When I picked up a 60GB video iPod, I felt like I did when I first discovered MP3 music files. Back then, SoundJam made it easy to take my library of CDs and rip my own digital versions of those songs. Now I wanted to do the same thing for all of those DVDs on my shelf. The movie industry makes this more difficult with region codes and encryption and the file sizes and processing power required are also an order of magnitude larger.
After spending several weekends reading online tutorials and experimenting with different programs, I have finally found a process that I’m happy with. It’s not perfect, but it creates a nice balance between file size and picture quality. It also let’s me queue up files to process overnight, which is handy. I’ve now filled up the iPod and have started using two external hard drives to create an archive of movie files that can be swapped with the iPod (one for movies and one for TV shows).
Here is my process in a nutshell (running on a PowerMac G5 dual-processor tower with Mac OS X):
- Use MacTheRipper to create a Video_TS folder on my local hard drive.
- Use HandBrake to create an .mp4 file from the Video_TS folder data.
- Use iTunes to copy the .mp4 files to the video iPod.
- Back up the .mp4 files to external storage.
One note about this process. Programs like MacTheRipper are on shaky legal footing in the United States. Whether or not it should be illegal to remove encryption and region codes is something I will leave up to the lawyers and legislators–I just want to be able to excerise my fair use rights to things I’ve already purchased (sometimes more than once due to the lack of kid-safe DVDs).
H.264 vs. MPEG-4
The videos that Apple sells on the iTunes Music Store use the H.264 video codec. They look great, but the resolution is 320×240 (the largest the video iPod can play). Handbrake can create H.264 files, but they take a long time to encode and I’ve never been able to approach the quality level that Apple does. I’ve settled on MPEG-4 codec for now, as they are quicker to create and the video iPod can play MPEG-4 files that have a larger resolution. I’ve settled on a width of 480 pixels, as that size plays back nicely on a standard definition television (connected to the video iPod by a docking station). The files sizes are larger than H.264, though, with an average movie file coming in at around 800MB.
Other Variables and Settings
On the MacTheRipper side, I use all of the default settings, but sometimes make a change in the Mode section based on the type of DVD I’m ripping. For TV show DVDs like Futurama, I do a Full Disc Extraction so that I can encode each episode separately. For movie DVDs, I select “Main Feature Extration” to keep file sizes down and elminate trailers and DVD extras:
For Handbrake, I use the default average bitrate of 1000kbps and check 2-pass encoding. I leave the audio settings at the defaults, unless there are foreign language and subtitle issues with a movie.
I give the destination file a unique name, then click on the picture settings button to set the resolution at 480 width, leaving all other buttons at the default:
If I have multiple files to create, I click the enable queue button and add items to it. If you are doing 2-pass encoding, each pass appears separately in the queue…DK
Originally published by DK on April 2, 2006 at 12:38 am