Getting Ripped DVDs to Your iPhone or iPod

You’ve got movies, and you want to watch them… you just want to watch them on your iPhone or on your iPod. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem… you simply go to Google, search for some kind of tutorial for ripping the DVDs, and then you’ll be on your way… but you didn’t anticipate the stench-filled sewers you would have to crawl through to attain your goal. You didn’t think you’d have to stoop this low to complete your journey. No, I’m not talking about digital rights management… I’m talking about the fact that someone made a tutorial that showed how to rip a DVD… using the putrid footage of Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill.

Comment by Brian: Yes, that is our very own author Everett playing the role of Quentin Tarentino just for this post. Wow.

Some friends of mine have tried to convince me that Kill Bill wasn’t that bad, but *obviously* their minds have been corroded by Hollywood mediocrity. You can watch the original South Park episode I spoofed above, but I’m warning you: Matt and Trey made a horrible omission when they only took down M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay and neglected to reign in the sadistic wanker Tarentino. (Thanks to Nick Broomfield and JG Ballard for including Kill Bill in their lists of the worst movies of all time.)

Required Software (and Hardware)

Okay, on to the main event. There are several ways to skin this cat, and there are a lot of how-tos out there, but I wanted to at least mention some of the pitfalls you might encounter for our take on this topic. The instructions here are valid for Mac and Windows computers, but I’ve got more details about the Mac side of things.

You need to 1) crack the copy protection (i.e. rip the DVD), then you need to 2) transcode it into a format that your iPhone or iPod can read. The latter task is the one that is more problematic — the success rate of the transcoding software varies greatly in my experience, so you may have to try out a few methods to get this to work.

  • Handbrake — this is a multi-threaded video transcoder that you can use to encode (not rip) DVDs on your Mac, Windows, or Linux machine. Just keep in mind that it does not strip copy protection, so you’ll have to use some other software for that task when necessary (e.g. Fairmount or Mac the Ripper).
  • iPhone or iPod — uh, you’re clear on the concept of this article, right? You can stop reading the serious stuff and go watch that South Park episode if you don’t actually have a device to transfer the file to.

Ripping DVDs to iTunes: The Simple Process using Handbrake

Handbrake essentially converts the format of the DVD into something that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read. Handbrake doesn’t circumvent any copy protection though! It’s not a ripper!

  1. Put a DVD into your computer. If the DVD player launches, quit it.
  2. Launch the Handbrake application. Be sure that you’ve installed it in the Applications directory… Handbrake can get squirrely if you install it elsewhere.
  3. Open the DVD. From within Handbrake, select the entire DVD (not just the VIDEO_TS or the AUDIO_TS folders… select the entire volume).
  4. Select a File Destination. Where do you want to save the resulting file? It can be large, so choose a drive that has adequate space.
  5. Choose the correct output Preset. If you don’t see the presets drawer, you can hide/show it from the “Window” menu (or press Apple-T). Notice that there are only 3 relevant presets: iPhone / iPod Touch, iPod High-Rez, iPod Low-Rez. Consider your hardware, and choose.
  6. Click Start. Encoding can take a while… if it doesn’t, you may have a problem. If Handbrake says it’s finished after about 2 seconds, then you have to move onto a more complicated solution. Skip ahead to the next section.
  7. Add the File to iTunes. After you’ve got a playable file, add it to iTunes in your normal way… double-click it or drag the file onto the iTunes icon.
  8. Sync your iPhone or iPod. Depending on your settings, your device may sync everything in your library, or you may have to manually sync the playlist containing the movie. As long as you’ve encoded the DVD on your hard disk in an encoding iTunes can read, then you should be able to transfer it to your iPhone or iPod.

Ripping DVDs to iTunes: Circumventing Copy Protection

* My reading of US Copyright law is that you are permitted to make a backup copy of your DVDs… but I’m not a lawyer.
Sometimes Handbrake gets sassy and you get a flippant message saying Put down that cocktail… Your Handbrake encode is done! It should take a few minutes to encode a DVD… something didn’t work if it’s magically “done” in about 2 seconds. Another possibility is that Handbrake just crashes repeatedly. Either way, it’s not fun. (I only had this problem while attempting the encode on OS 10.4). Check out this related article:

FAQ: My DVD won’t Rip

Well… the problem may be that many DVDs have copy protection that Handbrake does not circumvent. It’s not a ripper, remember? It’s an encoder only.

Before you give up on Handbrake, try the process on a Mac running OS 10.5. My strong suspicion is that something in the PPC/older version of Handbrake was causing problems.

If Handbrake is having trouble because of the copy protection, you need to first strip the DVD (or the disk image) of its copy protection. You can do this using several programs such as Mac the Ripper — there are some instructions here, but the solution described there is no longer free. Below is a brief description of how to use Fairmount on OS X — this will strip the copy protection, but you’ll still need something like Handbrake to handle the transcoding. Windows has lots of ways to strip the copy protection as well, such as DVD43.

  1. Use Fairmount (or similar) to decrypt the DVD. This can happen pretty fast… it doesn’t actually import anything, it just decodes it. You’ll see that the DVD icon changes to a standard disk image icon.
  2. Copy the VIDEO_TS files to your hard drive. Now you only need to encode the video files into a format that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read — Handbrake is designed for this transcoding operation (I hope it’s not giving you grief). Instead of transcoding the DVD, you’ll transcode the VIDEO_TS folder that’s now on your hard drive.

The REALLY Simple Process: Buying and Renting DVDs from iTunes

This probably wasn’t why you came to this article, but consider this option: Go to the iTunes Store and just buy the stupid DVD. I know it sucks to pay for it twice, but you can spend a lot of time trying to make this work and at some point, it’s just not worth your time. Downloading is perfectly Ok. You’re not accepting defeat, you’re merely choosing your battles wisely. You can even rent movies on iTunes now. Nice.

Commercial Alternatives

If you are interested, there are other software packages that are perhaps less prone to error than Handbrake, you just have to pay for them. Here’s a list of some commercial alternatives.

Windows users, be sure to also see Brian’s guide to ripping DVDs using FormatFactory for Free.

3 thoughts on “Getting Ripped DVDs to Your iPhone or iPod

  1. You just need to convert your DVD movie or video to mp4 video, and then you can drag the mp4 video into your iTunes library. Plug in your iPod to computer, iTunes will detect the iPod automatically, then click iTunes menu “File -> Sync iPod”, that’s all. If you need details, here is a step by step guide would help you a lot, it’s easy to understand and works pretty well for me
    Hope it helps. Feel free to email me if you need further help

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