All the movies I rip go into my iTunes collection.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Turning DVDs into videos for your laptop or iPad

February 12, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

As we saw last week (www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec020512.html), copying DVDs so you can view them on your laptop or other mobile device isn't illegal -- as long as you own the DVDs and don't give or sell the recordings to someone else.

This kind of copying, in which the digital video is pulled off the DVD without the need to play it, is called ripping. Software built into the ripper can then perform two more tricks -- reducing the file size by means of compression and, optionally, trimming the resolution if you want to watch the video on an iPad or iPod screen.

These two steps can also be done separately, after the ripper is through, using dedicated video-conversion software. Either method can produce good results.

The basic procedure goes like this: You slip the DVD into your DVD drive -- It's actually a combination CD/DVD drive on all modern computers -- and then launch the ripping software. The ripper might ask you to click a few choices before it goes to work.

Sometime later -- a half-hour if you have the fastest computer in town, or an hour or two later if you're like all the rest of us -- you'll have a file on your computer that contains the movie you've just ripped. It probably will show up in your Movies folder, which might be called "My Movies." Double click it to view at least part of the movie to make sure it's OK.

The next step is optional -- dropping the newly ripped video file into iTunes (or using the File menu in iTunes to import the video file). Like millions of other Windows and Mac users, I have all my music organized in iTunes. But I also use another feature of the program: iTunes is my video library, too. All the movies I rip go into my iTunes collection.

I recommend this for three reasons. The first is the cool way iTunes organizes everything. Second is the automation; all you have to do is copy the videos to iTunes and trash the original copies. iTunes does the rest. The third advantage is really great -- wireless video sharing. I'll talk about that next week.

Which rippers do I recommend? I've tried some free ones but they all failed my "+14" test -- can you use the software if you're older than 14 and not a geek? So what I'm recommending, for Windows and Macs, isn't free.

For Windows, I like two rippers:

  • Aimersoft DVD Ripper, $35.95, from www.aimersoft.com/dvd-ripper.html. If you want to rip Blu-ray disks, get the Blu-ray version for $45.95 from www.aimersoft.com/blu-ray-ripper.html. (The Blu-ray ripper also handles DVDs.)

  • Sothink, $34.95, from www.sothinkmedia.com/dvd-ripper.

    For Macs, I prefer these two:

  • Ripit, $25, from http://thelittleappfactory.com/ripit.

  • MacX DVD Ripper Pro, $49.95, from www.macxdvd.com.
  • For Mac users who have Power PC Macs (Macs that don't have Intel chips -- G4 Macs are the most common in this category) my choice is DVDRemaster, $39.99 from www.metakine.com/products/dvdremaster. I've used it successfully on my dual-processor G4 for a long time.

  • Next: How to watch these movies wirelessly on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.