While there are a wide range of sources for streaming or downloadable video content for iOS devices, from purchasing movies and TV from the iTunes media store to the vast libraries of Netflix and Hulu. What do you do if you already have a DVD of the movie you want to watch?
For quite some time the answer was universal: Handbrake. Handbrake has been the Mac’s go-to app for transforming DVD video to MP4 files, whether you want to back up your DVD library or make files playable on both iTunes and your iOS device of choice. The free app isn’t difficult to use, and for those that need help there’s a wealth of instructions and advice out there. I’ve used it for as long as I’ve had a Mac; most of the titles on my Mac Mini‘s external hard drive are there thanks to it’s prowess.
Sadly, Handbrake has been in jeopardy of losing its crown as the go-to DVD ripping app. It doesn’t actually include all of the code necessary to decode the video content of discs; it relies on complementary software provided by VLC - another gem of free software. VLC is know by multimedia enthusiasts of all OS types as the best video client available- VLC can handle just about any type of video (and audio) file out there on the internet. After VLC’s recent upgrade to version 2.0.1 it ceased to play nice with Handbrake, crippling Handbrake’s ability to decode discs. I held off upgrading to the most recent version of VLC (not an easy task for an early adopter to do) but I’m still having issues with Handbrake.
For those times that Handbrake refuses to work I’ve switched to MacX DVD Ripper. The site strongly suggests using the Pro version costing $34.95, but so far I’ve stuck with the Free version and have had no issues with performance. The interface looks dated but the app works well, ripping high-quality MP4 files on my iMac in a relatively short time. The Pro version does offer some useful features the Free version lacks, such as ripping to multiple file types (MP4, H.264, MOV, FLV, MPEG, M4V, AVI, and QT(QuickTime). It also allows you to keep the 5.1 AC3/DTS audio if the disc has it rather than stripping it down to stereo or mono audio. Most importantly the paid version has the ability to bypass region restrictions and encryption like DVD CSS, allowing you to back up any disc you can get your hot little hands on.
Thanks to the Retina displays on both my iPhone and iPad no down conversion has been required for the files to be playable on their smaller screens; once added to iTunes all my rips transfer and play without issue. Those of you with non-Retina devices like the 3GS iPhone or earlier generation iPod Touch may have to do some additional formatting if upgrading your device isn’t an option. Ripping to MP4 files on high quality settings provides a very good video averaging slightly less than a gigabyte per typical length movie. A word of warning- once you start ripping DVDs titles tend to add up quickly; so you might want to invest in an external hard drive. I’ve used a Fantom GreenDrive connected via USB with good results, but currently have an Iomega MiniMax connected via Firewire that offers both a faster connection and higher capacity in an aesthetically pleasing case matching the Mac Mini perfectly.
Whether you’d like to back up your library to digital copies for archival, want to create the ultimate media center PC, or just want to watch your DVDs on the go with your iOS device ripping provides a great way to do so. Stay tuned for more advice on how to expand on your digital multimedia experience!