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How to Backup Your DVD Movies for Mac, Apple TV, iOS & iPod

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Creating an image file of a data disc is straightforward. Preserving music CDs on a Mac is only challenging if you wanted to get it just right.  While somewhat forbidden, it’s still possible to tame Blu-ray on a Mac as well.  That just leaves your DVD-based movie collection to conquer.

Surprisingly, I’ve found DVDs the most challenging of all disc formats to preserve and back up. The variety of software available for the task is overwhelming, and the success rate of said solutions is far from 100 percent. Sometimes you have to try different software, or tweak certain in order to get the desired outcome. Here’s a guide to using some of the best current Mac (s aapl) software available for DVD archiving.

Keeping Your Discs Clean

For whatever reason, DVDs tend to be the most fragile of the optical disc formats that I’ve had to deal with. Beyond keeping a soft cloth nearby to wipe down each disc before decrypting and decoding, I’ve found that more serious means of cleaning discs are often times necessary.  Generally speaking, Aleratec’s DVD/CD Disc Repair Kit for about $40 on Amazon (s amzn) gets the job done. You’d be amazed at how many failed rips can be resolved just by cleaning your disc.

Decrypt and Copy to Hard Drive

Once you have a clean disc, the next step is to get its contents onto your hard drive. On the Mac, there are only a few good options to consider for doing this. Longtime favorite MacTheRipper has all but disappeared, as has the open-source Fairmount.  That leaves Pavtube and The Little App Factory’s RipIt.  Since I already covered Pavtube when working with Blu-ray on the Mac, this time I’ll focus using RipIt.

  1. Download, install and launch RipIt.
  2. In the Preferences (Ripit > Preferences in the Menu Bar), under General, set the destination for the extracted files.
  3. Also in General Preferences, make sure that “Use .dvdmedia Extension” is not selected. This will make sure your movies are saved as a standard VIDEO_TS folder, which can be read by many applications.
  4. Insert a DVD and click Rip.

It’s that easy. And once you set the location where you want to store the decrypted movie files to, you don’t have to change your preferences unless you want to select a new destination. Just insert the DVD and click Rip.

Encode for Apple TV

While both Pavtube and RipIt offer the ability to compress the DVD’s content into various other formats directly while ripping, I prefer to use HandBrake on the Mac and its built-in preset list of supported device targets. Encoding from a DVD that has been copied to the hard drive is also much faster than encoding from the original disc.  To encode your video files with HandBrake, all you need to do is:

  1. Download, install and launch HandBrake.
  2. Click on the Source icon in HandBrake’s toolbar and navigate to the location where you ripped your DVD’s VIDEO_TS folder to using RipIt (which you set in step 2, above).
  3. In the drop-down menu labeled Title, select the title you wish to encode.  HandBrake usually does a pretty good job at automatically selecting the actual movie title, as it is typically the longest running video on the DVD.
  4. Toggle the presets and select Apple TV as the destination device.
  5. Select a destination and file name.
  6. Click on the green Start button.

Encode for Everything Else

Unfortunately there is not one best encoding format for all devices.  If you encode to the lowest common denominator (likely an older iPod), you’ll notice serious quality problems on larger HDTVs.  You can certainly follow the exact same steps above in HandBrake and select different destination devices each time, but there are two other more convenient options available to you:

iTunes Conversion. In Advanced menu in iTunes, you will notice two options: “Create iPod or iPhone Version,” and “Create iPad or Apple TV Version.”  This works great for turning files in your library that you’ve created using HandBrake for Apple TV into ones that work with your iPhone or iPod.  This process tends to take a very long time to complete.

iSquint Conversion. Like MacTheRipper, iSquint has fallen from grace and is no longer supported.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still work.  Once you’ve created a version of the movie file created via HandBrake, all you need to do is drag and drop your media files onto iSquint’s single screen. iSquint is great when creating versions of movie files for older video iPods and iPod Classics.

Unfortunately, from time to time you’ll encounter a DVD that just wont rip using either iRip or Pavtube.  In these cases, if you have access to a Windows machine (virtual, Boot Camp, or physical) either AnyDVD or DVDFab should help you resolve the problem. Converting your DVD movies to Apple device-friendly formats may not be easy, but once it’s done, you can sit back and enjoy your film collection however you choose, which feels pretty good.

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8 Responses to “How to Backup Your DVD Movies for Mac, Apple TV, iOS & iPod”

  1. CP Staley

    Comparatively speaking, which is quicker? Encoding with RipIT and then converting using Handbrake? Or doing the whole operation in Handbrake? Knowing that the end use of the file is to be AppleTV2 or iPhone use?

  2. I spent a while studying the docs and following the boards before converting 200 titles. The short of it is you should use the “High Profile” setting for DVD rips, use “AppleTV 2” for Blu-ray rips.

    Notice between the 2, AppleTV 2 sets a max res flag for 720p, HighProfile uses the source res. (For DVD this is fine). ATV2 enables the large filesize option is for files over 4GB. I’ve never had a DVD convert that large, so the setting is unnecessary and breaks compatibility with some devices like PS3. Finally, HighProfile enables the gentle deinterlace, detelecine options, which are desired for DVD. They check the screen grabs and only apply as necessary. When converting TV shows, this often gives a better picture and smaller file size.

    These HighProfile files work on iPhone 3gs or better, iPad, AppleTv.