Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chod's Guide to Free DVD Ripping Software -- or -- The Spring 2008 Software Guide on How to Fill your iPod up Very Quickly

This guide is for all those who want to be able to take their DVDs and exercise their Fair-Use Right to convert the movies they legally own to other formats that can be played in either portable devices (iPod, PocketPC, PSP, etc) or on computer/media centers such as AppleTV or a home-built MythTV system.

I get asked from time to time to help others decrypt their movies and this has motivated me to make this guide. Most of these requests are from people who are like me and want to use free tools, yet also want easy and high quality encodes of their movies (easy-free-quality aren't qualities you see together very often). They are also busy and don't have time to read through the countless forum entries from the great resources available from places such as Doom-9 and AfterDawn.

Now, there are many other guides out there. Several of the popular ones are getting old and the software they link to is either out-dated or it has disappeared from the interweb. This guide will try and focus on the very best software available as of today, realizing that in 6-12 months people will look back on this guide with 20/20 hindsight and see all of its flaws and lack of forward-thinking.

I work with Windows and Mac OSX most often. I do play around and use various Linux (GNU) operating systems from time to time, but that is not my specialty. Ironically, some of the best tools available (and the libraries upon which others are based) for both the Mac and Windows machines come straight from the many open source tools initially developed for Linux (FFMPEG, libdvdcss, libavcodec, XviD, Mencoder, Mplayer, VLC, etc).

So without further blabbering... Here is the list of software I use and love (LOSIUAL).

DVDFab HD Decrypter (Currently at version - PC Only

This is a free decrypter that will copy the DVD to a hard drive. There is a commercial version from the same company called DVDFab Gold (or Platinum) that will shrink the DVD down or copy it all to a Dual-layer DVD. The Platinum version says it will also convert the movie to a MPEG4/h.264 format for an iPod or Divx format for an iPaq. This software may be all that is needed if the Au or Pt versions are purchased. I've never tried the Gold or Platinum version, so I don't know how well it works. The reason is because of other free software listed below. (The free decrypter would be considered Cheap and Effective... but adds the step of saving the whole 5+ GB of DVD to your hard drive)

Handbrake 0.9.2- GUI and CLI for both Mac and PC 

This software is my favorite on the Mac... but the PC version still leaves a little to be desired. It will re-encode an encrypted (only unencrypted DVD in Windows...sorry) DVD into many different Mpeg4 formats (including h.264 for the iPod). Probably the best FREE converter for the iPod anywhere! (Cheap and Easy... the Mac version really is better)

DVDshrink - PC Only (free)

This will shrink the decrypted DVD so it will fit on a single sided DVD. It works well, but I happen to know that the new Roxio and Nero both will do this step as well. Many people have either Roxio or Nero software on their machines already, so using the commercial software if you have it may be a good option. In fact, Roxio Easy DVD Copy® 4 Premier (~$49 I think) will both shrink and convert your unencrypted DVDs for backup and portable devices like the iPod. (Cheap and Effective... but adds another step)

Commercial decrypter

AnyDVD (~$77... it is really 49 euros).

Very good decrypter (even better at times than DVDFab HD Decrypter). From the Website:
"AnyDVD works in the background to automatically remove the copy protection of a DVD movie as soon as it's inserted into the drive, allowing you then to backup the movie using a DVD backup tool..." (Easy and Effective... not cheap)

Honorable Mention:

MacTheRipper - Mac Only DVD decrypter/ripper (The good version is in Beta, v.3... a "donation" is required to gain access to this file!)

iSquint - Mac Only H.265/MPEG4 encoder (that is what the iPod needs)... I use Handbrake to do this and find better quality and more options, but iSquint is certainly easy and free.

OK... here is my advice on using these tools:

  1. Decrypt the DVD using either DVDFab HD Decrypter (PC) or MacTheRipper (Mac) first. I know a lot of people just want one step, and I can feel their pain... but by ripping the DVD first, they save the wear on their DVD reader/burner AND it makes the re-encoding step much faster. Besides, they won't get halfway through the next step and have an error from the encoder and end up wasting a whole night trying to figure out what went wrong.  Just trust me on this one.
  2. Use Handbrake and select the preset on the right for the device the movie is being encoded for. Did I mention to use the presets... yeah, I know... where is the adventure. Actually, I usually change the settings around a bit depending on what my source is (animation, action movie, slow boring drama...) but most people should just trust the presets and then begin to change one thing at a time to see what it does. Change too much and the movie won't play on the iPod... trust me.
  3. Drag the movie file that was just made to iTunes and sync with the iPod. It's really that easy!

I may make another guide describing some of the settings I would change for different devices, but I want people to experiment and then let me know how these tools work for them.


Shane & Casey said...

Thanks for the guide. You must of been reading my mind=-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Chod,

I represent the MPAA. It was brought to our attention that on May 26, 2008 you gave instruction on how to create video files from copyright DVDs. We understand your enthusiam for video on your portable media player, but DMCA law prohibits the explaination of these tools, and certain redistributions. You have 10 days to take it down.


Chod said...

sorry... i'm a n00b and i don't know how to remove free speech.

dvd backup said...

Such procedures always get me wondering if it is legal even though the dvd's are purchased.

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