise to brainpower. Many discs are intentionally authored with dummy or extra Titles to try and trick ripping software and make ripping difficult or impossible. Many Disney DVDs have 99 Title tracks on them. Only one of those Title tracks is the main feature. HandBrake will try and guess which Title it thinks is the main feature, and most of the time it will guess correctly. But making a habit of manually reviewing the Titles before you start the rip can save you from having to start all over later, and it only takes a moment. I cover this in step 6.
STEP 6: Review the Titles and make sure the correct one is selected
Only one Title track will be the correct main feature on the DVD. Generally, but not always, the main feature is the longest Title. If you click on the Title drop down (upper left corner of the HandBrake window), it will expand to show you all the Titles HandBrake found and their lengths.
If there are only a few Titles, and one is clearly the same length as the movie, and no others are, then you’re all set. Pick that one and move on to Step 7.
If, on the other hand, you have multiple potential Titles that could be the main feature, or are identical in length, you need to do a bit more legwork. Why? Because if you pick the wrong Title, you’ll wind up with a bad movie file, or the wrong movie. Maybe the chapters will all be out of order, or maybe it will just have bad data in it. Or perhaps it will be a version with the actors and director’s commentary. In any case, you’ll be back at square one. So take a minute to make sure you have the right Title track. I’ll show you how to figure it out using different methods, starting with the easiest.
Method 1: The Preview Window
This is not foolproof. In the case of many Disney DVDs, you may see several, or even dozens of Title tracks of the exact same length as the main feature. It’s almost impossible to guess which one is the right one. Method 2 is better for those instances. But sometimes your DVD may simply have 2 versions of the main feature on the same side of the disc. One that’s widescreen and one that’s full screen. In a case like this, you might be able to quickly tell which title is the right one by using the Preview Window.
Here’s what you do: first, select the Title you want to check. Then, click the Preview Window icon in the menu. A new window will appear. Let’s say you’re looking for the widescreen version, and the disc contains both widescreen and full screen on the same side of the disc. You can preview the Title tracks with correct movie lengths and the Preview Window will clearly show you which one is which. Choose that Title and go on to Step 7.
But let’s say it is a tricky DVD with many titles of the same length, and in the Preview Window they all look the same. That’s when we use Method 2: DVD Player.
Method 2: DVD Player Never Lies
This method is foolproof. Well, at least it hasn’t failed me yet. What we do takes an extra minute to do, but will guarantee that you select the correct Title track in HandBrake. And you’ll find that you only have to do this for those few DVDs that seem to have multiple Titles of the same length that you can’t tell which is the correct Title.
First open the DVD Player application on your Mac.
M4 Power Tip: You don’t want to do launch DVD Player while HandBrake is scanning your source disc. If you do, you’ll have two applications trying to read the DVD at the same time, and you’ll hear your DVD drive start to wig out as it tries to scan two points on the DVD simultaneously. Instead, wait until HandBrake completes the Title scan, and THEN open DVD Player.
M4 Power Tip: Better still, open your Mac System Preferences, click “CDs & DVDs” and change “When you insert a video DVD:” to Ignore. Then, in DVD Player preferences (shortcut ⌘+, ) uncheck “Start playing disc” for both When DVD Player opens and for When a disc is inserted. This will let DVD Player launch without scanning the disc drive. It’s also handy because when you insert a DVD to rip in HandBrake, DVD Player would normally launch automatically, which is annoying. Now that won’t happen.
Start playing the DVD using DVD Player. Get past the previews and junk to the main menu, then select the movie to play. Wait for the FBI and Interpol warnings, for the actual movie to begin. Once you see the actual intro credits of the movie, you’re good.
In the DVD Player controls, there is a small LCD screen. Click the word ‘TITLE’ in fake LCD readout window a few times until you see the Title track numbers represented as XX/XX, as shown in the screenshot at the right. You’ll notice that the title number changes during previews, main menu, and FBI & Interpol warnings. Each of these items are contained in different Title tracks. Once the main feature actually begins – then you’ll know the true Title track number. Make a note of this, and head back to HandBrake and Step 7.
STEP 7: Optional – To Deinterlace or Not to Deinterlace
Slide the ball to “Decomb” and set the Decomb drop-down to “Default”. I know, it’s not deinterlace, but trust me, the Decomb setting does deinterlacing and more – in fact, it will evaluate each frame and decide if it needs deinterlacing, and if it doesn’t, it leaves it alone. Turning either deinterlacing or decombing on will slow down your rip time. On my Mac Pro, it’s a difference of about 10 minutes, but I can’t stand interlaced videos.
M4 Power Tip: You may be tempted to mess with the Constant Quality setting in the Video tab of HandBrake. I don’t blame you. I’ve messed with it plenty. But I found that the default value of 20 is good for pretty much everything except animation. Setting the RF value to a smaller number means a larger file, and better quality. Setting the RF value to a larger number means a smaller file, and lower quality. I like 20 for motion pictures and film, and 25 for animated TV Shows or things like my daughters Barbie animated DVDs. The file sizes are smaller, the quality appears identical to the RF 20 setting, and space is saved on my HD.
STEP 8: Rip that DVD!
Set your destination file location, and click the Start button in the menu. If you’re like me, you may decide to even queue up a number of discs (assuming you have multiple DVD drives on your computer). Yes, while HandBrake is ripping one disc, you can click the Source button again, and scan a different DVD drive and use the “Add to Queue” button to stack up the order. HandBrake will work its way through one job to the next.
M4 Power Tip: Use the shortcut ⌘+2 to open up the Queue window if you’re going to stack up multiple jobs for HandBrake. And use the keyboard shortcut
⌘+B to add a job to the queue once you’re happy with the settings.
STEP 9: Test the File
When HandBrake finishes ripping a file, you should test it. I open the file in QuickTime and let the beginning play until I see the intro titles, then I jump through 2 or 3 parts of the middle of the movie looking specifically for English audio, and synchronized audio and video. Then I jump to approximately 95% of the file to see if the end credits are there. Most of the time this lets me know the file is good. There have been exceptions where a small segment of a supposedly good video had unsynced audio and video, but it’s rare.
STEP 10: Optional – Tag the File
Although you can edit the tags in iTunes, I wouldn’t… EVER. iTunes is a horrible choice for editing tags. The metadata available for editing is limited; you can’t add Ratings, for example. And iTunes takes a long time to write the tags. Use something like MetaX or Subler. There are many mp4 tagging utilities out there. I’ll cover tagging more in depth in a future article.
STEP 11: Add your file to iTunes
Your file is tagged. You added a movie poster or art, director, release date, rating, description, a name, and even chapter names. Now just add it to iTunes and enjoy it! It doesn’t hurt to test it on Apple TV next.
If you found this article helpful, please like, tweet, or share it. I welcome your comments and suggestions for topics.
Up next: Tagging Movies for iTunes and Apple TV.