Mac DVD rip software

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This article was written in November 2011. Given the volatile nature of this topic, expect that the content of this article is outdated after about two years time.

I regularly put movies to watch on my media player (the TV in my bedroom has no DVD player). I have yet to make the time to put all my DVDs on my network storage. While looking for Mac OS software to do that job, some sites provided insightful remarks, which I gladly share here.

Determine your needs

The functions of DVD software can be categorised as follows:

  1. Extract the VIDEO_TS folder, removing CSS encryption (DVD Ripping)
  2. Extract specific features, episodes or subtitles, leaving out others (Extraction)
  3. Convert and compress to an other format (such as MP4 with H.264 encoding) (Compression)

This list can be augmented with many more functions, like editing, adding metadata and burning the result to a new DVD. The first step is to make it clear for yourself what you want, and where your priorities are. For me, burning the result to another DVD was not relevant, but it might be useful if you go on holiday with children and bought a portal DVD player for them, and you don't want them to ruin the original DVDs.

If you want to preserve the menus and special features of a DVD, you may not be interested in extraction and compression. If you want to watch a movie on a iPad or other table, extraction and compression are essential (not only will it preserve disk space, but the built-in H.264 acceleration in an iPhone or iPad reduce your battery consumption significantly!).

While most tools can do a bit of all, it certainly helps to pick a tool that shines in the area that is important for you.

Recommendation

The best review I could find is MacWorld's DVD-ripper roundup of May 2010. With the addition of some other tools, here is my recommendation:

Extract the VIDEO_TS folder, removing CSS encryption (DVD Ripping)

DVDSuki Software’s Mac DVDRipper Pro or Little App Factory’s RipIt are good choices

The essential step here is to removing the CSS encryption. Be aware that some software from larger companies, such as Roxio and DVD2One are not capable of doing this for legal reasons. While it is legal to make home copies of DVDs in most countries in the world, the USA has pretty draconic copyright laws, and these vendors backout after the lawyers of the content industry roared.

While perfectly legal, there is no software that is region-free, since the region is enforced in hardware. This you can not play DVD bought in Europe on an US-coded DVD player. Most players let you change the region, but only 3 to 5 times, after which is locks up (if you import lots of DVDs, your best option is to simply buy a second external DVD player).

Extract specific features, episodes or subtitles, leaving out others (Extraction)

I have little experience here, but some claim that DVD2OneX and Handbrake are capable programs. It helps to do your own research, as these recommendation where based on older versions of these programs.

The VIDEO_TS folder with the movie is playable on most computers, but not all. A normal DVD has multiple video's, for the main film or episodes, but also for menu's and other features. These video's are marked as such in the metadata. Unfortunately, some DVD's contain corrupt metadata, or even extraneous data in the VOB files. This can be accidental (like the DVD of The gods must be crazy) or on purpose (like most Disney DVDs and some series such as The IT Crowd). Good DVD Rippers are able to handle these 'corrupted' DVDs and still be able to extract the part that you want.

A preview option is very helpful to see if you are extracting the right part.

Convert and compress to an other format (such as MP4 with H.264 encoding) (Compression)

Handbrake is the best choice, although the user interface is targeted towards expert users instead of novices.

As of this writing, the most dominant file format is MPEG4 container with H.264 video encoding. MKV (Matroska video) file format is an upcoming container format that is flexible.

Depending on your needs, you should pick one of the two. Some hardware, including iPhones and iPads include H.264 acceleration, which dramatically reduce the required CPU power and hence the power consumption. While H.264 can be embedded in Matroska files, this is not supported by iTunes. Hence, MP4 files are the best choice if you want to take your movies on the road with you.

Another feature to pay attention to is the subtitles and different language audio streams. Most software supports subtitles, but some "burn" it in the video stream, rather then providing it as a separate stream in the video file. A common feature of DVDs is that you can choose between different audio and subtitle streams, and most players support this. Unfortunately, only few DVD rip software supports the ability to embed multiple streams in a single video file. If you care about either multiple subtitle or multiple audio streams, be sure to test the software before you buy. Since the Matroska file format is better suited for multiple streams, it is good to keep an eye out for MKV support.

Editing Software

If you want to remove cloying anti-copying frames from DVDs, myDVDEdit is a great program (and free). While it takes some time to learn, if you master it, you can simply add an instruction to the DVD file to skip to the next scene as soon as some anti-copying frame comes up (I simply copy the instructions to skip to the next scene at the end of the frame to the begin of the frame).

MPEG Streamclip is a good program to do some simple editing of (already extracted) movies. It's great for removing advertisement from TV recordings, but has little use for DVD editing.

Metadata Software

Whereas nearly every MP3 file has fairly good metadata, containing artists, name of the song, and year of release, and poster art, this is not the case for video files.

MetaX is said to be a good and free tool to add metadata to your MP4 files. If you're a unix geek, and decided to stick with MKV format, be sure to check out the free MKVToolNix tools.

Burn resulting product to a DVD (DVD Remastering and Burning)

I don't have a real recommendation here, but DVD2One or Roxio's software seem good candidates.

Remastering is the process of combining and merging different videos (e.g. multiple episodes) on a single DVD. Burning is the actual writing of the content to disc.

Concluding

I used the free HandBrake to extract the main title and convert to other formats. I myDVDEdit to remove advertisments and copyright-notices.

More recently I added DVDSuki Software’s Mac DVDRipper Pro tools I use for if I simply want to remove the CSS encryption, and like a more simple user interface then HandBrake provides.

I might add the free MetaX to add metadata to my MPEG4 collections.

List of Software

This is a short list of mainstream DVD rip programs for the Mac:

  • DVDSuki Software’s Mac DVDRipper Pro -- A good program originally designed for the ripping, likely less versed in extraction and editing.
  • Little App Factory’s RipIt -- Simple and stable rip program. Does not let you choose
  • HandBrake -- A free conversion program, designed to extract and convert video
  • DVD2one's DVD2oneX -- a decent product by a large vendor.
  • Roxio Popcorn -- a decent product by a large vendor.
  • iSkysoft DVD Ripper, also sold under the brands Wondershare DVD Ripper for Mac and Aimersoft DVD RIpper for Mac, while capable of doing the job, I specifically do not recommend this software for it's marketing practices: spamming forums, and creating fake "review" websites.
  • MacTheRipper -- the latest version is "giftware", it is not for sale, but you can obtain it by asking in the right forum and making a "donation" of about $50. I do not recommend this for mainstream users, but you may likely get good support if you join this forum.

I found and tested some other software, including SnowFox DVD & Video Converter, Daniusoft DVD Ripper, Aneesoft DVD Ripper Pro, iFunia DVD Ripper Pro, but I was not particularly impressed with either of them. I suspect that some of these are rebrands of iSkysoft DVD Ripper.