My First Mac Archive

This article was first published on 2008-03-26. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.

So imagine you just went out and bought a new DVD.  Or maybe you’ve had your favorite movie on DVD for a while now.  You also have an iPhone or a computer you want to put it on.  You might think, “What?  I can’t just click and drag the DVD to my computer and then sync it with my device?”  No you can’t.  That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to transfer it to your computer though.  There are a couple ways to do it. 

One: transfer it from the DVD.  Companies like 20th Century Fox and now Lionsgate are now making it possible to just drag the movie from the disc to your computer. 

Two: use a process called ripping.  Basically what this is, is a program reads the information off the disc and decodes it into a file on your hard drive which can then be compressed to put on your iPod, Apple TV, etc.

Method number one is very easy to learn and very easy to use.  However, there aren’t many DVD’s that offer this option yet.  The first one that offered what is known as a digital copy was Family Guy: Blue Harvest.  You begin by inserting the disc into your computer and open iTunes.  It will show up as a new device and there will be a screen asking if you want to transfer this digital copy to your computer.  The answer would most likely be yes and you just enter in the code that came with the DVD and it begins to copy.  One sync of your iPod or iPhone and its ready to view.

Method number two is a little more difficult but offers more options.  The most popular program to use is Handbrake.  The most recent version 0.9.2, only works in Leopard on Mac OS X, while version 0.9.1 works in Tiger and Leopard.  The application works the best on a Mac because you only need one step.  For Windows using Handbrake isn’t the easiest way.  There is however a way to do it and I found a nice YouTube video that shows exactly that. 

On a Mac what you do is download Handbrake and install it by dragging the application to your application folder.  Then, you take your DVD and insert it into the optical drive.  Select the DVD from the pop-up menu Handbrake has and click open (if you don’t see anything select Open Source under the File menu).  Wait while it searches the disc to find the movie. 

After it’s done, is when you can customize how the video will look.  If you don’t understand all the stuff located on the bottom, don’t worry.  Handbrake comes with over fifteen built-in presets to chose from.  Just select the one you want and it will automatically change the settings to that preset to optomize the video.  The main ones you’ll want to focus on are iPod High/Low-rez, iPhone, Apple TV, and Normal (for viewing on the Mac).  After that just click start (located at the top) and wait while it rips and compresses the movie to the file you want.  When that’s done, if it hasn’t already added it to iTunes, do so and then sync your device for watching.

Some people might look at Handbrake and say, “What are all those big words and numbers do at the bottom?”  In a nutshell increase or decrease the quality (and therefore size) of the file.  The biggest one of note is the quality section. Here you will find target size (choose how big you want the file) constant bit rate (another way to limit the file size) and constant quality (how good you want the movie to look). 

Two other options you might find helpful are under audio and subtitles.  The first is adding another audio track.  This is new in 0.9.2 (Leopard only) and can only work on devices that allow multiple audio tracks.  The iPhone and iPod Touch (with the software upgrade) are such devices whereas other iPods aren’t.  The second is subtitles.  You can select which subtitles you want in the video but keep in mind that the resulting video has them burned in.  It’s not like the audio in that you can choose which one (or none) you want showing in your video once you have it on the device; it is burned into the picture.

Do you have any tips getting DVDs into your Mac to share? Give us your questions and answers in the Comments section below!