Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ripping Movies to iTunes

I recently acquired an Apple TV.  No, it wasn't a Christmas gift, it was a result of winning a $50 Apple store gift card.  I had originally thought it was an iTunes gift card, but apparently, they're not the same thing and can't be used interchangeably.  Since I had been thinking about getting an Apple TV for over a year now, I figured this was the best opportunity.  I figured now that I have an XBOX, adding an Apple TV would eliminate the need of having a PC connected to my TV.  Up 'til now, I've been using a PC connected to the TV for Windows Media Center (through which I get TV DVR functionality).  That also afforded me a couple extra features: Hulu Desktop, Netflix (through WMC), streaming from the iTunes library on my office PC, and any movies I'd ripped to my PC.  By adding an Apple TV to the mix, Netflix, iTunes streaming, and movies could be eliminated.  By using the XBOX as a media center extender, the only thing that I really needed the PC for was Hulu desktop.  Look for my next post to see how I fixed that problem.

So, at any rate, I didn't need the PC connected to the TV anymore, which was a relief.  I had been worried about overheating the PC (when the cabinet was closed) and since I had moved my main router to the same UPS as that PC, the UPS had complained of overload.  As a result, I shut down the PC and decided to use only the Apple TV and the XBOX for my entertainment needs.

All of that verbosity was to explain why I went through the process of learning how to rip DVDs to iTunes.  I already have a fairly extensive library of music, audiobooks, podcasts, ebooks, and apps in my iTunes on my office PC.  I decided that I would try to rip my DVD collection to iTunes so that I could just stream them from my office PC to my Apple TV.  This would also make it possible to take some movies/TV shows with me on my iPhone/iPad.

So, now, how to do it:

The first thing you have to do is understand the legality of this process.  This can only be done with DVDs you currently own.  You cannot do this with rental DVDs since the rental agreement does not include a fair use clause.  However, if you own the DVD, encoding it to a different format is the same as burning music you have bought from iTunes to a CD.  It all falls under the classification of 'fair use'.

The next thing you need to do is get prepared by installing two pieces of software: Handbrake and DVD Decrypter.  UPDATE: I've started using MakeMKV Beta instead of DVD Decrypter.  It also supports ripping Blu Ray disks as well as DVDs.  See here for more information and another guide specifically tailored to Blu Ray disks.  You should probably be able to do this all using just Handbrake, but I've found that ripping the DVD to your hard drive allows for more efficient encoding using a queue.

Once you've got those two installed, open DVD Decrypter.  You'll need to make a couple option changes in order to make this quicker and easier.  First you need to have a folder on your hard drive where you'll store the raw DVD files.  I use C:\RIP\.  On the General tab, set this as the default destination folder and set the folder option to 'Semi Automatic'.  This should allow DVD decrypter to automatically place each new DVD's files into their own folders.  Because I've been going through my entire DVD collection encoding movies off and on for a few weeks, I also liked to tell DVD Decrypter to eject the DVD when finished.  On the Device tab, check the box that says 'Eject Tray after...Read'.  I also turn off the success noise.  On the Sounds tab, uncheck the success sound.

Now pop in a DVD and click the big button in the bottom left corner of DVD Decrypter.  That should get things going.  You can now sit back for 15-20 minutes while the files are being ripped to your hard drive in raw format.

Once that is done, open Handbrake.  You need to tell Handbrake to automatically output the files to the automatic input folder for iTunes.  This makes it so that when encoding is finished, iTunes will automatically import the file.  Open up Tools>>Options and on the General tab check the 'Automatically name output files' checkbox and set the default path to "C:\Users\YourUserName\Music\Automatically Add to iTunes".  This may be slightly different on your system, but you should be able to find it.  Also, change the Format box to only read {source}.  You also might find it helpful to enable the 'Remove Underscores from Name' and 'Change case to Title Case' options.
Back in the main Handbrake window, click the Source drop down and select "Folder".  Browse to the folder where DVD Decrypter output the raw DVD files.  Handbrake will scan through the files and should select the longest title.  (FYI, in DVD nomenclature, a title is essentially a single video on the DVD.  You'll find that DVDs will usually contain one title for the main feature, one for each of the special features, and usually a couple small ones used as transition videos in the DVD menu.)
You'll only want to encode the main title (unless the DVD is a TV show in which case you'll want to use something like VLC media player to play the raw DVD files and determine which titles to encode).  Since I'd like the best quality video, I choose the 'High Profile' in Handbrake.  This sets all the settings up for the best possible quality.  It also results in a large file, so if you're low on hard drive space, this might not be an option.  I set this profile as the default so I don't have to pick it every time, and I also check the 'Large file size' option.  Check that the name of the output file is how you want it, then click the 'Add to Queue' button.

At this point, you can pop in the next DVD and repeat the process for the next movie.  I usually queue up 10-15 movies a day and let the encode run at night.  Encoding is a CPU intensive process and will usually max out your processor making using your computer for other stuff fairly slow.  Run it at night when the encode is the only thing going on.