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Summary:

Mac OS X is a wonder. When it comes to personal information management, entertainment and the Internet, it’s got all the basics covered. Beyond that, there are a handful of “essential” apps most Mac owners install on a new machine within minutes of booting it up […]

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Mac OS X is a wonder. When it comes to personal information management, entertainment and the Internet, it’s got all the basics covered. Beyond that, there are a handful of “essential” apps most Mac owners install on a new machine within minutes of booting it up for the first time. Handbrake is undoubtedly one of those essentials. And it just got a serious new upgrade.

Handbrake is a very handy (pun intended) DVD-ripping utility that converts DVDs to self-contained video files that can be played back on a computer or mobile device. (Contrary to the outright lies of major motion picture studios, there’s nothing wrong with having digital backups of movies you already own). In addition, DVDs can be converted into a number of formats, resolutions and aspect ratios. For many years, it has served as the single easiest way to get my movies off-of DVD discs and onto my iPods, iPhones and even my PSP.

The latest release, Handbrake 0.9.4, includes support for Snow Leopard, and is also available in 64-bit editions for both Leopard and Snow Leopard. It also adds the ability to include multiple subtitle tracks to exported video and a new “live preview” for viewing the likely outcome of an export before committing to a lengthy rip.

According to the release notes on the Handbrake website, the latest version includes new features like “macroblock tree rate control” and “weighted P-Frame prediction.” I’ve absolutely no idea what any of that means, and although they do provide links to explanatory articles, it made my head swim. I’ll just assume it’s all very swish and futuristic and good for my rips.

The introduction of a 64-bit version is good news for those of us using true 64-bit multi-core processors, though the performance increase is a fairly modest 10 percent. The software also supports non-DVD encoding, which is great news for those of us who do a lot of video editing. (I prefer to use Final Cut but often have to import raw data into iMovie only to export it out to a format Final Cut will accept. Handbrake won’t cut out this extra conversion step, but it performs far faster than the monolith that is iMovie and provides more flexibility in export formats.)

It’s not all about video, either. Handbrake offers great audio encoding options, including the newly-added ability to encode AAC using OS X’s Core Audio (which means far higher quality than was possible previously).

Of course, there are a lot of other software titles that offer similar functionality (Aimersoft’s popular DVD Ripper, for instance) but Handbrake is free. Although this means it has no official support, it does enjoy an active and enthusiastic user community so if you get stuck you won’t have far to go to find answers and help.

If you are using a 64 bit machine and want to get the full 64-bit goodness from Handbrake, you’ll need the 64-bit version of VLC Player, the latest nightly builds of which can be found here. (Please note that VLC Player 64-bit is beta software and as such offers no end-user support.) Handbrake 0.9.4 is available from the Handbrake website now.

  1. Oooo I’m excited I will be updating tonight.

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  2. Hi, guys, my pleasure to give you my suggestions. I use only one program called Pavtube DVD Ripper rip my DVD, no other software; Comparing with other converters, I prefer Pavtube one because of its fast conversion speed and its pretty good output video and audio whcih satisfy me.It is said that this software applies unique audio and video sync technology which can guarantee the audio and video match.
    I hope it will be of great help for you:)
    the point:
    Support VFW codec encoding and 5.1channel audio output

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  3. Thanks your sharing!
    I used it, works fine! Video is very smooth, fast conversion speed

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  4. I have to laugh at the way bloggers report things. For example:

    “the performance increase is a fairly modest 10 percent.”

    Yet when they’re reviewing new hardware, a Mac that is 5-7% faster than the previous model is ‘blazing fast’.

    Frankly, I’m more impressed with a 10% performance increase for a free software upgrade than I am with a new generation hardware that’s 5-7% faster.

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  5. First I had to compare Pavtube with Handbrake. I could not get Pavtube to do anything with a DVD so I used an .avi file to compare. Note: I wanted Pavtube to win.

    I’m doing this on a new dual quad core Mac, BTW.

    Source, an .avi file of a downloaded TV show, length: 41:35
    Output: an h.254 .mp4 file

    With Pavtube the process took 20:44 and used 110% CPU.

    Note: 100% is all of one core.

    With Handbrake the process too 5:12 and used about 600% CPU.

    So the feeble Handbrake is four times faster than the speedy Pavtube, and the resulting quality was remarkably better with Handbrake as well. I’d have to recommend saving your $35 bucks.

    Here are stats on using Handbrake to RIP a movie DVD.

    Length of DVD: 96 minutes
    ripping to: .MP4 file using the H.264 codec.

    Ripping time: 15:46

    CPU% ranged from 372 to 925, mostly in the mid 600s.

    fps averaged 153 for the entire operation, ranging from 114 to 216.

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    1. Would anyone have specs on encoding a DVD using a MacBook pro?

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  6. With Handbrake, can I get an audio track separated from a music DVD? Something that’ll simply play on my old non-video iPod Nano ?

    thanks
    LT

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  7. Just a quick correction for you… although I suppose it would depend on what country you are from. But I’m fairly certain that, in the US at least, backing up movies itself is not illegal, but the method by which one has to back up movies is. Circumventing any copyright prevention technology is illegal, and unfortunately every-time someone rips a dvd, they are breaking a law.

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  8. so everyone rippin away with no issues. where’s your 64bit VLC.app? It’s NOT, so how’re you getting the speed using the 32bit version since I’ve used that and it takes FOREVER to create anything. Thank goodness for ripit for those things I own that I want to carry on my iPhone.

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  9. There is a link in the article for the 64 bit VLC. It is a beta that is working great for me and I based my timing on it. Let’s try ripit.

    Ripit produces a dvd media kind of file, in other words it copies the disk to your hard drive. The resulting file is the exact same size as the DVD. And that’s all it does. It did peak at about 6% CPU usage but that seems due to the fact that it is basically a copy operation. It is not processing anything. Handbrake was about 10 seconds faster which is essentially identical except that it produced a high quality file of a much smaller size and it automatically cropped out the large black areas at the top and bottom of the movie, unlike Ripit.

    I say keep your $19.95, learn how to read reviews and follow links, and use a superior product.

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