Necessity is always the mother of invention. Especially so in tougher economic times.
A co-worker stocks up on Netflix DVDs each month. Then rips the movies for burning and viewing using a little known, but handy Mac app. A neighbor does the same thing but uses the app to make backup copies of his DVD movie collection. What does such an app cost? What does it do?
The Little Mac & PC App That Does
Some say HandBrake is a magical app. Some say it’s a gateway app that leads to a life of crime. Others say HandBrake is a Robin Hood app that helps to provide a little right in a world full of wrongs.
However you view it, HandBrake rips DVDs and saves the video.
Basically, it will copy a DVD’s video and save it as MPEG-4, H.264, or Ogg Theora (two popular and one obscure video formats) video file. Of course, it does the same thing to audio.
In the end, you get a fully working copy of a DVD. That’s why HandBrake is so popular among movie aficionados. It’s good for time shifting DVD rentals, and good for backing up DVD movies
Need. More. Power.
As a Mac app (there are Windows and Linux versions), HandBrake is surprisingly simple to use, despite the geeky work that goes on behind the scenes to rip movies from DVDs. All that geeky work requires one thing. Horsepower. Lots and lots of CPU cycles from a powerful Mac.
HandBrake is now a 64-bit app so it loves to be used by today’s multi-core Macs. Slower, older Macs may take hours to rip a two hour DVD movie. A faster Mac may rip the same movie in an hour or less.
HandBrake comes with a number of presets to make ripping easier (it’s a complex science), including Picture Settings to adjust height, width, or crop your video (with advanced settings). There’s also a Constant Quality slider so video quality remains more consistent (multi-pass encoding is disabled).
Some older video settings haven’t made it to newer versions of HandBrake (goodbye AVI, Xvid and others, as well as some older presets) in favor of the highly popular H.264 video formats which seem to play everywhere, including many mobile devices.
Preferences are not many.
HandBrake can automatically look for a DVD, pop up an alert when done ripping, change output naming convention, output directly to an iTunes friendly video, and more.
The user interface is equally straightforward and designed not to intimidate newer users.
There are a few caveats to using HandBrake.
In some cases, with certain DVDs, HandBrake may want to use the VLC media player to assist the ripping process. Otherwise, the basic user interface is self explanatory.
Click Source to find the DVD on your Mac.
Select a Destination to save the ripped movie and Output for the file format.
Other settings include Video, Audio, Subtitles, Advanced, and Chapters, which may or may not need tweaking.
If you simply want a method to store your own DVD movies on a Mac for backup purposes, or make copies to run on your iPod touch, iPhone, iPad, or AppleTV (via iTunes), HandBrake is the only free way to go.