Updated: April 27, 2009
If you're running Linux and want to learn how to rip DVD movies, this article is for you. People love to play with multimedia files. It's one of the most common tasks people do with their computers. We do it for a whole lot of reasons: Sometimes, we want to make the files smaller. Sometimes we want a different format so the files will play on our car radio or the old DVD player in the living room. Sometimes, we want to fix the bitrate or the audio sync or add subtitles to movies. Whatever the reason, multimedia manipulation is something you will do, sooner or later.
Linux is just as friendly as other operating systems when it comes to working with multimedia. In this tutorial, I will show you how you can transcode your DVD movies into other formats. This transcoding is popularly known as ripping.
To this end, we will use a handsome, powerful utility called Handbrake. Handbrake is an open-source, cross-platform DVD to MPEG-4 converter. It is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. Handbrake is simply to use, entirely GUI and with advanced editing options. We will put legal and moral issues aside and work under the assumption that DVDs you are about to rip are your property. On that happy note, let us begin.
I used Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex as the tutorial platform. Unfortunately, handbrake is not included in its repositories, so you won't be able to install it via Synaptic or apt-get. Luckily, the vendor offers a .deb package, which installs quickly and without a fuss. After the program is installed, you will find it under Applications > Sound & Video.
Let's take a look at the GUI:
Most of the functions are self-explanatory. Clicking on Source will open the desired media you wish to transcode. Destination specifies the output file(s). Container defines the output format. If you use the drop-down button and change the format, the file extension in the Destination field will also change. You can use the check fields (iPod 5G Support, Web optimized, etc) to define what you want your output to be like.
On the right side, there's a window called Presets. It allows you to choose one of the templates upon which your conversion will be based. Changing the template will automatically pre-select some of the options in the main menu. For the purpose of this demonstration, we will work with the default setting. That's pretty much that. We can begin our project.
Handbrake works with "proper" DVD movies. This means that if you have partial or manually edited files, Handbrake might not be able to use them. Your best bet is to insert the DVD and then look for the media device under File. In our case, we have /dev/scd0.
This will open the DVD. In this case, it's Zatoichi.
Now, you need to make your choices for the output movie. To that end, let's take look at the tabs, namely Video, Audio/Subtitles and others.
We're most interested in Video. This defines the codec and the quality of the output movie. You can use either Bitrate, Target Size (MB) or Quality slider to determine how the output movie will look like.
You have quite a bit of freedom here, so play with the settings until you find the right codec, size and video quality that you need. I would recommend against playing with the Framerate, unless you really know what you're doing.
For example, I want my output movie to be MPEG-4 (XviD):
On a side note, you do not have to convert the entire movie. You can selectively convert a section. DVDs are usually segmented into chapters, so while testing the settings, you may only want to convert a single chapter or so, in order to save time and space.
You can also preview the movie to see what it will look like. Just click on the picture thumb in the main menu.
That's all. Now click on the play-style Start button and wait. This task can take quite a bit. Most people have powerful computers, which are completely underutilized. DVD ripping is one of the few tasks that will put your CPUs to good use. Alongside gaming, transcoding multimedia files from one format to another can really exercise the computing power of your machine.
After a while, the task will complete.
Enjoy your creation!
Lastly, a completely irrelevant piece of information: Handbrake has a handsome icon, too:
Ripping DVDs in Linux is a breeze. You may have thought Linux to be more difficult than Windows (or Mac), but things can't be much simpler. No command line, no errors, no bickering about regional settings, codecs, formats, or anything. Everything worked smoothly.
In the next article, we will learn how to create DVD movies, just the opposite of what we've done here. We'll take our .mp4 file and convert it back into a DVD!
If you're interested in more Linux multimedia tutorials, then please check my Multimedia section, it has a lot of useful tutorials. I still owe you an article on how to inject subtitles into the movies. Don't worry, I have not forgotten about it! For now, have fun playing with your new toy.